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Mavs, Howard agree on four-year, $40 million extension

DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks forward Josh Howard agreed to a four-year contract extension Thursday that will keep him with the Mavs through the 2010-11 season, same as teammate Dirk Nowitzki and coach Avery Johnson.

The new deal, ESPN.com's Marc Stein reports, is worth in excess of $40 million, according to team sources. Howard will play for $1.7 million this season, the last on his rookie-scale contract.


The sides had until Oct. 31 to reach a deal and prevent Howard from becoming a restricted free agent next season.


"I'm glad it's done," Howard said before Dallas' 88-71 preseason victory over Milwaukee on Thursday night. "I knew I wanted to stay here as long as I could.


"Now I want to continue to play hard and get better."


Howard was eligible for a five-year extension but happily settled for a four-year deal after a strained month of negotiations he recently termed "disappointing." Referring to the Mavericks' previous Big Three -- Steve Nash, Michael Finley and Nowitzki -- Howard told The Dallas Morning News: "Hopefully he has another one with me, JT [Jason Terry] and Dirk. Hopefully we can get the job done like we almost did last season."


In his third NBA season, Howard averaged a career-high 15.6 points and 6.3 rebounds to help the Mavericks to the most successful playoff run in their history before they lost to the Miami Heat in six games in the NBA Finals.


Howard has been Dallas' best player in training camp, showing little outward sign of being distracted by his contractual situation, but the absence of an extension before the regular season could easily have been perceived as another slight for a player who slipped to No. 29 in the 2003 draft.


It's believed that the Mavericks, sensing that the issue might linger with Howard all season, increased their offer in recent days to avoid alienating the swingman and make sure he felt like a valued member of the Mavs' core.


"Josh has worked hard and he's an important part of the team," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "We're glad to get it done."


This deal, expected to be signed Friday, means Cuban will have awarded new contracts to four of the biggest names in the organization since the ill-fated trip to the NBA Finals: Nowitzki, Terry, Johnson and Howard.


"It's a blessing for me and my family," Howard said. "I love the city, love the fans, and enjoy playing here. I'm going to be the same guy no matter how much money I make."


Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein and The Associated Press was used in this report.