Denton: Sore Back Keeps Dwight Out of Practice

By John Denton
March 31, 2012

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic plan to send video to the NBA’s league office of superstar center Dwight Howard allegedly getting "punched in the back’’ by Dallas Mavericks center Brendan Haywood late in Friday’s game at the Amway Center.

Howard was unable to practice on Saturday and was scheduled to see a back specialist later in the day because of soreness and stiffness in his lower back. His availability for Sunday’s 6 p.m. game against the Denver Nuggets at the Amway Center is uncertain, but Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said: ``It would have to be pretty bad to keep him out because the guy shows up every night. We’ll have to see tomorrow.’’

Van Gundy said video replays show Haywood hitting Howard in the lower back with his fist. Van Gundy said that Howard twice absorbed hard shots from Haywood and never was more than a simple foul called on the play. So Van Gundy is planning to send the video of the play to the league office hoping that Haywood will be punished for the play.

``It’s really ridiculous and I want to get it on film and send it in (to the league office). Haywood just punched him literally with a closed fist right in the back,’’ Van Gundy said. ``So (Howard) got through the game because he was loose, but then it really tightened up. They are going to work on him and hopefully he’ll be OK. But (Howard) didn’t do anything (in practice on Saturday).’’

Haywood refused to comment on the incident on Saturday when asked by reporters in Dallas.

The Magic, 100-98 losers to the Mavericks on Friday because of 12 second-half turnovers, had hoped to have a full-scale practice on Saturday, but had to scrap those plans because Howard and Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis were out with injuries. Davis strained a hamstring Friday morning and was limited to six minutes against the Mavs on Friday. Davis hopes to play Sunday night against the Nuggets.

The Howard injury was especially infuriating to Van Gundy because it came on what he felt was a flagrant play. Van Gundy has been on somewhat of a mission to protect his six-time all-star center because of the hard fouls he takes in the low post from defenders determined not to give up dunks.

``It happened on that one possession twice and it’s a little frustrating. That (punch) one I’m going to send in (to the league office) because that one was out of hand,’’ Van Gundy said. ``The guy’s punching a guy in the back, meanwhile at the other end … I’ll just leave it at that.’’

Van Gundy was also upset about a report earlier this week in the New York Post of several Magic players staying out partying until 3 a.m. while in New York. The night out proceeded a 108-86 loss to the Knicks, a game in which the Magic trailed by 39 points in the third quarter. Without conducting any sort of witch hunt over the incident, Van Gundy talked to his team about its professionalism and the players’ responsibilities to their teammates.

``I don’t care in terms of trying to implicate guys, but what I addressed is their job is to take care of themselves and be ready to give 100 percent every night,’’ Van Gundy said. ``You have to be honest with yourself and if you’re not (staying ready) then you can’t honestly say that you’re all about the team. And you have to realize when you do that you are (disrespecting) your teammates.

``Lately, we’ve had some guys not staying in great shape and putting on some weight and that’s about having professionalism,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``They are being paid a whole lot of money to give your best every night. Some things you can’t control with injuries, travel or lack of sleep. The guys who were out know who they are, but I’m not running an investigation.

``Ultimately we’re all in this together and we’re counting on the professionalism of these guys. And if (the professionalism) is not there then I don’t know how much we’re going to be counting on these guys,’’ Van Gundy went on. ``You either care a great deal or you don’t. Or you care some nights and not others and that will not work.’’

Howard, who had 19 points and 15 rebounds in 43 minutes on Friday, was unavailable for comment on Saturday about the alleged punch from Haywood. He was frustrated Friday night because of the Magic’s 16 turnovers, many of which robbed Orlando of critical possessions down the stretch. The primary difference in the game, Howard said, was that the Mavericks executed flawlessly down the stretch like the defending champions that they are, while the Magic got sloppy with the ball.

``We know we are going to have turnovers, but we have to do a better job in games of taking control of cutting down on the turnovers and getting up good shots,’’ said Howard, who did not commit a turnover. ``They did what they were supposed to do. In the fourth quarter they got a good shot every time. You don’t have to be a championship-caliber team to do that, but when you come down in the fourth quarter you have to understand that you’ve got to get a good shot every play. The half-court game is very important in the fourth quarter and that’s what makes you a championship team.

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

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