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“If anybody thinks I care about that, I really don’t give a damn about being fired,” Van Gundy said. “That doesn’t concern me in the least. … If they want to fire me to please somebody, fire me.”

He went as far as to say the most disappointing thing about the season-long speculation about Howard is that his team’s actual game performances have been secondary. After Tuesday’s narrow win, Van Gundy wasn’t in the mood to discuss anything more about what could happen the next two days.

“For tonight we’re actually going to give a (expletive) about the game,” he said.

Howard has been inundated with questions about his future all season and it made for an uncomfortable time during the All-Star break with Orlando’s Amway Center serving as host.

“We’re third in the East and playing great basketball,” Howard said. “I don’t want to see that slip away. We have to take a chance and I think we have a great chance to surprise a lot of people by winning.”

Though it seemed abrupt, Howard said this change in philosophy has been discussed with the Magic for some time.

“We’ve been talking for a while,” he said. “I told them that I want to finish this season out and give our team and our fans some hope for the future. I feel they have to roll their dice. It might be tough, but I feel like we have a great opportunity. They’ve got to roll it.”

Now it would seem the onus would shift now to the Magic to bring in players to ensure he won’t leave anyway in a few months.

Smith, the Magic GM, has said that team officials won’t consent to every one of Howard’s demands, but has said they have taken Howard’s input in the past and that includes bringing in big man Glen Davis in the preseason.

What else the team is willing to do to convince Howard to stay long-term remains to be seen.

As for Tuesday’s game, Howard made sure it was a memorable night for the fan base that seemed ready to say goodbye to him.

Howard scored the first basket of the extra frame and Orlando took a 100-96 lead on Nelson’s running layup. Following an offensive foul on Mario Chalmers, Nelson scored again on a twisting layup in the lane to increase it to six with under a minute left.

Wade trimmed it back to four and Howard missed a pair of free throws on the Magic’s next possession to give the Heat hope with 26 seconds to play.

Wade missed a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Howard was fouled again. He missed two more free throws, but James also came up empty on a 3-point try.

“They executed and made more plays in the overtime,” James said. “We’re not going to hang our heads over this one. We played hard.”

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