Denton's Notebook: December 18, 2011

By John Denton
December 18, 2011

ORLANDO – While franchise center Dwight Howard has repeatedly requested a trade from the only NBA team he’s ever played for, the Orlando Magic are remaining persistent in their attempts to win back the five-time all-star.

Speaking before Sunday night’s preseason opener, Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith said he is still of the belief that the team can change Howard’s mind and convince him that his future is best served in Orlando.

Despite contrary assertions by Howard, who has pined for influence on the roster, Smith said the relationship between the star player and manager is as strong as ever. The two still talk on a daily basis – at the practice facility and away from it. Smith is of the belief that Howard would ideally like to remain in Orlando, but he is being pulled in different directions by others in his camp. Smith is banking on the experience he has gained over the past seven years developing and working with Howard in Orlando.

``He just had the last seven months in that other camp and now he’s back in our camp, so we think we can bring him back,’’ said Smith, pointing out that teams weren’t allowed to have contact with players for five months during the NBA lockout. ``Each year that he’s been here, it’s taken about a month each time to bring him back to our camp once the season starts. We’ll get there.’’

Howard, the only player in NBA history to win three consecutive Defensive Player of the Year trophies, informed the Magic two weeks ago that he wanted a trade. Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, was given permission by the Magic to negotiate the parameters of a potential trade with the Lakers, Nets and Mavericks, but the Magic have resisted any trade offers to this point.

Howard has hinted at a return to Orlando in the days since initial trade request, but also said his position of wanting to leave hasn’t wavered. Howard was given a standing ovation by the Magic’s fans at an open scrimmage on Saturday and said he was touched by the love shown to him.

PRESEASON WINNING STREAK: The Magic entered Sunday night with an improbable streak of 21 consecutive wins in the preseason. Orlando was 7-0 in the preseason last year and 8-0 in 2010.

Heading into Sunday’s game, the Magic last lost a preseason game on Oct. 6, 2008 at Atlanta. Under head coach Stan Van Gundy, whose competitive fire usually burns at only one temperature, the Magic are a jaw-dropping 27-2 in the preseason.

``That’s one of the great records in all of sports,’’ Van Gundy said sarcastically. ``It’s 21 straight meaningless wins.’’

ROOKIES IN AWE: Just months ago, Magic rookies Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins were in their college dorm rooms, watching superstar NBA players on TV and someday hooping to join them as professional basketball players. Both admitted there would be plenty of nerves before Sunday’s preseason opener, especially if they got to face Heat stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Both said facing Howard, the game’s best center, every day in practice has helped them get over the awe factor.

``I’m just ready to get out there as a professional and get my first shot out there on the court. There will be nerves, but I just want to be prepared to do what I can to help,’’ said Harper, a product of Richmond University. ``I don’t think I’ll be too much in awe. It’s an excitement thing more than anything. I just want that opportunity to play against the guys that I have been watching on TV so many years. I have to look at it as an opportunity to prove myself.’’

Said Liggins, a rookie out of Kentucky: ``I’ll be plenty nervous, but I’m the type of guy who will always feel like I’m up to the challenge (of facing Wade and James). That’s part of my job to be ready.’’

ETC: Magic newcomer Glen Davis is the heavy favorite to start at power forward this season, but Van Gundy said he is still tinkering with the idea of starting Ryan Anderson and using ``Big Baby’’ Davis off the bench. Davis, who left Boston for Orlando in an attempt to seek more playing time, will also serve as Orlando’s backup center behind Howard. Van Gundy said he started Davis, who picked up three first-half fouls, merely for rotation purposes. Said Van Gundy: ``I started looking at rotating guys and the minutes I wanted to get (Davis) and it works better with him starting than it did coming off the bench. For us, it’s as much about minutes and conditioning than it is anything else.’’ … Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the Magic pulling off blockbuster trades with the Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. The Magic got Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark in exchange Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus. On the same day, the Magic also traded Rashard Lewis to Washington for Gilbert Arenas. … The NBA has added a new facet to the clock this season, featuring precision down to the tenths of a second now on the shot clock as well as the game clock. The tenths on the shot clock is a smaller number to reduce confusion. … The Magic and Heat play once again in the second and final preseason game on Wednesday night at the Amway Center. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. The regular season begins Christmas Day with the Magic in Oklahoma City at 8 p.m. The regular-season home opener is Dec. 26 against the Houston Rockets.

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

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