Denton's Notebook: March 13, 2011

By John Denton
March 13, 2011

PHOENIX – No one is a bigger fan of Marcin Gortat than, well, Marcin Gortat, and the Phoenix Suns center feels that his career would have been further along had he not backed up Dwight Howard the past 3 ½ seasons. But he also knows that plenty of good came out of him spending his developmental years in Orlando with the Magic.

Gortat, who was traded with Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus from Orlando to Phoenix on Dec. 18, said that nothing could have prepared him for the rigors of the NBA better than having to battle Howard in practice and face the daily wrath of Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy.

``If I would have gotten to play way earlier I would have been a better offensive player and a more experienced player. But because I’ve been with Dwight and Stan for 3 ½ years I became a better defensive player and a more disciplined player,’’ Gortat said. ``Dwight was beating me up in every practice and I learned a lot of defensive moves from him. And I learned discipline with Stan. I didn’t have much offensive game playing (in Orlando), but it goes two ways.’’

Gortat has played extremely well in Phoenix since the trade, lending some credence to the notion that he could someday be an all-star player now that he’s out of Howard’s massive shadow. He entered Sunday averaging 11.8 points and 8.8 rebounds in 36 minutes with the Suns. He said he got a head’s up on the Phoenix trade about a week before it went down, and welcomed the opportunity because of the increased playing time that he would be getting.

``I understand that my contract made it uncomfortable for the team and it was just a matter of time before I had to leave,’’ said Gortat, whose $33 million offer sheet was matched by the Magic. ``I just wanted to play more and I’ve been so happy with the chances I’ve gotten here.’’

REDICK RETURN: Magic guard J.J. Redick missed his second consecutive game on Sunday and won’t play Monday night in Los Angeles against the Lakers because of a strained lower abdominal muscle. Redick suffered the injury during a Friday morning practice prior to the game against the Golden State Warriors.

``He’s feeling better. He won’t play tomorrow (in Los Angeles), but he’s going to do some work with it and we hope to get him back by Wednesday (against the Milwaukee Bucks),’’ Van Gundy said. ``If not Wednesday, then surely Friday (at home against Denver).’’

Redick is still traveling with the team and received treatment before Sunday’s game.

PIETRUS UNDERSTANDS: Pietrus feels he was the collateral damage in a trade where Gortat wanted out and the Magic simply wanted to make a change with Vince Carter for Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu.

``You know sometimes with your wings they throw in fries extra?’’ Pietrus asked. ``Well, I’m the fries.’’

To show there was no animosity for being traded, Pietrus gave a big hug to Magic President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith prior to Sunday’s game. Pietrus said helping the Magic get to the 2009 NBA Finals still looms as his greatest memory in the NBA.

``When I first got traded it was hard for me and hard for all of us because I had never been traded before,’’ Pietrus admitted. ``But I can’t be mad. I’m proud of what I did for the Magic, taking them from nothing to 2008 to the (NBA) Finals and the (Eastern Conference) Finals again. In 2009, we were playing great and then they wanted to make a change. So I can’t be mad at them.’’

ETC: Howard passed a major milestone in the third quarter on Sunday when he scored the 10,000th point of his career. Howard hit a hook shot over Robin Lopez late in the third period to give him 10,001 points in his seven-year NBA career. … The Suns were without star point guard Steve Nash lower groin strain. Since Nash has joined the Suns, they have a .676 winning percentage when he’s in uniform. When he’s unable to play because of injury, the Suns are just 9-20 (.310). … Pietrus missed his first six shots and his first 3-point attempts on Sunday. He also received a technical foul for arguing a non-call in the second quarter. … Jameer Nelson banged knees with Phoenix’s Aaron Brooks in the second quarter and gave the Magic a brief scare when he didn’t know if he could return for the second half. However, Nelson was back on the court in the second half and showing no ill effects of the knee being sore. He did rest in the fourth quarter and should be fine for Monday’s game against the Lakers. … The Magic will be back on national television Monday night against the Lakers at the Staples Center. Orlando handed the Lakers one of their worst losses of the season on Feb. 13 at the Amway Center, winning 89-75.

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