Denton's Notebook: May 5, 2012

By John Denton
May 5, 2012

ORLANDO – In their previous four postseasons together, Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard and head coach Stan Van Gundy have teamed up for 30 playoff victories, a run to the 2009 NBA Finals and an appearance in the 2010 East Finals.

So naturally it’s a little surreal now that the Magic are in the playoffs again and Howard isn’t available after having surgery to repair a herniated disc in his lower back. Howard told a reporter in suburban Los Angeles – where he has been ordered to stay and do his rehabilitation – that he felt like he was ``in jail’’ because he couldn’t rejoin his teammates in Orlando for the playoffs. And while Van Gundy said injuries are a part of the game, he admitted it was ``difficult’’ not having the Magic’s best player available for the playoffs after so much success in the previous four years.

``It’s different, but people through it with injuries. Chicago is going through it with no Derrick Rose and Atlanta had to play without Josh Smith on (Friday) night,’’ Van Gundy said.

Howard said that he and the coach have spoken ``a bunch,’’ a term that Van Gundy laughed off by saying he doesn’t even talk to his family a bunch during the playoffs. Van Gundy did say that he talked with Howard prior to the playoffs and following Game 2 earlier this week. Later, Van Gundy wanted nothing to do with a discussion of whether or not there’s been a thaw in the sometimes chilly relationship between him and Howard.

``I don’t know why we’re talking about that,’’ Van Gundy said. ``We’ve got a playoff game. Let’s talk about basketball and not about relationships.’’

FAMILIAR FACE: Brian Shaw, who played three seasons in Orlando from 1994-97, admitted he has had somewhat mixed feelings during this playoff series while working as the Pacers’ lead assistant. Of all his stops in the NBA, Shaw said Orlando was easily his favorite and he still owns a house in Central Florida.

``Of all of the stops I made throughout the league, Orlando is the only place that I ever bought a house. I loved my time here and I loved to fish in all of the lakes here,’’ Shaw said. ``This is one place that I always said that I could live here. I played in Boston, Miami, Philly and Portland and even during my four years in L.A. I never bought a house there. Orlando is very different now than when I was here, but still it’s a very pleasant place.’’

Shaw surprisingly didn’t get the head coaching job with the Los Angeles Lakers last spring despite the support of departing coach Phil Jackson and star guard Kobe Bryant. He joined Indiana’s staff and Pacers’ head coach Frank Vogel fully expects to lose Shaw to another team in search of a head coach.

``Well, that’s been a goal of mine since my last couple of years of playing. Phil Jackson and Frank Hamblen would invite me into the coach’s meetings because they kept telling me that I would coach when I was done playing. Phil wanted to groom me to be a coach and teach me the organizational skills,’’ Shaw said. ``Being a head coach is something that I’ve always had my eye on, but at the same time I’m enjoying myself. I’ve learned from one of the best in Phil and it’s been refreshing being in a different system and a different thought process. It just makes me more well-rounded when that (head coaching) opportunity comes.’’

ETC: While Howard wasn’t at the game, his parents, Dwight Sr. and Cheryl, were in their usual seats supporting the Magic. … Van Gundy decided against playing reserve center Daniel Orton against Indiana’s Roy Hibbert because he wanted to limit the number of inexperienced players on the floor at the same time. Earl Clark, who has played well through the series defensively and on the boards, is playing his first significant minutes in the playoffs in his career. … Ryan Anderson, who was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player on Friday, was given a standing ovation by the crowd at the Amway Center before the game. … The Magic led for most of the first quarter before eventually falling behind 22-19 at the end of the first period. The good news for the Magic was that it was the first time in the series that the Magic didn’t trail by at least 10 points in the series. … Game 5 is Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Indianapolis. The Magic won twice in Indy during the regular season and split the first two playoff games last week. A potential Game 6 would be Friday night at the Amway Center.

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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