Denton: Encouraging Words From Dwight Howard

By John Denton
December 12, 2011

ORLANDO – On Day 4 of the ever-changing, seemingly never-ending Dwight Howard saga, there was this from the superstar center: Finally some wiggle that just might keep him in a Magic uniform after all.

After encouraging talks with new Magic CEO Alex Martins and new teammate Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, Howard said he could see himself in Orlando long term if some changes can be made to how the roster is constructed. Howard wasn’t specific, of course, but he was likely referring to his Sunday night rant where he fumed about not having as much input into personnel as he should have as the Magic’s franchise player.

``If it’s meant for me to stay here, then I’ll stay,’’ said Howard, who was surrounded by a throng of national and local reporters at the Magic’s media day. ``I love this city and there’s no place that I’d rather be but Orlando. I just want to make sure that we have the right things here so that we can win a championship. I’m all about change. If you are willing to change and do what it takes to win, then we’ve got it. If you are not willing to do what it takes to win then I don’t think anybody here would question anybody’s motives.’’

Magic President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith said on Sunday that he’s heard from 27 teams about potentially trading for Howard, but he said no transactions were even close to happening. Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, has been granted permission by the Magic to work out the parameters of a potential trade with the Lakers, Nets and Mavericks. But the Magic are still holding out hope of a Howard reversal and they haven’t even decided yet that dealing Howard is a must just because the All-NBA center requested a trade.

Martins, who was promoted last week from team president to CEO, said he’s spoken to Howard twice in the past three days and listened to Howard’s suggestions about how the organization can make changes for the better. Martins said he was convinced that Howard is still very invested in Orlando and wants to remain with the Magic.

``Our number one desire is to keep him here, but we’re not going to rush at this and make a transition or try to resign him,’’ Martins said. ``I’m not new to the organization, but I’m new to the role. I’m optimistic and I really do think that Dwight Howard is thinking about re-signing with this organization. We’re going to continue to work at that.’’

After three days of practicing, the Magic were off from drills on Monday, but will get back to work on Tuesday. The exhibition season opens Sunday in Miami against the rival Heat and the regular-season opener is Dec. 25 at Oklahoma City.

Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said he’s tried to stay out of the Howard fireworks, engaging his center only during practice and a few casual conversations. He said while his team has been focused in practice and he’s pleased with the work the team has gotten in so far, the uncertainty of whether or not Howard will be with the team long-term has become a distraction.

``There’s a little bit of a sense with the group that this isn’t permanent,’’ Van Gundy said. ``The players have to feel it and wonder what’s going to happen. But it’s not something that’s going away until the situation resolves itself. I’m sure the locker room feels different, but our practices feel good and our guys have been very professional.’’

Davis, affectionately known as ``Big Baby’’ to teammates, officially became a member of the Magic on Monday, along with shooting guard Von Wafer. Davis was an adversary of the Magic’s for years while in Boston with his ability to hit big shots and bang inside with Howard. He said he was flattered about being one of the players on a list that Howard submitted of players he wanted to play alongside in Orlando.

``I was on his list? I didn’t know that. I’m glad that he wanted me here,’’ Davis said playfully. ``It’s good to be a part of an organization that needs you there. I’ve been playing with the Boston Celtics for a long time and they had (Kevin Garnett) and I was coming off the bench. Now, having a guy requesting that I come and play with him makes me feel really good.’’

Another player on Howard’s ``list’’ might be veteran point guard Chauncey Billups, who was waived by New York with the amnesty clause. Long a Magic tormenter during his days with the Detroit Pistons, Billups could give Orlando another guard behind Jameer Nelson and another player to share the leadership role with Howard.

Howard said it’s being in a position to win a championship that matters more to him now than simply being traded. Losing in the 2009 NBA Finals and in the East Finals in 2010 still eats at him, and he doesn’t want the prime of his career to pass without him having a shot at winning a title.

``You only get one time around the track and there’s no reset button. You don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to win,’’ he said. ``You want to put yourself in the best position. Me and ``Big Baby’’ talked and he said his (former) team (in Boston) was with each other every day and they did whatever it took to win. That’s the kind of culture that you have to have here from the guys on the court, to the coaching staff to the fans. Everybody has to do what it takes.’’

Martins said the Magic have proven they will do whatever it takes to win – be it making bold mid-season trades or having one of the highest payrolls in the league. Martins said he is confident that Howard still believes in the direction and commitment of the Magic organization.

``Winning organizations and great cultures have every opportunity to keep their players. We’ve created a winning culture here and Dwight has grown up in this organization and I honestly believe that Dwight wants to play out his career here,’’ Martins said. ``He’s told me in two meetings the last three days that he loves Orlando and he loves our fans and doesn’t want to walk away from all of this. I think there’s an opportunity in this day and age for superstar athletes to carry a city on their shoulders.

That’s the opportunity that Dwight has right now and hopefully that the decision that he ultimately makes.’’

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at

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