Denton's Notebook: January 17, 2012

By John Denton
January 17, 2012

ORLANDO – Whereas negativity along the bench and during timeouts were sometimes problems in the past for the Orlando Magic, both players and head coach Stan Van Gundy now vow that a new attitude has been a big key behind the team’s early-season success.

Van Gundy said after Monday’s game in New York that even though the Magic trailed most of the afternoon, confidence never swayed and in-fighting didn’t take place. In years past, players might have started bickering over shots and Van Gundy might have lost his cool.

But there is more of an encouraging nature now, and Van Gundy feels it might be one reason why Orlando has been able to rally several times in games to win in the fourth quarter. Van Gundy has worked to stick more to Xs and Os and do less bashing, while captains Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson have worked to exert more leadership over the team.

``One thing that me and Jameer are trying to do is keep everybody level-headed no matter what the situation is and whether calls or going against us or not. We’re trying to stick with it and stay together. We’re doing a good job of that so far,’’ Howard said. ``Our guys are thinking about winning and we’re staying focused on the goal of trying to win a championship. It’s my job to go out every night and lead our team. I’m doing a better job this year of leading our team.’’

During the Magic’s four-game winning streak heading into Tuesday night, Orlando rallied in the second half against Sacramento, held on against Portland after a 23-point lead plunged to three and surged ahead in the fourth quarter of wins against Golden State and New York.

HOWARD’S FOCUS FIXED ON ORLANDO: With the New Jersey Nets being one of the teams on Howard’s list of teams he would most like to be traded to, he was bombarded with questions following Monday’s game in New York about potentially playing in the area.

The Nets will move from New Jersey to Brooklyn next season to play in the $1 billion Barclays Center. But Howard said that even though he was just a few subway stops away from that area he has given little to no thought lately to possibly playing anywhere but Orlando.

``We can’t focus on any other situation and the focus should be on one game at a time. We have to stay in the moment. We’re doing a good job of that,’’ Howard said. ``We don’t need to be discussing trade talks or whatever. So far we’re doing a good job of coming in and getting our work in. We just have to keep that up.’’

Howard, who again named a finalist for the Team USA’s 2012 Olympic squad, said he talked recently to his 2008 Olympic teammate, Carmelo Anthony. Anthony demanded out of Denver last season and ultimately got his wish with a trade to the New York Knicks. Howard said that Anthony offered his support regardless of what he ended up doing.

``We’ve talked and actually it was great to hear from him. He told me he was 100 percent with me and just wanted me to do what was best for me whatever I decide. It’s good advice,’’ Howard said. ``I just told him that I wanted to do whatever I could to win. Right now, I’m with the Magic and that’s the only thing that matters.’’

AAU FEEL: Magic reserve guard Quentin Richardson, who returned to the rotation against the Knicks, said that Monday’s matinee in Madison Square Garden felt like his high school days when he used to star for the Illinois Warriors. ``And we used to kick a lot of (butt) too,’’ Richardson said.

Richardson those AAU days are the last time that he played games on three days in a row as the Magic are having to do now because of the lockout. The Magic beat New York on Monday, hosted Charlotte on Tuesday and will face the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

``AAU is the last time I’ve played three in a row,’’ Richardson said. ``Back then we’d play three or four games a day and sleep in the bleachers on top of our bags between the games. We were all joking (on Monday in New York) that it felt like a AAU game playing in the daytime.’’

ETC: Magic senior vice president Pat Williams has another book out on the shelves titled, ``The Ultimate Handbook of Jokes for Coaches, Leaders and Speakers.’’ Williams, who has been with the Magic organization since its origination, is battling multiple myeloma. … As he said last week, Howard reiterated that his pending free agency will have no effect whatsoever when it comes to playing for Team USA in the Summer Olympics in London. And he told USA Basketball Executive Director Jerry Colangelo as much last week. Said Howard: ``When I talked to Jerry a couple of days ago I told him that I was committed to being on the team and I look forward to winning another gold medal for the U.S.’’ … The Magic entered Tuesday’s game 6-0 when leading after three quarters and a respectable 3-3 when trailing heading into the fourth period. … And clearly the 100-point mark is a critical milestone for the Magic. They are 8-0 this season when topping 100 points in a game.

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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