Denton's Notebook: January 12, 2011

By John Denton
January 12, 2011

NEW ORLEANS – Needless to say, this Louisiana homecoming was a dramatically different and infinitely more fulfilling one for Orlando Magic forward Brandon Bass.

Bass, a Baton Rouge, La. Native, needed 40 tickets Wednesday night for all of the family that he had at the Magic-Hornets game. But whereas Bass didn’t even get into the game last February when the Magic came to New Orleans, this time he was a starter and a major part of the rotation.

``It’s definitely night and day and so much different than the spot I was in last year,’’ Bass said with a big smile. ``It’s a blessing now that I’m starting. I don’t think a lot of people expected it and to tell you the truth I didn’t really expect it either. I just had the approach that someday it would happen for me if I just kept working hard every day and getting better.’’

Bass rarely played last season despite signing a four-year, $18 million free-agent contract with the Magic in July of 2009. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy didn’t like Bass’ approach to the game that he was an offensive minded player and wanted him more focused on defense and rebounding.

When Bass improved his rebounding from 2.5 boards a game last season to 5.4 rebounds a game this season, he’s worked his way back into the rotation. He regularly spends post-practice sessions with Magic assistant coach Patrick Ewing watching film to better himself defensively. Clearly, Bass got the message that he had to improve in certain areas to get more playing time.

``I think last year, quite honestly, he spent a lot of time pouting about not playing. He was working hard still, but not making the adjustments in the way that he needed to play,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Then, it just got to a point where he just really badly wanted to play. He works hard and continues to watch film all the time with Patrick on defensive mistakes. He’s made a concerted effort to get better on that end because he was always a good offensive player. And he’s made a better effort to rebound, and as long as the does those two things (defense and rebounding), he’s a really good player.’’

Added Bass, who also boosted his scoring average from 5.8 points per game to 11.2: ``I just got to that point (to make a change). With me it was about hearing Stan out and doing the things that he needed me to do out there on the court. It was only a matter of time for me to lock that in and get it done.’’

BLOWOUT TALK: Much of the buzz around the Magic locker room on Wednesday surrounded the Los Angeles Lakers’ 55-point destruction of the hapless Cleveland Cavaliers Tuesday night. The Cavs, who scored just 57 points, are poised to become the first team in NBA history to go from having the NBA’s best record one season and its worst the next year.

Magic guard Gilbert Arenas said he liked the fact that the Lakers didn’t ease up on the Cavaliers and said the team was clearly trying to send a message to others across the league. Arenas jokingly said that he was once suspended from coaching a kids’ league team because he continued to press full court despite a lopsided score in the game.

``You want teams to fear you. There are times when you can just tell that one team fears another one because of a beat you might have given them,’’ Arenas said. ``I used to have certain players who feared me because I was giving it to them.’’

STREAK MEMORIES: The last time that the Magic won nine games in a row, New Orleans first-year coach Monty Williams was a reserve small forward for Orlando’s ``Heart and Hustle’’ team in 2001.

Williams, a leading candidate to win the NBA’s Coach of the Year award for the work that he’s done turning around the Hornets, said he still holds dear the time he spent in Orlando and it taught him a lot of lessons that he uses today as a head coach.

``I loved playing in Orlando, my dad still lives down there, (then-head coach) Doc (Rivers) gave me the opportunity to play and I loved the Magic organization,’’ Williams said. ``What I took out of that season is that you can win no matter who you have on your team. We had a lot of talent that not many people knew much about, but we were able to win and put ourselves in position to make the playoffs.’’

ETC: The Magic wore their alternate black uniforms for just the third time this season on Wednesday night much to the delight of franchise center Dwight Howard. Said Howard: ``These are the best-looking ones by far. I love them.’’ … Since the Magic’s two blockbuster trades on Dec. 18, Van Gundy has trimmed his rotation to eight players, and he credits that tight rotation with helping the Magic develop continuity and chemistry. But he said he isn’t worried about the Magic wearing down from logging such heavy minutes. Said Van Gundy: ``We’re not playing big minutes … well Dwight is the only one and I’m a little concerned about that. But (Hedo Turkolgu) is playing 34-35 minutes and Jason Richardson is playing 32-33 minutes since the trade. That’s nothing compared to what most of the star players play in this league. And everybody in that group is playing 28 minutes or fewer, so none of them are really playing big minutes. They’re all between 24 and 35 minutes except for Dwight, whose minutes have been up and I just don’t know that we’re going to be able to stop that.’’ … Chris Duhon, a native of Slidell, La., also needed a couple of dozen tickets for Wednesday’s game. Said Duhon: ``With me and Brandon, it’s going to be like a home game for (the Magic).’’ … Bass said he turned his cell phone off early Wednesday morning and left it that way to avoid distractions and more ticket requests. … With the NBA recently taking over the ownership of the Hornets, rumors have already started that the franchise could be in jeopardy in New Orleans. The NBA has made no secret that they would like to have a team back in Seattle if that city can figure out a way to build a state-of-the-art arena. At tipoff Wednesday night, New Orleans Arena was approximately half full.

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