Another reversal: Dwight Howard says he will opt-in with Magic

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Orlando called Dwight Howard’s bluff — when he refused Wednesday afternoon to waive his Early Termination option (ETO, the thing that lets him opt out of his contract next summer) the Magic had enough of Howard’s “take a chance on me” game and worked the phones hard to trade him.

Orlando was done.

But Howard wasn’t — he wants to stay in Orlando and had another change of heart.

In an exclusive interview with Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM (who gets the scoop of the year) Howard says he will sign the papers to stay with the Magic.

“Man, listen, you know my heart, my soul and everything I have is in Orlando,” Howard told RealGM. “I just can’t leave it behind.”

Orlando officials will believe it when they have the signed paper in their hands, but other sources have confirmed this is Howard’s plan. He said he would sign the ETO waiver first thing Thursday morning.

From the start Orlando officials believed Howard wanted to stay in the team but it was advisors around him — agent Dan Fegan and others — who were pushing him to be a free agent. (Fegan did not put together Howard’s current contract, so he had incentive to want a new one and get paid).

Howard essentially confirmed that.

“I have gotten some bad advice,” Howard said. “I apologize for this circus I have caused to the fans of our city. They didn’t deserve none of this. I’m sorry from the bottom of my heart. I will do whatever I can to make this right and do what I was put in Orlando to do…

“This has been a very hard time,” Howard said. “For me, my family and all of us. The fans deserve a better hero and I will make that happen. I love and appreciate my fans and this city.”

For the Magic to accept the waiving of the ETO, both Howard and Fegan have to sign off on it. We’ll see how that goes, Fegan has talked Howard out of signing off on it before. But Howard seems certain this time. And there are hints Fegan could be on his way out.

If I were cynical about such matters — and I am — I would note that if Howard were traded to the Nets, a team well out of the playoffs, he would lose a large bonus from Adidas, as reported by ESPN.

Again, we’ll believe it when we see it, but he seems serious.

If he does sign to stay, how will the city of Orlando react? My guess is they will welcome him with open arms like the prodigal son.

However, Howard’s national reputation will take a hit for how poorly he handled the entire situation, giving mixed signals and changing his mind multiple times. He handled the decision making process worse than LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, but his end decision is likely to be one casual fans like better. How that all impacts his popularity is uncharted territory.

Remember that him opting in is a one-year thing — next trade deadline, if the Magic have not improved the roster to Howard’s satisfaction, we cold be right back in the same place. That is the most likely outcome. Howard would be a free agent in the class of 2013.

But for now, Howard appears committed to the Magic for another year.

Gordon Hayward’s agent says return this season unlikely

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Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.

There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.

Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.

Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.

The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.

Trail Blazers beat Suns by 48, biggest season-opening rout in NBA history

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Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.

More than fine.

Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.

Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):

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The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.

Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova scrap (video)

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Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.

Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.

Report: ‘Tremendous concern’ for Jeremy Lin’s knee injury

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The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?

Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:

If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.

The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.

It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.