New Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan said Monday that Howard told him in a meeting last week that he would like to be traded, but Hennigan said he has not committed to honoring that demand. He said will keep communication lines open between both the All-Star and his agent.
It's exactly the scenario the Magic wanted to avoid — for a second time.
Howard listed several teams last season that he wanted to be traded to, but on the day of last season's trade deadline, he committed to the Magic for the 2012-13 season. Magic CEO Alex Martins has said previously that the organization will not enter next season with Howard's situation unresolved.
Orlando was looking to sign Howard to a long-term deal, however, now that Howard has had his first face-to-face sit down with the Magic's new general manager, the All-Star center made it clear he still very much wants out of Orlando.
Hennigan said that having Howard single out one team as a desired destination does complicate any potential trade scenarios, but for now there is no immediate move the Magic to make following the sit down.
"As I told Dwight, I said 'I don't know. I have to think about what you're telling me.' I want to take some time to process everything," Hennigan said of the meeting. "And the answer is we want to map out what's in the best interest of our team. And any decision that we decide going forward with will be one that we feel puts our team in a position to be successful and move forward."
Howard told Yahoo! Sports on Monday that he won't sign long-term with another team if the Magic decide to trade him to somewhere other than Brooklyn.
"There's only one team on my list and if I don't get traded there, I'll play the season out and explore my free agency after that," Howard said.
Howard also vigorously denied an ESPN report that he was claiming that the Magic blackmailed him at the trade deadline to give up the opt-out provision in his contract that would have allowed him to become a free-agent this summer.
Howard asked to be traded last season, and then opted-in for 2012-2013 — forgoing becoming a free agent this summer.
"I never used the word blackmail in reference to any of my dealings with the Magic," Howard said. "I never said that. It's defamatory and it's inaccurate. I know what blackmail means and any report that I used the term incorrectly is inaccurate."
Hennigan also said the charge was never levied by Howard.
"In terms of his health, I think what I can tell you is that Dwight's rehabilitation process is progressing in the right direction," he said. "I do not believe his health will be an issue going forward."
Hennigan reiterated that beyond sharing Dwight's request, he wants the discussions beyond that to remain private at this time as a matter of trust between himself and Howard.
"That's my plan with Dwight and with whoever we talk to on our roster … I would leave it to Dwight to share any details he wants to share about the conversation," Hennigan said. "But again, out of respect for the trust and privacy I'm trying to build I'm not really going to talk about what else we discussed."
Aside from Howard, the Magic are facing other lingering free agency questions surrounding career-long Magic players Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick, and the league's reigning most improved player Ryan Anderson.
Nelson told the Magic last week that he would opt out of the final year and nearly $8 million of his contract and test free agency.
Redick is due $6.1 million next year in the final season of his deal, but the team can get out of that if they waive him by July 7.
Anderson is a restricted free agent, though the Magic extended a qualifying offer to the third-year forward last week. It allows the team to match any offer he receives on the open market this summer.
Hennigan said that they will take their time this week making a decision on Redick and still hope to keep Nelson next year.
"My hope is that he remains in Orlando and in a Magic uniform," he said of Nelson. "But there needs to be a mutual desire for that to happen."
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