In a bombshell that will have major ripple effects around the league if true, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard has informed the team that he will not opt out of his contract this summer and stay with the team for the 2012-13 season if they do not trade him, according to multiple reports. The news was first reported by WFTV in Orlando and confirmed by Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated. Via WFTV:
According to sources, Howard told the team of his plans during a meeting in San Antonio on Wednesday afternoon. They said Howard will opt in for the final year of his contract so long as the Magic do not trade him.
Both reports make clear that Howard has not signed anything and hasn't given the organization anything beyond a verbal promise. However, if he follows up with the paperwork, this could potentially signal the end of the Howard trade rumors, at least for now. Howard has one year and $19.5 million left on his contract, but had the option of foregoing it to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
If he indeed signs the papers, it could have a major effect on the New Jersey Nets' strategy. The Nets were long seen as the front-runners for Howard, thanks to location and the ability to pair Howard with star Deron Williams. But Williams is also a free agent, and many believe he could head to the Dallas Mavericks this summer if Howard does not come.