- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “[Marcin] Gortat’s proudest moment in the NBA came last Saturday in Game 3 in Charlotte when he filled in for [Dwight] Howard down the stretch and then sealed the game with two clutch free throws. He was shocked when good friend J.J. Redick in-bounded the ball to him with 12 seconds to go, but he collected himself enough to bury the game-winning free throws. He literally made himself into a solid player with his tireless work before and after practices and games, and it came through with Gortat on the line in Game 3. “When I was standing over there on the free throw line I just told myself, ‘It’s fine. Just do the same thing that I do every day before the practice and after the practice,’” Gortat said with a chuckle. “It was just like I was standing with one of the guys from the office, in an empty gym working on my game.” Gortat said that as much as he’s longed for a greater role the past two seasons, winning a title with the [Orlando] Magic would make it all so worth it. He already holds the distinction of being just the third NBA player ever from Poland and signing that $34 million contract last summer set him up financially for the rest of his life. But Gortat dreams now of how a championship would alter his life.”
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel has more on Gortat.
- Happy birthday, Brandon Bass!
- Words of wisdom from general manager Otis Smith in response to Howard’s complaints about the officials: “Howard was limited to just 9.8 points and 9.3 rebounds, dramatically fewer than the 18.3 and 13.2 he averaged during the regular season. Smith, who was once a no-nonsense player, has been a no-nonsense general manager. He criticized his star player instead of criticizing officials. ‘Officials are human. They make mistakes, sometimes in your favor, sometimes in the other team’s favor. But it all balances out,’ he said. ‘Just play basketball, and stop worrying about the calls. Are you going to get some bad calls? Sure. Are you going to get some good ones? Sure. Those people running around in stripes are just like me — the more you yell at them, the worse they get. If you smile a little bit more, and you talk to them, you may get one.’ A few of Howard’s fouls in the opening round were foolish fouls when he should have shown more restraint. Others came when he was wrestling in the lane with one of the three Charlotte centers who were more interested in aggravating him than making basketball plays. ‘He needs to be on the floor longer than 28 minutes. That’s not on the officials. That’s not on Stan. That’s on Dwight. Life’s tough. You’re a big guy. Sorry. Move on.’ Howard struggled with foul trouble early in the playoffs last season, too. Like many stars in the game today, though, he rarely admits to a personal foul against him, complaining to officials when calls don’t go in his favor. And that’s not something Smith likes. Howard still believes he doesn’t get the ‘star calls,’ that others like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant often receive. ‘I don’t buy into that concept at all. Zero. I think over the course of a 48-minute game, it all comes back around,’ Smith said. ‘This time of year, the officials do a pretty good job. We’ve got another round of this, and it’s going to be just the same. He needs to be on the floor longer than 28 minutes. That’s not on the officials. That’s not on Stan. That’s on Dwight. Life’s tough. You’re a big guy. Sorry. Move on.’ ”
- Trey Kerby of Ball Don’t Lie: “I’m with Otis, even though I’m not quite sure Dwight is capable of smiling any more than he already does. He’s a big guy and refs have a hard time calling games for people that huge. Any time Dwight touches another player, that dude goes flying and it looks like a foul. The whistle blows and more often than not, the guy on the floor is getting the call. That’s one of the prices you pay for having shoulders the size of human heads. All that being said, if there is some way we can get Dwight Howard to smile even more, I’m all for it. Happiness is contagious, y’all.”
- John Krolik of ProBasketballTalk chimes in on Smith’s comments.
- Howard is excited to get back to work.