It's been a little over 24 hours since Orlando Magic big man Dwight Howard decided to forgo free agency and remain with the Magic for another season and it's still hard to really make any sense out of this decision.
Did Howard chose to stay because he truly wanted to be in Orlando? Or did he choose to stay out of guilt–the fear of being a pariah and outcast–like LeBron James was when he left Cleveland?
It's hard to tell the true motives of Howard. Hell, it's possible even he doesn't know what he wants in the long term. Though one thing is for certain, the Orlando Magic have set themselves up for another year of exactly the same sort of crap they have had to deal with this season.
With the signing of that waiver, Howard agreed to the remainder of this season and next, that's it. That means that, unless he signs a two or three year extension in the off-season, the Magic will again be left with the hard choice of trading him at the trade deadline next season.
Look, it's understandable that the Magic are trying their hardest to live in a here and now world, that's exactly how most sports are run, but are they really thinking that they are in any better a situation now that they have Howard another year? Seriously, without an extension or some type of definitive guarantee that Howard will sign a contract at the end of next season, they have to move him at next years trade deadline. And if that's the case, and it very well might be, how are they going to lure any quality players in this upcoming off-season if their biggest selling point is having a top five player in the league for half the season?
The answer is simple, they won't be able to. They will be in exactly this same situation again next season except they won't have a waiver or letter of intent that Howard can sign to secure his services. He would be foolish to sign the extension, so that will be off the table.
No, Howard gone from the Magic almost seems like a foregone conclusion, despite the wishy-washiness of the big man himself. It's my opinion that by signing the waiver, Howard will be able to leave the magic next season with a clear conscious, hiding behind his playing out his contract to avoid being the bad guy in most peoples eyes, something that was a major factor in his decision to stay in Orlando for another season.
It's not a perfect world, by any means, and it's hard for organizations to think past today. But the thing is, Orlando is just going to have to start realizing that there will be life without Howard. Because that will be the reality of their near future.