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Dwight Howard decides to stick with Magic

Dwight Howard, the face of the Orlando Magic franchise, will stay with the team for at least another season rather than test the free agent market later this year, the six-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star said on Thursday.

Howard, a three-times defensive player of the year, went back and forth in his decision but ultimately decided to sign a waiver that denied him the chance to terminate his contract after the current campaign.

"One of the biggest reasons is because I am too loyal, I have always believed that loyalty is before anything," Howard told reporters at a news conference.

"It's been very tough but now we can get back just playing basketball, having some peace and go for a championship."

If he did not agree to stay with the Magic and the team did not move him by Thursday's trade deadline, they risked losing him for nothing in July when he could have becomes a free agent.

The attention on Howard's future was the most directed at any prospective free agent since two-time NBA most valuable player LeBron James went on national television to announce his much-publicized move to Miami in 2010.

Howard leads the Magic with an average of 21.2 points and a league-high 15.2 rebounds per game.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Julian Linden)