Denton's Notebook: March 7, 2011

By John Denton
March 7, 2011

ORLANDO – Dwight Howard wasn’t around at the Amway Center Monday night because of a NBA mandated suspension, but as usual he still found a way earlier in the day to make Orlando Magic fans smile.

Appearing on the nationally syndicated Dan Patrick Show on radio, Howard professed his love for Orlando and stressed that his only thought is to win a championship with the Magic. Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, was asked what he had learned from the months-long drama that followed LeBron James in free agency and the Carmelo Anthony trade to New York, and the Magic center stressed that he’s his own person and will make his decision independently.

``Well, sometimes the outside sources are the ones that mess up the whole situation. But with my situation, I love Orlando and the city has been great to me,’’ Howard said. ``I would love to finish my career here and I want a championship and I want to get it in Orlando. That’s the only thing that I’ve been thinking about. I haven’t been thinking what’s going to happen in two (seasons). That’s two (seasons) from now. Right now, my focus is on getting our team to a championship and doing whatever I can for this city.’’

Howard has jokingly asked if he would stage a made-for-TV announcement about his free agency choices a la James’ ``The Decision,’’ which was widely panned for being self-absorbed and self-promoting.

``No, no, no. I couldn’t do that to myself. I couldn’t do it,’’ Howard said. ``But it’s two (seasons) from now and I’m not ready to talk about my talents going anywhere. … A championship here, that’s all I want. Nothing else matters to me.’’

NO CRYING FOR THE HEAT: Much was made on Monday of Miami coach Erik Spoelstra saying that some of his players were crying after the Heat’s last-second loss to the Chicago Bulls. And some around the league laughed at the notion that Wade is upset that players, fans and media around the country seem to be taking delight in the Heat’s losses and misfortune.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, never one to shy away from jabbing the Heat, pointed out that Miami’s franchise brought much of the scorn on itself after the way it celebrated the arrival of free-agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh with Wade. The team also compared itself to ``The Beatles,’’ referring to itself as ``The Heatles’’ because of the widespread interest.

``My suggestion would be if you don’t want the scrutiny, you don’t hold a championship celebration before you’ve even practiced together,’’ Van Gundy said. ``It’s hard to go out yourself and invite that kind of crowd and celebration and attention, and then when things aren’t going well, sort of bemoan the fact that you’re getting that attention. To me, that doesn’t follow.

``Despite everything they’ve said to the contrary, I do think -- I’m not saying Erik (Spoelstra) and the coaches or their front office – but I think the players thought it was going to be easy and they were going to roll over everybody,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``It hasn’t materialized that way up to this point.’’

TAKING A POUNDING: Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith has repeatedly spoken to the NBA league office about the nightly pounding that Howard has taken from foes this season -- to no avail. According to Van Gundy, Howard has been fouled 593 times this season, but none have been deemed bad enough to be a flagrant foul.

The hard fouls have repeatedly led to Howard angrily responding, resulting in some of the NBA-high 16 technical fouls that he has received this season and got him suspended for Monday’s game.

Said Smith, who thinks his team does far too much complaining to the NBA: ``They tell us you’re right, you’re right, you’re right. But nothing ever changes, so what can we do?’’

Van Gundy is leery of even discussing the subject because he’s already been fined $35,000 once this season for venting about the hits that Howard takes. Always outspoken and one of the best quotes in all the NBA, Van Gundy is upset that he can’t voice his opinion when’s required to speak to the media twice and sometimes three times a day.

``This is the system David Stern and his minions like,’’ Van Gundy said. ``So that’s the system you have. … I certainly can’t have an opinion because David Stern, like a lot of leaders we’ve seen in this world lately, don’t really tolerate other people’s opinion or free speech or anything. So I’m not really allowed to have an opinion. So it’s up to him. He decides and he likes the system he has.’’

ETC: Power forward Brandon Bass, who made his first start at center in place of Howard, said that he had to come into Monday’s game with a different mindset without the NBA’s second-leading rebounder at his side. Said Bass: ``I have to go in with a defense and rebounding mentality. We haven’t been rebounding the ball very well, so I have to step up and help us on the boards. … Anderson said the thought of him playing some center took him back to his college days at Cal. ``I used to have to get in there and battle to Lopez twins (Brook and Robin) when we’d play Stanford all of the time,’’ Anderson said. … Retired golfer Annika Sorenstam and actor Kevin James were in attendance at Monday’s game. … The Magic embark Tuesday on a nine-day, five-game road trip that starts Wednesday in Sacramento and ends March 16 in Milwaukee. In between, the Magic play at Golden State, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers.

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at