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Dwight Howard is on a mission to kiss Orlando’s a** and have them convinced that without a ring and the right figures on his paycheck he will stay there throughout his career.

So yesterday, he hosted a cookout for his O-Town fans. He also did a little chatting with the press, where he proceeded to throw shots at his teammates (very openly), his team’s staff, Bron Bron and the man who made the Magic a factor in the late 90s, Shaq… all to deflect the attention off of his own impending “treachery.”

“Not only do I need the right teammates, but I need the city behind me. That’s the only way it’s going to get done. We can change this small city that we have — this small market that we have — and we can make it a big market,” the Magic center told the Orlando Sentinel during a Memorial Day barbecue he held for fans in Orlando.

Orlando tried to improve the All-NBA center’s surrounding cast last December with two major trades. The Magic acquired Gilbert Arenas from the Washington Wizards for Rashard Lewis, and they reacquired Hedo Turkoglu from the Phoenix Suns in a six-player deal that sent Vince Carter out west. Orlando finished second in the Southeast Division with a 52-30 record and was eliminated by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.

The 25-year-old Howard told the Sentinel he wanted to “start my own path” in Orlando. “I’m not trying to run behind nobody like Shaq or be behind somebody else,” Howard said, referring to Shaquille O’Neal’s exit from Orlando 15 years ago for the Los Angeles Lakers. L.A. is considered a primary option for Howard, who can opt out of his contract a year early in 2012.

Howard told the Sentinel he came up with the idea of a cookout Monday morning as a way to address fans’ concerns about his future in Orlando. The Sentinel reported that hundreds of people attended even though the event was announced only on Twitter.

“As of right now, I’m a part of the Orlando Magic and I plan to be here,” Howard said. “And I want the Magic to do whatever they can to make sure that we can get our city behind us. That’s the only thing that I want to happen: just to have the city behind me and the support of our fans.

“I never said I was leaving. I never, ever thought about leaving. That’s basically where my head is right now. I never said anything to them [the Magic] about what my plans were because that’s not what I’m focused on right now.”

Yeah, Dwight isn’t staying in Orlando past the end of next season without a ring or money the Magic probably don’t have.



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