Dwight Howard's long-term plans still remain a mystery to the Orlando Magic — and perhaps even to Howard himself.
As of 7 Friday night, Magic General Manager Otis Smith had not had any substantive discussions with Howard's powerhouse agent, Dan Fegan, who also represents free-agent shooting guard Jason Richardson and advises point guard Gilbert Arenas.
Smith cautioned that it would be a mistake to read anything into that.
Indeed, Smith and Fegan could speak with each other this weekend.
And even if they don't, there might not be any immediate reason for concern from the Magic's perspective. Howard and Smith will have the chance to speak Dec. 9, the day training camps are scheduled to open across the league.
The lockout hasn't ended fully, and the NBA is forbidding front-office personnel and coaches around the league from having anything more than perfunctory conversations with players.
But one thing is certain: All of the Magic's next steps — how the team approaches free agency and the strategy it employs with the amnesty clause — revolve around what Howard says.
The perennial All-NBA center has said he hasn't decided what he'll do, but those public statements were made months ago.
And Magic officials need to know what he's thinking.
In an interview with the Sentinel on Wednesday, Smith said the Magic want to retain Howard for years to come. But Smith also didn't rule out trading Howard if it's necessary to do so.
And Smith hasn't changed his stance.
Often portrayed as prey nationally, the Magic themselves could attempt to take on the role of predators — if they receive the right message from Howard.
Smith would make a trade offer to the New Orleans Hornets for Chris Paul or to the New Jersey Nets for Deron Williams, but Smith likely would have to hear some assurances from Howard first.
Howard probably would have to say that he'd remain with the Magic if the franchise acquires and signs one of the superstar point guards long-term.
Would Paul or Williams welcome a move to Orlando if Howard promises he'd remain? Would the Hornets, if they can't re-sign Paul, consider a deal for the trade chips the Magic have to offer? Would the Nets consider a deal if they can't re-sign Williams?
All crucial questions.
Those questions can't be asked quite yet — not until the team receives word from Howard.
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