Denton's Notebook: March 30, 2012

By John Denton
March 30, 2012

ORLANDO – Out of the game for good Monday night with Orlando up by 20 points, Magic captains Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson hung out on the bench and didn’t join their teammates in the huddle during a timeout.

Largely because the Magic went onto win the game 117-101, nary a word was said.

But when ESPN cameras captured Howard and Nelson not with their teammates on the bench near the end of Orlando’s 108-86 loss to New York on Wednesday, it created a stir nationally about their abilities as leaders.

On Friday, Howard and Nelson addressed the issue publicly for the first time. Both admitted that they should have been in the huddles – both in victory and defeat – but their absence had nothing to do with either outcome.

``We didn’t lose the game because me and Jameer weren’t in the huddle,’’ Howard said. ``I don’t think that was the problem in the game. We were down by 30, so I’m pretty sure that the reason we lost wasn’t the fact that me and Jameer weren’t in the huddle. So there’s no need to make a big deal about it. We could’ve been in the huddle and should’ve been in the huddle, but it’s over with. We are the leaders and the captains of the team, and we’re going to do a better job. But there’s no need to make a big scene about it, so just let it go.’’

ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, brother of Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy, was critical of Orlando’s captains for laughing during the blowout loss and not joining their teammates. But that prompted Howard to reply, ``Jeff Van Gundy is not our coach so what he says really doesn’t matter. What Stan says matters.’’

Said Nelson: Everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. I probably should’ve been in the huddle. I know there are people out there looking, eyes always on us, especially kids, and I look at myself as a role model. At the end of the day, everybody’s entitled to their own opinion, but Stan didn’t come up to me and say anything about it. None of my other coaches had a problem with it. It’s my job to get in the huddle and be a leader. But I’m not listening to what anybody else says outside of my locker room.’’

ARMSTRONG THE CHAMPION: Some 90 minutes before Friday’s tipoff, Darrell Armstrong was scooting around the Amway Center, working out players here, signing autographs there and arranging ticket requests for old friends there.

Seeing Armstrong darting around the arena was nothing new to Magic fans who saw the frenetic point guard become one of the franchise’s all-time favorite players. Amstrong played for the Magic from 1994 through 2003, averaging 11.7 points, 5.1 assists and 1.65 steals in 502 games.

An assistant coach with Dallas the past three years, Armstrong earned a championship ring last June when the Mavs beat the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. Dallas owner Mark Cuban feels that Armstrong will someday make a great coach in the NBA.

``I think Darrell can be a great coach some day because he knows the game, he’s willing to work hard and he has such great people skills,’’ Cuban said. ``I think there will be a great opportunity there for him someday. He’s still crawling his way up the ladder, but he’ll get there.’’

Cuban said Armstrong’s mentality compares to that of Avery Johnson, who similarly had to work his way to the NBA through the basketball minor leagues.

``To me, the harder you’ve had to work to get into the league the harder you’ll work to stay in the league,’’ Cuban said. ``He has every chance to be a head coach. We had him with the Mavs (as a player) and I like bringing back guys who have special qualities about them. D.A. was one of our best hustle players and you want that kind of attitude around your young guys.’’

ETC: Vince Carter, who played with the Magic for a season-and-a-half from 2009-10, made his first return to Orlando since he was traded to Phoenix last December. The crowd inside the Amway Center was indifferent to the return of Carter, neither booing nor cheering the former all-star shooting guard. … Mavericks shooting guard Jason Terry was without his headband and knee-high socks Friday night after losing a bet to Nelson over All-Star Weekend in Orlando. Nelson teamed up with TV personality Bill Bellamy and Terry teamed with musician Jadakiss for a competition at the CrossFit Firebase in Orlando during All-Star Weekend. The loser had to wear the other’s shoes (Both wear Reebok). Had Nelson lost he would have had to wear a headband and tall socks, but instead it was Terry was without his trademark gear. … Nelson said he considered it an honor to once again play against Dallas point guard Jason Kidd, one of his idols growing up. Kidd, 39, is in his 18th NBA season and likely headed for the Hall of Fame some day. Nelson said he’d like to stay in the league as long as Kidd. ``J-Kidd still sees the floor well and he’s a great leader. I could see myself playing that long if I take care of my body and do things the right way. … Magic forward Earl Clark, a Louisville product, and former Kentucky players Daniel Orton and DeAndre Liggins have a wager on Saturday’s national semifinals game. Asked if the losing side would have to wear the other’s gear, Clark said: ``Nope, straight cash.’’ … The Magic are back at the Amway Center Sunday night to face the Denver Nuggets for the first time this season. Orlando plays in Denver on April 22, the final week of the regular season.

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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