UPDATE: Multiple reports, now citing players, say that Howard didn't promise he'd be back in Orlando next season, rather that he was "all in" for the remainder of this season. Should the new reports be accurate, it would be safe to assume that Howard is back firmly on the block for the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline.
From earlier . . .
As first reported by WFTV, and later confirmed by Sam Amick and Ken Berger on Twitter, Dwight Howard told Magic teammates that he won't opt out of his contract next season, and will remain in Orlando through 2013.
Howard has a player option for $19.2 million next year.
Of course, Howard would need to sign the necessary paperwork to guarantee to Orlando that he won't jump ship after all. Because of that, Ken Berger tweeted, the Magic will continue to explore trading their superstar until the paperwork is in their hands.
Following Orlando's win against the Heat last night, Howard said he wanted to finish the season with the Magic. However, he was noncommittal about the 2012-13 season, and reports continued to swirl that Howard would inevitably wind up in Brooklyn next year.
Prior to the season, Howard issued a trade request to the Magic with a short list of preferred destinations, led by the New Jersey Nets. The Nets have remained on top of Howard's list, with the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks reportedly making appearances on the list at various points.
While Howard's remarks after last night's game, on the surface, made it seem Orlando would hold on to the superstar and make a run at a championship, rumors continued to evolve throughout the day, including trades ranging from Howard going to New Jersey, to improbable social media-fueled speculation surrounding a Carmelo Anthony-for-Dwight Howard swap.
Despite all of the drama surrounding Dwight, the Magic remain in prime position to make a run at an NBA championship. After beating the prohibitive league favorites last night, are 28-15, third in the Eastern Conference.
Howard is averaging 21.2 points and 15.2 rebounds per game, and is arguably the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year.