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Magic want it in writing; will Dwight oblige?

There are conflicting accounts of what Dwight Howard said during a players' meeting in San Antonio Wednesday, but a person with knowledge of the conversation told CBSSports.com that the All-Star center told a Magic official outside of that meeting he will not opt out of his contract for next season.

Some players in the meeting, which Howard called after a hotel walk-through to prepare for Wednesday night's game against the Spurs, came out of the room believing Howard indicated he was "all in" for the rest of the season, multiple sources said. Other players have told associates they interpreted Howard's stance to mean he was opting in for next season.

"It's like a game of telephone," one person briefed on the players' meeting said.

But Howard has in his possession a waiver of his early-termination option for next season, which he indicated to a high-level management figure Wednesday that he would sign. The Magic, fearful of Howard's indecision over his future, also want to require Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, to sign the document.

The requirement to get a commitment from Howard in writing that he won't become a free agent if the Magic keep him beyond Thursday's 3 p.m. ET deadline essentially would be unprecedented. As a matter of business, agents are not required to sign any documents related to player contracts, player options or early-termination options. The only document they sign is an affidavit associated with their representation agreement that stipulates there will be no side deals.

Chris Paul was traded to the Clippers in December with the understanding that he would not exercise his player option for 2012-13 as part of the trade. The player option was exercised as part of the three-team deal that sent him from New Orleans to the Clippers.

Whether Howard will take the additional step of signing the ETO waiver -- and, more to the point, wheher Fegan will agree to such a departure from protocol -- will provide the next dramatic turn of events in the Howard saga.

On Tuesday night, after leading the Magic to a 104-98 victory over the Heat in his final home game before the trade deadline, Howard infuriated some Magic officials when he put all the onus on them heading into Thursday. Howard told reporters that he's "going to stay" with the team for the rest of the season and that the Magic needed to "roll the dice" on whether he'd return beyond that.

Magic officials were so concerned about how many times Howard has changed his story about wanting to stay or leave Orlando as a free agent this summer that they went to San Antonio armed with the ETO waiver for Howard to sign. It's not a league requirement or league protocol, but rather what the Magic feel they need to protect their interests if they decide not to trade Howard by Thursday.

On the one hand, you can't blame them. This is big business, and Howard is a prized asset that the franchise can't afford to lose for nothing the way the Magic lost Shaquille O'Neal to the Lakers as a free agent in 1996. On the other, if the Magic need Howard's signature on a legal document as proof that he won't abandon them or go back on his word, that says everything you need to know about where the two sides stand.



 
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