More and more it sounds like Magic may not trade Howard

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Let’s be up front about the strategy: If you were the Orlando Magic and you planned to trade Dwight Howard, you would be smart to say publicly and to teams that call you were not going to make a trade. Make some team go James Dolan crazy and offer you too much for your star. Then you make the move.

That said, it is beginning to sound more and more like Orlando is not going to move Howard before the trade deadline. They are going to into this summer with him in the hopes that he re-signs with them and will not leave the $30 million on the table (which is not really $30 million, but that’s another story).

Marc Stein of ESPN put it this way:

Yet it seems evident that the stronger belief in the Magic Kingdom is that it’s better to keep Dwight and face the worst-case-scenario consequences of losing him for nothing if there’s so much as a 10 percent chance of him changing his mind.

The vibe coming from the Magic is that owner Rich DeVos prefers that scenario, frightening as it is, to what Orlando can get for Dwight in a trade today. Fortunately we have only about a week more to wait to find out whether Orlando’s bravery has staying power … or whether the claim that it’ll take its chances with mere salary-cap space should Dwight bolt was just posturing.

Both New Jersey and Dallas (and Indiana and other places not on Howard’s list of preferred destinations) can sign him to a max contract this summer as a free agent. Howard would just get smaller raises and one fewer years guaranteed than the Magic would offer (which may not be a concern as he has a lot of years left to earn).

The Orlando Sentinel says that in recent days the tone seems to have changed around the Magic regarding Howard.

But in recent days there has been an unmistakable, though generalized, shift in tone. Howard has indicated publicly that he has not made up his mind about his future. Most recently, he seemed to indicate that the Magic might, just might, make some changes that would make him more likely to stay with the franchise. There even is talk that Howard might decide not to opt out of the final year of his contract and then spend the 2012-13 season with the Magic with his long-term future just as it is now: unresolved.

Him picking up that year to stay with the Magic is not likely, that’s the optimistic viewpoint in Orlando. They may well lose him. But it looks more and more like it will not be via trade.

One way or another, we will know by next Wednesday.