The relationship between Dwight Howard and Shaquille O'Neal has run hot-and-cold for years, but it seems like they have reached a deep freeze, at least from Howard's perspective.
Howard sounds ticked-off at O'Neal after O'Neal recently said on TNT, "The best big man in the game is Andrew Bynum."
Howard fired back at O'Neal on Friday, saying that O'Neal is just upset that Howard has his old nickname.
"He's mad about 'Superman,' " Howard told reporters about eight hours before his Orlando Magic faced the Los Angeles Lakers at Amway Center. "I didn't know he made it up. I didn't know Superman came from Shaquille O'Neal."
Later, Howard added: "I would suggest he'd just sit down and get on with his life. He don't play no more, so what's the point of talking trash? It's not like we're wrestlers and we get to battle it out. Who cares?"
No changeSmith reiterated what he's been saying for weeks now: that the team won't necessarily trade Howard before the March 15 trade deadline.
But he did not say the team definitely will keep Howard past March 15, either.
Asked if he thinks Howard will remain on the roster after March 15, Smith answered, "I don't know. I'll still explore, like I always have. So nothing really changes. I wouldn't be shocked. I wouldn't be shocked either way."
The Magic have some leverage. If Howard signs an unrestricted free-agent deal in July with another team or if he leaves the Magic via a sign-and-trade deal, he would be limited to a four-year contract with only 4.5 percent annual raises. The Magic are the only team that can give Howard a five-year contract with 7.5 percent annual raises.
Smith said if Howard leaves, it would be like taking a "$30 million haircut."
Looming deadlineWednesday is a big deadline day for the Magic for two reasons.
That is the last day teams can sign members of the 2008 draft class — including Ryan Anderson — to extensions. If Jan. 25 elapses without an extension, Anderson eventually would receive a qualifying offer from the team, which would set him up to become a restricted free agent after the season. If Anderson becomes a restricted free agent, the Magic would have the right to match any offer Anderson receives.
General Manager Otis Smith said the team will "have conversations" in the coming days about how to approach the Anderson situation.
The Magic also have a decision to make about 2010 first-round pick Daniel Orton. Wednesday is the last day for the team to exercise its third-year rookie-scale option to retain Orton for 2012-13.
Smith said the team has not reached a decision yet about what it will do. Orton has yet to play in a game for Orlando.
Layups• The Lakers-Magic game invited comparisons between Howard and the Lakers' starting center, Andrew Bynum. Perhaps the biggest difference of them all? Durability. After the 2006-07 season, injuries or illness have forced Bynum to miss 36.5 percent of the regular-season Lakers games for which he was not serving a suspension. After 2006-07, injuries or illness have forced Howard to miss only 1.5 percent of the regular-season Magic games for which he was eligible.
• Glen Davis attended his grandmother's funeral on Friday in Baton Rouge, La., but arrived at Amway Center around 7:10 p.m.
• Former Magic small forward Matt Barnes received as many boos as cheers when he was introduced before tipoff. That was a surprise because Barnes was a fan favorite in Orlando.
• The Lakers-Magic game brought out the celebrities. Magic officials said baseball stars Prince Fielder, David Price and Joey Votto all were expected to attend.
• ESPN analyst Jon Barry ranked his top five power forwards during his network's pregame show. Anderson was fifth on Barry's list.
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