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Old 07-12-2007, 07:29 PM   #1
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Default Dwight Howard gets $80mil extension

Quote:
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Only 21 years old, Dwight Howard already says he wants to retire in Orlando.

He committed to sticking around for a while longer Thursday, as the former No. 1 overall pick signed a five-year contract extension worth approximately $80 million.

"Me and Mickey Mouse will be here forever," Howard joked.

It was Orlando's second multimillion dollar move in two days. The Magic officially pulled free agent All-Star Rashard Lewis from Seattle on Wednesday, agreeing to a six-year contract worth more than $110 million in a a sign-and-trade deal.

Those two moves will define the team for the foreseeable future, and general manager Otis Smith likes what he sees.

"You have to have a big guy in the middle. [Coach Stan Van Gundy] talked about the great perimeter players, and I feel very good about the opportunity to sign a big guy for a long period of time," Smith said.

Howard averaged a team-best 17.6 points and 12.3 rebounds last season, making his first All-Star game. He has not missed any of Orlando's 82 regular-season games in three seasons, and already holds the franchise record for consecutive games played (246).

Howard shot 81 percent from the field over a five-game stretch last season, 10th best in NBA history behind eight Wilt Chamberlain performances and one stretch from Bob Hanson. He finished second in the league in field goal percentage at 60.3 percent, and third in rebounding.

He says he's still improving.

"Orlando has really seen just a little bit of Dwight Howard," he said. "There are a lot of things that I need to do to get better. I don't really think I have scratched the surface of the things I know I am capable of doing, but each year and each game is an experience for me. And really I am just so excited right now, it's hard to explain."

Like Lewis, Howard joined the league straight out of high school. But the 265-pounder from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy was the top overall pick, while Lewis slipped into the second round.

Still, Howard said he didn't feel pressured. Not as a team leader and not as the recipient of a rich new deal.

"God didn't give me big shoulders for nothing, so I feel I can handle a lot of pressure," he said. "I am just very excited."

Howard and Lewis speak highly of each other, and both are excited to play on the same team. Lewis gives Orlando a prolific scorer inside and out -- a 6-foot-10 3-point threat to combine with Howard's brute inside strength.

"My goal is to win a championship and we just added a great piece to our team that is going to help us get to that level," Howard said.

The Magic have also transformed themselves by subtraction. Grant Hill signed with the Phoenix Suns after seven injury-plagued seasons here, and Orlando allowed Darko Milicic to go elsewhere. The 7-footer left on bad terms after the Magic stopped pursuing him, a reversal from Smith's promise he was an offseason priority.

The team has also been through three head coaches, firing Brian Hill, hiring and losing Billy Donovan and finally tapping Van Gundy.

The former Miami Heat coach said some forget how skilled Howard is for his age.

"Just go back and try to find me people that at his age have been as good, and then just look at the career graph of big guys," he said. "They are going to keep improving, always have. Their peak is sort of somewhere at 29-30, so there is a lot of development for him over the years."

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Now will he improve his OVERALL game?
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