Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 12/18/11
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MIAMI Their big man has one foot out the door. One player called Sunday night's loss to the Heat "ridiculous." But don't despair, Orlando fans. At least that's the word from that big man, Dwight Howard. "There's no need for anybody, Magic fans or whatever, to just stress about the first game," Howard said after his team's 118-85 wipeout at the hands of the Heat in the preseason opener for both teams. "There's a lot more games to play and a lot of time for us to get better." Howard, who has asked to be traded, didn't say how many of those games might find him donning an Orlando uniform. But he's trying to remain as positive as he can. That was difficult Sunday. After trailing 22-21 after the first quarter, the Heat outscored the Magic 97-63 the rest of the way . "I just don't like to lose period, especially like that," said Magic swingman Quentin Richardson, whose team had won an amazing 21 straight preseason games, not having lost one since 2008. "That's just ridiculous." The Heat led by as many as 37 points. Their three stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh combined for 47 points while playing a combined 71 minutes. But the big wonder Sunday was what was going on with Orlando's big star. In 30 minutes, Howard shot 2-of-9 for five points and had six rebounds. Howard asked the previous weekend to be traded, and his agent, Dan Fegan, has been given permission to talk to New Jersey, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers. Could it be that some of this was on Howard's mind Sunday night? That, however, was not a popular question on the Magic side. "I don't know if he looked flat," said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. "I just don't think he played very well. Here's where we are. So, if he has a bad game now, it's going to be he's disengaged. That's (garbage). That's after-the-fact stuff. He just didn't play well. I didn't think he was disengaged at all. I thought his effort was good." Actually, when Howard doesn't play well, sure there's going to be speculation about his trade demand being a distraction. That was the case last season when Denver's Carmelo Anthony lingered on the trading block for more than half the season before finally being dealt. "It's the first game," Howard said of the trade situation possibly weighing on his mind. "I'm going to miss shots. I'm going to keep shooting, so I'm not really worried about it. My thing is keeping the guys in line I'm not really focused about (trade talk) right now." It was such a trying night for Howard it could be argued that a guy who has played 11 career NBA minutes got the best of him. That would be second-year Miami center Dexter Pittman, who shot 3-of-3 for six points and had three rebounds in 13 minutes. Pittman stripped the ball from Howard for a third-quarter steal. Pittman also got under Howard's skin in the third, when the Magic center grabbed Pittman's jersey and Pittman banged into him. A double foul was called. "It was good," Wade said of the battle between the two. "When you're a big man and you're down in that paint, it's a war down there. He felt a certain way about whatever happened, so you like to see a young guy (stand up for himself) It was good to see him being aggressive, really being into the game and not shying away from any kind of contact or physicality. We liked it." There was plenty to like Sunday for the Heat. James led the way with 19 points while Bosh and Wade each scored 14. "We played particularly well," James said. "It was definitely a good start for us." Many think Miami has a big leg up on teams due to having 11 players back from last season and having made a run to the NBA Finals. It sure looked that way Sunday against the Magic, which is integrating two new players Glen Davis and Jason Richardson into the starting lineup. "Most of those guys on their team were together all summer, so they looked like a seasoned team. We were off for seven months," said Howard, referring to Miami's season ending June 12 while the Magic finished April 28. "Guys were trying to get back into it." However, it also must be said the Heat got stellar play from several guys who just showed up. Rookie point guard Norris Cole had eight assists and free-agent rookies Terrel Harris and Derrick Byars combined for 28 points. The Magic, which got 22 points apiece from reserves Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick, didn't use any of their three rookies. But Van Gundy wonders if that might change. "Our veteran guys are either going to have to greatly step up the effort and energy or we're going to have to go to our young guys," Van Gundy said. The immediate future for Orlando hinges on what one very big veteran player will do. But Howard is insisting for now that Magic fans should remain calm. Chris Tomasson can be reached at christomasson@hotmail.com or on Twitter @christomasson
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