Denton's Notebook: February 6, 2011

By John Denton
February 6, 2011

BOSTON – Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith and head coach Stan Van Gundy both said that injured power forward Brandon Bass is progressing much faster than expected and he could return to action by next Friday’s home game against the New Orleans Hornets.

Bass severely sprained his left ankle on Monday when he landed on the foot of Memphis forward Zach Randolph. He missed his third consecutive game on Sunday in the Celtics, but Bass still got in a workout back in Orlando and could be back on the court on Monday for some light drills.

``His swelling is down significantly and he was going to run in the pool today, so I was going to see if the Celtics would play the game in water. Maybe (Shaq) could benefit from that too and we could just play the game in water,’’ Van Gundy joked. ``Brandon is going to run in the water and (Monday) they will at least have him shooting free throws and stuff like that. He’s progressing well, but not well enough and you won’t see him Tuesday or Wednesday, but he is progressing.’’

Smith called Bass a very fast healer because ``he has some of that Louisiana Bayou blood in him.’’ Smith said that Bass shed the protective walking boot on Sunday and he knew all along that he forward would attempt to get back on the court sooner rather than later.

``I knew he’d be back as quick as he could because he just wants to play,’’ Smith said. ``My concern with him was that he’d try to come back too soon instead of too late. He’s getting there.’’

BIGS FOR DWIGHT: Boston coach Doc Rivers said that when the Celtics went out this summer and signed Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal that they had two things in mind: the Los Angeles Lakers and Magic superstar center Dwight Howard.

Neither Shaq (inflamed Achilles) or Jermaine (knee surgery) were healthy enough to play on Sunday, but the Celtics expect to have both big men healthy come playoff time when they could face Howard and the Magic in the postseason. The stockpiling of centers to guard Howard is very similar to what the Miami Heat have done by signing Erik Dampier, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Joel Anthony and Jamaal Magloire.

``It was more about the Lakers if you want me to be honest, and Dwight as well,’’ Rivers admitted. ``The Lakers have a plethora of bigs and Orlando has a dominant big and to get where we want to go we needed size and a lot of it.’’

For years, Rivers has run centers at Howard in waves while attempting to check him with single-coverage. The plan is to try and take away the Magic’s 3-pointer shooting while trying to survive an inside onslaught from Howard. More and more NBA teams have adopted that strategy against the Magic, but few have had as much success because Howard’s tendency to get opposing big men in foul trouble.

``Dwight has improved though and he’s making you pay more for that one-on-one coverage. But even my Marquette math tells me that two is better than three,’’ Rivers said. ``We have a lot of bodies to have a chance at guarding Dwight one-on-one. I don’t think any of them will shut Dwight down, but it does help having a lot of size. Some teams who try to do it aren’t equipped to do it.’’

EARLY INJURIES: Sunday’s game was delayed for several minutes early on when players from both teams went down with what looked to be – at the time, at least – serious injuries.

Boston guard Marquis Daniels, an Orlando native, hit his forehead on the shoulder of Gilbert Arenas and was knocked out as he fell to the floor early in the second quarter. Medical personnel quickly motioned for paramedics and Daniels was taken off the floor on a stretcher. He was initially diagnosed with a neck injury and taken to New England Baptist Hospital for observation.

Earlier in the first quarter, the game was delayed several minutes when Magic point guard Jameer Nelson collided with Boston forward Glen Davis, injuring both players. Nelson got kicked in the ribs on the play and briefly left the game. Davis suffered a bruise to the head and also came back after a stint in the locker room.

Howard was also poked in the eye in the first quarter and remained down in the backcourt. As the Magic tried to foul to stop the action, Gilbert Arenas hacked a shooting Nate Robinson, who made all three free throws.

ETC: Smith and Rivers used Saturday’s day off for the Magic and Celtics to take in their son’s basketball games. Smith traveled to Dartmouth, Mass., to watch Otis Smith Jr. scored 27 points and grab 11 rebounds for Southern Maine. SMU lost 73-62 to UMass-Dartmouth. Rivers flew back to Orlando to watch his son, Austin Rivers, play his final regular season high school game for Winter Park High School. Rivers scored 25 points. … Rivers said that his son’s choice of Duke University to play college basketball was because of the Blue Devils’ employing an offense that allows plenty of freedom for point guards. Rivers said his son, one of the top high school players in the country, chose Duke over Villanova and Kansas. When asked if Austin would opt for the NBA after one season in college, Rivers said: ``If he’s good enough he will. But it’s up to him.’’ … Smith said he would be looking at the games within the games Sunday against the Celtics to make evaluations on players. ``For us, we have some guys hurt so we have others playing in different roles. Ryan (Anderson) is starting and playing on national TV, so you want to see how he reacts. I just like these type of games (against Boston) because I like the energy that comes out of it. It allows us to learn a little bit about ourselves.’’ … The Magic are back at Amway Center on Tuesday to face the Los Angeles Clippers and Rookie of the Year favorite Blake Griffin. Orlando defeated the Clippers in L.A. 94-85 on Dec. 12.

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