Denton's Notebook: February 17, 2012

By John Denton
February 17, 2012

ORLANDO – Heading into what promised to be the most hectic and hurried season of their NBA lives following a five-month lockout, several Orlando Magic players said they wouldn’t know how taxing it would all be until they actually endured it.

Now, after playing a taxing 31 games in a 55-day stretch – including two spans of three games in three days and another stretch of five games in seven days – the resounding answer is this: Dizzying.

``For me, I get confused a lot about what day it is, do we have a game or do we have practice? Or I wake up in the morning and feel like I’m late to a shoot around or practice and I’m always kind of in a daze even if it’s a day off,’’ Magic guard J.J. Redick said. ``It’s tough just kind of getting my druthers together because the games are coming so fast.’’

After enjoying a stretch of six home games over the past seven in two weeks, the Magic are about to hit the road again for one of their toughest stretches of the season. They play in Miami on Sunday afternoon and in Milwaukee on Monday night. Then, following a day off, the Magic have another difficult road back-to-back against the Nets (Wednesday) and Hawks (Thursday). The Magic must vacate the Amway Center for the week while the NBA prepares the dazzling, state-of-the-art facility for the NBA All-Star Game festivities.

Added Redick, who was none too happy about having to play on the Thursday before the All-Star break: ``The last couple of weeks the schedule has been a little bit kinder to us, but this roadtrip right before the break isn’t going to be easy. I’d just like to thank the NBA for allowing us to play during the All-Star break. I appreciate that very much.’’

MORE FAN INPUT: The announcement that rookies Derrick Williams and Iman Shumpert and second-year players Chase Budinger and Paul George will compete in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Weekend in Orlando will likely leave fans deflated because of the lack of star power for the event.

Star players such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard have bypassed the event for years, leaving only younger, unproven players to compete in an event once ruled by Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins and Julius Erving.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy believes that the fans, who already vote for the All-Star Game starters, should have a say in which players compete in the dunk contest and 3-point shootout. Players undoubtedly could decline participation, but Van Gundy feels pressure from the fans could goad them back into the sagging event.

``What I’d like to see – as long as we’re letting the fans vote on the other stuff – why not let them pick who they want in the Slam Dunk Contest? If the players then want to say no to the fans, that’s a little different,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Why not let them decide who they want to see in the 3-Point contest? I think it’s the fans’ weekend.

``All-Star Weekend is for the fans and the fans want to see a guy like Jeremy Linn, why not add him and play? It’s strictly for the fans and it’s not one organization against another organization trying to win a game,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``That’s why I’ve never complained about who the fans vote for because this is their game and their weekend.’’

CONTEST ADVICE: Because he’s never participated in any organized 3-point shooting competition, Orlando power forward Ryan Anderson has been asking his Magic teammates for advice.

Anderson, the NBA’s leader in 3-pointers made and attempted, was chosen to compete in the Foot Locker 3-point Shootout against Joe Johnson, Kevin Love, Mario Chalmers, defending champion James Jones and Anthony Morrow.

Redick, who has participated in several 3-point shootouts in high school and college, has already named Anderson the favorite to win the event. Quentin Richardson, who won the event in 2005, has also been giving Anderson pointers in an attempt to calm his nerves.

``I’m just going to go out and have fun because that’s what the event is all about. It’d be fun to win, but it’s about entertaining and enjoying yourself,’’ Anderson said.

``Quentin talked to me about his experience and gave me some advice. He told me when I first step out there the crowd is only watching you and the nerves will hit you. So I’m just going to go have fun. And there’s no real advice you can give somebody for just shooting the ball. It’s different shooting off a rack, but I’ve caught passes (low and high), so I think I will be OK.’’

ETC: Magic power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis did not make it back from Baton Rouge, La., in time to play Friday night’s game against Milwaukee. Davis attended the funeral for his biological father Friday morning. It’s the second death in the family in a month as his grandmother died three weeks ago. … Van Gundy defended the NBA’s decision to add Lin to the Rising Stars Game during All-Star weekend even though he’s started just eight games over the last two weeks. Van Gundy said he also didn’t mind the breathless, around-the-clock coverage of Lin simply because his story is so compelling. Said Van Gundy: ``I know from some of the quotes that some of the veteran guys around the league are getting annoyed with the attention that Jeremy Lin is getting, but to me it’s a great, positive story in the NBA. It’s not like he’s taking attention from anybody in the NBA. It’s not like nobody cares about Dwight Howard or Kobe Bryant because they still do. It’s a great, fresh and new story.’’ … Earl Clark, who has increasingly earned more trust from Van Gundy, was the first forward off the bench Friday night in place of Davis. Van Gundy said he has no set number of minutes he expects to play the play Clark, but he plans to use the power forward more on the upcoming four-game road trip.

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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