Denton's Notebook: April 24, 2011

By John Denton
April 24, 2011

ATLANTA – Orlando Magic reserve guard Gilbert Arenas was back in the regular rotation Sunday night for Game 4, but that had as much to do with a suspension to Jason Richardson and an ankle injury to Chris Duhon than anything.

Arenas, a former three-time all-star, didn’t play in Friday’s Game 3 loss and he admitted Sunday morning that the indignity of being benched hit him hard.

``I feel like (Portland’s) Brandon Roy that night when he was just watching the game. I’m sitting there thinking, this is what I’m built for. I’ve averaged 23 (22.3 points), five (assists) and four (rebounds) in the playoffs,’’ said Arenas, who entered Sunday’s game at the start of the second quarter after not playing on Friday. ``I’m a veteran playoff player and I’ve put up big numbers in the playoffs before. But for my number to not get called it hurts. But like anything you don’t jeopardize the mission for one player. So whoever the coach chooses, that’s who he chooses.’’

Arenas played 12 minutes in Game 1 and while he scored six points, he turned the ball over three times. He played just six minutes in Game 2 and was pulled from the game following another ball-handling turnover. Arenas said it’s been particularly difficult to sit and watch as the Magic have struggled offensively knowing his abilities as an elite scorer and playmaker.

``I’m trying to not get too down and I’m not going to lie because it really hurts,’’ he said. ``I’m watching playoff games and seeing players not even near my caliber getting minutes and I can’t even get any minutes. That hurts.’’

Arenas said that at times this season he’s put too much pressure on himself to succeed following the Dec. 18 trade that brought him from Washington to Orlando. In 49 games with the Magic, he averaged 8.0 points and 3.2 assists, but he shot just 34.4 percent from the floor and 27.5 percent from the 3-point line in 21.8 minutes off the bench.

Arenas said the style that suits him best – freelancing in one-on-one or pick-and-roll sets – doesn’t always mesh with Magic coach Stan Van Gundy’s style. Arenas is hoping there’s some give and take in the playoffs and next season that will put him in a position to be an offensive force again.

``It’s the same with what’s been going on most of the season. My type of game isn’t Stan’s type of game,’’ Arenas said. ``I’m more like the Joe Johnson and Brandon Roy type, more pick-and-roll stuff with Dwight (Howard). But where I excel isn’t what we do. That’s why I’ve struggled so much this year because I’m not allowed to have space and beat my guy off the dribble. There’s always light at the end of the tunnel and I’m trying to stay positive and keep working on my game.’’

PROTECTING HOWARD: The Magic were without Jason Richardson on Sunday because of the suspension, but many of his teammates lauded the shooting guard for coming to the defense of Howard, who had just been hit across the arms by Zaza Pachulia.

That has been the case throughout the series as the Hawks have sent big men at Howard in waves and each of them have taken their whacks on the Magic center. Through the first three games, Howard had been sent to the free throw line 50 times – 13 times more than the rest of his teammates and only 15 times fewer than the Hawks roster.

Quentin Richardson, who started Sunday night at shooting guard in place of Jason Richardson, said that it’s important for the Magic players to stand up to Atlanta’s player when they hit Howard unnecessarily. Quentin Richardson feels that some of the swipes by Atlanta’s players have been borderline flagrant fouls and he chuckled at some of the claims that Howard dishes out as much punishment as he receives.

``You don’t hear Dwight coming to the media and whining or going to the refs and whining. He’s a basketball player through the whole season,’’ Richardson said. ``I see the stuff they say about LeBron (James) getting hit and nobody gets hit as hard or as often as Big Fella (Howard) does. He gets the wrap around the necks and if they do that to normal players it’s a flagrant foul. But because he doesn’t put extras on it and flop and flail all over the floor and he’s as big and strong as he is it doesn’t seem so bad. But time and time again, he comes to the locker room with scratches on his face, arms and body. But he doesn’t talk about it like them and that’s the big difference.’’

REDICK READY: Even though he hasn’t shot the ball well in the first three games of the series, Magic guard J.J. Redick has worked to do other things to help the team.

And that’s been evident during his time on the floor. The Magic were a plus-14 in scoring in Redick’s time on the floor in Game 1 and a plus-10 when he played in Game 2. And Redick’s dive on the floor for a loose ball was one of the keys to the Game 2 victory. That play left him with long, painful floor burns on his arm and hip.

Redick missed the final 17 games of the regular season because of a lower abdominal strain and he hopes that his rhythm will return the longer the playoffs last for the Magic.

``I think in terms of our spacing it helps with me being out there. And I run every time and that helps us in transition to get looks,’’ Redick said. ``I haven’t shot the ball really well in these three games, but I’m hoping that being out there a little more that I can get more of a rhythm. I feel like I’m playing catch up offensively because I’m a rhythm player and I’m trying to get back into that rhythm.’’

ETC: Hawks coach Larry Drew has a practice of benching players for the rest of the first half if they pick up two quick fouls, but Van Gundy said there was ``absolutely no chance’’ of him doing that with Howard. He proved it Sunday when Howard picked up a second foul midway through the first quarter, but returned at the start of the second period. … Because he was suspended, Jason Richardson was not even allowed in Philips Arena Sunday night. Instead, Richardson stayed back at the Magic’s hotel and watched the game on TV. Said Richardson: ``I can’t go to the arena. It will be tough not being out there in a playoff situation playing. I’m not sorry for what I did, but I feel bad that I’m not out there for my teammates. I’m always there for my teammates, but they understand the situation.’’ … Howard was whistled for his second technical foul of the playoffs on the play that preceded the fight when he flung his arms back after getting fouled. When the NBA League Office called Howard earlier in the season to explain that he couldn’t flail his arms after a foul, Howard informed them that he had to protect himself after getting hit so often in the post. … NBA Commissioner David Stern and Atlanta icon Ted Turner attended Sunday night’s game. … The series now shifts back to Orlando for Game 5, which is Tuesday night at 7:30 at the Amway Center.

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