Denton's Notebook: April 10, 2011

By John Denton
April 10, 2011

ORLANDO – Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy has already made it known that he feels that Chicago’s Derrick Rose will win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award even though he thinks Dwight Howard is a more deserving candidate.

But as it relates to other NBA awards, Van Gundy feels that the Chicago Bulls should have a clean sweep, and really it shouldn’t even be up for debate. Van Gundy is a firm believer that Chicago Vice President and General Manager Jim Paxson and Gar Forman – and not Miami’s Pat Riley – should share the league’s Executive of the Year award, while head coach Tom Thibodeau should be the heavy favorite to win Coach of the Year honors.

``There’s this perception that Miami made all of these changes and we made changes at midseason and Chicago is doing it with the same group. They’re not doing it with the same group. They made a lot of changes and I said the other day that John Paxson and Gar Forman should (win the Executive of the Year award), but they won’t,’’ Van Gundy surmised. ``(Miami Heat president) Pat Riley will get Executive of the Year because they made the big splash, but in reality those guys should win it. They made a lot of changes and they were below Miami in the standings. Now they are above Miami in the standings, so how could you not go with those guys?’’
Van Gundy is a big fan of the job that Thibodeau has done in Chicago. Thibodeau was an assistant under Van Gundy’s brother, Jeff, in Houston, and he was the architect of Boston’s defense the past three years.

``Tom’s done a great job. I don’t think there’s any doubt he should be the Coach of the Year. It’s one of the best coaching jobs I’ve seen done since I’ve been in the league. They’re really solid at both ends. They play hard and play every night. There are no lulls throughout the year and they’ve just been outstanding. They’re the No. 1 defensive team and part of that may be personnel, but a good part of that if not most of it is the job Tom’s done.’’

NO DWIGHT: Howard was at home Sunday after picking up his 18th suspension of the season on Wednesday, triggering a NBA-mandated one-game suspension. It was the second time this season that Howard has been suspended for a game – once following his 16th technical foul and this time after the 18th T.

Howard was frustrated after being whistled for a 10-second violation on a free throw attempt and flung the basketball away from officials. Howard, who has been called for the violation three times this season, has vowed to speed up his routine at the free throw line to avoid future violations.

``They’ve called it three times out of 79 games,’’ Howard said on Saturday. ``I guess I just have to speed up a little bit.’’

Howard was understandably embarrassed about not being available for Sunday’s game and was frustrated about having to miss the MVP matchup against Rose. He also knows that the Magic could have used Sunday’s game against Chicago as a gauge considering that they could meet the Bulls in the second round of the playoffs. Howard is confident that the Magic have what it takes to beat the Bulls in the postseason.

``We have to worry about the first series first because we can’t overlook any team,’’ said Howard, whose Magic will open the playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks next weekend. ``If we do play the Bulls I feel we have a great opportunity to beat those guys. We just have to play smart and play the right way.’’

REDICK RETURN?: Magic guard J.J. Redick, who missed his 15th consecutive game Sunday because of a lower abdominal strain, still does not have a target date for when he can return, but he did resume shooting drills in practice on Saturday.

Redick hasn’t practiced or participated in basketball drills at full speed since suffering his injury in a morning practice on March 11. Usually a daily worker whether the Magic practice or not, Redick has had to resist overworking his strained midsection.

Redick said there’s improvement in the amount of pain he’s feeling in his midsection, but he’s not close yet to returning to action. Considering the time that he’s missed and injury that he suffered, Redick’s chances of playing in the first round of the playoffs against the Hawks seems to be dwindling.

``I’m closer, but I’m still not there yet,’’ Redick said. ``I’m able to do some sprints and get acclimated to running again and get up some shots, but I really don’t have a date to point to yet,’’ Redick said.

Redick said once he’s pain free and cleared to play, he would expect himself to be able to contribute in the playoffs. Said Redick: ``As long as I’m ready and able to get into a practice or two I think I can contribute,’’ Redick said. ``The key is being able to play without thinking abou the injury. There’s not pain, but it’s a muscle injury. When it’s more structurally sound I think I’ll be able to play.’’

ETC: Van Gundy said he was encouraged by Gilbert Arenas’ 25-point, six 3-pointer effort Wednesday in Charlotte, but he’s not sure yet whether or not the point guard could be a go-to offensive option for the Magic in the playoffs. Said Van Gundy: ``Obviously he has no fear in those (end of game) situations, but he’s been so up and down. Just knowing where he’s going to be every night from a physical standpoint is still kind of tough right now.’’ … A Magic team that has had to play mostly shorthanded down the stretch because of injuries benefitted from having both Thursday and Friday off before practicing on Saturday. Players raved about the benefits of having consecutive days off their feet. Said Ryan Anderson: ``It helped me really feel recharged. It’s pretty amazing how long two days feel after you have played 79 games. Our schedule this season has been crazy with not a lot of days in between games. Two days off were like an all-star break.’’ … The Magic play their final road game of the regular season Monday night in Philadelphia. Orlando heads into the game at 22-18 on the road this season.

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