The biggest news as the NBA trading deadline came and went was who didn’t change his address.
The on-again, off-again drama surrounding the future of the six-time All-Star is apparently off, for now. It was widely speculated that Howard, 26, would choose to opt out of his contract and that the Magic would trade him by the 3 p.m. Thursday, March 15 deadline, rather than lose him to free agency this summer of 2012. By signing the waiver not to opt out, Howard will finish the season with the Magic, who are in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Howard had gone back and forth on his trade demand. He asked for a trade just after the NBA lockout was settled in December 2011 and told the Magic there were three teams — the New Jersey Nets, the Los Angeles Lakers or the Dallas Mavericks — that he’d be willing to go to. He apparently changed his mind this week.
“I’m glad this is finally over,” Howard said at press conference in Orlando before the trade deadline Thursday. “I’m very loyal and I’ve always put loyalty above everything.”
That loyalty will cost the Magic $19.4 million, which is Howard’s salary for next season. Still, without a long-term deal in place for Howard, the trade speculation will likely start all over again in the 2012–13 season.
In the meantime, Magic fans, who saw a similar scenario take place in 1996 when center Shaquille O’Neal left Orlando to join the Lakers as a free agent, will watch the 6-foot-11 Howard lead the team into the playoffs. The Magic (28-16) are third in the East, behind the “http://www.ticketnetwork.com/tickets/chicago-bulls-tickets.aspx”target=”_blank”>Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. Howard, the NBA Defensive Player of the Year last season, leads the team in scoring (21.2 points a game) and rebounding (15.2) and is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.
Howard remaining in Orlando should keep the Magic in contention and fans coming to the Amway Center. The Magic have an average face value ticket price of $43.65, nearly $5 below the NBA average of $48.48. They rank 17th in the 30-team NBA at $275.90 in Team Marketing Report’s Fan Cost Index, which calculates the cost of going to a game for a family of four.
The Magic are ninth in the NBA in attendance, averaging a sellout of 18,869 through 22 dates at the Amway Center, which opened in 2010.
On the secondary market, the average ticket price for the Magic’s next home game, Friday night against the Nets, was $96, according to ticket search site TiqIQ.com. A March 19 home game against the Bulls had an average of $119.
Until Howard’s reversal, much of the trade talk had him going to the Nets, who will move from Newark, N.J., to Brooklyn next season. While it would have dropped Howard significantly in the standings — the Nets are 15–29 &mdash it was part of plan by Nets ownership, which includes Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov and rap mogul Jay-Z, to sign Howard, re-sign point guard Deron Williams and attract other high-profile free agents before the move to the Barclays Center is made next fall 2012.
Howard was selected by the Magic out of high school with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft. Orlando has made the playoffs every year since 2006-07, including an NBA Finals loss to the Lakers in 2009.
In notable trades that did happen at the deadline, the Lakers dealt veteran guard Derek Fisher and a first-round draft pick to the Houston Rockets for forward Jordan Hill. The Rockets also acquired veteran center Marcus Camby from the Portland Trail Blazers in a separate deal. The Lakers also traded for point guard Ramon Sessions from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a deal that sent Luke Walton and Jason Kapono to the Cavs.
The Nets obtained Gerald Wallace from the Trail Blazers for two players and a draft pick. A three-team deal among the Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards and L.A. Clippers sent power forward Nene to Washington, Javale McGee and Ronny Turiaf from Washington to Denver and Nick Young from the Wizards to the Clippers. Earlier in the week, the Golden State Warriors sent three players, including high-scoring Monta Ellis, to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. The Warriors then traded Jackson to the San Antonio Spurs for Richard Jefferson.