Denton's Notebook: January 15, 2011

By John Denton
January 15, 2011

MINNEAPOLIS – Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard entered Saturday’s game 2.3 rebounds a game back of NBA leader Kevin Love, seemingly putting his run of three straight rebounding titles very much in jeopardy.

But while Howard insisted that the only title he’s interested in is the NBA championship, he stressed that he’s not out of the hunt yet to still lead the league in boards once again.

``I just want to win and that’s all that matters. But it’s still early in the season and I don’t even pay attention to all of the numbers and that stuff with who’s leading the league,’’ Howard said. ``It’s how you finish the season. You want to be playing your best brand of basketball right after the all-star break going into the playoffs. That’s when teams and individuals really pick up their play. You have to be consistent, but Kevin has been consistent all year with double-doubles and 20-rebound nights.’’

The top two rebounders in the league entered Saturday’s game in Minnesota averaging 15.7 rebounds (Love) and 13.4 rebounds (Howard). Love, who had Minnesota’s first six rebounds and 10 rebounds by the middle of the second quarter on Saturday, entered with a streak of 10 straight 15-rebound games and 26 straight double-doubles. He is trying to become the first player since Moses Malone to average at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in a season since Moses Malone in 1982-83.

Howard has averaged 14.2, 13.8 and 13.2 rebounds each of the previous three seasons to lead the league. Howard and Love filmed a children’s show for the Disney Channel -- ``The Suite Life of Zach and Cody’’ – back in the summer and have become friends.

``He’s a much different rebounder than I am. We joke sometimes because he’s not a high flyer. I don’t think he could jump over a phone book, but he uses his body very well,’’ Howard said with a laugh. ``That’s one thing I could learn from somebody like him, the way he uses his legs and body to wedge guys under the rim and get rebounds. He might not look like he’s strong, but he is. I like him a lot.’’

Howard then said that Love, because of his ability to shoot 3-pointers, was a ``white Moses Malone mixed with a shooter like Bill Laimbeer. He’s Moses Laimbeer.’’

And Howard also took a playful jab at Love’s ability to load up on offensive rebounds in games, saying, ``He’s cheating though – he’ll throw up a shot, miss it and then tip it to himself and tip it again and gets eight rebounds on one possession. But he’s a great rebounder.’’

MEMORIES FOR J-RICH: Stuck in his hotel room Friday night because of the snowy and frigid conditions in Minnesota, Jason Richardson watched closely ESPN’s telecast of the Phoenix-Portland game. Richardson played in Phoenix for a season and a half before getting traded to Orlando on Dec. 18. The Suns have slumped badly while trying to incorporate Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus, but they were able to hang on for a win Friday against the Trail Blazers.

``I’m still close with Grant (Hill) and Steve (Nash) was a great guy and I’ve known Jared (Dudley) for a while,’’ Richardson said of the Suns’ top players. ``They’re a team trying to find its identity right now.’’

Richardson’s identity with the Magic has been that of being a shooting guard who is not afraid to shoot the ball. And that’s a very good thing for the Magic considering that he’s shot 48.7 percent from the floor and 42.5 percent from the 3-point line. Richardson has been a spectacular 3-point shooter of late, heading into Saturday’s game having made 16 of his past 27 3-pointers (59.2 percent).

``I’ve always been the type of guy my whole life who wants that big shot and wants the ball in my hands with the game on the line. Coach draws up a play for me I’m going to go out there and knock it down,’’ Richardson said. ``I was in this type of role early in my career and it was like that in Phoenix sometimes and I’m comfortable being back in it now. So if you draw up a play for me I’m not going to be afraid to take the shot.’’

DEFENSE KEY FOR ANDERSON: Ryan Anderson scored 14 points against New Orleans on Wednesday and 15 versus Oklahoma City on Thursday, but he wasn’t on the floor in the fourth quarter of either game for one reason – head coach Stan Van Gundy’s lack of trust in Anderson’s defense.

With no backup center on the roster behind Howard, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound Anderson is needed to play more than ever. But Van Gundy wants him to become a more physical defender on the low block and more active on rotations. He said he saw improvement in Saturday morning’s walk-through practice, but that the process will be a long one for Anderson.

``He can shoot the ball and he can really rebound the ball and he can promote ball movement for us with pick-and-roll plays. He’s an important guy for us, but his defense has really got to improve,’’ Van Gundy said. ``It will just take a lot of focused work on his part. I was pleased for him (Saturday) in shootaround because it was the best he’s been in a practice situation. He’s going to have to do that day after day after day.’’

Said Anderson, who had a blocked shot in Saturday’s first quarter: ``I’m trying to put my focus now on the defensive end because I know that will keep me out on the court.’’

ETC: Magic point guard Gilbert Arenas said one of the biggest adjustments he’s had to make from Washington to Orlando is the Magic’s defensive philosophy. In Washington, Arenas said the Wizards tried to keep defenders out of the paint. ``But here, it’s all about funneling them in towards Dwight for the block.’’ … Saturday’s game allowed two Magic players to reach a couple of milestones. The game was the 500th of the career for Arenas, while starting power forward Brandon Bass was playing in his 300th career game. … … Van Gundy said what truly makes Love an anomaly is that he is both averaging five offensive rebounds a game, while also hanging out on the 3-point line plenty. Love came into Saturday’s game having made 59 of 130 3-pointers. … Veteran point guard Jason Williams is not with the team because of a ``family situation.’’ Power forward Malik Allen is expected to rejoin the team next week in Orlando after receiving an anti-inflammatory injection in his troublesome left ankle. Allen, who has appeared in just seven games this season, severely sprained his ankle back on Dec. 20 in a game against the Atlanta Hawks. … The Magic’s four-game roadtrip comes to an end Monday in Boston with a nationally televised showdown against the Celtics. The Magic defeated the Celtics 86-78 on Christmas Day in Orlando. After Monday, the teams will play once more in Boston on Feb. 4, a prelude to the NFL’s Super Bowl.

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at