UPDATE: Dwight Howard changes mind again, won't commit to Orlando
ESPN's Chris Broussard writes that "When asked why Howard told several teammates and members of the organization earlier in the day that he had, indeed, decided not to opt out of his contract, the source insisted Howard "didn't fully understand the ramifications" of surrendering his ETO (Early Termination Option) and did so largely because Magic officials warned him that he would be traded by Thursday's 3 p.m. deadline if he did not take that step."
The Orlando Magic maintain that without a Howard's commitment to playing another season for them, they will trade him prior to Thursday's 3pm EDT NBA trade deadline.
Update: Two separate reports Wednesday afternoon indicate that Dwight Howard is not going to be traded by the Orlando Magic.
Ken Berger of CBS Sports tweeted Wednesday that "Dwight Howard informed teammates he won't opt out of contract in July, league source tell @CBSSports".
If Howard indeed refuses to opt out, he's with the Magic for at least another season and he knows this.
ESPN similarly reported that Howard has decided to commit to Orlando for at least another year, giving the Magic more time to assemble pieces via trades or free agency. But there's a big "but".
"Howard has not signed a waiver of his early termination option at this point, which means nothing is guaranteed yet," ESPN NBA analyst Chris Broussard writes. "Both Howard and his representation must sign the documentation."
In other words, the Magic are likely to require Howard to sign a document committing to Orlando for at least another season. If Howard and his agent do not sign this document prior to the Thursday 3pm EDT, the Magic would likely trade Howard.
There are rumored outlines of a Dwight Howard deal with a few NBA franchises, should Howard be traded Wednesday or Thursday:
Dwight Howard to the Nets - This trade has already happened in the NBA merchandising department. CBS Sports busted NBAStore.com selling Dwight Howard Nets jerseys on their retail site Tuesday. NBAStore.com page has since taken the page down.
Howard is widely rumored to prefer New Jersey -- but it's not his call unless he hits free agency this summer. If he hits New Jersey this week, it is likely to cost the Nets Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, Mehmet Okur, and/or picks.
Dwight Howard to the Lakers - This appears to be the deal offering Orlando its best returns. The Magic reportedly consider Andrew Bynum to be the best player available in return for Howard, so they're pushing this one. The Magic might also be able to acquire Pau Gasol in such a package.
The LA Times notes that salaries have to match in NBA trades, so the Lakers could acquire not only Dwight Howard, but also Jameer Nelson and/or Hedo Turkoglu should they give up Gasol and Bynum.
Dwight Howard to the Knicks - The Knicks sort of have a lot on their plate right now, so they're a little less likely to be pursuing a Dwight Howard megadeal. The New York Daily News speculated this week with basically no real evidence that the Knicks could acquire Howard for Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. Anthony now appears much less likely to be traded, considering he's just completed successfully driving his coach out of town.
Dwight Howard to the Rockets - CBS Sports' Ken berger declares the Houston Rockets "the most serious so-called "rental" team pursuing Howard and hoping to persuade him to commit to them." The Houston Chronicle notes that the Rockets would trade for Howard with or without an agreement for a long-term contract extension. But Houston's tradeable assets of Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry make them perhaps Orlando's least attractive trading partner.
Take solace, Orlando fans. Even if Howard is traded before the deadline, you'll still have him for one more game -- Wednesday night at San Antonio. After that, "Superman" could be gone faster than a speeding bullet.