Denton's Notebook: March 3, 2011

By John Denton
March 3, 2011

MIAMI – For days before he was forced to miss Tuesday’s game, Gilbert Arenas said that he could feel the pain and tightness in his hamstring and calf muscle growing. But he credits the healing hands of an Orlando-based physical therapist with getting him back in shape to play Thursday night.

After having three knee surgeries in an 18-month stretch between 2008-09, Arenas has struggled with keeping the flexibility in his left leg. Because the muscles in the leg are so tight, Arenas said he often develops fatigue and pain in the leg. He said his pain level was so high Tuesday that he couldn’t have played even if it was a playoff game.

``I don’t think I could have played because it was hurting too bad,’’ he said. ``It fatigues the muscles back there, strains them and puts a lot of pain in my leg. It started last season (when he was still a member of the Washington Wizards) when I was suspended and I was just sitting there and my muscles were getting weak. So I went to Chicago and they fixed the problem. But I found a (therapist) here and knew exactly what the problem was.’’

Arenas was back on the practice court Wednesday and showed no ill effects of the injury.

Famed Chicago-based Athletic Trainer Tim Grover worked with Arenas last summer to provide him some relief in the leg, and Arenas said he had planned to fly Grover to Orlando soon to work more on his leg. But when he couldn’t play Tuesday against the New York Knicks, Arenas sought some relief locally.

``I’ve been feeling it coming on and I was trying to keep it stretched out. I was going to call Tim Grover to come down because I felt it was going to start hurting me really bad. I know what the problem is, but I need somebody to force the issue sometimes,’’ Arenas said. ``I guess from sitting all the time – at the house and on the bench – my hamstring and upper calf gets tight and pulls on (the back of his leg) and that gives me all of my pain. The problem came from three knee surgeries because I lost my calf muscle. I just have to do a lot of calf raises and keep it elongated and stretched out.’’

FLAGRANTLY FOULED: Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has made a concerted effort to argue less with the officials of late, but he made an exception in Tuesday’s game when superstar center Dwight Howard was whacked across the head, shoulders and arms by New York’s Amare Stoudemire. Van Gundy argued for a flagrant foul to be called, to no avail.

Even though Howard usually takes several hard hits a game, no opposing player has been called for a flagrant foul this season while guarding or fouling the Magic center, Van Gundy said. The coach was purposely trying to not be critical of the NBA officials, but he feels that players are allowed to hit Howard extra hard because of his muscular 6-foot-11, 275-pound frame.

``It’s seems the severity of the it gets downplayed because Dwight doesn’t flop around on the ground and grab his head,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Some of these guys are flailing around like they have been shot, but (Howard) doesn’t flop. He plays the game the right way.’’

Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith said he’s complained to the league on several instances about the hits that Howard takes, but nothing has ever been done about it. Smith said that Howard ``is a really hard guy to officiate’’ and ``they could call something on every play,’’ but he just wants the league to clean up the blows that his center takes to the head and shoulders.

STANDING PAT: Despite several contending teams making frantic roster additions in the past few days, Smith said Thursday that the Magic are likely to remain as currently constructed through the rest of the regular season and playoffs.

Smith said the dearth of elite-level centers makes the need for several big men less than in years past.

``I like our team the way it is,’’ Smith said. ``I know it’s not what everybody wants to hear. It’s not sexy. I guess I’m not sexy enough. Sorry, I’m going to stay with what I have. We’ll put No. 12 (Dwight Howard) out there and let everybody else out there get all the bigs to battle No. 12. It’s not the other way around.’’

ETC: The Magic play the second half of arguably their toughest back-to-back of the season on Friday night when they host the Chicago Bulls. Whereas the Heat had four days off before playing the Magic on Thursday, Chicago got into Orlando early Friday morning and had a day off to prepare. Said Van Gundy: ``You’re going to run into stretches where everybody has more rest than you. I don’t get to into the whole schedule thing.’’ The Magic are 1-1 this season against the Bulls, and after Friday they host Chicago again later in April. … Veteran guard Mike Bibby, who gave up $6.2 million for his release from the Washington Wizards after being traded from Atlanta, signed with the Miami Heat on Wednesday and entered Thursday’s game late in the first quarter. While not questioning the veteran point guard’s abilities, Van Gundy wondered what kind of impact he’d have with the Heat. ``I don’t see how you can do it without (Mario Chalmers) or (Eddie House) coming out of the rotation. I don’t know how much of a net difference Mike makes. He is a very good player and he certainly gives them one more very good player on their roster, but how much of a difference it makes in how they play will be hard to judge.’’ … Howard continues to believe that the Magic are being overlooked as serious contenders to win the NBA title. Said Howard: ``We’re always going to be on the outside. Even when you watch TV and when you watch our highlights, you think the other team won. It’s just how it is. We can’t allow that to affect the way we play. We’re still going to go out there to play hard every night to win and sacrifice our bodies for our team. That’s what we have to do and not get caught up in anything else. We’ve never been considered an elite team even last year or the year we went to the Finals. We’ve never been considered to be one of those teams. I don’t know why, but that’s the way it is and we have to live with it.’’

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