- Associated Press - Friday, December 9, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) - For the second straight year, the New Jersey Nets opened training camp with rumors of a possible trade for an All-Star.

And for the second straight year, no one was willing to talk about the reports, this time centering around a possible deal with the Orlando Magic to acquire All-Star center Dwight Howard.

Several outlets reported Friday, before the Nets held their first official workout of the new season, that the team was close to securing free agent-to-be Howard in a trade that would include third-year center Brook Lopez and two first-round draft picks.

But a deal seems a ways away.

The Magic, in fact, are considering filing tampering charges against the Nets for the team’s hierarchy meeting with Howard while still under contract with the Magic. Nets owner Mikhail Prohkorov and general manager Billy King reportedly met with Howard in Miami Thursday night, but King issued a statement that such a meeting never took place.

“Contrary to published reports, the New Jersey Nets did not meet with Dwight Howard,” King said in the statement.

In any case, Howard was the focus on the first day of training camp, much like last year, when the Nets were in hot pursuit of a trade for Carmelo Anthony that never materialized.

“It’s absolutely crazy, like a circus,” Lopez said after the first practice session. “I guess it comes with the business, but what can you do? It was a crazy summer to begin with, with the lockout and all. Now, I guess my name has been thrown out there. I’ve learned to just ignore the rumors. I did hear them last year, but it is a little more ramped up this time. I’m trying to ignore it, but I have friends in Orlando who are texting me and telling me I’m coming there.”

Lopez isn’t worried about the talk.

“I’m here to play basketball,” he said, after declaring himself fit after offseason shoulder surgery. “That’s all I’m focused on. I just have to keep coming out and working hard. I’m just glad to be back. I’m trying to keep the most professional attitude.”

Lopez said that he has spoken with King, who was not available to the media Friday.

“I’ve talked to Billy here and there, but not about what you want to hear,” Lopez said. “Billy has a lot to do right now. I just want to keep playing and help this team become successful. The last three years have been good and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Nets coach Avery Johnson also did not want to comment on the reports of a trade for Howard, whose agent told ESPN that his preference would be to come to New Jersey and help bring the Nets to Brooklyn next year.

“Right now, we’re focused on basketball and what we can do on the court,” Johnson said. “Whatever is being talked about will be resolved and we’ll work with whoever shows up. We’re obviously not finished with our roster. We’re working on it.”

As for the alleged tampering charges?

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