Sources: Magic not planning for trade
Orlando will field offers for their All-Star center but they also will take their time in an attempt to rebuild their relationship and improve the strength of their team.
As part of that strategy, sources told ESPN.com, the Magic currently do not plan to trade Howard.
New Magic CEO Alex Martins met with Howard when he arrived at Amway Center Monday morning. Afterward Howard sounded like he'd softened on the possibility of staying in Orlando as long as there are some changes.
"I love this city, there is no place I'd rather be but Orlando," Howard said. "I just want to make sure we have the right things here so we can win a championship. I'm all about change. If you're willing to change and you're willing to do what it takes to win then, you know, you got me."
One of the "changes" Howard wants, sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein, is the signing of guard Chauncey Billups.
Should Billups clear waivers Monday at 6 p.m., after being released Friday by the New York Knicks through the amnesty clause in the league's new labor agreement, sources say Howard will lobby Billups to spurn offers from the Miami Heat and sign with the Magic instead to give them a steady veteran hand.
One source familiar with Howard's thinking also said that seeing Dirk Nowitzki finally win a championship last season, playing for the only team he's ever known in Dallas, has Howard rethinking whether he should force his way out of town or try to stay and deliver a championship to the city of Orlando in similar fashion.
Martins, who took over at CEO just last week after the surprising resignation of Bob Vander Weide, is making a strong public stance that the franchise believes it can keep Howard and convince him to extend his contract. Howard has the option to become a free agent next summer, which created the leverage to force a trade.
Part of the Magic's plan is to continue to make moves to add talent to the roster. On Monday they completed a four-year, $25 million contract with guard Jason Richardson and finished a sign-and-trade with the Boston Celtics to bring in Glen Davis in on a four-year, $26 million deal.
I love this city. There is no place I'd rather be but Orlando. I just want to make sure we have the right things here so we can win a championship. I'm all about change.” -- Dwight Howard
"I'm an optimist," Martins said. "I am confident that we can work with Dwight and convince him to stay here long-term."
A day later Howard announced he'd indeed asked to be traded. Then on Sunday night he followed up with an explanation that his relationship with Magic general manager Otis Smith had eroded, in part, because Smith had not acquired players Howard had suggested over the last several years.
Smith was not at the meeting Monday morning with Howard but Martins said he had expected the two to speak on Monday afternoon. Howard also expressed frustration that Smith hadn't spoken to him in a week, since he'd officially made his trade request.
During the team's media day Monday afternoon, Howard laughed and chatted with Martins and several other team officials and then smiled and joked his way through his news conference, a reversal in mood from the previous three days.
"As of right now, I have on a Magic uniform," Howard said, touching the logo on his chest. "I'm with nobody else."
Martins said that despite Howard's claim Sunday that none of his input has been taken into account by management, that the trade for Davis was one they did do.
"It's a conversation," Martins said. "It's not a be all, end all. And I do think that Dwight's input is important and we're gonna continue to solicit Dwight's input. But, the final decisions rest on Otis. Otis is the head of this basketball operation. And he is the only one that knows how all the pieces will fit together properly. And he can solicit input from anyone and he will solicit input.
"But at the end of the day, it's Otis' decision to make," he said.
Davis, who played against Howard on the AAU circuit growing up and opposite him in the 2004 McDonald's All-American Game, said he understands the kind of passion Howard has in this situation.
"We've talked and I understand where he's coming from," Davis said.
Asked if he thinks he can talk Howard into staying, Davis was jokingly optimistic.
"Probably can," he said. "I'll probably have crumpets and tea tomorrow and hopefully talk things out and see what's up."
As far as what happens in the meantime, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy admitted that it's difficult to do some things on the court with the uncertainly around Howard. But he said his approach to the day to day won't change while it's being resolved.
"There's all kinds of things that can be distractions in this league," Van Gundy said. "There are always distractions and there's always somebody who's a little bit unhappy for different reasons. So this is nothing new. With every NBA team this year, I guarantee you nobody's got a team on the floor where all 12 or 13 guys are happy all the time and there are no distractions.
"There's always some distraction," he said. "And ours might just be a little bit bigger than some."
Brian Windhorst covers the NBA for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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