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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.”

Howard said he thought about the situation all summer and spoke to Magic CEO Alex Martins again on Saturday about it. He declined to go into specifics on those discussions or what he said when he originally conveyed the news to Smith.

“The last couple of weeks before training camp were very tough,” Howard said. “Just stressed out about it. Got sick, couldn’t sleep. It was a very stressful time. After I said what I said to Otis, got it out _ I started feeling better.”

Howard maintains his decision was multifaceted and came down to feeling he didn’t have an ideal situation to pursue an NBA title.

Specifically, Howard said overall he didn’t feel satisfied with the talent around him and he would like to be in the kind of personnel input he said Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki enjoys.

“If Dirk told (Dallas owner) Mark (Cuban) `Hey, I think this is the direction our team is going, this is what we need in the locker room and these are the kind of players we need,’ I think Mark would listen,” Howard said. “That doesn’t mean Mark has to say, OK, we’ll make a rash decision. But I think he would listen and really found out what the player needs around him in order to win.”

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.

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