ORLANDO, Fla. (WFAN/AP) — And you thought the Knicks had drama?
The Orlando Magic made Carmelo Anthony & Co. look like small-town theater on Thursday.
It began hours before the Knicks and Magic were scheduled to tip off, when Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he had been told by high-ranking team officials that star center Dwight Howard had previously asked that he be fired.
"I know he has," Van Gundy told reporters after the team's morning shootaround. "That's just the way it is. Again, I've been dealing with that all year. It's not anything real bothersome. You go out and do your job."
Sounds simple — something that's become rare in Orlando. But then Howard unknowingly walked in, put his arm around Van Gundy, and said, "Stan, we're not worried about that, right?"
The surprised big man proceeded to once again deny reports that he had asked for his coach's dismissal. New York writers had a field day as they tweeted about the surreal scene.
The stay-or-go drama surrounding Howard has haunted the Magic all season. After securing Howard's services for at least another season at the trade deadline last month, Thursday brought the latest wrinkle to the saga.
"Whatever happens at the end of the season is not under my control," Howard told reporters. "I am a player for the Magic. I am not the GM. I am not (owner) Rich DeVos I am not (Magic CEO) Alex Martins. So that's not my job. So you guys should stop ... every other week ... trying to find something, because there's nothing.
"I haven't said anything to anybody about anything. Our main concern is winning. So all the other stuff should stop."
Asked how he was sure of a report that has been circulated and repeatedly denied by Howard and other team officials throughout the season, the 52-year-old Van Gundy said he had been told by "people right in our management, right from the top."
After New York dispatched the team in turmoil, 96-80, Van Gundy insisted that his job shouldn't be the team's focus.
"My job security is not what is important right now," he said after the loss, downplaying his earlier comments. "What Dwight wants is not what's important right now. What's important is we focus on getting better as a team. It's not like we've played five awful games in a row."
Meanwhile, Howard brushed aside any mention of a rift between him and his coach.
"I'm not gonna talk about that," Howard said of the incident.
Your thoughts on the turmoil in Orlando? Sound off in the comments below...
(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
for more features.