Denton's Notebook: February 13, 2011

By John Denton
February 13, 2011

ORLANDO – Include Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who knows a thing or two about good basketball teams, as a strong believer in the bold December moves that the Orlando Magic made to restructure their roster.

This time a year ago, Jackson spoke up in surprise that the Magic chose not to re-sign Hedo Turkoglu following the 2009 NBA Finals when Orlando played the Lakers. But now that the Magic have Turkoglu back, along with Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas and Earl Clark, Jackson thinks the Magic have the potential to be an elite team in the East again. The Lakers have played Boston twice and Miami once, but he said he’s unsure as to how Orlando compares to those teams in the East for now.

``They’re a team that’s been deep in the playoffs and they are kind of re-building a team in the middle of the season and it’s hard to tell how they are going to come together,’’ Jackson said prior to Sunday’s game at Amway Center. ``But on paper, they’ve got a real good chance to be good. But right now they are still getting everybody together. Right now, they have a chance to be a really good team.’’

Jackson has always been a big fan of Turkoglu’s because of the small forward’s ability to make others around him with his passing abilities. He thinks Turkoglu’s return to the Magic could be a major difference come playoff time when points are tough to come by and games are played mostly in the halfcourt.

``I know that Turkoglu was a big loss for them and getting him back is an additional assistance to a lot of the team things that they want to do,’’ Jackson said. ``He was good for them in the past, so I can see why they did that move (to get Turkoglu back).’’

BASS BACK: Healthy after missing two weeks with a sprained ankle, Brandon Bass didn’t start on Sunday against the Lakers. But it didn’t take him long to get into the game, coming in four minutes after tipoff when Ryan Anderson picked up two early fouls.

Bass was expected to be out until after next week’s NBA All-Star Game, but was able to get back early by putting in several extra rehabilitation sessions. Bass said sitting out while the Magic struggled also served as different as extra motivation to get back on the floor as early as possible.

``It’s been tough sitting out, especially when we’ve struggled. We were playing pretty good up until (Friday) night and that was tough to watch,’’ Bass said. ``While the team was on the road, I was coming in the morning and coming back in the afternoon to do things to strengthen it and to speed my recovery up.’’

MEMORIES OF BARNES: Matt Barnes created somewhat of a buzz in the basketball world last year when he defended Kobe Bryant with zeal and even tauntingly acted as if he was going to throw the ball at the head of the Lakers star.

The Magic chose not to re-sign Barnes in the offseason and he ultimately inked a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers. Barnes hasn’t played since Jan. 7, missing the past 18 games because of a meniscus cartilage tear in his right knee.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said that his team has missed some of Barnes’ grittiness and willingness to challenge the best offensive scorer on the opposing team at times this season.

``Matt brought an energy level on a consistent basis. Now, with our perimeter players, we can’t really count on that same energy level from anyone other than J.J. (Redick) and (Jason Richardson),’’ Van Gundy said. ``Matt was a cutter and a slasher and we don’t really have that anymore. He’s not a better defender than the guys that we have, but he’s a more willing defender. I don’t know if we’ve shown that level of (defensive) commitment yet at this point.

ETC: Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said the reason for all the consternation around Orlando’s recent skid is because the team has championship expectations. And he said he wouldn’t want things any differently. Said Nelson: ``That should be the expectations around here for us. That’s why we have to start playing better and making smarter plays.’’ … NFL star linebacker Ray Lewis, a Lakeland native, attended Sunday’s game. St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina and New York Yankees centerfielder Curtis Granderson were also in attendance. … Van Gundy said the way he sees things, the two-time champion Lakers are the NBA’s team to beat until they are knocked off the throne. Said Van Gundy: ``When you’re coming back with the people they are, they’re still the team to beat. San Antonio has had a better record and some of the teams in the East have had better records, but the Lakers are the team that has been there and won it a couple of times. They’re still the team to beat and they seem to be amping it up now.’’ … The Magic don’t play again until Wednesday night when they host the Washington Wizards at Amway Center. It will be Rashard Lewis’ first time back in Orlando since the Dec. 18 trade. It’s also the Magic’s last game before the break for the NBA All-Star.

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at