Dwight Howard: Orlando is first choice

Dwight Howard is not planning on following Shaquille O'Neal's lead and bolting the Orlando Magic via fee agency.

Or so Howard is saying a year before the he hits the open market following next season. The center is under contract with the Magic through the 2012-13 season, but can terminate the deal a year early.

O'Neal, looking to take his talents to Hollywood, left the Magic for the Los Angeles Lakers after the 1995-96 season.

"I'm not trying to run behind nobody like Shaq or be behind somebody else," Howard told the Orlando Sentinel Monday.

"I want to start my own path and I want people to follow my path and not just follow somebody else's path. I want to have my own path, and I want to start that here in Orlando. But I can't do it alone. Not only do I need the right teammates, but I need the city behind me. That's the only way it's going to get done. We can change this small city that we have -- this small market that we have -- and we can make it a big market."

In order to make that leap it appears the Magic would have to re-tool their roster to appease Howard. Following a first-round playoff ouster by the Atlanta Hawks, the Magic would have to give the All-NBA center a stronger supposting cast to make the club a bigger threat to win a championship.

A deeper run in the playoffs would perhaps give Howard even more reason to stay put in Orlando.

"As of right now, I'm a part of the Orlando Magic and I plan to be here," Howard told the newspaper.

"And I want the Magic to do whatever they can to make sure that we can get our city behind us. That's the only thing that I want to happen: just to have the city behind me and the support of our fans.

"I never said I was leaving. I never, ever thought about leaving. That's basically where my head is right now. I never said anything to them (the Magic) about what my plans were because that's not what I'm focused on right now."