On Tuesday, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Orlando Magic are planning to re-sign their sixth-year center, Dwight Howard after the upcoming 2010-2011 season to ensure his presence on the team's roster before he can depart from the team in the summer of 2012 as an unrestricted free agent.
Magic General Manager, Otis Smith, expressed the organization's desire to re-sign Howard before he can explore his options as an unrestricted free agent.
It is, as Smith said, "in the best interest of the franchise" to keep their 24-year-old center.
Howard was drafted into the NBA in the 2004-2005 season and since has been a force to be reckoned with in the league.
Fresh out of high school, in 2004, Howard proved as a rookie, to be a valuable asset to the team, averaging a double-double (12.0 points per game, and 10.0 rebounds per game), helping the Magic win 36 games after they had only managed to win 20 games a season prior to his arrival.
During his rookie season, he started all 82 games for the organization, becoming the first player to be drafted directly from high school to do so.
Since his rookie year, Howard has consistently averaged a double-double throughout the regular season and his contributions to the team have increased since.
During the 2007-2008 season, he statistically reached his peak averaging career highs in both points (20.7), and rebounds (14.2), per game.
The 2007-2008 season was also the season in which Howard helped the Magic orchestrate their first Playoff run since 2003, a Playoff berth which ended swiftly after the Magic swept by the Pistons in four games.
Further, since the 2006-2007 season, Howard has helped ensure that the Magic make the playoffs each season and has helped the organization secure the Southeast division in each season since 2008.
Howard also served as a valuable asset to the team in the 2009 NBA Playoffs helping the Magic reach the NBA Finals.
During Orlando's run to the Finals, Howard averaged a stellar 20.3 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 2.61 blocks per game, proving to be a vital presence on both the offensive and defensive end of the floor.
Last season, Howard averaged 18.3 points, 13.2 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game, and became the first player to lead the league in both rebounding and blocks in consecutive seasons.
After leading the Magic past both the Charlotte Bobcats and the Atlanta Hawks in a hasty eight games, Orlando's Championship dreams were dashed by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Howard is indeed a vital key to Orlando's recent success and their success in the future, especially since the powerful threesome, comprised of Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James, has aligned themselves with the Miami Heat, a division rival.
Howard's athletic 6-foot 11-inch, 265-pound frame gives him the ability to score in the post nearly at-will, grab abounding rebounds, and block opposing offensives with a high rate of success.
Other than Howard's physical advantages, he also has a resume which includes being an Olympic gold medalist (2008, Beijing), a four-time NBA All Star, and a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year.
After the 2010-2011 season the Magic will be feeling the pressure to re-sign their All-Star center to avoid a situation similar to the one that the Cleveland Cavaliers encountered with their former star LeBron James.
Orlando's chances of re-signing Howard are looking up considering he told the Orlando Sentinel that, "I plan on being here forever. I love Orlando!"
Although Howard expressed interest in staying in Orlando, he failed to give a concrete answer as to whether or not he will sign the contract extension that the Magic offer him.
For the sake of the organization, hopefully, the Magic will be able to resign Howard to ensure their success for seasons yet to come.
Perhaps this time they will be able to secure Howard, also known as "Superman," to a long term deal, unlike in 1996 when the organization let another young, well-sized, "Superman," Shaquille O'Neal leave the team to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won three NBA Titles.
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