Denton's Notebook: February 23, 2011

By John Denton
February 23, 2011


ORLANDO – Even with unprecedented midseason movement from franchise players such as Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams going on around him, Magic superstar center Dwight Howard insisted again on Wednesday that he is his own person and that other transactions don’t necessarily affect his status in Orlando.

Anthony forced his way out of Denver by refusing to sign a three-year, $65 million contract extension with the Nuggets and was ultimately traded to the New York Knicks. And Williams, whose run-in with Jerry Sloan might have had something to do with the legendary coach’s abrupt departure, was shipped from Utah to New Jersey on Wednesday.

Like Williams, Howard can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2011-12 season. He has given no indication that he plans to sign a contract extension this summer, but has stressed that those plans are far from his thought process right now.

``People shouldn’t think that way -- `Where’s he going to be next year? What is he going to do?’ That takes away from the (Magic) team and what everybody wants to see happen,’’ Howard said. ``I’m pretty sure there are a lot of teams who want to win a championship and they are talking about trades here and there, but then their focus isn’t on the right thing. My focus is on one thing which is to win the championship. I don’t want to discuss what’s going to happen two (seasons) from now and I don’t even want to think about it because that puts my teammates in a bad position and it puts me in a bad position where I’m worrying about what’s next instead what’s more important at the time.’’

Howard said he doesn’t remember his 2008 USA Basketball teammates discussing future alliances during their run to the gold medal in China. That squad included LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – all of which ended up in Miami together. Anthony and Amare Stoudemire formed a friendship during their international playing days. And Howard, Williams and Chris Paul – the three top targets in the 2012 free agency – were also teammates on that squad.

``I don’t think it says anything (negative) about the league. Guys are getting traded and wanting to get traded and they all want to play on the same teams,’’ Howard said. ``There’s nothing anybody can do about that and there’s nothing that I can do about it. Whatever decision they make I’m sure they are making the best one for them.

``(Magic fans) should just be concerned about this moment and this season,’’ Howard continued. ``If you are getting concerned about next year then your mind is in the wrong place anyway. I’m not concerned about next year; I’m concerned about right now and the championship that we’re trying to get this year.’’

SLIMMER GIL: Magic reserve point guard Gilbert Arenas spent his all-star break in Orlando, working out twice a day in hopes of slimming down his body and reviving his explosiveness off the dribble.

Arenas fell short of his stated goal of losing 6 pounds to get down to 210 pounds, saying he dropped only 3 pounds. But he left the Magic’s Wednesday morning shootaround with a boxed salad in his hands, saying his attempts to slim up are still on-going.

``I was here in the gym, twice a day for probably six or seven hours a day and I think it really helped me,’’ Arenas said. ``I really think it’s going to help me get my explosiveness.’’

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said that he’s willing to give Arenas more latitude to freelance and create in the Orlando offense, but only if the point guard’s conditioning and efficiency improve dramatically. Arenas has struggled to finish at the rim and make perimeter shots, hitting just 34.5 percent of his shots and 25 percent of 3-pointers in 30 games with the Magic. Also, he has 69 turnovers compared to 120 assists.

``He looks much better to me physically and I think he’s been working very hard on his leg and he’s moving a lot better,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I have no problem with (giving Arenas more freedom). But there has to be more efficient play, no question about it. The field goal percentage has got to come up and the turnovers have to go down.’’

NO PANIC: Van Gundy said he doesn’t necessarily share the widespread opinion that the Magic need another center before heading into the postseason.

Howard is the only true center on the roster, but the Magic have been able to cover the hole by using power forwards Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson at center for short period of times. Veteran power forward Malik Allen is also capable of guarding opposing centers if necessary.

Van Gundy said he has no interest in the Magic giving up an asset simply for a center who might not play. He said that he would be surprised if the Magic made a move before Thursday’s 3 p.m. deadline, especially since the team has already undergone one major transition after trading for Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Earl Clark and Arenas back on Dec. 18.

``I’m happy with what we have here,’’ Van Gundy said. ``It’s not like I’m sitting here saying, `My gosh, if we don’t get a big for the playoffs, then we’re in trouble.’ Basically we need these 12 guys here already to play better.’’

ETC: Former UCF star and Tavares, Fla., native Jermaine Taylor started at shooting guard for the Sacramento Kings and received a nice ovation before the game. Taylor, who has been elevated to the starting lineup because of the injury to Tyreke Evans, was delighted to be traded from Houston to Sacramento because of the chance at more playing time. Taylor, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard, opened Wednesday’s game with an alley-oop dunk. … Howard played only 21 minutes in Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game, but he had a busy weekend in Los Angeles. Howard worked at a NBA Cares Event, appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, threw an all-star bash and made a couple of other promotional appearances for Adidas and Gatorade. Howard said the busy weekend took a toll on him, but he’s not complaining. ``I was pretty tired when I got back, but this is our job and this is what we do. There are no complaints from me,’’ Howard said. … The Magic’s homestand at Amway Center continues Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Orlando then hosts Charlotte (Sunday) and the re-tooled New York Knicks (Tuesday) to conclude what has been a seven-game stretch at home.

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.