Denton's Notebook: January 4, 2012

By John Denton
January 4, 2012

ORLANDO – Dwight Howard and his future with the Orlando Magic figure to be hot topics when the NBA All-Star Game comes to Orlando on Feb. 24-26. But one area where Howard hopes to sidestep the attention is in the Slam Dunk Competition.

Even though he is excited about serving as somewhat of an unoffical grand marshal of the NBA’s showcase event in his hometown of Orlando, Howard said he has no plans of competing in the dunk contest.

``No, I’m too old for that,’’ said Howard, 26, when asked if he planned to participate in the dunk contest at the Amway Center.

Howard’s star power was never brighter than in 2008 when he won the dunk contest in New Orleans. He donned a Superman shirt and a flowing red cape and dunked from just inside the free throw line. Howard also competed in the event in 2007 and 2009, but has since said that he is retired from the event.

Howard has appeared in the All-Star Game each of the past five seasons, the final four as a starter for the Eastern Conference. He set an all-time NBA record in 2009 with more than 3.1 million votes and he was again the East’s leading vote-getter last year with nearly 2.1 million votes from fans.

``It’s all about having fun and doing this for the fans. That’s why I always have so much fun at All-Star Games,’’ Howard said. ``The whole weekend – not just the game – going out in the community and doing stuff with the fans is fun for me. The interactive things, such as the Jam Session, are great.’’

MEETINGS FOR JAMEER, J-RICH: Magic coach Stan Van gundy said that he met with point guard Jameer Nelson and shooting guard Jason Richardson in an attempt to shake them from their slumps.

Nelson, one of the Magic’s co-captains along with Howard, entered Wednesday’s game against Washington shooting just 38.2 percent from the floor and 12.5 percent (1 of 8) from 3-point range while averaging only 6.6 points a game. Richardson, who signed a four-year, $25 million contract just before the season, is shooting just 36.8 percent from the floor and 15.8 percent (3 of 19) from 3-point range while averaging 8.8 points. Both have seen their playing time sliced of late by Chris Duhon and J.J. Redick.

Van Gundy talked to the duo more about playing with improved intensity instead of their shooting struggles.

``I talked with both of them briefly and it’s not about the shooting because that comes and goes,’’ Van Gundy said. ``What we need from both of them is more consistent energy and that’s what we talked about. In Jameer’s case he feels he’s been thinking too much about what we have to run and who he has to get the ball to, so we’re trying to simplify so he can push with more energy and attack more. And he talked about how he usually play 8-9 minutes and then he gets a rest and he’s finding it hard to come back with energy in the second quarter after sitting so long. I don’t know what the answer to that is, but we’ll have to look at it.’’

RASHARD RETURNS: Rashard Lewis, who helped the Magic to some of their greatest heights in his 3 ½ seasons with the squad, faced his former team back in Orlando for the first time on Wednesday night. Lewis, who was dealt to Washington last December for Gilbert Arenas, returned to Orlando last spring, but did not play because of a knee injury that required surgery.

Lewis said it was both strange and satisfying working out on the Magic’s practice court on Tuesday. He said the franchise always made him feel welcome and he cherished the tribute video the team showed last spring to honor Lewis even though he wasn’t playing.

``Coming back, I found myself walking around and smiling and looking at all of the banners that we won when I was here,’’ Lewis said. ``It’s almost like I’ll be nervous coming back this time getting to play. It will be fun playing in front of the fans who were here when I grew as a player. We had good, fun times and it’s exciting to come back here and play before the fans even though I’m in a Wizards jersey.’’

Lewis said he still keeps a close eye on the Magic and he watched every game of the Orlando-Atlanta playoff series last spring. Lewis remains in contact with several of the Magic players and admitted his misses being in Orlando.

``I’ve been following the Magic since I was traded. Even last year in the playoffs I still felt like I was a part of the team,’’ Lewis said. ``I was pulling for them to win and upset when they didn’t. I was pulling for them to beat the Hawks. I still have close friends on the team and a lot of respect for the organization and the coaching staff.’’

ETC: Hedo Turkoglu, Howard, Nelson and Richardson were listed on the NBA All-Star ballot, but there was one notable exception for the Magic: Their leading scorer and the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter in Ryan Anderson. Anderson, who entered Wednesday’s game averaging a team-best 19.2 points per game, wasn’t one of the 24 forwards listed on the Eastern Conference ballot. And Van Gundy feels it will be difficult for Anderson to make the team as a reserve because of his lack of name recognition. Van Gundy would prefer that the power forward work to improve his drop off in rebounding and his interior defense. … Anderson entered Wednesday tied for first in the NBA in made 3-pointers with Boston guard Ray Allen, the all-time leader in that category. Lewis, who led the NBA in 3-point makes two seasons while in Orlando, has admired from afar how Anderson has filled his role. Said Lewis: ``Ryan has been playing well. It’s his time to step it up and be one of those go-to guys. The role that he’s been playing, he has to take advantage of it with a guy like Dwight on the team. I think he can continue to be one of the top scorers on this team if he keeps shooting the ball like he has been.’’ … The Magic will be off Thursday before hosting the Chicago Bulls on Friday night at 8 p.m. in a nationally televised game. Chicago’s Derrick Rose and Orlando’s Howard were the top two vote-getters in the MVP race last spring.

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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