Denton's Notebook: May 8, 2012

By John Denton
May 8, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS – Patrick Ewing is one of the most accomplished players in basketball history, having his No. 33 retired by the New York Knicks, winning a gold medal with the 1996 Olympic Dream Team and later getting elected to the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

Now an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic, Ewing said he’d like nothing more in his basketball career than to get a shot at becoming a head coach in the NBA. Ewing has worked the past nine seasons as an assistant coach in Orlando, Houston and Washington, and he feels that he’s put in the proper apprenticeship to be considered for a head coaching job.

``I haven’t talked to anybody about any of the openings yet, so I guess everybody is waiting for the season to end. I’m really hoping I get a shot this time around,’’ said Ewing, who will reportedly interview soon in Charlotte. ``I’ve done everything I can physically do. I’ve studied under great coaches and this is my ninth year as an assistant coach, so what really more do I need to do?’’

New York, Charlotte, Washington, Portland and Sacramento either have openings or interim coaches currently in place. Ewing has a natural connection to the Knicks, having played 15 seasons in New York. He is also close friends with Charlotte owner Michael Jordan, an Olympic teammate of his in 1996.

``I think Mike Woodson has done an outstanding job, but I’d be willing to talk to any of the teams with openings. I know Michael (Jordan) is getting a lot of grief about hiring friends, but I feel like I’m ready for a shot at this,’’ Ewing said. ``I’m ready for any head coaching job out there if I can just get my opportunity this time around.’’

Ewing, who had his first interview with the Detroit Pistons last spring, has tried to dispel the myth that he can only coach centers. He’s worked with all of the Magic’s players, prepared scouting reports and conducted film sessions as any other coach would, he said.

``I don’t know if that (big man perception) will ever go away,’’ Ewing admitted. ``All I can ever do is just hope that I get the opportunity and try to take advantage of it if it comes this time around.’’

JJ’S PASSING SKILLS: Magic guard J.J. Redick has been known throughout his college career and six years in the NBA as a prolific scorer and an elite 3-point shooter. But Redick has always stressed that he’s more than just a shooter, and he’s shown that more than ever during these playoffs.

The Magic made their comeback from a 19-point deficit in Saturday’s Game 4 largely by putting the ball in Redick’s hands and asking him to make plays. He responded with six assists in the fourth quarter. He then capped the comeback by hitting the tying 3-pointer with 38 seconds to play.

Redick had 14 assists in the first four games and his 3.5 assists a game ranked as the 12th most of anybody in the playoffs.

``J.J. is a smart guy, who takes the game very seriously and works at it constantly,’’ Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said of Redick. ``He wants to learn and get better. So you are talking about a guy who is in his sixth year, is smart, has learned the game and knows what is going on. So it’s not surprising to me that he’s making the plays that he is.’’

DISTRACTIONS FOR VAN GUNDY: Van Gundy is a voracious reader, pouring over practically every article and analysis piece written about the Magic. He’s obviously seen the speculation that his job could be on the line following his public spats with Magic superstar center Dwight Howard. But Van Gundy he’s given little thought at all to the possibility that he might not be the Magic’s coach after this season.

``I’ve been around coaching literally my entire life and really for all coaches I don’t think (firing rumors) are disconcerting at all. You sort of know when you go into this – and I knew long before getting into coaching because I had been around it – that it’s all just part of it,’’ Van Gundy said. ``You don’t worry about that. The only thing you worry about is winning games and you’re not happy about being down in a series and you get upset about losing Game 4. But the rest of it, I don’t have any control over (getting fired). I do have some control over getting my team ready to play, so that’s where my focus is.’’

Van Gundy has said several times that this season has often been a maddening one for him, what with the lockout wiping out much of the practice time and the Magic constantly having to battle through injuries. But Van Gundy said prior to Tuesday’s game that despite all of the craziness there have been bright spots this season.

``Every season has its challenges and this one has had different challenges. And when you put it all together it’s certainly been different. From the lockout, to everything go on, to the injuries and Dwight’s injury, it’s been a challenge,’’ Van Gundy said. ``But it’s also (a season) that’s still going on and I have a group of guys that I have been very proud of in the way they fought and handled themselves. While it’s been crazy, it hasn’t necessarily been bad. There have been some good things this season too.’’

ETC: Van Gundy came to the defense of reserve point guard Chris Duhon, who turned the ball over three times in Saturday’s Game 4 and was booed by the Amway Center fans. Van Gundy pointed out that Duhon had the best plus-minus ratio of any Magic player through the first three games (plus-five). However, he was a minus-11 in his 10 minutes on the floor in Game 4. ``For whatever reason, and it happens on every team, but Chris has became (the media) and the fans’ whipping boy. Now, he was bad (Saturday night), but through three games of the series he had the best plus-minus of anybody on this team. But nobody writes that because it doesn’t fit with the storyline that Chris is no good.’’ … The daughter of Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, 14-month old Amari, stole the show during the Game 4 news conference with her crumbling of a stat sheet likely doesn’t have basketball in her future. Davis said he won’t push her toward basketball and instead he would prefer her to play tennis or soccer. … After the Magic lost Game 4 in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday, Ryan Anderson was in no mood to celebrate his 24th birthday on Sunday. Said Anderson: ``It was nothing special, just another birthday. I’m getting on up there now at 24.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997 and recently authored ``All You Can Be’’ with Magic center Dwight Howard. E-mail John at jd41898@aol.com

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