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Dwight Howard says his first choice is to stay with Orlando Magic

May 31, 2011 | 12:33 pm

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It was 15 years ago that Orlando's superstar center (Shaquille O'Neal) came to the Lakers ... and the rest was history.

And now that history is going to repeat itself, with another superstar center (Dwight Howard) ready to make the jump from Orlando to L.A.

Right?

Not so fast, Howard told the Orlando Sentinel on Monday. He said that did not necessarily want to follow Shaq's path from one coast to the other.

"I'm not trying to run behind nobody like Shaq or be behind somebody else," said Howard, who can terminate his current contract with the Magic a year early and become a free agent during the summer of 2012. "I want to start my own path and I want people to follow my path and not just follow somebody else's path. I want to have my own path, and I want to start that here in Orlando."

Howard added that he would like to stick around and help turn the Magic into a championship team. But the key word is "help."

"I can't do it alone," he said. "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."

Howard is certainly acting like a guy who wants to remain a part of the Orlando community (sorry, Lakers fans). On Monday he paid for an impromptu barbecue for fans, publicized only on Twitter and attended by several hundred people including Magic teammate Gilbert Arenas.

"He does not want to leave Orlando," said Howard's manager, Kevin Samples. "You don't do stuff like this and be ready to go. If you're ready to go, you go ahead and go and start taking meetings and stuff like that. This is home for us. It's been seven years. We want to stay here."

-- Chuck Schilken

Photo: Dwight Howard. Credit: Gus Ruelas / Associated Press

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