|Magic fans probably won't be rooting for Dwight Howard past the 2012-13 season. (Getty Images)|
In a meeting with Magic officials Wednesday in Los Angeles, Dwight Howard made it clear that he's signed his last contract of any kind in Orlando and challenged the team's new front office on why he hasn't been traded yet, a person with knowledge of the meeting told CBSSports.com.
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The Howard saga reached another boiling point when Howard "pointedly asked" Orlando officials why he hasn't been traded, the person familiar with the meeting said. There are indications that Howard had been given assurances from the ownership level that he would be traded soon, but the Magic have shown no urgency to deal him after proposed trades that would've sent the All-Star center to the Nets or Lakers fell apart.
"Dwight was direct and clear that he has no intention of signing another contract or an extension with the Magic," the person familiar with the meeting said.
Howard attended the meeting Wednesday with his agent, Dan Fegan, and business manager, Kevin Samples. Orlando GM Rob Hennigan and assistant GM Scotty Perry represented the Magic.
The meeting came after Fegan stated publicly in recent days that Howard had no intention of making a long-term commitment to any team via a trade, setting the stage for Howard to become an unrestricted free agent next summer if the Magic refused to trade him. Subsequently, league sources say Magic officials have indicated that they may, in fact, hold onto Howard for the entire season if they can't get the kind of assets they're trying to receive in a trade.
The Magic's posture seemingly was a leverage play, since if Howard stayed in Orlando all season the Magic would be the only team capable of giving him a five-year deal worth approximately $100 million. But Howard's camp has indicated that the All-Star values his choice more and believes he'll get the fifth year regardless -- from his next team on his next contract.
The Lakers and Nets, unable to complete trades for Howard this summer, have both moved on and their cap space is full for next summer. The Lakers used the Lamar Odom trade exception, which could've absorbed the contracts of Jason Richardson and Chris Duhon in a Howard trade, to acquire Steve Nash in a sign-and-trade. The Nets re-signed center Brook Lopez, who won't be trade-eligible again until January 15.
Not only will the Lakers and Nets not have cap room next summer to sign Howard as an unrestricted free agent, but as both teams' payrolls stand now, neither would be permitted under the new collective bargaining agreement to acquire Howard in a sign-and-trade since they would be above the $4 million luxury tax apron where teams are forbidden to receive players in sign-and-trades beginning next season.
One team that would have cap room and the ability to furnish assets to Orlando in a sign-and-trade for Howard next summer is the Dallas Mavericks, who were on Howard's original three-team list that also included the Lakers and Nets. The Rockets, whose lucrative offer sheets for Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin and Bulls center Omer Asik were not matched, also have become less of a player for Howard. And if Howard would walk away from the Magic for a four-year deal with lesser raises, his camp has made it clear that he'd walk away from the Rockets, too.
Basically, with both sides opting to play hardball with the offseason winding down and Howard still a member of the Magic, the Dwightmare is getting uglier before it shows any signs of getting resolved.