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Dwight Howard Will Reportedly Opt-In To Final Season Of Orlando Contract

In an absolutely stunning move, multiple sources are reporting that Dwight Howard has decided to opt-in to the final year of his contract with the Orlando Magic, meaning that he will not be a free agent until the summer of 2013.

Howard's decision will send shock-waves throughout the NBA, as he was supposed to be the big prize of the summer of 2012.

The Dallas Mavericks were one of the many teams who structured their roster around clearing salary cap space for both Howard and Deron Williams in the summer of 2012, essentially forfeiting a title defense by letting Tyson Chandler leave in free agency.

However, Howard's decision to stay in Orlando isn't entirely bad news for the Mavericks, as the New Jersey Nets were banking on keeping Williams by offering him the chance to play with Howard in their new Brooklyn stadium. If Howard is indeed unavailable, the current roster situation in New Jersey is so hopeless that there is very little reason to believe Williams would re-sign there.

That leaves Dallas, Williams' home-town team, as his best option in free agency while giving the Mavericks another year to clear cap space around Williams and Dirk to make a run at Howard in 2013.

But even if Orlando ends up retaining their MVP center, a core of Williams and Dirk is "just" another elite 7'0 defensive center from title contention.

Of course, all this speculation depends on Howard, whose been fairly flighty throughout this process, not changing his mind one more time:

For all the latest and up-to-the-minute news, rumors and analysis of how the NBA trade deadline will affect the Mavericks, stay tuned to SBN Dallas' story stream.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.