Denton's Notebook: February 8, 2011

By John Denton
February 8, 2011


ORLANDO – With speculation already running rampant that Dwight Howard will look elsewhere when he becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season, the Orlando Magic superstar center responded on Tuesday saying, ``I never said anything about me leaving and I never said anything about me not being happy here.’’

Howard, a five-time all-star and a three-time All-NBA selection, has become increasingly upset with several members of the national media writing that he already has his sights set on playing elsewhere if the Magic can’t win a title in the next two seasons.

Howard is eligible to sign a contract extension with the Magic in July, but that could be delayed by an expected lockout between the owners and the players. If Howard doesn’t sign that extension, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July of 2012.

Making matters worse in the eyes of 25-year-old center has been the fact that he’s been bombarded by fans comments on Twitter.com that he is about to bolt Orlando in a similar fashion to LeBron James leaving Cleveland for the Miami Heat.

``I am annoyed. I can’t sign a contract this year and I can’t sign anywhere this summer, so why keep bringing it up? Why do people keep talking about me going any other place right now?’’ Howard asked. ``Right now, it’s about this season and it’s not about L.A., New York or wherever. I’m really tired of it.

``I don’t want to be talking about where I’m playing basketball next or people in Orlando asking, `Are you going to leave us?’ I never said anything about me leaving and I never said anything about me not being happy here,’’ Howard continued. ``I’m not `pulling a LeBron’ as people say on Twitter. I’m really tired of it, I want to play basketball and help this team win a championship.’’

Howard was asked if he could understand the fretting and concern considering how the Cavaliers have become the laughingstock of the NBA after James left for Miami and because of the way the trade talk with Carmelo Anthony in Denver has dominated the season. Howard said he’ll make his own decision and he’ll make it at the appropriate time.

``That’s Carmelo and LeBron and has nothing to do with Dwight Howard,’’ he said. ``I’m focused on this season and this moment right here. When we get down the road to 2012 and it’s time for me to sign then, we’ll talk about that stuff. For now, I don’t want to be talking about it. There’s no need for us to bring up what’s going to happen in the future. We can’t go to the future right now anyway. I think about (Tuesday) night’s game and what we have to do to win a championship this year and that’s the only thing on my mind.’’

VAN GUNDY MEETINGS: Magic coach Stan Van Gundy met with Orlando playmakers Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson on Monday and Tuesday to discuss ways to get them more involved in the offense and in attack mode.

The biggest thing to come from the meeting with Arenas is the agreement to allow the point guard to run more isolation plays where he can attack opposing guards. That’s the style that helped Arenas become a star in Washington and one he initially had success with in Orlando after the Dec. 18 trade that brought him to the Magic.

Arenas said Van Gundy’s willingness to allow him to be more creative with the ball ``feels like the leash is getting a little bit looser and it helps me be more aggressive.’’

``I guess when I first got here I had no rules yet, so I could just go out there and play,’’ Arenas said. ``I was doing well, but then as soon as I started learning all of the plays and running the team that’s when my time got short. Now that I’m getting more time, I’m trying to get comfortable again. (Van Gundy) says that I haven’t really been aggressive enough and have just basically been out there, so he’s going to start drawing up plays for me.’’

ARENAS’ AVAILABILITY: Van Gundy was asked about the health of Arenas’ surgically repaired left knee after his brother, ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy, said Sunday that the point guard should be shelved if his leg is a problem.

When he was still a member of the Washington Wizards, Arenas needed three surgeries in an 18-month period to correct the issues in his left knee. Arenas has said that cold weather, such as was the case on the most recent roadtrip to Washington, D.C. and Boston, cause the knee to stiffen up and the arthritis in the joint to become inflamed.

Van Gundy said that those with the Magic training staff have been on Arenas to stick to a strict rehabilitation regime to ensure that the muscles around the knee are stronger. Van Gundy is convinced that Arenas is healthy enough to be playing and there shouldn’t be any restrictions on his availability.

``Our medical people are pretty confident that if he’s diligent about his work on the rehab that everything will come back very quickly and he’ll come along. So my only concern is that he’s diligent in that rehab and we’ve talked about that several times and so have our medical people,’’ Van Gundy said. ``He knows that he has to do the work on that knee and it’s got to get stronger. It’s hard work coming off injuries like that. It’s one thing to have it feel OK, but another to have it strong enough and flexible enough to be able to perform. He’s got a ways to go.

``I think he’s healthy enough and I don’t think sitting him down is an option,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``We’re running out of time a little bit and only have 30 games to pull this thing together. We need him out there and he needs to be getting stronger every day.’’

ETC: Howard experimented with some protective goggles to protect a bloodshot left eye that was scratched in Sunday’s loss to the Boston Celtics. Howard wore the goggles in Tuesday’s morning shootaround, but didn’t like the feel or the depth perception he had in them. … With just 29 games remaining after Tuesday, Nelson said there has to be a sense of urgency for the Magic to get right before the playoffs. Nelson mentioned the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers as an example of a team struggling and then getting hot at the right time to win it all. Said Nelson: ``It’s time to get going. There’s no need to panic, but there should definitely be a sense of urgency. We just have to get hot at the right time and we all know it can happen for us. I know one thing: We have the guys here to get it done.’’ … Facing Rookie of the Year favorite Blake Griffin gave Orlando’s Ryan Anderson a chance at guarding yet another elite power forward. IN the past three weeks, Anderson has gone against Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Zach Randolph, Antawn Jamison, Carlos Boozer, Luis Scola and Andrea Bargnani. Said Anderson: ``There’s a lot of good power forwards in this league and we’ve been matched up against a lot of them these last few games. (Griffin) is active, strong and so athletic. There’s a lot of good power forwards, but not many of them that have both of those things. … The Magic play in Philadelphia on Wednesday night, allowing Nelson to celebrate his 29th birthday near his home in suburban Philly. The Magic headed into Tuesday’s game 17-11 in back-to-back sets of games this season. They are 9-5 in the first game and 8-6 in the second games of the back-to-backs.

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.