Lakers center Andrew Bynum tries to power his way past Magic center Dwight… (Los Angeles Times )
The showdown at center will be more for fans than the franchises when Andrew Bynum plays against Dwight Howard on Friday.
The Lakers and Orlando haven't had trade talks in "a while," according to a person familiar with the teams' thinking, putting a damper on proponents of a Bynum-for-Howard deal.
Howard, 26, can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and become a free agent. Orlando is hoping for the best, thinking a strong season by the Magic might persuade Howard to stay another year, if not longer.
The trade deadline isn't until March 15, but for now there's no momentum on a deal between the Lakers and Magic.
However, one person in the Lakers' organization has been talking to Howard.
Kobe Bryant has had at least one in-depth phone conversation with Howard recently, even discussing how Howard might fit in with the Lakers' scheme.
One person with knowledge of the conversation said Howard came away feeling as if he wouldn't be the Lakers' top option, for obvious reasons. It's Bryant's team.
Bynum, 24, keeps playing well despite another season of trade speculation. Over the years, he has been rumored to be dealt for Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett and Carmelo Anthony.
Now there's Howard. It has to bother him a bit, no?
"It did in the very beginning," Bynum said in a quiet moment after the team's Thursday morning shoot-around. "I don't really care anymore. I'll play anywhere. I don't care. I just want to go out and play well. That's the one thing I really want."
Bynum is dominating All-Star voting at center for the Western Conference. He thinks he knows why.
"It's probably because of China," he said. "We do a lot of tweeting and stuff for China."
Bynum had a deal last season with Sina.com, a Chinese news portal, in which his Twitter dispatches were translated to Chinese, a deal consummated by his agent, David Lee.
Bynum no longer works with Sina but has 777,365 votes, an unspecified number coming online from China, and was well ahead of Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (214,883), according to results released Thursday by the NBA.
Bynum's play this season — averaging 16.3 points and 13.8 rebounds — justifies a strong showing in All-Star voting, but Chinese fans' familiarity with him and the retirement of Yao Ming have presumably helped.
Bryant is the top vote-getter in the West, taking 1.11 million votes so far, and will almost surely be paired with Chris Paul in the West's backcourt, giving the Lakers and Clippers four of five starters.
Howard has the most votes in the league, receiving 1.16 million.
Pau Gasol remained fourth among West forwards, trailing Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin and Dirk Nowitzki.
The All-Star game is Feb. 26 in Orlando. Voting concludes Jan. 31.