Denton's Notebook: February 11, 2011

By John Denton
February 11, 2011

ORLANDO – Every time the Orlando Magic would play Utah the past four years, coach Stan Van Gundy would go out of his way to heap massive amounts of praise on Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. But now with Sloan having resigned his coaching post in Utah, Van Gundy called it ``a sad day for the NBA and the coaching profession.’’

Sloan, the longest-tenured coach in North American sports, resigned Thursday after he was unable to shake the Jazz out of a prolonged slump. He coached with the Jazz for 23 seasons, becoming the only coach in NBA history to win 1,000 games with one team.

Van Gundy refused to believe that a feud with Utah star point guard Deron Williams had anything to do with Sloan leaving the coaching profession. Instead, Van Gundy said, Sloan just likely decided that he was tired of dealing with the stresses of a profession to tends to chew up coaches and spit them out.

``I was upset to hear about Coach Sloan leaving because I don’t think it’s good for the game,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I always had a great deal of respect for him because he was so intense and his teams always played the same way when they were really good with (John) Stockton and (Karl) Malone and in tough times. His teams played hard and unselfish and he was all about the competition and not in it for the money or the fame.’’

Van Gundy said it’s only natural for a head coach and a star player to clash at some point because of the pressures to win on all the parties involved.

``There are always personality classes because it’s a very intense environment with very competitive people,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I’ve been lucky that I’ve never had a guy tough to deal with. Really, it’s not a matter of if somebody likes you as a coach, but it has to work. You don’t have to make each other happy, but the thing has to work because as the coach you are expected to produce wins and the players are expected to produce numbers. We butt heads, but we’re trying to get them to do things for the good of the team. It’s possible that (Sloan) got tired of butting heads, but it’s just kind of the nature of the business.’’

BASS BACK: Brandon Bass spent Friday morning stroking one jump shot after another and doing shuffle drills, showing no signs of trouble from the left ankle that he severely sprained almost two weeks ago against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Bass hopes to practice with the Magic on Saturday and possibly play on Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers. Bass has put in additional work to get back on the floor, drilling twice a day on the court, weight room and in the pool.

Bass, who is averaging 11.1 points and 5.6 rebounds, rolled his ankle when landed on the foot of Memphis forward Zach Randolph. Van Gundy said a determination will be made as to Bass’ health after Saturday’s practice.

``He feels like he can go, but we will practice (on Saturday) and we’ll see,’’ Van Gundy said. ``It’s a lot different (in games). I don’t care what you’re doing out here with trainers or strength coaches or even run through offense with no defense, it’s a lot different than going out and playing.’’

Van Gundy gave no indication as to whether or not Bass would return to the starting lineup when he is healthy enough to play again. He’s started 26 of the 49 games he’s appeared in this season and was a starter at the time of his injury.

HOME SWEET HOME: The Magic were delighted to not have to leave after Friday’s game for another city. January and early February were arduous for the team what with 12 of 18 games at point being on the road.

But now the schedule turns around into the Magic’s favor. Starting with Friday’s home against New Orleans, the Magic will play seven consecutive games at Amway Center. The Magic host the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday and then are home for the Orlando return of Rashard Lewis, who was traded to Washington for Gilbert Arenas on Dec. 18. After the NBA’s All-Star break, the Magic will have home games against Sacramento, Oklahoma City, Charlotte and New York. After a short trip to Miami, Orlando will play two more home games before heading to the West Coast for a 10-day, five-game trip.

``Maybe my back will finally stop hurting from sleeping on all of those (hotel) beds,’’ joked Magic point guard Jameer Nelson, who pointed out that he’s allergic to feathers and needs special pillows when he travels. ``Being at home, you’re always more comfortable and can get in more of a routine. Hopefully we can take advantage of being at home for a while.’’

ETC: Magic superstar center Dwight Howard, who fully embraces his ``Superman’’ nickname, said that his scratched left eye healed faster than usual because of some special treatment. Said Howard: ``I went to Krypton to get some special eye juice. It was a special Jaguar Juice and I told not to use the whole packet so I wouldn’t heal too fast and people would assume I was super human.’’ Howard experimented with protective goggles, but got rid of them midway through one practice because he didn’t like the glare from the specs. … Orlando power forward Earl Clark, who was acquired in the Dec. 18 trade with Phoenix, knows that he’s in the game to score and hasn’t hesitated to put the ball up. Entering Friday’s game, Clark had played 174 minutes with the Magic and had notched just three assists. … Van Gundy said the Magic have yet to receive an explanation about the Flagrant Foul I that Howard was hit with in the second quarter of Wednesday’s win in Philadelphia. The Magic submitted the play for review, feeling as though Howard simply delivered a hard foul and did nothing flagrant. Said Van Gundy: ``We’ll get an explanation for that. I’m sure they’ll take into account the referees’ explanations. It was a good crew and I didn’t have much problems with them during the game, but I’d just like to know what the thinking was on that one.’’

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