ORLANDO, Fla. (WFAN/AP) — Magic center Dwight Howard has made it a point to avoid social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook as talk continued to swirl this week about his request to be traded to another team.
But on Saturday fans will get their first opportunity in person to express how they feel about the All-Star’s desires when the team holds an open scrimmage at the Amway Center.
It could be the first awkward reception the fan-favorite Howard has ever received in the year-old arena.
Howard said Thursday that his trade request hasn’t been withdrawn; a day after Magic general manager Otis Smith shook off questions about what offers he’d received and said that trade discussions involving him “could go to the end of the season.”
“There’s no back and forth,” Howard said. “It still stands and we know what’s going on. I talked to Otis today. What we talked about is gonna stay between me and him.”
Howard brushed off a question about whether there needs to be any mending to his relationship with the Magic going forward.
“Right now me and Otis are gonna continue to try to make this team better,” he said. “And I’m gonna do my part on the court. That’s the reason I’m here. To get our team better and to make myself a better leader for this team.
“And we’re doing great. Practices are going great, guys are coming in and they’re focused — nobody’s playing around. We’re having fun, but at the same time we’re getting the job done…There’s no need to talk about trades or what’s on (TV) or in the newspaper. There’s no need to bring it on the court.”
The All-Star center is eligible to opt out of his current contract in July 2012. Smith has previously given Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, permission to discuss trades with Dallas, New Jersey and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Magic guard Chris Duhon said that for the veterans in the locker room, there hasn’t been a lot of worry about whether they could wind up being traded as part of a deal for Howard.
“Everybody knows what what’s going on and it’s a part of our business,” Duhon said. “You gotta be a professional. We’re professional athletes. We know this thing’s a business and there’s gonna be changes in lineups every now and then. So you gotta do what you do as a pro and be prepared to play, prepared to practice every day and give your best effort. Whatever happens, you adjust to it and make the best out of it.”
While Howard Watch is becoming a daily reality show, the Magic are slowly cobbling together their roster for their Christmas night season-opener at Oklahoma City.
Late Thursday afternoon the Magic announced the re-signing of free agent forward Earl Clark, who played 33 games with Orlando last season after coming over with Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson in a trade with Phoenix.
The move came three days after a trade of Brandon Bass to Boston for Glen Davis was officially completed and Richardson, also a free agent, was re-signed.
Clark averaged just 11.9 minutes and 4.1 points per game after his arrival last December, but Van Gundy thinks he can add depth to the Magic’s front court.
“My vision of where Earl’s role is, is putting Earl on threes and fours who are primary scorers,” he said. “I want to see if Earl can come off the bench and guard Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Paul Pierce, maybe Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki. You know, guard a lot of the bigger wings and fours. That’s where I see Earl coming in and getting his minutes is in those games, against those people.”
Howard said he doesn’t have any expectations about the reception he will get from Magic fans Saturday.
“I have no idea,” he said. “It’s a day for us to get better as a team and that’s the only thing I look at…I don’t think it’s gonna be any different. If it is, that’s something that we’ll have to deal with. But other than that, we’re gonna go out there and go hard.”
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