Orlando Magic v New York Knicks

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.

Suns’ Markieff Morris, Archie Goodwin get in scuffle on the bench

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Just another magical day in the Valley of the Sun, where clearly Jeff Hornacek was the problem….

During an early timeout in the Suns’ game at Golden State, Markieff Morris tried to explain something to Archie Goodwin, who is seated. This conversation gets heated quickly, and teammates eventually have to step in and separate the two teammates.

The Suns have shopped Morris around as the trade deadline approaches, this isn’t going to help his value.

We should find out more about what happened after the game ends, although I’m sure both sides will play it down as “nothing.”

Kawhi Leonard drains game winner to beat Orlando (VIDEO)

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This is how much Gregg Popovich trusts Kawhi Leonard on offense now: Tie game with 13.3 seconds remaining, and the play design is a 1-4 flat isolation for Leonard. It’s the kind of play teams will call for LeBron James or Kevin Durant. Popovich just called it for Leonard.

And he was rewarded with a game-winning bucket.

Leonard finished with 29 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 21, and the Spurs head into the All-Star break with a 45-8 record, on pace to win 70 games this season. And that still would only get them a two seed.

Hornets’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffers shoulder dislocation, leaves game

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
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Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had been back just six games after suffering a torn labrum in the preseason that required surgery. The Hornets had won four of those six, were playing improved defense, and looked like a potential playoff team in the East.

Now this.

He went straight to the locker room and did not return to the game (the Pacers got the win).

You can see the injury above. In a scramble for a loose ball, the Pacers’ Ian Mahinmi falls on MKG’s arm, dislocating his shoulder.

We don’t know the severity of all this and if MKG is going to miss time beyond this game. But it isn’t good.

Wife of former Pelicans coach Monty Williams dies in car accident

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 12:  Ingrid Williams, wife of New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams and other member of the Pelicans organization feed the homeless on December 12, 2013 at the New Orleans Mission in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
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There are no words to describe how sad this is.

Ingrid Williams, the wife of Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach and former New Orleans Pelicans head coach, Monty Williams, died Wednesday at the age of 44 from injuries suffered in a car accident the day before.

Williams’ car was hit head-on by another vehicle that had crossed over the center divider, according to the Oklahoman.

The Monty and Ingrid had been married more than 20 years and have five children, ranging in age from 17 to 5. Williams is one of the better respected and personally liked coaches around the league, and the tributes have just started to pour in.

Our thoughts are with Williams and his family.