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Monday, May 30, 2011
Updated: June 1, 9:59 AM ET
Dwight Howard: Orlando is first choice

ESPN.com news services

Dwight Howard is not planning on following Shaquille O'Neal's lead and bolting the Orlando Magic via fee agency.

Howard
Howard

Or so Howard is saying a year before the he hits the open market following next season. The center is under contract with the Magic through the 2012-13 season, but can terminate the deal a year early.

O'Neal, looking to take his talents to Hollywood, left the Magic for the Los Angeles Lakers after the 1995-96 season.

"I'm not trying to run behind nobody like Shaq or be behind somebody else," Howard told the Orlando Sentinel Monday.

"I want to start my own path and I want people to follow my path and not just follow somebody else's path. I want to have my own path, and I want to start that here in Orlando. But I can't do it alone. Not only do I need the right teammates, but I need the city behind me. That's the only way it's going to get done. We can change this small city that we have -- this small market that we have -- and we can make it a big market."

In order to make that leap it appears the Magic would have to re-tool their roster to appease Howard. Following a first-round playoff ouster by the Atlanta Hawks, the Magic would have to give the All-NBA center a stronger supposting cast to make the club a bigger threat to win a championship.

A deeper run in the playoffs would perhaps give Howard even more reason to stay put in Orlando.

"As of right now, I'm a part of the Orlando Magic and I plan to be here," Howard told the newspaper.

"And I want the Magic to do whatever they can to make sure that we can get our city behind us. That's the only thing that I want to happen: just to have the city behind me and the support of our fans.

"I never said I was leaving. I never, ever thought about leaving. That's basically where my head is right now. I never said anything to them (the Magic) about what my plans were because that's not what I'm focused on right now."