Dwight Howard broke his silence to confirm he has asked for a trade from the Orlando Magic as the Chicago Bulls reportedly geared up to enter the race for the prized 6-foot-11 center.
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Magic general manager Otis Smith confirmed Saturday that he has given Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with the Mavericks, Lakers and Nets after Howard submitted two trade requests midweek.
Howard explained his decision Saturday night at Amway Center.
"You only get one time around," he said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "You can’t press the reset button. It’s not ‘Call of Duty,’ where when you die, you get back up. Once this is done — once I’m done playing — I can’t turn back the hands of time and play again."
Howard said he had "talked plenty of times" with the Magic’s management before and after the five-month lockout.
"They know what I’ve asked for and what we need as a team," he said. "And nothing that we’ve talked about has changed or anything."
The Chicago Tribune quoted sources saying the Bulls also will enter trade talks with Howard’s reps, offering a package built around "cap relief, young talent and attractive draft picks."
Howard, who can opt out of his current deal in July 2012, is believed to have put the Nets as his first choice destination, followed by the Lakers.
Smith said he would like to see Howard eventually decide to stay in Orlando, but in the meantime they would explore options that were in the best interests of the Magic.
”When you invest seven years in a player and that’s what he decides, then you have to deal with that from that angle. But it’s not the end of the world,” Smith said. ”Like I said before, the Orlando Magic franchise is what it’s about. We like to make this into an individual game, but the fact of the matter is it’s a team sport. And we’ll continue to move forward. ”
Smith said there is no timetable or deadline for a trade. Likewise, he said he hasn’t allowed himself to get caught up on how the team might adjust if Howard does depart.
”Anytime you lose one of your best players it’s a huge loss,” Smith said. ”But it’s not new to anyone who’s in our league or professional sports. Anytime you lose the best player on your team you have to adjust to that.”
Talk of Howard’s possible departure from Orlando exploded Friday after the center denied an ESPN report that he met with Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and general manager Billy King on Thursday in Miami without the Magic’s permission. It followed reports that Howard planned to request a trade to the Nets.
Fegan said in a statement that any claims of tampering are false.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said the team is going about business as usual, despite the circus-like atmosphere that has surrounded the franchise over the past two days.
Van Gundy said Howard’s approach and demeanor in practice were the same on Saturday.
”I think again, it’s not an easy situation,” Van Gundy said. ”But just like I’m doing I’d like our other players to do – stay out of it. My issue is to go out and coach the guys that are here every day, which includes Dwight. And their issue is to come out and focus and play basketball every day. They’ve done that well for two days. I don’t think of us really need to comment on it.”