Denton: Uncertainty Causing Sleepless Nights for Howard

By John Denton
March 3, 2012

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard admitted Saturday that speculation about his future has him to the point that ``there are a lot of nights where I don’t sleep,’’ but he refused to divulge much about his intentions to either remain in Orlando or continue to push for a trade.

Howard met with Magic CEO Alex Martins after the team’s morning shoot-around practice on Saturday, but the substance of those talks remained private. The Magic have said that they hope to push Howard for an answer prior to the March 15 trade deadline so that they can possibly move their franchise center in hopes of getting compensation in return for him if needed. Howard, who has played all eight of his NBA seasons in Orlando, is expected to opt out of his contract this summer and will become an unrestricted free agent.

Howard did give one glimpse into his thinking concerning the Magic when he was asked if the team could make a roster move in the coming days that would persuade him to stay. Said Howard: ``We’ll have to see.’’

The Magic, who host the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night, are 23-14 this season with signature wins against the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers. But crushing losses, like Thursday’s against Oklahoma City and others against Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and the Los Angeles Clippers, have been indicative of the Magic’s inconsistency throughout the season.

Only four teams in the NBA – Miami, Chicago, Oklahoma City and San Antonio – have more wins than the Magic, something that is somewhat surprising considering the distractions Orlando has had to overcome this season. Howard, a six-time all-star and a five-time All-NBA player, issued a trade request at the start of training camp, but the Magic have resisted dealing him.

Howard admitted on Saturday that the specter of potentially leaving Orlando and the daily barrage of trade rumors have weighted heavily on him for months.

``It’s been affecting me all season. I still have to do my job and play as hard as I can, but there are a lot of nights where I don’t sleep,’’ he said. ``It’s been all year, but I have to fight through it and try to put it away when I step on the court.

``You can’t really ever block it out. You just have to try to play through it,’’ Howard continued. ``Nobody really understands how we have to deal with certain things, but people feel like, `Well, you’re a millionaire and it doesn’t matter.’ But we have emotions and feelings, too.’ We just have to try to put those emotions aside when we step on the court and do our jobs. The other team is not going to care what you are going through personally; they are going to try and tear your head off. So we have to take the same approach.’’

Howard said he’s tried considering several factors as to whether he should remain in Orlando or take his immense talents elsewhere. The lure of teaming with another superstar player is appealing to him, and he knows that might only be possible in another market because of the Magic’s roster limitations. Howard also could be drawn to playing in a larger market, but the Magic point to him already being one of the most popular players in the league off the court and that he led all NBA players in All-Star Game voting with a whopping 1.6 million votes.

Howard admitted that it’s all a bit overwhelming at times.

``Everything comes through my mind, but I try to step away and clear my head and not focus on because it will just weigh me down,’’ he said. ``I just have to stay away from it as much as I can.’’

Because a potential Howard deal would likely affect several players on the Magic roster, the constant trade speculation could be affecting each member of the team.

Howard sensed that earlier in the week and addressed the team before Thursday’s game against Oklahoma City. He went out and shined with 33 points and nine rebounds, but the Magic squandered a 14-point lead in a 105-102 loss to the Thunder.

``Everybody is a little affected, but you have to try to block it,’’ Howard said. ``Everybody is feeling it, from the top – myself – to the last guy on the team. But we just have to try to block it out and control what we can control. Regardless, at the end of the day, we’re all brothers and we’re all family and we have to take care of one another.’’

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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