Denton's Notebook: April 1, 2012

By John Denton
April 1, 2012

ORLANDO – For just the third time in his illustrious eight-year career, Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard was unable to play because of an injury.

Howard was held out of Sunday night’s game against the Denver Nuggets because of spasms in his lower back. In all, Howard has missed eight games during his career, but five of those were because of illness, suspension or late-season rest. He sat our two games in the 2008-09 season because of a sore knee early in the season.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said the most overlooked asset in Howard’s arsenal is his rugged durability. Despite taking some of the hardest hits of any player in the league, Howard has played all 82 games five times. He missed three games in 2008-09 and missed four last season (two for illness and two for suspension).

``He’s a pretty durable guy and that’s one of the most important things with any player,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I don’t care how good you are, if you are going to miss a lot of time and miss a lot of work then you aren’t helping your team on those nights. His durability is probably as big an asset to him as anything that he does.’’

Howard injured his back in Friday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks when the Magic allege that he was punched in the back by Brendan Haywood. Howard was unable to practice because of soreness and stiffness in the back on Saturday and saw a doctor about the problem Saturday afternoon. Van Gundy said that Howard received ``an adjustment,’’ but didn’t get much relief from the procedure.

The Magic sent video of Haywood’s alleged punch into the NBA on Sunday, hoping to bring light to a flagrant foul that was committed. Haywood denied throwing a blow into Howard’s back during the game, but Van Gundy said video evidence will show otherwise.

``We sent it in, but (the NBA league office) response time is 14 days. I guess they are swamped,’’ Van Gundy joked. ``I wish anything that came across my desk like us improving our pick-and-roll defense and I had 14 days. Give me a couple of weeks and I’ll decide what I want to do. We have Denver tonight give me 14 days to come up with (the game plan). They may get back to us quicker.

``We had to set up the system because we haven’t sent anything in. We never send anything in because for all of our perceived complaining we just never send anything in,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``But I thought there were some things from the other night going both ways that I’d like to get an answer on. And I’m pretty certain the answer will not satisfy me, but that’s OK.’’

TURK’S TURNOVERS: Hedo Turkoglu missed a potential game-winning 3-point shot Friday against the Mavs, but was even more disappointed that he had five turnovers in the game. Three of the turnovers came when Turkoglu rose for a jump shot only to pass the ball to an open cutter, However, because those players turned their heads in an attempt to rebound, the play resulted in turnovers.

``It starts with me and have to take most of the blame,’’ Turkoglu said. ``But I see things that most guys don’t because of my size and when I see them open I pass the ball. But I guess I have to be more sure with my passes and make the simple plays.’’

Turkoglu said he’s talked to Ryan Anderson, Jason Richardson and Howard about keeping their eyes on him a split second longer before going to the boards so that he can pass them the ball for dunks.

``I’ve told them to give me just a second more and wait until I shoot it before they look away,’’ Turkoglu said. ``I’m in the air and the defense is looking at me so I think I can hit those guys with passes.’’

ETC: Including Sunday’s game against the Nuggets, nine of the Magic’s 14 remaining games are against teams currently in the playoff picture. That could be troubling considering that Orlando is 10-17 this season against playoff teams, including a streak of five consecutive losses. But Van Gundy likes that the Magic will be challenged down the stretch. ``I think it’s good that that’s our schedule going out,’’ he said. ``We don’t need anything that would be fooling ourselves. To do anything in the playoffs at all we’re going to have to get a lot better.’’ … Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson came into Sunday’s game having made just 12 of 34 shots and five of 19 3-pointers over the last five games and said he has to work harder at seeking out shots and making hustle plays. Said Richardson: ``I know that I have to get myself more involved in games. I know that I have to pick up my play, and that’s not even scoring. I have to focus on bringing more energy and doing the little things. I don’t have a problem at all doing that because I’m all about the team.’’ … The Magic have Monday off and play in Detroit on Tuesday. .. They play at the Amway Center again on Thursday against the New York Knicks.

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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