Denton's Notebook: February 13, 2012

By John Denton
February 13, 2012

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he has no hesitancy in diagramming plays for Dwight Howard and allowing the superstar center to become the closer that he wants to be, but Van Gundy said his choices are many because of the Magic’s many weapons.

Howard told a Fox Sports Wisconsin reporter late Saturday night that he wants to grow into a role where the Magic can throw him the ball late in games and depend on him to make clutch plays. Howard said he needed opportunities to succeed and fail down the stretch to become the Magic’s go-to playmaker down the stretch.

``Every really good player in this league – and even some who aren’t really good players – want the ball in the fourth quarter and we have a lot of those guys,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Jameer (Nelson) and (Hedo Turkoglu) get frustrated if I’m not going to them in the fourth. Jason Richardson wants the ball in the fourth. And J.J. (Redick) wants the ball down the stretch. That’s true on most teams and everybody wants that role coming down the stretch. That’s a good thing that guys have the confidence to make plays in those situations and Dwight is one of them.’’

Throughout the past five years with Van Gundy as his coach, Howard has carried the Magic early in games as the team’s primary first option. But Van Gundy has preferred to run pick-and-roll plays with Nelson and Turkoglu in the fourth quarter of games because of Howard’s inability to make free throws. He is a 49.1 percent free throw shooter this season and a 59.2 percent shooter from the stripe in his career.

``I don’t know that there’s anything stopping him,’’ Van Gundy said, refusing to point to Howard’s free throw troubles. ``I have confidence in him, but I decide (the play to run). It’s not the same every night. It’s based on what I think gives us the best chance to score. That’s generally going to leave somebody not real happy because they all want the ball in the fourth. If I said I was just going to give it to whoever wants it we’d have to get five more basketballs. When it comes time to call plays, I have to make decisions on what we’re going to run.’’

FREE THROW FAME: On the other end of the spectrum as it relates to free throw shooting there’s Redick, who entered Monday’s game having made 31 straight free throws.

Redick entered Monday’s game leading the NBA in free throw percentage at 95.8 percent. He’s made 69 of 72 free throws, never missing more than one in a game. His last miss came on Jan. 18 against the San Antonio Spurs.

For some historical perspective, Redick’s percentage could go down as one of the best marks in NBA history if he can keep it up. The 95.8 percent would tie Calvin Murphy (1980-81) for the second-best mark in league history. Murphy’s record stood for 28 years under Toronto’s Jose Calderon set the new mark at 98.1 during the 2008-09 season.

``Wow, that’s impressive,’’ Redick said when told of his free throw percentage ranking second all-time, ``but the problem is we still have 36 games to go.’’

Redick added that he has not received an invite to participate in the 3-Point Shootout during the NBA All-Star Weekend at the Amway Center. He entered Monday’s game ranked 19th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (42.7 percent) and 33rd in 3-pointers made (41).

TURKOGLU TIME TO REST? Van Gundy said that he talked with Hedo Turkoglu on Saturday morning about possibly sitting out the game against the Milwaukee Bucks in an attempt to shake him from a two-week slump.

Turkoglu entered Saturday’s game shooting just 20 percent and having made just three of 20 3-pointers in a four-game stretch. The Magic considered resting Turkoglu after seeing how the energy level of Jason Richardson and Jameer Nelson responded to taking time off with injuries.

However, Turkoglu declined to take the rest and had one of his better games of the season. Turkoglu scored 19 points, handed out six assists and grabbed five rebounds in 32 minutes.

``I talked to him on Saturday morning and asked him if he needed some time off,’’ Van Gundy said. ``He said that he feels fine, but he just needs to play better.’’

ETC: Magic assistant coach and NBA Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing missed Monday night’s game because of an illness. … Turkoglu playfully faked anger in the lockeroom before the game when he heard that a Rhode Island man won the $210 million lottery jackpot. ``Well, I guess you could say that I hit the jackpot in 2004 and again in 2009,’’ said Turkoglu, referring to the $39 million and $50 million deals he signed with the Magic (2004) and the Raptors (2009). … Turkoglu took advantage of a break in the action Monday night, walking over behind the scorer’s table to get a kiss from his 2-year-old daughter, Ela. … Van Gundy had nothing but raves for Minnesota rookie point guard Ricky Rubio, who entered Monday’s game leading the NBA in steals (2.46 a game) and tied for fourth in assists (8.7 a game). Said Van Gundy: ``He’s a great passer and sees the court incredibly. Whoever is open is getting the ball and they’re getting it right on their hands.’’ … The Magic are at home twice more this week – Wednesday against Philadelphia and Friday against Milwaukee – before embarking on a six-day, four-game roadtrip against the Heat, Bucks, Nets and Hawks.

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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