Denton's Notebook: February 23, 2012

By John Denton
February 23, 2012

ATLANTA – The NBA’s brutal lockout season giveth and taketh away from the Orlando Magic yet again on Thursday night.

About to play their fifth game in seven nights and the fourth game of their last roadtrip before the NBA’s All-Star Game, the Magic lost Jameer Nelson to a knee strain and got Jason Richardson back from inflammation in the lungs. Richardson missed the previous three games because of pains in his chest and lungs, but was cleared to play 45 minutes prior to tipoff Thursday night against the Atlanta Hawks.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said that Nelson ``tweaked’’ his left knee during the second half of Orlando’s lopsided win in New Jersey on Wednesday. Nelson spent a significant period of time icing his knee and ankles after the game, but was in a playful mood after the victory. But he woke up on Thursday morning to swelling and stiffness in the knee, and was held out of the game. The injury isn’t believed to be a serious one.

Nelson’s injury could knock him out of the Haier Shooting Stars Competition which he is slated to participate in Saturday at the Amway Center. Nelson is a part of Team Orlando along with Dennis Scott and Marie Ferdinand-Harris. Scott spent seven seasons playing for the Magic after being the No. 4 pick of the 1990 NBA Draft.

Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith said a new provision in the CBA requires players to be checked out by team doctors and then approved by a league-appointed physician before they are allowed to skip All-Star events because of injuries. Nelson, who has already missed time this season with neck spasms and a concussion, could be subject to that process if it is determined that he can’t participate in Saturday night’s contest.

RECRUITING PITCHES: Magic star center Dwight Howard revealed that part of what appeals to him about becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer is the prospect of being recruited by various NBA teams. If Howard isn’t dealt by the March 15 trade deadline, the Magic will undoubtedly be one of the teams putting up the most feverish recruitment of their franchise center.

Howard was bombarded with a recruitment of sorts on Wednesday in New Jersey. The Nets placed five miniature billboards touting their new Barclays Center being built in Brooklyn between the Magic bus and their locker room. And during the game, Nets fans chanted Howard’s name and held cardboard cutouts of the superstar’s likeness.

Howard was the nation’s top high school player in 2004 and briefly committed to the University of North Carolina after a heavy recruitment. But Howard never stepped foot on a campus after he ultimately became the No. 1 pick of the NBA Draft.

Howard is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract in July and become an unrestricted free agent. After issuing a trade request early in the year, Howard has backed off talking about the future much of late. Howard is eager to be recruited.

``I was heavily recruited in high school, but the only difference is this is the NBA and it’s a whole different scale,’’ Howard said. ``I understand how recruiting works, but I have to put that aside now and focus on us winning basketball games. I have to worry about leading our team night-in and night-out, and that’s the only thing that I’ve been focusing on.’’

Howard said the scorn cast at LeBron James following his nationally televised ``Decision’’ two summers ago taught him some things to not do during the free agency period. But ultimately Howard he’ll have to make a decision based on his own personal preferences.

``You have to make the decision that’s best for you and I think the only thing that people were upset about with LeBron is the fact that he did it on TV,’’ Howard said. ``But everybody is entitled to making their own decisions. It’s your life and you have to do what you want to do with your life. LeBron did it, and I felt bad for him for the way he did it and how it looked on TV, but that’s LeBron. Now, he’s playing basketball (in Miami) and working to become a better person.’’

ALL-STAR ADVICE: With the All-Star Game being played in Orlando, Van Gundy said he would talk to his players about not overdoing it over the next three days and getting as much rest as possible.

But Van Gundy is well aware that his advice might fall on deaf ears as players look to be a part of the festivities and parties in Orlando over the next three days. Howard is a part of hosting or attending parties each of the next three nights.

``I can say it, but they’re going to do what they’re going to do,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Everybody knows what best for them – rest, not being out all night, eating right and sleeping plenty – but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It’s like when I go into the doctor for checkup and they try to educate me on why I’m overweight. I know that cheeseburgers aren’t good for me, but I don’t have the will power to stop eating them.’’

ETC: The Atlanta Hawks were without all-star shooting guard Joe Johnson (knee tendinitis) and reserve center Jason Collins (sprained elbow) for Thursday’s game. Johnson’s soreness knocked him out of the NBA All-Star Game and the Foot Locker 3-Point Shootout. … Van Gundy said he thought that power forward Ryan Anderson has made major strides defensively in his first season as a full-time starter. But Van Gundy knows that teams will continue to run plays at Anderson to make him prove his toughness and grit defensively. … Magic small forward Quentin Richardson, the 2005 winner of the 3-Point Shootout, is planning to attend Saturday’s Shootout to support Anderson, the NBA’s leader in 3-pointers made this season. ``Most definitely he can win it,’’ Richardson said. … The Magic start the second half of the season the same way they finished the first half – playing on the road. The Magic play in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday against the Wizards.

John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at

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