- Associated Press - Friday, January 20, 2012

ORLANDO, FLA. (AP) - Magic fans will get a glimpse of the present and a possible future Friday when Orlando hosts the Los Angeles Lakers.

Center Dwight Howard’s preseason trade request left fans bracing for the worst at the start of the regular season. Howard’s agent Dan Fegan is permitted to explore trades with the Lakers, New Jersey and Dallas.

That puts a bigger spotlight on the matchup, given that the LakersAndrew Bynum has been the subject of speculation around a Howard trade.

Magic general manager Otis Smith remains adamant he’s in no rush to deal Howard by the March 15 trade deadline. Smith said he and Howard haven’t gotten in-depth about his trade request since training camp.


Smith expects Howard and Bynum to have their minds on the court and nothing else.

“I think both of those guys are probably the best two centers in the business right now and will be competing against each other, so I don’t know if it’s anything bigger than that,” he said.

Howard said he’s focused on improving the Magic’s 10-4 record.

“This game is not about me and (Bynum), it’s about our team trying to get better to win,” Howard said. “That was a problem back when Shaquille O’Neal played. People tried to make it about me and him. That’s not the case. We’re just trying to play basketball and trying to win. The only thing that matters is who wins the game.”

Provisions in the new CBA give the Magic the ability to offer Howard $30 million more than any other team. Orlando can offer him a five-year contract extension with 7.5 percent annual raises, while other teams are tapped out at offering a four-year pact with only 4.5 percent raises.

So the Magic could keep Howard through the deadline or sign and trade him to the team of their choice.

“Or he could still walk…with a $30 million dollar haircut,” Smith said.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he thinks Howard and Bynum are more than equipped for the trade spotlight. He noted Howard has dealt with it all season and Bynum handled it when Bryant flirted with a trade request in 2007.

Howard said he’s focused on his job.

“I think most people wouldn’t allow whatever their situation is _ especially what’s going on with me _ to stop them from playing their normal way,” he said. “It’s just getting on the court and putting aside everything that’s going on outside and what people are saying, trade rumors or what team I’m going to…Just put it away and go play basketball.

“So when I get out there on the court, it’s go as hard as I can for as long as I can and trust my teammates when I get out there.”

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