Philadelphia, PA – If LeBron James heading to Miami was "The Decision," call Dwight Howard staying in Orlando "Indecision 2012."
The Orlando Magic superstar spent much of Wednesday waffling over his immediate future in Central Florida and whether he would keep his early termination option or eliminate it in writing and commit to the Magic through next season.
Heck, Howard spent most of the last four months vacillating before finally waiving his ETO on Thursday, hours before the NBA's 3 pm ET trade deadline.
"It was very tough. Physically, mentality. It was draining," Howard said when talking about his thought process. "I went back and forth. I was praying. I was fasting. The other thing that really kept me going was my teammates."
The formal announcement that D-12 would remain in Orlando for another season was made at a press conference at Amway Center by Magic CEO Alex Martins, team general manager Otis Smith and Howard himself.
"I'm glad this is finally over with," the big man said. "It's been very tough for me the past couple of months, to make this decision. I've gone back and forth and it's not as easy as people think. It's very hard, talking about a career-changing event."
The Magic had insisted on receiving paperwork that would ensure Howard would not opt out of his contract a year early and become a free agent in July. That scenario could have resulted in disaster for Orlando, which could have conceivably lost its franchise cornerstone without getting anything in return.
The Magic were prepared to trade Howard, likely to the Nets, if he had not made this concession.
"One of the biggest reasons (I made the decision) is I'm too loyal," Howard remarked. "I just love this city too much. I love the people, I love the organization. We have a chance to do something special. We have the opportunity to win a championship."
You can bet Howard will be treated like a conquering hero when the Magic return to the Amway Center hardwood on Friday, ironically against the New Jersey Nets, but the real superstar in this story for the City of Orlando is Martins.
By all accounts the rest of the Magic front office was resigned to losing Howard. Coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith were convinced that Howard, perhaps steered by adidas, would be playing in Brooklyn, N.Y., next season.
Smith even admitted that Howard told team officials he wanted to sign the waiver of his out clause on Wednesday night after arriving back in Orlando on the team plane from San Antonio.
Instead of throwing a party and snaring a signature before another waffle arrived at the table, Smith advised Howard to sleep on it. A pessimist, Smith knows that the speculation regarding Howard's future will be back next season and probably wanted to move on from the constant distraction.
Martins, on the other hand, always believed he could convince Howard to stay and spent weeks cultivating a deeper relationship with his superstar.
"I've said this to you for months now: I knew Dwight Howard wanted to stay in Orlando," Martins said. "Loyalty is hard to find, and he has got to be commended for the loyalty he has shown today."
Martins should be commended for making it happen.
SIXERS GET YOUNG
Tough-minded swingman Sam Young was a nice pickup by Philadelphia. With Rudy Gay healthy and producing in the Memphis lineup, Young had fallen out of the Grizzlies' deep rotation.
But, remember the Grizz were 29-15 at the end of 2010-11 and upset San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs after Gay went down and Young was inserted as a full-time starter. He gives the Sixers' bench more size and defense on the wing now that Evan Turner is entrenched in the starting lineup.
"We feel Sam's overall skill set can be a valuable asset to our team and he adds to our depth at two positions," Sixers president of basketball operations Rod Thorn said when announcing the deal.
Memphis, meanwhile, moved below the luxury-tax threshold by shipping Young's $948,000 salary north and still has a scorer, O.J. Mayo, and a top perimeter defender, Tony Allen, supporting Gay on the wing.
"Sam earned his keep around here and is clearly an NBA player," Memphis GM Chris Wallace told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "He was a guy who was a big part of us being able to be successful when Rudy Gay went down last year. But teams evolve."
PACERS ADD A SIGNIFICANT PIECE
The Indiana Pacers acquired Leandro Barbosa from the Toronto Raptors for a second-round pick, another solid move by Larry Bird that gives Frank Vogel more scoring off the bench.
The Brazilian Blur, who is averaging 12.2 points per game, also extends things for Vogel and gives the Pacers mentor the ability to go nine or 10 deep with quality players, something that is certainly important in this truncated season heavy on back-to-back games.
"It's great to have Leandro join our team," Bird said. "He gives us added depth and scoring off the bench and will help us as we make our run to the playoffs."
Indiana was able to absorb Barbosa's healthy $7.6 million contract because it was well under the salary cap.
"This is another move being made with the future in mind," said Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo. "It's difficult to let a player like Leandro go, but this trade further underscores our plan of maximizing salary cap flexibility, acquiring assets and developing our young players.
"Leandro has unique and special ability as a basketball player, but he's an even better person away from the game. I'm happy for him to get the opportunity to join a playoff team as he heads into free agency."
LAKERS FINALLY GET A QUARTERBACK
The lack of athleticism in Los Angeles has been glaring for years and L.A. was intent on acquiring a point guard who can at least put up a fight when a Tony Parker, Chris Paul or Deron Williams shows up along with some youth and athleticism.
The Lakers didn't make a splash, but acquired Ramon Sessions and forward Christian Eyenga from Cleveland for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and a 2012 Lottery-protected first-round pick. Then they turned around and dealt Fisher to Houston for lengthy forward Jordan Hill.
Fisher has done a lot for the Lakers, but the needle on his gas tank is about to break off and could be bought out in South Texas once Kyle Lowry is healthy. Sessions, meanwhile, has had a solid season caddying for presumptive Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. He's not a long-term answer for the Lakers, but offers Mike Brown a significant upgrade for the stretch run.
"Ramon is a true pro and approached his job in a way that showed that every day," said Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant. "Our primary focus continues to center on building this team with our young core and, most importantly, through the draft as we develop a very talented group that can play and succeed together for many years to come."
BLAZERS ARE BIGGEST SELLERS
Anyone who watched the Portland Trail Blazers in Madison Square Garden Wednesday night knows that they have given up on the season, so it's no surprise they parted with veterans Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby and fired coach Nate McMillan.
Wallace was New Jersey's consolation prize coming back East for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and a draft pick, while Camby was sent to Houston for a pair of reclamation projects, former top 10 picks, center Hasheem Thabeet and point guard Jonny Flynn.
The only valued assets in Rip City right now are All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and the ascending Nicolas Batum.
CAPTAIN-JAX ON THE MOVE AGAIN
The much-traveled Stephen Jackson is racking up the frequent-flier miles, moving from Milwaukee to Oakland and then San Antonio over a three-day period. The enigmatic Jackson was shipped to the Alamo City for Richard Jefferson.
Jefferson never fit in San Antonio and just wasn't a Gregg Popovich-type guy. Jackson, on the other hand, won a title with the Spurs back in 2003 and is the type of defender that Pop craves on the wing. His maturity issues are always a problem, however.
CLIPPERS GET THEIR SHOOTER; NUGGETS GIVE UP ON NENE
Perhaps the most surprising deal of the day was a three-way trade between Denver, Washington and the Clippers that saw Nene, the ultra-athletic JaVale McGee and Nick Young change addresses.
Ever since Chauncey Billups was lost for the season on Feb. 6 to a torn left Achilles, the Clippers are just 9-10 and have fallen behind the Lakers in the Pacific Division. The Clippers badly needed a scorer opposite Paul in the backcourt and were able to bring in the Wizards' Young, a L.A. native who can fill it up.
It remains to be seen if the freewheeling Young can fit into a structured system on a team that is actually playing competitive basketball on a nightly basis.
As for Nene and McGee, it was clearly trading headache for headache. Nene is the much more polished player, but McGee might be the most athletic 7-footer in all of basketball.