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Howard, coach work on relating

The Magic's biggest question going into this season — the biggest question the organization has faced for several seasons — is about the future of Dwight Howard.

If the All-Star center is to stay in Orlando, one of the things that has to change is the relationship between him and coach Stan Van Gundy, Howard said.

On Thursday, Howard told the Orlando Sentinel that he and co-captain Jameer Nelson should have bigger roles during games.

"Our job is to lead the guys on the court," Howard said.

"We both have our ways that we lead the team, and they follow. The main thing is that people have to see that me and Stan are on the same page, and we're not bumping heads. Then everything else will fall in line."

Howard, whose contract is up at the end of this season, has made a trade request to the organization that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2004.

Van Gundy said he has analyzed his own coaching performance and that he and general manager Otis Smith have talked about how to handle the team.

"I've got to set the standards, and I've got to make sure that they're adhered to in terms of guys playing hard and playing together and doing what we're supposed to do," Van Gundy told the Sentinel. "If our players can take most of the leadership in that regard and police each other in terms of effort and things like that, that's all the better. I would love that."

Howard, 26, said he likes Van Gundy, but as for the player-coach dynamic, the center said, "Our relationship has to grow in order for this team to go to where we want to get to."

Clippers' swagger bothers Lakers

The Lakers and Clippers met twice in preseason games, which was just enough for the Clippers to annoy their Los Angeles brethren.

The Clippers won 108-103 Wednesday in the preseason finale for both. Lakers reserve Matt Barnes said Thursday that their fellow Staples Center tenant has good reason to be happy about their offseason acquisitions, including star guard Chris Paul, but that they could use some cooling down.

"They have a lot of reason to be excited, but all the celebration after dunks and all that kind of stuff … I mean, let's just play basketball." Barnes, a former Clipper who joined the Lakers last season, added: "They act like they won the dunk contest after every dunk. So, as players, people aren't going to tolerate that."

BRYANT PRACTICES: In other Lakers news, Kobe Bryant practiced despite a torn ligament in his right wrist and reiterated that he would be ready for Sunday's opener against the Bulls. Bryant's teammates and coach Mike Brown told ESPN that they did not notice any dropoff in his play. Bryant said he'd have to "get used to" the pain.

SUSPENSIONS CUT: The league reduced suspensions for the Lakers' Andrew Bynum and the Pistons' Charlie Villanueva by one game because of the shortened season. Each will sit out four games instead of five; Bynum was banned for knocking Dallas' J.J. Barea down in last season's playoffs and Villanueva for instigating an altercation with Cleveland's Ryan Hollins.

CELTICS: Guard Paul Pierce (heel) didn't practice and might not play in Sunday's opener at the Knicks.

NETS: Center Brook Lopez had surgery on a nondisplaced fracture in his right foot. He will miss at least six weeks.

TIMBERWOLVES: The team waived veteran guard Bonzi Wells, who spent the past two years playing in China and Puerto Rico.

Howard, coach work on relating 12/23/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 23, 2011 11:16pm]

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