Dwight Howard: 'I Never Said Anything About Leaving' Orlando
ORLANDO, Fla. – Dwight Howard can't stop the speculation over his future -- he can become an unrestricted free agent after next season -- but he made it clear Tuesday afternoon just what he thinks of all the talk that has been surrounding him.
"I'm really tired of it. I am annoyed by it. I can't sign a contract this year. I can't sign anything this summer (because of the pending lockout), so why keep bringing it up,'' said Howard, who was clearly bothered by the topic. "There is no need to talk about what might happen in the future. We can't go into the future now.''
Howard, the best center in basketball and two-time defending Defensive Player of the Year, has two years remaining on his current contract, paying him $17.8 million and $19.2 million, respectively.
He does have the option to become a free agent after the 2011-12 season, which already is in jeopardy because of a pending labor dispute.
Although he never has publicly talked about his future plans, there has been considerable speculation, fueled by sources close to him, that he may opt to play for the Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks, moving him into a bigger market to help his off-the-court business ventures.
"Right now is about this season. It's not about LA or New York, or wherever. I'm really tired of it. I don't want to be talking about where I might be playing next,'' he said. "I never said anything about leaving. I never said anything about me not being happy here. I just want to play basketball and help this team win a championship.''
Howard has been with the Magic since they made him the No. 1 pick of the 2004 NBA Draft. Although he has flourished in Orlando, both on and off the court, he has shown considerable impatience with his teammates on several occasions the last two years. The Magic's recent struggles -- they have been disappointing this season, trailing the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks in the Southeast Division -- has added to the speculation about his unhappiness.
The recent big name free agent defections of LeBron James from Cleveland and Chris Bosh from Toronto also have helped fuel the talk surrounding Howard. So have the on-going trade talks regarding Denver's Carmelo Anthony, who could become a free agent this summer.
Howard has talked for years about his goal of winning an NBA title. The Magic restructured their team in December in hopes of improving, yet it has not happened.
The Magic (32-20) have dropped to fifth in the Eastern Conference, losing badly to both Miami and Boston in the last several days.
"That's Carmelo and LeBron. It has nothing to do with Dwight Howard,'' he said. "I'm focused on now, this season, this moment right now. When we get down the road to 2012, whenever the time for me to sign, we can talk about that stuff. For now, I don't want to talk about it. There is no need to bring it up.''
Although Howard talked for three minutes about how annoyed he was at the speculation, he did not say anything about wanting to resign with the Magic, a clear indication that his options will be wide open, and a signal that the speculation will continue.