ORLANDO, Florida - The Orlando Magic's day went from uncomfortable to ugly Thursday (Friday in Manila) as a tense moment between coach Stan Van Gundy and star Dwight Howard was followed by a 96-80 loss to the New York Knicks.
Van Gundy told reporters at the team's morning shoot-around that Howard had asked team management to sack him -- an allegation Howard has denied.
"I know he has," Van Gundy insisted. "I was told it was true by people in our management right from the top."
No sooner had Van Gundy finished talking than Howard arrived, and when asked reiterated that he hadn't requested the coach's dismissal.
As to whether Van Gundy would or should be handed his walking papers at the end of the season, Howard said: "Whatever happens at the end of the season is not under my control. I am a player for the Magic. I am not the General Manager. I am not (team owner) Rich DeVos. I am not (CEO) Alex Martins. So that's not my job.
"So you guys should stop with every other week it's trying to find something, because there's nothing. There's nothing. I haven't said anything to anybody about anything. Our main concern is winning."
A win, however, wasn't forthcoming hours later as Howard struggled offensively and the Knicks sank a bevy of three-pointers.
Howard didn't score any points in the first half, his first points coming with a dunk with 3.5 seconds left in the third quarter.
The star center, who was at the center of trade rumors much of the season before delighting Orlando fans by opting to stay with the club, finished with eight points on 4-of-8 shooting with eight rebounds.
But New York had taken charge of the game in the second quarter, when they made 12 of 16 shots and out-scored Orlando 33-23.
The Knicks made eight of their first 11 three-point attempts and finished 13-for-25 from beyond the arc as they bounced back from a pounding on Tuesday by Indiana.