Denton: "We All We Got" Heard Loud & Clear in Magic Circle

By John Denton
April 20, 2012

ORLANDO – Fully aware now that Dwight Howard won’t be back for the playoffs and Hedo Turkoglu’s status is as iffy as ever, the Orlando Magic have been forced to bond together and try to make the best of a difficult situation.

But almost to a man Magic players claim that fighting through one obstacle after another, battling through adversity and morphing from favorite to underdog has changed the team’s collective spirit. They recently borrowed a phrase from the movie ``New Jack City’’ and break huddles and end practice sessions by chanting, ``We all we got.’’ It’s become a rallying cry for a team that is desperately looking for something to believe in after losing its best player for the remainder of the season.

``We all we got,’ that’s the way it is now. At the end of the day, no matter what we go through we have to be there for each other in every aspect of the game,’’ said Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, the Magic’s starting center now in place of the injured Howard. ``That saying kind of spreads the spirit out. I feel a different spirit running through the team now. The energy level is there with guys and that’s what we need.’’

Already aware that Howard could have been lost for the season the Magic got official word of that on Thursday night when it was determined by team doctors and California-based spine specialist Dr. Robert Watkins that the six-time all-star needed surgery. Howard, 26, was diagnosed with a herniated disc on his back a week ago and was scheduled to undergo outpatient surgery on Friday afternoon in Marina Del Ray, Calif.

The news of Howard’s surgery was equal parts jarring and expected to a Magic team that has tried to carry on without their three-time winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award. The Magic, 36-26 and clinging to the sixth seed in the East, are 3-5 without Howard this season and 3-3 as he’s missed the past six games.

``I don’t think the news of the surgery did anything to our group one way or the other because we’ve been operating with the expectation that we wouldn’t have him back,’’ said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, whose team plays in Utah (Saturday) and Denver (Sunday) on the upcoming two-game road trip. ``I didn’t sense any change whatsoever today. Our guys were in good spirits and worked hard. Now, I think had he been coming back they would have been uplifted a little bit, but I don’t think this was unexpected. The fact that he wasn’t going to play the rest of the way, that’s the assumption we’ve been operating on for some time.’’

Magic physician Dr. Craig Mintzer said on Friday that Howard should fully recover from Friday’s surgery, which will involve a one-inch cut and trimming a disc to keep it from pressing against a nerve. Howard won’t be back in time to play for Team USA in the Summer Olympics, but he should be fully recovered in time for next season, Mintzer said.

``You go slowly because the danger is that you can re-herniate. About 10 percent of the time people have residual symptoms even after you fix them, so you go slowly. You start rehab as soon as the incision is healed,’’ Mintzer said. ``But you do avoid contact, impact and loading. But he can start low-impact cardio almost immediately.

He’s got plenty of time because the summer is coming up. He’ll be out for the playoffs and for the Olympics, but with three of four months he’ll recover easily.’’

Howard was advised to remain in California for at least three days after having surgery. Van Gundy said he sent Howard text messages on Thursday and Friday and had yet to hear back from the star center. Magic small forward Quentin Richardson said that he had talked to Howard and he was upset that he had to have surgery and miss the rest of the season.

``He’s down about having to have the surgery and not being able to be around the team,’’ said Richardson, who has twice had surgery for herniated discs in his back. ``It’s a tough situation and it’s been a tough season with a lot of ups and downs and this is another big blow.’’

Another big blow could be not having Turkoglu for the playoffs. The small forward was elbowed in the face two weeks ago by New York’s Carmelo Anthony and suffered three facial fractures below his right eye. The hope was that Turkoglu could return by next week, but that’s looking less likely. He just started non-impact conditioning drills in the pool on Friday and it could still be a couple of weeks before Turkoglu is ready for basketball contact.

``It’s going to very tough,’’ Van Gundy said of Turkoglu’s chances of returning. ``The idea now is work in the pool with not as much head-jarring and get in some conditioning. Three weeks (of recovery time) was the absolute minimum, which puts him right at the start of the playoffs. But it’s generally a 6-8-week injury. So the chances of him being back, I don’t know.

``We’re looking at it and preparing like these are the guys that we’re taking into the playoffs,’’ Van Gundy continued. ``We don’t know if we get (Turkoglu) back or if he can play effectively when he comes back, but if he can, it’ll be a bonus.’’

The rash of injuries and constantly swirling controversy has forced the Magic to take on a bunker mentality as they prepare for the final four regular-season games and the playoffs. That spawned the `We all we got’ chant as the Magic try to fill holes in their roster with replacements. They are hopeful that they have enough reinforcements to hang onto the sixth seed and still be successful in the playoffs.

``Big Baby came up with (the `We All We Got’ phrase) and we’ve embraced it,’’ said Magic point guard Chris Duhon, who also underwent herniated disc surgery earlier in his career. ``This team has just rallied around each other. You can tell from the games that we’ve played that we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves. We still think that we can win a lot of basketball games.

``The main thing is our defense. Our offense has been technically better, but with our defense we’ve been giving up 50 percent shooting in a lot of games,’’ Duhon continued. ``Our defense has to change. Usually we could rely on having Dwight back there to erase a lot of our mistakes, but now teams are going to try to get to the basket even more. We have to be better to our help because we don’t have a shot blocker. It has to be more positional defense for us.’’

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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