Denton: Contract Extension on Table For Howard

By John Denton
April 29, 2011

ORLANDO – Dwight Howard can’t become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2011-2012 season, but the process of trying to keep the superstar center in an Orlando Magic uniform for several years to come has already started in earnest.

Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith said Friday – a day after the Magic were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks – that a contract extension has already been offered to Howard, but no action has been taken by either side.

``The extension is on the table,’’ Smith said as the Magic players cleaned out their lockers and picked up team photos. ``I don’t know (if Howard will sign the extension), it’s up to him and his people. I have a lot of faith that he’ll be back here (next season).’’

Howard, who averaged 27 points and 15.5 rebounds in the six games against the Hawks, technically has two years remaining on his current contract, but he can exercise an Early Termination Option to get out of the final year of that deal after next season. Smith wasn’t specific on the terms of the extension offered, but it is believed to be for the maximum allowable years (two) for the maximum allowable money (approximately $47 million depending on the 2011-12 salary cap number).

The two-year extension option expires on June 30. If a new CBA is in place by July 1, Howard could sign an extension for three years and approximately $75 million. If he exercises his Early Termination Option after next season, Howard can sign an entirely new deal with the Magic, but he can’t simply extend off his current deal – one that might be much more lucrative if the new CBA reduces salaries and the length of contracts.

Howard has maintained all season that he’s never been presented with a concrete contract extension from his agent, Dan Fegan. Howard has chosen instead of stay in the present and focus on the current season. The likelihood seems as though Howard will pass on the extension now in order to maintain his flexibility following the 2011-12 season.

Still reeling emotionally from the first-round loss to the Hawks, Howard said he hasn’t given a contract extension any thought.

``I haven’t seen a contract. I haven’t seen it. I have not seen it. What else do you want me to say? I haven’t seen one,’’ Howard said. ``I mean we just got finished playing a playoff series and (the media) are asking me about contracts. Nobody wants to talk about a contract right now. We just lost in a playoff series, so there’s no need to be talking about contracts and where I’m going to sign.’’

Howard offered up some of his most expansive thoughts on why he might stay in Orlando before Game 3 in Atlanta last week. As a five-time all-star with a bevy of national endorsements, Howard is already one of the NBA’s most visible pitchmen. He was asked if he needed to play in a major metropolitan market such as Los Angeles, New York or Chicago to maximize his visibility.

``The biggest market of all is outside of the United States,’’ said Howard, referring to China and India – two places that he visited last summer on promotional tours. ``In today’s NBA you can get anything you want (in terms of endorsements) and you don’t have to play in a big market.’’

Howard said what galled him most about losing to Atlanta was that the Hawks were the aggressors much of the series and played with much more energy. The Hawks had double-digit leads in five of the six games, forcing the Magic to constantly play from behind. Even in the deciding Game 6, Orlando fell behind by 12 points and got within one point of the lead, but could never overtake a Hawks team that made clutch shots and delivered several hustle plays.

``We didn’t play hard consistently. We didn’t play hard every night the way that the Hawks did. We talked about it all year and it showed in the playoffs. That’s why we’re done,’’ he said. ``We just didn’t play hard. It’s not about making shots or missing free throws. The team that won this series played harder, and that’s why the Hawks are moving on.

``I’ve always been a leader on this team, but I can only do so much,’’ Howard continued. ``All we had to do was play hard. That takes away mistakes. The year we went to the Finals we played harder than everybody else. We weren’t the best team or the most talented team in the NBA, but we played hard.’’

Howard admitted that it would be difficult for him to watch the playoffs over the next two months because he thought the Magic had enough talent to make another run to the Finals. He said he has no sense yet of the moves that the Magic will make this summer to make sure they aren’t eliminated in the first round again.

``I don’t know. We’re just fresh off playing, so I don’t have all of the answers right now,’’ he said. ``I don’t know what’s going to happen next year, so we have to play with the mindset like there’s no tomorrow. We didn’t do that and that’s why we’re sitting at home.’’

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at