Denton's Notebook: January 12, 2012

By John Denton
January 12, 2012

OAKLAND – Dwight Howard set an all-time NBA record for All-Star Game votes in 2009 and again led all Eastern Conference players in voting last season, but privately the Orlando Magic superstar wondered how fans would react to him this season.

After all, Howard’s name has been in the headlines a lot this season for his trade request and uncertain future.

So Howard was admittedly shocked on Wednesday when the first returns for the Feb. 26 NBA All-Star Game in Orlando were announced the Magic center led all players in votes. Howard’s 754,737 votes were 64,124 more than Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, the second-highest vote-getter. And not only does Howard have a commanding 679,699-vote lead over the next closest center in the East (Chicago’s Joakim Noah), he also tallied some 113,000 votes more than Miami’s LeBron James and Chicago’s Derrick Rose.

``I kind of didn’t know what to expect this year, but it means a lot to me the support I’m getting,’’ Howard said while shaking his head somewhat in amazement. ``It’s a humbling experience and great. It just means a lot to me to know that there are fans out there supporting me and what I’m all about.’’

Howard spent Tuesday’s off day in Portland at the Adidas headquarter brainstorming to come up with ideas to interact with fans during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Orlando. Howard, who got a record 3.1 million votes in 2009 and 2.1 million last season, said the whopping number of votes that he has gotten again this season reaffirms his desire to do something to thank his fans.

``I’m trying to figure out a good way to show my gratitude to the fans, not just through words by also through my actions,’’ Howard said. ``We’ll see how it goes, but I’m just so thankful right now.’’

TURK TIME: Lost in the daily drama surrounding Howard’s future has been the revival of Hedo Turkoglu so far this season for the Magic. Through the first 10 games of this season, Turkoglu’s scoring was up (13.8 compared to 11.4) and his shooting percentages from the floor (49.1 percent to 44.8 percent) and 3-point line (47.9 percent compared to 40.4 percent) were also dramatically improved from his 56 games with the Magic last year.

Turkoglu had another impressive game in Orlando’s defeat of Portland on Wednesday with 16 points, six assists and four 3-pointers. As has been the case with him for years, his biggest plays – a driving layup and a step-back 3-pointer – came after Portland had sliced a 23-point deficit to three points.

``I kind of feel like I haven’t done anything yet because it’s so early in the season,’’ Turkoglu said.

But Magic coach Stan Van Gundy would beg to differ. ``To me an under-the-radar story is how great he’s played this year,’’ Van Gundy said of Turkoglu. ``You look at his shooting percentages are high, he has a lot of assists, he’s been very efficient and he’s made a lot of big plays. (Wednesday) night, was no different because those five points in a row against a great defender (Gerald Wallace), those were huge plays.’’

Van Gundy said the 32-year-old Turkoglu hit training camp in great shape following the lockout and he’s been extremely focused so far. And Van Gundy likes the pep that the 12-year veteran is playing with so far.

``He seems like he is (focused). With him the determining factor is where his energy level is,’’ Van Gundy added. ``It was very good (in Portland). When he’s playing with a lot of energy, he’s a very, very skilled guy. He had about four assists in a 5-minute period there that really got us going. He’s been terrific.’’

JRICH: By now, Jason Richardson’s returns to the San Francisco Bay Area are old hat and something that doesn’t necessarily stir an overflow of emotions. But there was a time when that wasn’t the case.

Richardson spent the first six years of the career with the Golden State Warriors, pouring in lots of points while never making the playoffs. Then, just as the Warriors were primed for a playoff run, Richardson was dealt to the Charlotte Bobcats before the 200708 season. He was cheered wildly in his first return to Oracle Arena, and touched by the fans show of emotion.

``The first time back there was so much nervousness and the fans were cheering for me from the first time that I stepped on the floor. And every time I touched the ball they cheered,’’ Richardson remembered. ``There was so much emotion and I actually had a terrible game. But it was amazing to see how the fans reacted with the ovation.’’

Richardson said he originally took the trade hard, but 11 years in the NBA and playing for four teams has given him some perspective.

``(The trade) hit me hard because I was loyal to this organization and the fans were so great here. I wanted to spend my whole career here, but I had to think about the business side of it too,’’ Richardson said. ``At first I thought it was personal, but they were just freeing up space for Monta (Ellis). At first you think there’s something wrong with you. But they just made a business decision and I understand that now.’’

ETC: Howard reaffirmed his plans to play in the 2012 Summer Olympics with Team USA. Some players tend to avoid exhibition play when they are in their free-agent years, but Howard said that will have no impact on his decision to play for Team USA. Howard, who won a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, can opt out of his contract this summer and be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his eight–year NBA career. … Ryan Anderson, who went to college at Cal, had a much smaller support group with him Thursday than on Sunday in Sacramento. Anderson, who grew up in El Dorado Hills, had his parents, aunt and uncle and a couple of college buddies at the game. On Sunday, approximately 70 of Anderson’s friends and family attended the Magic-Kings game played about 30 miles from his hometown. … Despite his significant strides as a passer, Howard isn’t happy with his offensive game so far this season. His scoring (18.2 ppg.) and field goal percentage (58.8 percent) are in line with his career averages, but Howard entered Thursday’s game still looking for a breakout performance. Said Howard: ``I haven’t gotten into a good rhythm all year offensively. A lot of my shots are not falling, but I’ll keep playing and finding my teammates. But at the end of the day as long as we win that’s all that matters. You’ve got to stay confident and eventually (shots) will fall. Some guys start off good, some guys finish better. Hopefully we can continue winning and I’ll start making some.’’ … The Magic returned home Friday morning from the West Coast. They will practice in Orlando on Saturday and Sunday and play in New York against the Knicks on Monday at 1 p.m.

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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