Report: Magic’s Howard requests trade

Dwight Howard wants out of Orlando, putting one of the NBA’s most dominant big men on the block at the start of training camp.

Magic general manager Otis Smith confirmed Saturday that Howard has formally requested a trade. A team spokesman said earlier in the day that the team had granted New Jersey, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers permission to talk to Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, to discuss possible trades.

The All-Star is eligible to opt out of his current contract in July 2012.

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.”

Smith said the team’s free agency approach also hasn’t changed since Howard’s request.

He said the team is close to working out a deal to retain shooting guard Jason Richardson, who is eligible for free agency.

”Actually Jason and I are close to terms, with Dan (Fegan) we are close to terms,” he said. ”He’s expected in camp if not tomorrow, then Monday.”

The Magic are waiting on final paperwork before finalizing a trade that will send Brandon Bass to Boston in exchange for Glen Davis. They also are working on a separate deal to acquire guard Von Wafer, who spent time playing in Europe this summer.

Once that paperwork is complete, they too will begin practicing with the Magic. According to Davis’ Twitter account, he is already in Florida.

Along with the recent developments with Howard, Smith also had what he called a tough meeting with former Magic guard Gilbert Arenas on Friday.

The Magic decided to use the new amnesty provision in the recently ratified labor agreement that allows teams a one-time option to waive a player’s remaining contract from the salary cap and luxury tax.

After coming over from the Washington Wizards in a trade for Rashard Lewis last season, the 29-year-old Arenas struggled to make an impact in Orlando. He had about $62 million remaining on the final three years of his six-year, $111 million deal.

”It was rough, it was rough,” said Smith, who has been close to Arenas for years. ”It was rough to come out of my mouth and it was rough for him to receive it.”