OKLAHOMA CITY — David Stern sounds unconcerned about the apparent trend of superstars leaving small- or mid-market cities for the bright lights of larger markets.
Asked how he wants to see Dwight Howard's situation play out and whether he's concerned that Chris Paul sought to leave New Orleans and Howard wants to leave Orlando, Stern said he honors players' right to play where they want.
"That's the beauty of the soap opera of basketball," Stern said before the Orlando Magic faced the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Christmas night. "As in life, it'll play out the way it plays out, and we'll all be observers of it. I just don't know.
"But, to me, I am of the view that when somebody has put in his years so to speak and he has earned his free agency he's free to decide where he'll sign, and he's not under a compunction under our system to re-sign with a team if he doesn't want to. But how it plays out? We'll all wait and see."
In the lineupCoach Stan Van Gundy started Ryan Anderson at power forward instead of Glen Davis, the team's top offseason acquisition.
Van Gundy explained that he brought Davis off the bench because Davis is the Magic's top backup center. Van Gundy was concerned if that Davis and Howard both started, each of them could get into early foul trouble.
"That was really the only part of the decision," Van Gundy said.
General Manager Otis Smith sounded as if he's in no rush to add another big man. Smith feels that the team is in better shape with Davis at the backup center spot than the team was at the end of last season, when Brandon Bass and Anderson served as Howard's backups.
Smith also did not sound concerned that Davis might not be in the starting lineup game-in, game-out.
"At the end of the day, it's about who finishes games, not necessarily always who starts them," Smith said. "It's kind of hard to tell young guys that, but at the end of the day, that's what it's about."
The rest of the starting lineup — Jameer Nelson at point guard. Jason Richardson at shooting guard, Hedo Turkoglu at small forward and Howard at center — featured no surprises.
Layups• Stern on how fans have reacted after the lockout: "Our fans are giving us more than we probably deserve. They're buying tickets in numbers that approximate last year."
• Center Daniel Orton and shooting guard DeAndre Liggins did not dress Sunday. Teams can dress only 13 players for a game. The Magic have 15 players on their roster.
• The departure of scouting information coordinator Charles Klask during the offseason to become a Detroit Pistons assistant coach has prompted the Magic to adjust some responsibilities. Assistant coach Ahmad Ajami has assumed much of Klask's old role. Adam Glessner has been promoted to video manager and now travels on Magic road trips. Brad Jones has been promoted to video coordinator.
• As is their custom when they travel to Oklahoma City, the Magic stayed at the Skirvin Hilton, a hotel that is about 100 years old and, according to legend, is haunted.
• Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp attended Sunday's game. He's an Oklahoma native.
• The Magic's regular-season home sellout streak seems safe for now. As of early Sunday afternoon, only 250 tickets remained for Monday night's home opener against the Houston Rockets, a Magic spokesman said. The team entered the regular season with sellouts in 98 consecutive games at Amway Arena and Amway Center.
• Bass made his Boston Celtics regular-season debut Sunday in Boston's 106-104 loss to the New York Knicks. Bass scored 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting and gathered 11 rebounds. "Brandon's a very, very good player," Van Gundy said. "And I'm happy for him because Brandon's a great guy."
• Sunday's game was the Magic's fourth consecutive game on Christmas. Orlando entered the night with a 5-3 record on the holiday. The Magic had compiled a 5-1 home record and an 0-2 road record.
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