- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “A coach known to yell actually listens a bit more these days. In an attempt to communicate better with players, Stan Van Gundy asks one or two guys on the Orlando Magic roster each day about their off-court lives. It could be about a player’s family. It could be about a player’s favorite baseball team. On Thursday, Van Gundy chatted with Vince Carter as Carter sat in the Amway Center training room. Nothing formal, just shooting the breeze. [...] After the Magic lost in the Eastern Conference finals last May, Van Gundy looked for ways he could do his job better. He put connecting more with players at the top of his list. Van Gundy can be abrasive on the court — he yells in a raspy voice and displays his emotions freely — but he wants his players to know that he cares about them off the court.”
- More from Robbins: “Tonight will provide a big test for Rashard Lewis. Lewis will start at small forward against the Indiana Pacers, coach Stan Van Gundy said after the Orlando Magic completed their shootaround moments ago at Conseco Fieldhouse. That means Lewis will have to defend Danny Granger, one of the league’s most dangerous wing players.”
- Daniel Orton has a long way to go before he can contribute for the Orlando Magic.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Losing unceremoniously the way the Orlando Magic did last spring in the Eastern Conference Finals was crushing on so many levels for the franchise. But from that rubble emerged a ray of hope for the future of the franchise and particularly superstar center Dwight Howard. After his Magic fell behind 3-0 to the Boston Celtics in the East Finals, Howard vowed that he would not let Orlando quit or go quietly in the series. Howard talked with his parents, chatted with assistant coach Patrick Ewing and even had an extensive heart-to-heart phone conversation with legendary center and new friend Hakeem Olajuwon. Their message was clear: Howard could and should do more than he ever dreamed possible and he needed to grab the game by the throat and strangle the life out of it. Howard did just that, stringing together arguably the best three games of his career. In a matter of three games, Howard scored 32, 21 and 28 points, shot 65 percent from the floor, had three double-digit rebound games and swatted 10 shots. The Magic won two of those games, but fell in a Game 6 in Boston. Howard said the way that he responded taught him something about himself, proving that he can always dig deeper into his vast well of talent. It also hardened his somewhat happy-go-lucky nature, bringing a sharpened focus and newfound intensity to his game for this season.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Every preseason, it seems, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard fires a few jumpers, stoking Magic fans who’ve long called for him to expand his range beyond the paint. And every subsequent regular season, Howard puts that jumper back on the shelf and keeps doing what he’s best at offensively that isn’t dunking, namely shooting hooks of the jump and rolling variety. Whenever asked why he’s reluctant to shoot jumpers when the games count, Howard usually mentions a lack of confidence and comfort with the shot in game situations. So when the Magic post footage of Howard working on his jump-shot with assistant coach Patrick Ewing and rookie center Daniel Orton after a preseason practice, as they did yesterday, it’s business as usual. But this case feels different.”
- Not surprisingly, Scott Carefoot of The Basketball Jones ranks Dwight Howard as the best center in the NBA: “He’s the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year. He’s led the league in rebounds per game three seasons in a row, in blocks per game two seasons in a row and in field goal percentage last season. He’s only missed three games in six seasons. Need I go on? He may never become the offensive threat Shaq was in his prime, but Shaq never led the league in rebounds or blocks and was never named Defensive Player of the Year. However, both of them have the same fatal flaw — they can’t shoot free throws. Regardless, Dwight Howard is unlikely to give up his reign as the best center in the NBA anytime soon.”
- Howard has changed. Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel swears by it.
- Check out Howard’s adidas TS Beast “Superman” shoes. Two thumbs up.