Entertaining and interesting.
Those are the two words that come to mind after practice was over early in the afternoon for the Orlando Magic. Head coach Stan Van Gundy imparted his wisdom, as usual - hoping that the offense improves and stating that he dedicated time during the morning, sorting out what the team needs to do offensively. But Vince Carter and Dwight Howard stole the show, the former telling stories and the latter cracking jokes. Howard, in particular, said some hilarious stuff - opining he's so fast he can bunt for a home run and saying that Anthony Johnson is a consensus top-two worst dresser of the century, not just in basketball, but for life. Needless to say, Howard is a funny guy.
I was able to speak with Van Gundy amongst the media, as well as Carter and Howard. Here's what they had to say:
Stan Van Gundy:
J.J. Redick has been playing well off the bench these past few games. Could you talk about what he's been able to do for your team?
Well, I think the most impressive thing is that his minutes lately have been a little bit sporadic. He played about six minutes, then he played 20 minutes, then he played six minutes again, and then he played 30 minutes the other day so that's not an easy thing to do for a player. i mean, when you're not getting consistent minutes, to me, it's been one of the most impressive things about his game on Sunday [against the Toronto Raptors] is that his playing time in the three games prior to that have been pretty sporadic and I think it shows a professionalism and a focus to keep yourself ready to play and that benefitted him very well on Sunday.
As a coach, is it a little odd that you'll be playing the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday on a back-to-back and that team will have four days of rest?
Well, we've already had it happen this year [against the Cleveland Cavaliers. I think it will happen twice in the league this year total, out of the 1200 games. It'll be our two.
Is that out of the ordinary for that to happen?
It's pretty [out of the ordinary], especially to have it happen twice in a couple of weeks but I mean, what are you going to do? It's just the way the schedule broke so what are you going to do?
You've talked about continuity and momentum, do you feel like you've started to establish that these past couple of games?
A little bit more, maybe, because we do have some guys back and we'll have this lineup for a few more weeks but I still don't think we've gotten into a real good offensive flow. We spent a good part of the morning this morning with my coaches, talking about sort of what we needed to do, what I needed to do from a coaching standpoint, to try to help us along. I think that with the players we have, we should be playing a little better offensively and I tend to take that as maybe the way I'm approaching the game offensively so we're just going to try to improve on some things but I've really have liked the last three games. Our energy and our effort, I thought we fought a lot harder and played a lot harder. As long as we do that, I know the rest of it will come. I know it will.
In baseball, there's been a lot of talk about the Cy Young winners and how those are sabremetrically sound picks. Do you think that trend will continue?
I like that ... sabremetrically sound. I don't know what that means but I do know what sabremetrics are. I really don't know what they mean by that [statement] but I thought [Zack] Greinke was a great pick. I think that what people don't factor in enough there, forget just the numbers, which were outstanding, but the fact that he basically knows going out every game that he's going to have to shut somebody out or hold them to one run, it's not easy to pitch like that. He's got no margin for error, at all, as opposed to some of those other guys so I thought that was a great pick. The National League pick surprised me a little bit. [Tim] Lincecum is a great pitcher, just he sort of tailed off at the end of the year. I thought one of the [St. Louis] Cardinals' guys was going to win it. It's not a matter of who should have won, I don't know enough to tell you who should have won, I was just surprised that either [Adam] Wainwright or [Chris] Carpenter didn't win it.
More after the jump.
In Boston, how much of a rush did you have being on the national stage?
I've been there before so it wasn't like it was the first time. It was no big deal.
Do you guys feel like you're beginning to build some continuity and momentum as the season goes by?
I think so, from both ends and it's important for us to do so because there's going to be bad nights or off-shooting nights or nights where we're not getting calls or whatever the case may be, we have to find a way to win. So trust in each other and trust in the system, understanding what's asked of each and everyone one of us in the game, that's going to get us over the hump.
J.J. has said he's had some friendly ribbing with you about Duke and North Carolina. Could you talk about that?
All the time, we always have. I think they played ... they had a cupcake game yesterday and so of course, he said the same thing to me, so it's a friendly battle.
What does that rivalry mean to you?
I mean, it's worldwide. Everybody, I mean, you don't even have to have played or have been to a game to understand how big it is and I think it means more to the fans than it does to players because for as much the love/hate, guys still play pick-up ball together, they come to the [Dean Smith] Dome, sometimes we got to Durham to play, and it's not chaotic until it's actually time for a game of course, then it's out of control. I mean, of course, I can recall playing in the summer with Trajan [Langdon] and Ricky Price back in their town but when we were playing, we were #1, they were #2, and the roles switched, we were #2, they were #1, it was a heated battle where we were about to fight each other. It's just the way it goes. Of course, you get into a heated battle for what you're playing for, but at the end of the day, you shake hands and move on so it's all a friendly battle.
What's your experience of playing in Cameron Indoor Stadium?
Nothing like it. Nothing. I mean, I say [ARCO Arena in] Sacramento is pretty close, especially back in the day when [Mike] Bibby and they were rolling, but Sacramento is pretty close but there's nothing like playing in Cameron. It's 9,000 people and they're right on your back. I mean, you could go when they're playing anybody else and it's loud, but when the Duke/Carolina game, let us be top five, or we're #1 going there.
We had to change all of our play-calls my freshman or sophomore year, one of the two, I want to say it was my freshman year. Jeff McInnis was my point guard so it was my freshman year because we knew that's when it was going to be so loud to where it was mist in the air. Like, there was fog on the court. It was that loud and hot. There was fog on the court.
Really? From all the body heat?
Yeah, it was amazing and we lost so ... man, it was crazy. It was crazy.
With these past couple of games, do you feel like you guys are building some continuity and momentum?
Well, for us, like I said, the only thing on my mind is just getting better. We've done an excellent job defensively these past couple of games. I don't think our offense is where we want it to be but we know right now our main focus is everybody getting better on the defensive end, playing good team defense, so for the most part, we've been doing a pretty good job. Like I said, everyday in practice, we're coming in here with a great focus on the defensive end, being in the right spots on defense, and rotating at the right time.
What's sparked the improvement on defense?
Everybody is starting to get the rotations. Like I told you guys at the beginning of the season, it's going to be an adjustment period for all of us and some of the new guys are learning how to where to be on defense.
How much pride do you have in your fashion sense?
I enjoy dressing. I used to be jealous of all the short guys because they're always going to stores and getting the best clothes, but now I have the same opportunities as them - shoes, clothes - I really take pride in dressing so I'm always dressed to impress even if I'm going to the gym.