NBA Saturday: Magic Move Past Howard Drama
The circus surrounding Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic is leaving town. By opting-in to the final year of his contract, Howard temporarily silenced all of the rumors about his future. The drama will likely return in several months, but, for now, it’s gone.
Prior to last night’s game against the New Jersey Nets, there was a different vibe in the Magic locker room. Players were at ease and joking with each other. There was a sense of relief that nobody was dealt after hearing nothing but trade rumors all season long. Now, with the Howard drama and trade deadline behind them, the Magic can focus on winning games and making a deep postseason run.
“It’s great,” Ryan Anderson said. “It’s nice to clear our minds and just play. I hope that’s what we can do for the rest of the year. It’s been like this all season. It’s good to focus on looking ahead rather than focusing on March 15. It’s good to have everyone back. It was definitely a relief.”
At home and on the road, Magic players have had to answer questions about Howard’s situation. While it has been the story of Orlando’s season, the players are tired of the rumors and speculation. Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy was sick of the talk as well. Last week, he refused to answer trade questions and said it was time for everyone to “give a shit” about the games. That’s exactly what the Magic can do going forward.
“I believe we’ve been able to deflect a lot of it, but now nobody has to ask questions about trades or anything like that anymore,” Howard said. “That part of the year is over.”
Howard’s situation wasn’t the only distraction as March 15 approached. The Magic were actively pursuing a second star to put alongside Howard. They offered various packages in hopes of making a splashy move at the deadline, and the players heard the rumors.
“There’s a sense of relief just to have it over with,” J.J. Redick admitted. “It’s nice not having to check my cell phone every five minutes.”
Despite all of the rumors, the Magic are 29-16 and hold the third seed in the Eastern Conference. They have an impressive résumé, with quality wins against the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Now, with the drama behind them, Orlando can come together and focus solely on basketball again.
“You can’t worry about getting traded,” Jameer Nelson said. “You can’t do anything about that. You just have to play basketball. It’s human nature though, and I’m sure it was bothering some guys more than others. Throughout this whole process, we’ve still been winning games and playing hard though.”
The circus may return to Orlando over the summer or during next season. There are some who believe that Howard just delayed the inevitable by opting-in for one more season. However, the Magic are glad that this story has gone away, even if it’s only for the moment.
Chandler, Nuggets Making Progress: The Denver Nuggets and restricted free agent Wilson Chandler are making progress as they negotiate a long-term deal, according to sources to close to the situation. Chris Luchey, who represents Chandler, met with Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri and team president Josh Kroenke during the week and the two sides are getting closer to an agreement.
Chandler is seeking a five-year deal from the Nuggets. Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported that the two sides have discussed a five-year deal worth $30 million. There was optimism that a deal would be completed last week, but now the two sides are hoping to reach an agreement this weekend.
Luchey had to leave Denver on Thursday night because another one of his clients, Ekpe Udoh, was traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Milwaukee Bucks.
“I wanted to be here to support my client Ekpe Udoh, who was playing his first game in a Bucks uniform,” Luchey told HOOPSWORLD. “I will return to Denver and continue talks on Saturday evening or Sunday morning.”
Talks weren’t going anywhere last week, but the two sides made significant progress this week. Because the Nuggets had a nine-game home stand, Luchey and Chandler made their way to Denver to resume negotiations.
If the two sides aren’t able to reach a deal in the next few days, Chandler will sit out the remainder of the 2011-12 season and enter restricted free agency in July, when he can sign an offer sheet with another team. A number of teams have already told Luchey that they would be interested in Chandler this summer if he were to delay his free agency.
However, Chandler’s preference is to remain with the Nuggets and both sides seem optimistic that a deal will get done at some point in the next week.
MarShon Brooks Adjusting to NBA: There aren’t many rookies who begin their careers as starters. However, MarShon Brooks has been in the New Jersey Nets’ starting lineup for the majority of their games and he has emerged as a significant contributor for the team.
Brooks, the 25th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, was born and raised in New Jersey. This season, he has been one of the league’s most impressive rookies, averaging 13.4 points for his home-team Nets.
“I’ve had the opportunity to play right away, which is huge from a confidence standpoint,” Brooks told HOOPSWORLD. “I just have to continue to get better every day and everything else will take care of itself. I would say the biggest surprise for me has just been the success I’ve had so quickly. That would be the main thing. As soon as I touched the floor, I started doing well and that was kind of surprising for me. Now, I got all that confidence but I didn’t think it would come so easy.”
Brooks was one of the nation’s top scorers at Providence and his game has translated well to the NBA. However, there has been a learning curve. This season has been difficult for all rookies because of the shortened training camp and limited practice time. However, Brooks has been successful because he’s been able to remain focused.
“There have been some ups and downs,” Brooks said. “It’s a lot different than college. There are a lot of games and you just have to stay focused on the scouting report. There are times when you have games back-to-back-to-back. The main thing is keeping your head right and just maintaining focus.”
“It’s crazy. With this year, it’s a game everyday so you have to maintain focus and not even worry about other things. I’d like to say coming from the Big East prepared me. I know you have to have amnesia in this league. You can’t get too high when you win and you can’t get to low when you lose.”
Brooks’ welcome to the NBA moment happened when he first stepped foot on an NBA court.
“It was actually the first preseason game,” Brooks said with a laugh. “I got fouled. I got fouled real hard, hit the ground real hard and I didn’t get the call. I felt it that whole week. That was basically welcome to the NBA for me.”
Throughout the season, Brooks’ name has been mentioned in trade rumors. The Nets were hoping to land Dwight Howard at the trade deadline and the 23-year-old was mentioned as a possible trade chip for New Jersey. Brooks didn’t pay attention to the rumors, but he hopes his teammates can relax now that the deadline has passed.
“I was just playing ball anyway,” Brooks said. “I really don’t let those types of things get to me. I can imagine, for some guys, it’s a little comforting just knowing where they’re going to be. Now, we can just play ball without worrying about anything.
“I’m not really somebody that checks those types of things on the Internet. Of course, your fans reach out to you with Twitter and Facebook these days so it’s kind of hard to ignore it, but I just go out there, play ball and let everything else take care of itself. Being a rookie in this league, you can’t really lose focus on the task at hand so I’ve just been trying to stay focused and do my thing.”
Whatever Brooks has been doing, it’s working. He has solidified himself as a starter and hasn’t had any problem adjusting to the NBA.
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