Denton's Notebook: February 25, 2011

By John Denton
February 25, 2011

ORLANDO – In the minutes before the Orlando Magic’s team meeting on Thursday head coach Stan Van Gundy deliberated the merits of pointing out the unsightly numbers from his players battling though shooting slumps.

In the past, Van Gundy has resisted doing just that because he didn’t want shooters feeling extra pressure or forcing shots. But following an ugly loss to Sacramento on Thursday, Van Gundy deemed the situation dire and didn’t hold back in his honest assessment of the Magic’s offense.

``I’ve always been a little bit worried about all of that stuff, but we handed them (statistics) that show individually the levels of where we were on that nine-game win streak and where we’ve been over the last 14 games,’’ Van Gundy said. ``I’ve hesitated doing that because I don’t want to put more pressure on people, but then I said, `You know what, screw it.’ You’re professional basketball players and there is pressure on you. In large part, (making shots) is what they get paid to do. You can call that pressure or whatever. It’s like me saying, `I’m the coach and there’s pressure on me to win.’ Well, yeah, that’s what they pay me for. Call it pressure, but we all make a ton of money for doing what’s very little of value in the world.’’

The Magic entered Friday’s game shooting just 29 percent from beyond the 3-point arc in the past 10 games. Gilbert Arenas (3 of 35), Ryan Anderson (11 of 31), Jameer Nelson (4 of 18) and Jason Richardson (7 of 24) have struggled from the 3-point line of late.

``Let’s quit complaining about the pressure. A big reason for the guys that we’ve selected to be here is for them to shoot the ball,’’ Van Gundy said. ``Everybody is going to go into slumps, but you can’t feel pressure because you’re in a slump. You have to deal with it. These guys are veteran guys and not rookies. Let’s execute, get better shots and when you get (open) knock it in the basket. And if we don’t we’re going to have trouble winning. You have to make shots to win.’’

POINT GUARD SUMMIT: Dwight Howard is Orlando’s unquestioned superstar, but often it’s the play of Nelson that determines whether the Magic are clicking or struggling. When he’s in attack mode and getting into the lane on a regular basis, the Magic usually get more open looks from outside and Howard is open for lob dunks.

Van Gundy and Nelson met privately on Thursday, trying to find ways to ignite the point guard’s plays. The coach is contemplating running more high and pick-and-roll plays for the Magic’s point guard so that it will encourage him to drive more and also seek out shots. Nelson has said that the balance between getting others involved in the offense and staying aggressive is a tough one.

``Me and Stan talked about the things that I need to do,’’ Nelson said. ``We talked about the stuff that I need to do to make this team better and I’m going to go out there and do it.’’

Added Van Gundy: ``The guy we’ve got to get going is Jameer because he’s a real key guys for us. Not just his field goal percentage, but his toughness and competitiveness. We’ve got to get him back to where he’s played before and where he needs to be for us to be successful.’’

BIG MAN SURPRISE: There were more than a few eyebrows raised at the NBA trade deadline when the Boston Celtics dealt center Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Celtics rank first in the NBA in points per game allowed and they are third in defensive field goal percentage and a big reason was the size and toughness of the 6-foot-11 Perkins.

Perkins is one of the few defenders in the NBA who has had success against Howard in the past. His ability to guard the Magic’s consensus All-NBA center one-on-one allowed the Celtics to take away Orlando’s 3-point game.

While Howard wasn’t willing to give much credit to Perkins because of their long-simmering rivalry, he did like the trade for the Thunder because it makes them more fit to handle the Los Angeles Lakers’ big frontline in the playoffs.

``The one thing Oklahoma (City) needed was that big guy in the paint,’’ Howard said. ``It gives them the ability to go really big with a big point guard (Russell Westbrook), Kevin (Durant) at (shooting guard or small forward), (Serge) Ibaka at (power forward) and Kendick at center. … I think it gives them a legit chance to win a title.’’

ETC: One school of thought is that the Magic got better at the trade deadline without even making a deal because of the rival Celtics moving Perkins out. Arenas wondered if the Magic had slipped from the thoughts of the Celtics even though the two teams have played in the Eastern Conference Finals each of the past two seasons. Said Arenas: ``I don’t know if (the Celtics) are thinking about us. They’ve got Shaq and Big Baby (Glen Davis) to stick Dwight. Maybe they are trying to get smaller because the teams they are facing aren’t as big as they are. After Dwight, we just have a bunch of shooters. … The Magic recorded their 88th straight regular-season start Friday night against the Thunder. They have sold out all 31 home games at Amway Center this season. Including the postseason from the past two springs, the Magic have sold out 107 straight games. … Including Friday’s game against Oklahoma City, the Magic are in the midst of arguably their toughest stretch of the season with games ahead against likely playoff teams Charlotte (Sunday), New York (Tuesday), Miami (Thursday) and Chicago (Friday). The good news is all those games except for the showdown against the Heat are at the Amway Center.

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