Denton's Notebook: April 22, 2011

By John Denton
April 22, 2011

ATLANTA – An hour prior to Friday’s Game 3, Orlando’s Dwight Howard playfully confronted an ESPN reporter about the validity of his claims that the superstar center would be traded from the Magic this summer.

Howard wondered aloud to ESPN’s Ric Bucher about his reports in weekly chats that he would be traded by a Magic franchise fearful of losing him in free agency after the 2011-12 season with no compensation in return. Howard can become an unrestricted free agent after next season.

``If I’m getting traded, tell me where I’m going?’’ Howard said. ``Let me call my agent and tell him where I’m going.’’

Bucher said on Friday in an ESPN chat that ``I'm not reporting that Dwight will be traded this summer. I believe he will be based on what I’m hearing. … Anyone saying he categorically doesn’t want to leave Orlando, I have one question for you: Why hasn’t he signed his extension? It makes absolutely no fiscal sense not to with the looming lockout. I don’t care what he says; I care what he does. And what he’s doing is leaving his options open.’’

As he was balking at Bucher’s suggestions that he was following Shaquille O’Neal’s path from Orlando to Los Angeles and questioning the suggestions that he would be open to playing in a big media market such as L.A., New York or Chicago, Howard then shed some light on his thinking about his pending free agency.

``The biggest market of all is outside of the United States,’’ Howard said. ``In today’s NBA you can get anything you want (in terms of endorsements) and you don’t have to play in a big market.’’

``DWIGHT OUT:’’ The Hawks promoted Friday’s Game 3 as a ``White Out’’ as they handed out white T-shirts to all of the fans in Philips Arena. That prompted some television and radio stations in the Atlanta area to playfully call it a ``Dwight Out,’’ referring to Howard, who grew up in Atlanta and starred at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.

Howard laughed at the promotion and thought it would an honor to have his first name splattered across the front of 20,000 T-shirts in one building. Howard said he’s learned through the years to take the attention as a compliment.

``What did Wilt (Chamberlain) say: `Everybody hates Goliath?’’’ Howard said. ``I remember that year in Toronto where they were chanting, `Howwwwwwww-ard.’ It was a loud as I’ve ever heard it. I had to find a way to turn that into a positive because they were so loud.’’

The Hawks also continue to show a video featuring clips from the Superman movies from the 1980s. They show Superman in various compromising positions and getting whipped by villains. The Hawks debuted the video during the playoffs last season and continued to show it during the regular season and again on Friday.

``I was glad they showed it last year because I was mad about fouls and it was funny and it made me laugh,’’ Howard said. ``But at the end of the (Superman) movies, who won out? Superman, that’s right.’’

FOUL STRATEGY: Atlanta coach Larry Drew opened some eyes in Game 2 when he pulled Al Horford out of the game and left him on the bench for the rest of the first half after picking up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game. Drew has stuck to the strategy all season, feeling players can operate more effectively in the second half when not saddled with three fouls.

Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said that while he didn’t entirely disagree with the strategy, he said that he wouldn’t be using it with Howard. Howard played 46 minutes in Game 1 and became just the third player in Magic history to play all 48 minutes of a regulation game in the playoffs in Game 2.

``He’s not sitting out the half for us. Not a chance,’’ Van Gundy said of Howard. ``I know that I might be giving our strategy away, but there’s not a chance of that happening with us.’’

The Magic had two days off between Game 1 and Game 2 and another two days off before Game 3. But now the series shifts to a format where Games 4 (Sunday), 5 (Tuesday), 6 (Thursday) and 7 (Saturday) will be played one day apart.

``Playing 44 or 45 minutes would be a light night for Dwight,’’ Van Gundy joked. ``The playoffs are different in that I’m not writing down my rotations, but I am keeping an eye on the minutes from our perimeter guys and trying not to wear them out. With 4 or 5 minutes to go (Tuesday in Game 2), it just felt like our guys were beat and hanging on. We can’t have that at the end of games, so we have to manage the minutes.’’

ETC: Van Gundy wouldn’t commit to continuing to play struggling point guard Gilbert Arenas before Friday’s game and didn’t do so even though third-string point guard Chris Duhon didn’t dress because of a sprained left ankle. Starter Jameer Nelson shared the ball-handling duties with Hedo Turkoglu and J.J. Redick. … Van Gundy said he hoped that Redick’s shooting touch would improve as the playoffs continue. Redick missed the final 17 games of the regular season with a lower abdominal strain and made just three of 12 shots in Games 1 and 2. Said Van Gundy: ``He’s gotten good shots, but he was out forever. Do I think he’s 100 percent physically? I don’t, but I like the way that he’s moving out there. Hopefully with more time that he’s back he’ll get it going again.’’ … Van Gundy said he had heard the assessment of his brother, ABC/ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, that the Hawks are the more talented team in the series. Naturally, the Magic’s coach didn’t agree, but didn’t want to get into a public debate with his brother. Said Van Gundy: ``That’s of no consequence right now. I have no interest in that.’’ … Game 4 is Sunday night at 7 p.m. on Sun Sports Network and TNT.

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