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Will Magic Hang On To Howard?

After Friday night's smackdown of the Lakers, Dwight Howard and the Magic are 11-4, tied with the 76ers for second in the East and fourth in the NBA. They have to be considered legitimate championship contenders. So why would they trade their best player, who also has to be considered a legitimate MVP contender?

Maybe they won't. Otis Smith suggested that Friday before the Lakers game. "He can still walk," Smith said talking about Howard leaving in free agency. "But with a $30 million haircut." Increasingly, that's a legitimate strategy, writes Tim Povtak, who covered the Magic for a decade, and Adrian Wojnarowski. Povtak writes that there's a $28 to $30 million difference between what Howard can get from the Magic (or a team they trade him to before March 15) and a team he joins in July.

Woj writes that the Nets and Lakers both now believe the Magic will NOT make a deal at the deadline because as Woj quotes an NBA executive, "Orlando is too good to trade him now.” Povtak quotes an Eastern Conference executive as saying something similar, "The Magic letting this thing ride ride out is a very real possibility now."