Josh Robbins | Orlando Sentinel
4:30 PM EST, January 4, 2013
The Orlando Magic won’t attempt to convince Dwight Howard to rejoin their team when Howard becomes a free agent in July, an NBA source with knowledge of the Magic’s thinking told the Orlando Sentinel.
Magic officials are said to believe it’s too soon to try to bring back Howard after the acrimonious eight months between his Dec. 2011 trade request and the deal that sent him to the Los Angeles Lakers.
There would be plenty of stumbling blocks to a return to the Magic, anyway.
First, the Magic won’t have the salary-cap space to sign Howard outright to a maximum-level deal. Orlando, with some maneuvering, could get down to about $14.5 million under the projected cap figure for the 2013-14 season, but that wouldn’t be enough.
So, the only way the Magic could acquire Howard would be through a sign-and-trade deal. Such a deal could be worth, at most, almost $87 million over four seasons.
The Dallas Mavericks should be far enough under the cap to be able to sign Howard outright to a four-year, $87-million deal.
The Lakers will be the only team that will be able to offer Howard a five-year deal — a deal that could top out at around $117 million — assuming, of course, that the Lakers don’t trade him before the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
Howard is eligible to sign a contract extension now, but Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, said several months ago that Howard will test free agency.
Of course, there would be a bigger obstacle that would prevent the Magic from acquiring Howard: He has shown no desire to be with the Magic.
And that might be a massive understatement.
On July 25, when Howard still was on Orlando’s roster, new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan and new assistant general manager Scott Perry met face-to-face with Howard, Fegan and Howard’s business manager, Kevin Samples, in Southern California.
In that meeting, Hennigan and Perry tried to develop a relationship with Howard in case they decided to begin 2012-13 with Howard on the Magic’s roster.
Howard responded that he had no desire to build a relationship with them because he still wanted a trade.
On Aug. 10, the Magic traded Howard to the Lakers in a four-team deal that also included the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers.
In a basketball sense, Howard’s short tenure in Los Angeles has been a disappointment.
The Lakers entered today with a 15-16 record, one game behind the Minnesota Timberwolves for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
On the court, Howard has struggled relative to the standards he set in Orlando.
He began Friday averaging 17.3 points per game, the third-lowest scoring average of his pro career. He also was averaging 11.9 rebounds per game, the second-lowest rebounding average of his career.
He has said he’s still not at full strength following surgery eight and a half months ago to repair a herniated disk in his lower back.
But in Orlando, he was the focal point of the Magic’s offense.
In Los Angeles, he isn’t.
If Howard’s struggles in L.A. continue, and if the Lakers keep flailing, it’s conceivable other teams would be able to create inroads in free agency.
But the Magic don’t plan to be one of the teams competing for Howard’s services.
That ship has sailed — at least for now.
On March 15, after weeks of trying to convince Howard to stay, the All-NBA center waived an early-termination clause in his contract that would’ve enabled him to become a free agent after the 2011-12 season.
In the weeks and months that followed, the relationship between the Magic and Howard deteriorated.
And, now, it appears the Magic won’t be trying to convince Howard of anything this summer.
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.
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