Orlando Magic fans may get their wish.
With the NBA trade deadline looming, Orlando superstar center Dwight Howard delivered his eighth 20-20 game of the season to help the Magic overcome a 14-point first half deficit to upend the Miami Heat 104-98 in overtime at the Amway Center.
Tuesday night’s win was one of the Magic’s most impressive outings of the season. Howard put up one of the most productive games of his career, finishing with 24 points, 25 rebounds, three steals and two blocks. Jameer Nelson contributed his best performance of the season, scoring 12 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. It was Howard’s 40th 20-20 game of his career. But, what made headlines was not Orlando’s thrashing of LeBron James (19 points, 11 rebounds) and the Heat. There was a feeling throughout the Amway Center that last night’s matchup could have been Howard’s last home game in a Magic uniform. But, minutes after the game, Howard retracted his preseason trade request and informed Magic officials that he wants to stay with the team for the remainder of the season.
The 26-year-old, three-time Defensive Player of the Year, said in the preseason that he wanted to be traded, preferably to the New Jersey Nets or Dallas Mavericks, potentially ending a seven-year relationship with the Magic. Now plans of any trade appear to be on hold as Orlando has moved up to third in the Eastern Conference and recently have been playing great basketball, having won three consecutive games against the Bulls, Pacers and Heat and their fifth in six games.
“We’re third in the East and playing great basketball,” Howard told reporters. “I don’t want to see that slip away. We have to take a chance and I think we have a great chance to surprise a lot of people by winning.”
The Magic might have to take a gamble with their future in hopes of winning a title this season. It might be a risk management might not be willing to take, considering the franchise lost Shaquille O’Neal in free agency in 1996 without any compensation in return. Is Howard opting to stay with the Magic a smart move on his part or is it just another saga of NBA free agency?