Every couple of weeks, Dwight Howard will pick up his cell phone and see a stream of encouraging text messages.

Some will wish him luck before a game. Some will offer praise for Howard's recent efforts. Some will express sympathy for the challenges Howard has encountered in his first season with the Lakers, including a surgically repaired back, a torn labrum in his right shoulder, a reduced offensive role and heightened media scrutiny.

These messages come from Stan Van Gundy, the former Magic coach who publicly claimed last season that Howard wanted him fired.

"We never stopped communicating even if there have been times he was very angry with me," Van Gundy said in a phone interview. "Dwight and I may not have always seen eye to eye. But I think there is mutual respect."

Howard agrees, describing his former coach as a "good man" and maintaining they have a "pretty good relationship."

The Lakers (33-31) may encounter plenty of boos directed toward Howard when they play the Orlando Magic (18-46) Tuesday at Amway Arena, marking his first return there after the Magic sent Howard to the Lakers this offseason in a four-team, 12-player trade.

But Van Gundy spent part of last week encouraging Howard as he prepares to face his former team. Howard reached out to Van Gundy expressing frustration over the reaction surrounding comments he made in an interview with CBS2/KCAL9 in which he said, "My team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted. I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face."

Miami Heat forward Rashard Lewis, who played with Howard for 3 seasons, told the Orlando Sentinel he considered Howard's comments "disrespectful."

Magic point guard Jameer Nelson wondered aloud to the same newspaper "when are you (Dwight) going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?"