Surprise! Howard opts to stay in Orlando

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Surprise! Howard opts to stay in Orlando

From Comcast SportsNet
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Magic center Dwight Howard has finally put an end to the back-and-forth NBA roller-coaster ride that he had taken Orlando on for the past four months. At least temporarily. Howard's 11th-hour decision before Thursday's trade deadline to waive the early termination option in his contract means he has a deal with the only franchise he's known at least through next season. "I'm glad this is finally over," Howard said at a news conference to announce the new pact. "...It's not as easy as some people think. It's been very hard. We're talking a career-changing event. Most people don't see that. "I'm very loyal and I've always put loyalty above anything." But loyalty only goes so far, the Magic wanted it in writing. Had Howard not signed the papers, he would have been gone. "It was real," Orlando general manager Otis Smith said of the possibility of dealing Howard before he signed the waiver. "We weren't rolling the dice." But unless the Howard and the Magic can reach a long-term deal before next season begins, they're start right where they left off before Thursday. And it hasn't been pretty. The Magic organization trudged through repeated closed door waffling on Howard's part about a desire to play with multiple teams and players, the city hosted an awkward All-Star weekend and pacifying a patient fan base. Teammates have been frustrated and the situation has had an already intense Stan Van Gundy ready to blow a gasket having to answer -- or refusing to answer -- daily questions about Howard's status. Even Howard's mother chimed in at one point during the drama, saying that she thought her son should remain in Orlando. The saga continued until just hours before the trade deadline. It was originally thought by both the Magic and league office that both Howard and agent Dan Fegan had to sign the forms. But turns out only Howard's signature was needed, opening the door for one more possible change of heart. Though he had previously alluded to "getting bad advice" from people around him, Howard refused to touch the subject Thursday. "It doesn't matter at this point," he said. Howard said he didn't think he'd had a full night's sleep since making his original trade demand. He offered an apology to Magic fans for the back-and-forth ordeal, but not for taking his due diligence to make it. "There's no decision about your life that you're gonna make in one day or one hour," he said. But the four months it took Howard to make a decision impacted a lot of other people. Howard first requested a trade during the preseason and at the time he expressed frustration with Magic management and what he felt was an unwillingness to include him in personnel decisions or to improve the roster around him. He went as far as to praise the relationship he felt All-Star Dirk Nowitzki has with Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban. He maintained that stance until changing his mind this week and expressing a desire to remain in Orlando this season, though he initially refused to waive his opt-out provision. Howard said he made his decision to waive the early termination clause in the hours after the Magic's loss to San Antonio Wednesday night and then notified the team via phone calls and text messages while on the team plane. His teammates were apparently unaware of the final change of heart, with Magic guard Chris Duhon posting on his Twitter account "Off to Orlando and the waiting game begins" shortly after the Spurs' game. But now Howard wants to put all that behind them. Howard says he's "all in" now and ready to give the organization a full season to improve the roster going forward. The Magic are 28-16 this season and seven games behind first-place Chicago. And despite everything Howard is averaging 21.2 points and a career-best 15.2 rebounds. "Now we can get back to playing basketball and having some peace and trying to win a championship," said Howard. "I feel like we have a chance to win want and I didn't feel like either one of us (he or the organization) should give that up." Howard said repeatedly Thursday he was both relieved and expressed a desire to make this a championship year for Orlando to make up for the off-court storms. But with no long-term commitment how long the calm will last is certainly still an open proposition. Unless Smith and Magic CEO Alex Martins can add pieces around Howard between now and the summer of 2013, this entire ordeal is set to play out one more time. Then there won't be an extra year to lean on. The Magic didn't make player moves Thursday, but Smith said improving the roster and resigning Howard go hand-in-hand. The Magic also would appear to have the advantage in signing Howard long-term because of provisions in the league's new collective bargaining agreement give the Magic the ability to offer Howard 30 million more than any other team if he becomes a free agent. Orlando can offer him a five-year contract extension with 7.5 percent annual raises, while other teams are capped at offering a four-year pact with only 4.5 percent raises. Martins, who has only been the Magic CEO since the preseason, said that part of the process was building a new relationship with Howard that he didn't have before. Martins said his focus will be on making Orlando what Howard needs it to be in hopes of getting the center to sign a long-term deal. But they can't come to an agreement, Howard could still be leaving Orlando -- just at a later date. Martins said having experienced O'Neal walk away in 1996, like his GM, was going to put the Magic first no matter what. "History plays a role in everything...and we were not going to suffer the same thing we did in the mid-90s," he said. "But if Dwight made a different decision, we were prepared. "Loyalty is hard to find ... he's gotta be commended for the loyalty he's showing here." Howard said his isn't concerned with the end of the next season. "When the time comes we'll deal with it then," Howard said. "I have to put my trust in Alex and Otis...I want to win a championship and that's the only thing that matters."

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights: Devin Booker puts up 70 points but Celtics get the win

Highlights from the TD Garden as Devin Booker had a historic performance where he scored 70 points, but it wasn't enough to get the win over the Celtics.

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

Thomas on Suns: 'We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery'

BOSTON – Stacking wins on top of wins is the mindset of the Boston Celtics right now, so the players who did speak to the media following Friday’s 130-120 win over Phoenix drove that point home emphatically.

But inside the locker room, it was unusually quiet, the kind of silence you expect following a loss.

Considering how the Celtics’ defense was absolutely thrashed by Devin Booker’s franchise record 70 points, there’s no question at a minimum the Celtics’ pride overall was stung.

And when Suns coach Earl Watson began calling time-outs and having his team commit fouls at the end of the game, there’s no question it rubbed a few Celtics the wrong way.

“I don’t think anybody has ever seen that; continuing to call time-outs, continuing to foul when we are up 15. But I mean, it was obvious what they were trying to do. They were trying to get him (Booker) the most points possible. Hat off to to him (Booker. He played a hell of a game.”

Following the game, Watson defended his late-game decision making.

“Calling time-outs at the end kept the game close,” he said. “It’s basketball; I’m not coming to any arena to be liked. If people don’t like us while we build … so what? Do something about it.”

The Suns (22-51) never came any closer than 10 points, which was the final score margin.

Al Horford acknowledged that there was some aggravation following the game.

“You can be frustrated when somebody is doing that to you,” he said. “It’s not to one guy, it’s to the team so I think we’re probably more aggravated at ourselves, at least personally I feel that way. I probably could have done a little better, maybe done some different things to prevent it. We got to give him credit, 70 points, I don’t care it’s 70, he got 70. It’s impressive.”

But there will be some inside the Celtics locker room and among their fan base, who were bothered by the Suns’ late-game actions which seemed more focused on Booker getting numbers than anything else.

When asked about being disrespected by the Suns’ late-game strategy, Thomas wanted no part of that conversation.

“It is what it is,” Thomas said. “We won the game. We’re worried about the playoffs; they’re worried about the lottery.”

 Boom!