By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
Posted Jun 13 2011 9:23AM
TREVISO, Italy -- Dwight Howard reaffirmed his desire to stay with the Magic, but told NBA.com on Monday that he will definitely become a free agent rather than sign an extension in the next year and also left open the possibility he would reconsider his future in Orlando if the team does not win the title next season.
Speaking during a break at the adidas Eurocamp as part of a tour of the continent for the shoe company, Howard joked with reporters at a news conference and appeared in good spirits.
In a one-on-one interview afterward, though, he made it clear he is not happy with the collective personality of Orlando's roster and that changes need to be made. The same message, he said, was delivered to owner Rich DeVos and CEO Bob Vander Weide in a meeting last week that included Howard sharing thoughts on everything from personnel to fan involvement and arena atmosphere at home games.
"I want to win a championship," the All-Star center said. "I think the owners have to really know that. That's been my goal and my mission since I've been in the NBA -- to win a championship. I don't have side goals or agendas. My main goal is to win a championship. I want to have 14 other guys who feel the same way."
Asked if the Magic have that now, he said, "It's off and on. Sometimes guys are there whole-heartedly and then sometimes I've had teammates allow people getting in their ears and things like that effect the way that they play and approach the game."
Howard said he did not tell DeVos and Vander Weide specific roster moves he wanted to see.
"I just told them, 'We've got to have guys who are going to play hard 48 minutes and who are going to battle the other team, who are going to fight night in and night out for a championship,' " he said.
The topic would be pressing enough with a large payroll and a first-round playoff loss. Management cannot be happy, either, with the early exit two years after winning the Eastern Conference crown. That the face of the franchise is expected to opt out of the final season of his contract and become a free agent in summer 2012 makes the alarm sound even louder.
The Magic have a two-year extension on the table, the longest deal they can offer under the Collective Bargaining Agreement that expires June 30. Howard made it clear Monday, though, that he will become a free agent and not sign an extension.
"There's no other place I'd rather be besides Orlando," he said. "As of right now, that's my home. I just want to stay in Orlando as long as I can.
"That's the truth. I don't have to keep things calm or anything. This is how I really feel in my heart. A lot of people want to see me go other places, but I want to stay in Orlando. I have a beautiful home there. There are beautiful people down there. My son is in Orlando. He's getting a lot older and I want to be there to see as many moments as I can of his life."
And if the Magic do not win the 2012 championship and the personality of the roster stays the same?
"Then things have to change," Howard told NBA.com.
Including your address?
"At the end of the day, as far as what I want to accomplish as a basketball player, to be one of the greats, you have to win championships," he said. "That's how I see it. I want to do that in Orlando, and hopefully we can get it done.... Everybody's asking me from the beginning of the season until today where am I playing in a year? Am I getting traded? I have no clue. As of right now, I want to be in Orlando."
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