Perhaps it should be will he stay, or can he stay? The Orlando Magic are heading towards a situation where their franchise will be defined in a very short period of time. Dwight Howard is a pending free agent this summer and he has clearly expressed his desire to play elsewhere as soon as possible. His preferred destinations were reported to be (in no particular order): The Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, New Jersey Nets and Chicago Bulls. The Magic are under no obligation to trade him to one of these teams, however these are likely the only teams they can get a decent return from due to the fact that Howard would sign a new contract there. The trade route seems to be the best possible way to kick start a rebuild in what has become Florida's second most desired destination. After watching what Toronto and Cleveland went through just a few short years ago, Magic general manager Otis Smith should have his finger on the trigger to make a deal. Just for fun, lets explore the other possible outcomes.
The most interesting option, which many people are overlooking, is that Howard can use his player option and stay for the last year of his contract. This would give the Magic more time to create a championship caliber team, and would allow Dwight to look like he actually attempted to make things work. The problem is that the Magic are cap strapped in a big way, making any possible moves much harder to create and execute. I can tell you this; common sense dictates that Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson are not going to cut it.
Orlando could attempt to stay the course and somehow convince D12 to stay and resign. I believe there are two things that Orlando must do to make this happen:
1. The team makes some drastic front court changes and somehow makes a trade for a legitimate perimeter player, such as Deron Williams in free agency, or another player via trade.
2. The team plays the "Don't you dare fuck us over like Shaq did!" card, thoroughly guilt tripping the big man into staying with a team that's good, but clearly not good enough to seriously compete in what has become a top heavy Eastern conference.
This move runs some serious risk however, as Howard is under no obligation to stay, and could leave a city of sad, stunned faces behind him in the summer. They might be able to save some face by pushing a sign and trade, however that would likely be frowned upon by the league. I can see David Stern now, stewing in his tower surrounded by the fires of Mordor, quietly plotting which team he can fuck over next with his power of veto - but I digress. One thing is for certain; whatever path the Magic plan to take, it will be a hell of a lot clearer after Thursday March 15th at 3pm eastern time.