Denton's Notebook: January 5, 2011

By John Denton
January 5, 2011


ORLANDO – Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard set NBA history last season when he became the first player ever to lead the league in rebounding and blocked shots in the same season in consecutive years.

But even though the consensus All-NBA performer isn’t currently leading either category, he said he has his reasons. Howard has tried to pick his spots to go for blocked shots and fight for rebounds more this season in an attempt to stay out of foul trouble. Following the trade of Marcin Gortat, the Magic have no true back-up center, meaning Howard can less afford to get into foul trouble.

Also, Howard said because of his reputation as the league’s premier shot-blocker fewer players are challenging him at the rim this season. In this week’s player poll in Sports Illustrated, Howard was voted as the second most feared player they would ``hate to see between them and the hoop.’’ Shaquille O’Neal received 40 percent of the vote, while Howard received 30 percent of the vote. Howard got 40 percent of the vote among rookies who participated in the SI poll.

Howard entered Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee ranked second in the league in rebounding with his 13.2 boards trailing only Minnesota’s Kevin Love with 15.6 rebounds a game. Howard ranks third in the NBA in blocked shots at 2.41 behind Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut (2.81) and Washington’s JaVale McGee (2.55).

``Defensively, I’m doing the same things, but I think our guys understand that they can’t allow guys to drive to the basket with one dribble and they’re keeping guys in front of them,’’ Howard said. ``And when I’m in the game I don’t think a lot of guys attack the basket to score. If you watch the games, when I’m out of the games, that’s when teams really attack the basket. I guess that’s why my numbers are down.’’

HEAT HATE: LeBron James recently compared the Miami Heat to ``The Beatles,’’ referring to his squad as ``The Heatles’’ because of their tendency to sell out arenas wherever they play on the road.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy got a chuckle at the love that the Heat have been putting on themselves, saying ``they are pretty impressed with themselves.’’

Van Gundy, who has repeatedly traded jabs with the hated Heat since last summer, said that the Magic need no help from superstar players such as Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh or James to sell out the Amway Center.

Orlando has played in front of a sold out crowd every game this season at the new Amway Center and its regular-season streak of consecutive sellouts hit 76 games on Wednesday night. And including 19 home playoff games since the 2009 run to the NBA Finals, the Magic have sold out 95 straight home games.

And already four times this season, the Magic have broken the record for the largest crowd ever to see a NBA game in Orlando. A record crowd of 19,090 jammed inside of Amway Center (normal capacity is 18,846) last Thursday to watch the Magic defeat the New York Knicks.

``Maybe some places (other teams) makes the fans turn out, but I know that here that’s not the case. We’re selling out here no matter who we play,’’ Van Gundy said. ``So we don’t need Miami to get people to our arena. At other places that may be the case, but our crowd – and you’ll always have a few fans for the opposing team – but our largest crowd was (against) New York and (the) Golden State (game) was about the same.

``So if you look at our crowd, they’re turning out to see us. We’re a good fan and our fans turn out to see us,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``I’m not disputing that there aren’t places in the league where they don’t draw well and they only come out to see the Lakers and other teams. That might be true in some places, but it’s not true here. (The Heat) aren’t raising our attendance.’’

TURKGLU REMEMBERS: Of the four players traded to Orlando in the recent deals between the Magic, Wizards and Suns, no one could be happier about being in Central Florida than Hedo Turkoglu. The veteran forward became the franchise’s all-time leader in triple-doubles on Monday when he notched the third one of his career – all in a Magic uniform.

Turkoglu played for the Magic from 2004-09, but left following the run to the NBA Finals so that he could sign a five-year, $50 million free-agent deal with the Toronto Raptors. He was a flop there because the Raptors didn’t put the ball in his hands to make plays, and Turkoglu was again mostly miscast in Phoenix because he had to play with point guard Steve Nash.

Turkoglu was asked on Wednesday if he regretted leaving a team that was just coming off a run to the NBA Finals and one where he fit in so well. He never truly wanted to leave and never sold his condominium in Orlando, but had to sign with the Raptors because of the huge pay raise he was about to receive.

``I wasn’t the GM at the time. It was a decision where both sides thought they might be making the right decisions at that time,’’ said Turkoglu, referring to the summer of 2009. ``I’m just glad that I’m back. It’s a place where I’m happy and it always felt like home. I kept my house here and it’s where I’ve had the best years of my 11-year career.’’

ETC: The Magic’s reserves have dubbed themselves ``The Bench Mob’’ and usually go through a mock ceremony before games where they fake pregame introductions for themselves. Gilbert Arenas is the leader of the crew, and he, J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson have all averaged double digits in scoring over the eight games since the trades. ``The Bench Mob’’ claims to have beaten the starting five 20-3 in Tuesday’s practice, despite having Anderson guard Howard and harassing the center with constant double teams. … Howard gave Arenas, a famed trash talker to opponents, credit for lightening the team’s mood in practice and in the locker room. Said Howard: ``Gilbert is known for talking trash in practice and every day he comes in and says some crazy stuff. It’s good to have somebody pushing us. Gilbert has brought some life to the bench. Just to see the energy and effort and life that everybody has it’s been great seeing that again. When we went on the big losing streak, nobody had much life. In practice, everybody had their heads down. Now, it’s different.’’ … The Magic came into Wednesday shooting 44 percent from beyond the 3-point stripe and hitting an average of 11 threes in their recent six-game winning streak. … The Magic wrap up their four-game home stand on Friday against the Houston Rockets. The Magic then play their next five games on the road – Saturday in Dallas, Wednesday in New Orleans, Jan. 13 in Oklahoma City, Jan. 15 in Minnesota and Jan. 17 in Boston.

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com. Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at AskJD@orlandomagic.com.