The main topic of conversation at Orlando’s practice today was Dwight Howard and his foul trouble. Howard, who picked up 22 fouls in four games against the Bobcats, was fined $35,000 for comments he made regarding the way he is officiated on his blog.
“His frustration level rose,” Van Gundy said of Howard’s foul trouble. “That’s my concern.”
Van Gundy said he didn’t discuss the foul situation with Howard, saying that he “just wants him to get away from the frustration a little bit,” he “looked good today” and wanted him to go into the next series with a “fresh mind and ready to play.”
“Dwight was a monster in practice today,” Matt Barnes told reporters. “So I was teasing him saying he had fresh legs because he hasn’t done nothing in the playoffs.”
There was also a lot of chatter about the Milwaukee-Atlanta series and the question of rust vs. rest. The Magic, in an attempt to avoid rust, went at it pretty hard on Thursday. Their practice was originally schedule to start at 10:00 am EST and conclude at 11:30 am EST but it didn’t conclude until about 12:30 pm EST.
“You just sort of lose your focus and your edge mentally, especially when you don’t know who you’re going to be playing,” Van Gundy said. “They’re engaged, they’re in that real competitive mind set like we were in the Charlotte series and you worry about being in sort of vacation mindset. We tried to start the process of getting that out today and we’ll work hard trying to get some focus tomorrow.
The Magic know there are several areas they need to improve upon. Van Gundy talked about what Vince Carter had to do better.
“I think more of what we saw in game 4 – to really be aggressive,” Van Gundy said. “He just has to make good decisions. You know, just like they do with Dwight, they will throw a lot of different looks at Vince. He’s going to get trapped and things like that. He’s seen everything, he’s a smart guy. He’s got to make the right plays and right decisions and hopefully put the ball in the basket more.”
The Magic are going to focus on the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday simply because that is the only team that they could play on Sunday. Should the Hawks come back to win the series, they wouldn’t play until Tuesday night.
Van Gundy talked about the similarities between the Bucks and Hawks but said he did not have a preference when it comes to which team the Magic will play.
“Both teams have very good perimeter players who can break you down off the dribble. A little more post-up offense from the Hawks in addition, but both are very good pick-and-roll teams. They present different challenges but there are some similarities.”
Van Gundy thinks the Bucks have been so competitive because of their back court, claiming that all five of the perimeter players can shoot 3-pointers and beat you off of the dribble.
Matt Barnes thinks the Bucks’ success stems from how hard they play.
“They play the full 48 and that’s what they definitely did (Wednesday night). Regardless of their injuries, they make no excuses and they play hard. They obviously wanted it more last night. They definitely have their chemistry now. They’re more guard-oriented now. They have a good team.”
Marci Gortat has learned a lot from the series but doesn’t understand what is going on with Atlanta’s defense.
“I learned that Milwaukee is a really dangerous team,” Gortat said.” I don’t know what Atlanta is doing on defense. That’s all I can tell you.”
Gortat thinks he really benefited from some increased playing time.
“It just showed me that I got to be ready for this opportunity,” Gortat told reporters. “You never know when the team will need me. I’m ready every time. There’s a day where I play two minutes or I can play 40 minutes so I got to be ready. And trust me, I am right now.”
Van Gundy talked about how important Gortat was to the team.
“Making the move to match the offer for Marcin might have been as big of a move as we made all off-season,” Van Gundy told the media. “For our player’s confidence, knowing that they have a legitimate, capable backup Center, not a glorified Power Forward, gives us a lot more confidence. Our guys play with great confidence even when our best player goes to the bench.”
The Magic have had some trouble catching the Milwaukee-Atlanta series with their busy schedules. Vince Carter said he hasn’t been able to watch a game but Marcin Gortat says he has seen every game except game 5 so far.
The Magic will be watching film of the Bucks on Friday.
Matt Barnes joked about his mohawk, which he cut off.
“It was just a change. I had the mohawk in Golden State for the playoffs and brought it back here. It was just kind of like an old thing so me and my brother talked about it yesterday and cut it off.”
I asked him if he considered his mohawk a first round good luck charm.
“It is what it is. I did it in Golden State and we had a little run with it. I brought it back and just wasn’t feeling it.”
Jim Rome had a cameraman there filming Barnes for a segment that will air on his show Jim Rome Is Burning.
Van Gundy doesn’t mind the Magic getting a bad reputation for getting fines.
“I don’t care about the reputation; I personally do care about the $35,000 I had to give up.”
Van Gundy said that he doesn’t think he’s ever said anything worth $35,000, not even sticking up for Dwight Howard.
“You know I really haven’t ever said anything in my life that was worth $35,000. I can be pretty sure of that. I think there are some people some people, whether it’s Barack Obama or maybe JFK, some of the great speakers of our time may have said some things worth that. I can be pretty damn sure I’ve never said anything worth it.”
“If you speak, the idea is that if there’s going to be money exchanged, you want to be getting money for speaking, not paying it. That seems pretty basic but obviously I haven’t been smart enough to learn that.”
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and at Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).