Howard stays mum on Orlando departure

Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic during media availability as part of 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend...

Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic during media availability as part of 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Hilton Orlando Hotel on February 24, 2012 in Orlando, Florida. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images/AFP)

Mike Ganter, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:50 PM ET

ORLANDO - Carmelo Anthony couldn't avoid the media crush that comes with all-star weekend, but he did avoid the biggest crush.

A year after Anthony was centre stage at these annual NBA festivities with every media member with a credential wondering where he was going to wind up, Anthony is just another all-star this year and taking a back seat to the two stories of the week.

In no particular order those would be Linsanity and Dwight Howard's future.

And with Knicks wonderboy Jeremy Lin relegated to the young stars game, not to mention coming off his first real NBA dud Thursday night in Miami, it was Howard who took centre stage (literally) on Friday.

And no one was happier about it than the guy occupying the raised dais to Howard's right.

"Dwight. Hey Dwight. Thank-you, Dwight," Anthony called as he made his way into the ballroom for his media availability a few minutes after Howard had arrived. "Thank you. Your turn, Dwight. Your turn."

Howard ignored Anthony but there was no ignoring the throng of media that surrounded his raised podium, some of them asking innocuous questions about his MVP desires but most wanting to know how awkward or weird it felt to be the face of the Orlando all-star experience while simultaneously planning his own Orlando exit.

Whether he winds up in Los Angeles alongside Kobe, in Dallas with another potential free agent this summer in Deron Williams, or even in New Jersey with the same Williams, it appears likely that Howard, like LeBron James, like Carmelo Anthony, like Chris Bosh and Chris Paul, will end up leaving the only NBA home he has ever known because he chooses to leave.

The trade request Howard made during training camp remains in play and even as Howard tried to deflect the attention anywhere but on his future plans, the questions kept coming back to the two-facedness of the whole endeavour.

Howard, though, we assume sensing just how hypocritical it would seem to have him selling Orlando to the masses, tried to limit any talk of his pending departure.

He even tried to play the Lin card at one point with a surprising degree of success.

"Right now, my focus is on having a great time and being a great host with all these great players around us," Howard said as the questions about his future in Orlando began. "This is Jeremy Lin's first all-star. I'm going to make sure I get with him and have some fun with Jeremy Lin."

The media played along for a while tossing a few Lin softballs to the league's most dominant centre but eventually the talk got back to his future in Orlando. He was asked if it felt weird seeing his face on billboards and the arena promoting the same city he's trying to leave.

"Does it seem weird to you?" Howard shot back. "You're not from here. It doesn't feel weird. They (the fans) don't say it's (weird). My home is here. It is always gong to be. It doesn't feel weird."

OK, so it's not weird but if Howard wasn't feeling at all awkward about the situation, there were enough players in the room feeling it for him.

Chris Bosh, Howard's long-time friend and former Toronto Raptor, went through the process of leaving the team that drafted him and developed him into an NBA star two summers ago. His ride was considerably smoother.

While there are obvious differences in the two situations -- Bosh never publicly asked to be traded being the key one -- Bosh admitted he was feeling for what his friend was going through.

"I do (feel for him) but it's different," Bosh said. "You can't do anything for him. I went through something like that but not of the magnitude that he's dealing with right now. It's just a tough situation to be in. To be asked questions about something you don't know about, I mean people push you for an answer to a question you can't answer. It's just something you can't do anything about. Time will tell what he is going to do."

Bosh says he hasn't attempted to give Howard any advice because their situations were so different.

"Nah, because he has that trade aspect in there," Bosh said. "The media attention is just so different. He's a big-time guy so it's just different. I really couldn't give him any advice. It's an extremely tough situation to be in and all you can do is just try your best to do the job. You can only control yourself. You will go insane trying to keep everybody else happy."

As Howard put it when asked if he learned anything from LeBron James' ill-conceived attempt to leave Cleveland with his dignity intact: "LeBron did it his way and he did what was best for him and I have to do what is best for Dwight," he said.

Normally we mock any athlete who talks about himself in the third person but the way it stands, Howard is going to be getting enough of that treatment without any of our help.

What a ride for Thompson

Tristan Thompson's first year in the NBA just keeps getting better.

It started with his draft position, fourth overall to a Cleveland team that had already grabbed Kyrie Irving first overall.

He is playing on a team that is developing its young players and living with its shortcomings.

After coming back from an ankle injury on Feb. 10, Thompson has been averaging 21:41 minutes a night along with 6.6 points and 8.4 rebounds.

His dominance on the glass and willingness to work on defence earned him a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge of all-star weekend, a game for the best and brightest of the NBA's rookies and sophomores.

Thompson, a Brampton native has liked everything about his first year in the NBA. Veterans Antawn Jamison and Anderson Varejao have been instrumental in helping both Thompson and Irving make the adjustment to professional basketball.

"If it wasn't for them, I don't know where I would be right now," Thompson said.

As for all-star weekend, Thompson is just trying to soak it all in. Being around the best rookies is a privilege in itself but then running into hall of famers in the hotel lobby and budding superstars like Blake Griffin takes it to another level.

But it's not a current pro or an NBA legend Thompson is most looking forward to seeing this weekend. It's someone much closer to his heart.

"My mother," he said when asked who he can't wait to see. " She just landed last night. I want to see her. That's the person I want to see."

-- Mike Ganter


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