Sources: Howard informs Magic he won't waive opt out

Dwight Howard and agent Dan Fegan told top Magic officials Wednesday night that he will not sign away his ability to opt out of his contract after the season, pressuring Orlando to decide whether to keep him past the trade deadline without a commitment, two league sources told

In a conference call before boarding the team bus to Wednesday night's game in San Antonio, Howard informed Magic officials -- including owner Rich DeVos -- that he was backtracking on an earlier verbal commitment to sign an early-termination waiver. The Magic wanted Howard and Fegan to sign the waiver, assuring the team in writing that if he weren't traded by Thursday's 3 p.m. ET deadline he would play for the team next season.

"He has informed the Magic he will not waive his ETO," a person briefed on the situation said. first reported Howard's flip-flop. Multiple sources told earlier in the day that Howard told a top member of the Magic's management team that he would sign the waiver, assuring them he would not opt out of his $19.5 million contract for next season. One of the sources, who was briefed on Howard's conversation with the official, said Howard requested the paperwork necessary to keep him in a Magic uniform beyond the deadline and next season and asked that copies be sent to Fegan and Kevin Samples, his business manager.

Now, the Howard saga enters the next phase as the Magic will continue exploring trade options. If Howard isn't dealt by Thursday's deadline -- or after the season and before July 1 -- the Magic face the prospect of losing him as a free agent and receiving no assets in return.

Meanwhile, small trades -- though important to the teams trying to do them -- were being held up all around the league due to the paralyzing Howard saga. Teams on the periphery of potential Howard trades, or those who believed they had a shot at acquiring the All-Star center, were hesitant to move assets until a resolution was reached in Orlando.

Even before Wednesday's bizarre developments -- which were bizarre even by NBA superstar wanderlust standards -- the Magic already had come to the realization that they would likely have to trade Howard by Thursday's deadline. reported Tuesday that the Magic were preparing to shift into trade mode and that the Nets -- Howard's preferred destination -- were emerging as the most realistic trade partner.

One source indicated Tuesday that Howard "wants that big market," and that he's become convinced that, in terms of marketing opportunities and global exposure, "there's no place in the world he can do it like New York." Howard's contract renewal with Adidas, a basketball marketing source told, could exceed Derrick Rose's estimated $200 million deal if he winds up in the New York market.

"I think he's looking for things beyond basketball that he can set himself up for," a person connected to Howard told Wednesday night.

Magic officials were not surprised by Howard's change of heart. Actually, the very fact that they needed to ask the franchise cornerstone who's played for them since he was drafted in 2004 to express his commitment to them in writing spoke volumes about the level of trust between the two sides. Howard has changed his mind many times during the months-long runup to Thursday's deadline, and Magic officials informed of Howard's verbal commitment earlier in the day were skeptical.

On the call with DeVos, GM Otis Smith, CEO Alex Martins and other members of the DeVos family, Howard stated that his preference was to stay in Orlando beyond this season, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Howard implored the executives and DeVos to "trust" that he will stay, the person said.

Meanwhile, Smith remained on the phones throughout the day Wednesday, exploring trade possibilities for Howard and other contingencies that would add talent to the roster in the event Howard gave the team the written commitment it required.

Howard's change of heart does not necessarily mean the Magic are destined to trade him, although the organization's stance is that no commitment from Howard to stay beyond this season is tantamount to him saying he's leaving. Smith, Martins and DeVos will weigh whether the most advantegeous path for the franchise is to trade him or let him leave as a free agent and use the resulting payroll flexibility to rebuild.

Either way, the end to Wednesday's developments -- at least the end as of tipoff time for the Magic-Spurs game in San Antonio -- was a boon to the Nets, who have positioned themselves to pair Howard with Deron Williams in Brooklyn next season either by trading for him or signing him as a free agent after July 1. Once he opts out, Howard could get a five-year deal with the Magic but only a four-year deal from other teams -- or via a sign-and-trade, for which the only motivation for Howard would be if he was determined to land with a team that doesn't have cap space to sign him.

Whether he's staying or leaving, opting in for 2012-13 has never been a wise financial decision for Howard. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, if Howard opted in, he could only get three years added on in the form of an extension for a total of four years -- the same length he could get by simply opting out and signing with a new team.

In an extraordinary day in the Howard saga, here's what happened in San Antonio as the Magic were preparing to face the Spurs Wednesday night:

After the walkthrough meeting at the team hotel, Howard asked his teammates to stick around for a players' only meeting. There are conflicting accounts of what Howard said during the meeting. Some players in the meeting came away 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.

In any event, Howard told a high-ranking member of the Magic's management team that he would sign the ETO waiver and requested the paperwork, which was a league-approved amendment to his contract, a person briefed on the conversation said. 

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 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 decline 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.

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.

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Ken Berger began covering the NBA when Kobe Bryant was a rookie. Somehow, he'll outlast him. Ken has multiple top-10 finishes in the APSE writing contest and one championship to his credit - the 2015 Metropolitan... Full Bio

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