Denton: Howard & Anderson Encouraged After Talk

By John Denton
January 7, 2012

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sitting slump-shouldered at his locker and back to the room following Friday’s discouraging loss to the Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard received a tap on the back from teammate Ryan Anderson.

Anderson, you see, had some explaining to do after a poor-shooting, five-point effort in the Magic’s 97-83 loss to the Bulls. Howard had to feel like a man on an island after his 28-point, 15-rebound effort wasn’t enough to keep the Magic from getting hammered on the glass and outhustled to loose balls.

What Howard heard from Anderson in that postgame powwow gave him some peace of mind and a sense of encouragement.

``I just wanted to talk to Dwight about what he expects from me and what he needs from me,’’ Anderson said. ``I really respect what Dwight has to say and I wanted to hear his suggestions. He expects a lot out of me and I take that as a huge compliment. I just don’t want to let him down out there and let him know he’ll be able to count on me in the future.’’

It’s just a coincidence that the next game for the Magic (5-3) will be Sunday in Sacramento – very close to where Anderson grew up and rooted for the Kings. The fourth-year power forward expects to have dozens of friends and family in the crowd for Sunday’s 6 p.m. (ET) game, but on Friday night it was Anderson’s Magic family that he seemed to be the most concerned about.

Anderson had been one of the Magic’s most pleasant surprises through the first seven games of the season, leading the NBA in 3-pointers made and leading the Magic in scoring. But in what amounted to the biggest game of the season so far, Anderson flopped badly. He made just two of 10 shots and missed six of seven 3-point shots. And his poor shooting adversely affected his play on the other end of the floor as he grabbed just three rebounds and struggled defensively against Chicago’s Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson.

Anderson took the poor showing hard, and felt the need soon after the game to seek out the advice of Howard, one of the Magic’s captains. Anderson said he made a personal vow to the Magic center that he wouldn’t let his shooting effect his energy on the defensive end of the floor again.

``I wanted to see where his head was. We’re the two big guys in the starting lineup and I wanted to collaborate with him about what had happened,’’ Anderson said. ``He has my back and I wanted to let him know that I’ll have his back. I had an off night, but I wanted him to know I’ll be back and I’ll bring it harder next time. Whether I’m making shots or not I have to be more consistent with my rebounding.’’

Howard was dazzling against the Bulls, hitting 11 of 18 shots, snatching four offensive rebounds and carrying the Magic for long stretches. Defensively, he twice poked the ball away from Derrick Rose, blocked a dunk attempt by Joakim Noah and grabbed 11 boards.

But it wasn’t enough against a Chicago frontline that is one of the biggest and most physical in the NBA. Anderson’s replacement, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, helped Howard with 10 rebounds and two steals. But his availability for the start of the three-game West Coast roadtrip could be in doubt after he fell out of bounds and hit his hip on a courtside camera. Davis has trouble walking after the game and likely couldn’t have played had the Magic had a game on Saturday.

Davis’ uncertainty could put more of a focus on Anderson. Howard said he appreciated that Anderson came over to explain his poor performance and wanted to be held accountable. Howard also pledged his support behind the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Anderson.

``I have a lot of confidence in Ryan,’’ Howard said. ``We had a great talk, but what was said will stay between us. I just told him that we all have to sacrifice something and sometimes sacrifice our bodies. Ryan has had some great games and some games where he hasn’t shot the ball so well. But I’ve just told him if he’s not scoring he’s got to do other things to help us.’’

That was similar to the message from Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who feared that Anderson had put too much of his focus on the offensive end of the floor early this season. Anderson’s per-48 minute rebounding was off two boards from last season early in the year.

He took Van Gundy’s message to heart and had his best performance of the season Wednesday against Washington with 23 points and 15 rebounds. Now, after a down performance against the Bulls he knows that all eyes – especially those of Howard – will be on him in Sunday’s game in Sacramento.

``I’m going to miss shots and I’m going to miss a ton of shots at times, but even if I’m missing shots I still have to help this team with my defense,’’ Anderson said. ``I know that I can play better than I did (Friday) night. It’s a long season and there are going to be rough moments for everybody this season where things don’t always go right. But the most important thing is bouncing back and it’s up to me now to bounce back.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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