Denton's Notebook: January 8, 2012

By John Denton
January 8, 2012

SACRAMENTO – Surrounded by West Coast media for the first time all season, Orlando Magic superstar Dwight Howard was asked on Sunday if his stance about wanting a trade was still intact.

Despite various reports to the contrary recently both locally and nationally, Howard said the request to be traded away from the Magic remained in place. But he also sounded as if he was convinced he wouldn’t be dealt from the Magic anytime soon this season.

``Nothing has changed (about trade request),’’ Howard said. ``There’s no need right now to focus on anything else besides going out every night and playing hard for 48 minutes. All of that other stuff is up to the Magic and my agent. I’m just going to be Dwight every night, have fun on the court, entertain the fans, block shots, run the floor and rebound – do whatever I Have to do to win. I’ve said all I can say about it and I’m just playing basketball. That’s something I can control. There’s no need for me to get involved in anything else.’’

Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith said that there has been no progress as to convincing Howard that he would be best served to remain in Orlando long term. The five-time all-star can opt out of his contract in July and become an unrestricted free agent. If the Magic decide to deal Howard it likely wouldn’t come until closer to the March 15 trade deadline.

Smith said the issues facing Howard’s future in Orlando were mostly out of the Magic’s control. Smith said he last talked to Howard’s agent last week, and the position of a trade had not changed.

``What we’ve done (in Orlando) is the same thing that we have done for seven years,’’ Smith said, referring to Howard’s time in the NBA. ``His reasons to go have nothing to do with Orlando. It’s a bigger market he wants.’’

VAN GUNDY BACK IN SAC: Not a time does he come to Sacramento that Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t think about the summer of 2007 when he nearly accepted the Kings’ coaching job before ultimately ending up in Orlando.

Van Gundy’s first choice was the Magic, but it looked for a time that it wouldn’t be possible because Miami president Pat Riley demanded compensation for Van Gundy to be let out of his Heat consulting contract.

Van Gundy traveled to Sacramento and was close to accepting the Kings’ job before Riley finally relented. He actually accepted the Magic gig while in Sacramento and FAXed his signed contract back to Orlando and a Sacramento-area copy store.

Van Gundy said the memory of how he handled the situation with the Kings is a dark one for him.

``How poorly the whole thing went down here in Sacramento still really bugs me,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I was fine with it all until the last day when I didn’t know what was going to happen (with the Magic opportunity). I wasn’t totally upfront with (Kings GM) Geoff (Petrie), and really that’s the only thing in my career that I’m embarrassed by. I like to think that I’ve always handled myself with integrity, but that was just not one of those cases.’’

Van Gundy also feels fortunate that he ended up in Orlando because of the amount of turnover that the Kings have had with their head coaches over the last five years. Since Van Gundy turned down the Kings, Reggie Theus (2007-08), Kenny Natt (2008-09), Paul Westphal (2009-12) and Keith Smart (present) have coached Sacramento. Westphal was fired last week and replaced by Smart.

HOMECOMING FOR ANDERSON: The Magic’s trip to Sacramento served as a homecoming for Ryan Anderson, who grew up a Kings fan in El Dorado Hills, Calif., some 30 miles away.

Now a fourth-year pro, Anderson said he’s learned how to better handle the homecoming, allowing his mother to handle many of the ticket requests. His first year in the NBA back in Sacramento, Anderson had a crowd of 350 fans backing him and he spoke to the group after the game. On Sunday, there were about 70 fans there to see Anderson play – only seven of which he bought tickets for.

``The first year I was so nervous. It’s still fun for me coming back to the old Arco Arena, but I have learned that the season is so long that you can’t get too excited,’’ Anderson said.

Anderson said the best part of the trip was going back to his childhood house on Saturday for a home-cooked meal and a belated Christmas celebrations with several family members.

ETC: Hedo Turkoglu, who played the first three seasons of his NBA career in Sacramento from 2000-03, received a loud ovation from the crowd. He actually needed more tickets than Anderson to accommodate his friends in Sacramento. … Van Gundy is contemplating a change to the Magic starting lineup – possibly Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis for Anderson – to better balance the scoring on the first and second-string units. But Van Gundy said that no move will be made until after the West Coast trip when the Magic will have Saturday and Sunday to practice before heading to New York to face the Knicks in a Martin Luther King matinee game. … Howard said his work to become a better leader this season has helped him remain focused and not get distracted by the constant rumors of him being dealt. Said Howard: ``The only thing that I can control is how I play, how I respond to my teammates and how I treat them. You can go around the (locker room) and ask guys how I have been. I’ve been more vocal and more of a leader and that’s helped me and my teammates keep our heads off everything going on. I tell them that we’re a family no matter what happens. Regardless of what happens we’ll stick together. They support me and it’s good to have a group like that.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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