Dwight Howard has not yet indicated to Orlando management whether he wants to stay with the Magic, request a trade or play out the season and become a free agent, a person directly involved in the organization's planning told CBSSports.com Tuesday.
"Training camp opens the door to everything," said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I think that will happen very, very soon."
The soap opera of whether Howard stays in Orlando or seeks a trade to the Lakers already has begun in full force, however, and there already has been a casualty. Team executives were apprised via email Tuesday morning that CEO Bob Vander Weide has stepped down and will be replaced by team president Alex Martins. In replacing Vander Weide, 53, whose departure is being characterized as a retirement, Martin's first order of business will be to represent the Magic on the NBA's Board of Governors, which is scheduled to vote on the new collective bargaining agreement Thursday in an electronic ballot.
UPDATE: Whether Vander Weide's departure has anything to do with the owners' labor relations committee -- of which Vander Weide was a member -- signing off on a deal that could actually expedite Howard's departure from Orlando is a matter worthy of consideration. The Magic scheduled a news conference for Wednesday to address Vander Weide's departure, but Vander Weide admitted Tuesday that he did, in fact, call Howard at 1 a.m. earlier this week after "a couple of glasses of wine" -- a conversation in which the executive reportedly urged the star to stay in Orlando.
The person familiar with the Magic's strategy said Tuesday that, while Howard has yet to verbalize what he wants, the All-Star center has "deep roots here" and has previously expressed that "this is where he'd like to fulfill his career."
"He wants to win," the person said. "That's on his mind intensely."
While Howard has never publicly expressed a desire to leave Orlando, it has been known among people in his inner circle for months that his preference is to play for the Lakers. The only way he's getting to that L.A. team would be via a trade, and the Lakers -- with Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom -- are one of the few teams in the league with enough assets to pull it off.
The new rules set to be approved by the players and owners this week have cut off some of the avenues for superstars looking to leave small markets for big markets -- but some of those rules actually increase the pressure on the home team to make a decision to trade such a player sooner than in the past. The extension Orlando can offer Howard -- same as New Orleans can offer Chris Paul -- falls short of what each could each get as an unrestricted free agent come July 1. And since they can no longer get maximum contract length and raises via a sign-and-trade, their teams don't have that avenue as a fallback option.
"I don't think he knows what he's going to do at this point," the person familiar with the Magic's strategy said. "I'm not sure anybody does. It's impossible to predict."
The overwhelming opinion in central Florida -- which in 1996 saw Shaquille O'Neal flee Orlando to sign with the Lakers as a free agent -- is for Howard to let his intentions be known sooner than later.
"Don't drag us out," the person said. "Tell us what you want, so we can react with facts, not theories and guesses."