Orlando Magic Practice Report: Stan Van Gundy on the Magic's Search for a Big Man

For just the second time since trading for Gilbert Arenas, Earl Clark, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu 13 days ago, the Orlando Magic managed to practice this afternoon. "We got some good stuff done," coach Stan Van Gundy said. He estimated they worked on defense for roughly 35 minutes and put "some new offensive stuff in."

The night of the trades, Van Gundy said instilling the newcomers with a "defensive mentality" would be of paramount importance. He's pleased with their progress on that end.

"It's just a matter of having enough time in here to really get on the same page with terminology, know exactly how we're rotating, things like that," Van Gundy said. "The effort part has not been a problem."

In their trade with the Phoenix Suns, Orlando sent away backup center Marcin Gortat, which has left Van Gundy with only Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass, and Ryan Anderson to account for 96 minutes' worth of big-man minutes each night. Howard and Bass start, meaning Anderson is the only reserve power-position player in the team's rotation. But Van Gundy is pleased with what he's seen from his three-big-man rotation so far--he called the trades "a vote of confidence from us toward Brandon and Ryan--and he's not overly concerned with making another addition.

"I don't think it's as big a necessity as what other people think right now," he said. He also made it clear that he would probably only use a hypothetical new big man "situationally." Here's his best, most concise assessment of the backup center situation:

"Would it be desirable to add another true center? Yeah, probably. But is it a necessity? Nah, I don't think it is."

Another key point he made? Timing.

"The one thing you don't want to do is just go out and commit to anybody, and that takes you out of being able to get somebody who can really help you [later]."

A few more notes from today's practice follow the jump.

  • In my notebook from last night's win against the New York Knicks, I wrote Gilbert Arenas played wearing vintage FILA Grant Hill sneakers. In the comments, some Magic fans expressed concern in his footwear selection, as he's also worn classic Penny Hardaway sneakers. Neither Hill nor Hardaway ended his Magic career on a high note. I passed that message along to Arenas.

    "That was their first shoe," he said, chuckling, in explaining his decisions. "So that's when they were actually on their game. I'm not gonna wear the Penny IIIs around here, you know? But the first two Pennys should be safe."

    He then wished us a happy New Year and departed.

  • Van Gundy said the Magic "went hard" in practice today, and that Jason Williams, who recently learned he has arthritis in both feet, participated fully. He did note that Williams' availabilty on game days will hinge on how his feet feel, as arthritis is not a condition that goes away, and added that the Magic did all their work in the half-court this afternoon.

  • Gortat, known for his defense and rebounding, said following a recent Suns loss to the Philadelphia 76ers he's unhappy with the Suns' approach to defense. "That's not the way you're going to win NBA games," the Polish Machine told AOL FanHouse. I asked Howard if he had any advice for his frustrated former teammate.

    "Hey, Marsh. Have fun!" Howard said. "And good luck."

    His laughter-filled response reminded me of Chris Webber's send-off to Timberwolves General Manager David Kahn during an on-air interview over the summer in which Kahn compared Darko Milicic's passing skills to those of Webber. Howard's was more lighthearted, whereas Webber's was stone-cold, but the sentiment is similar.

  • Richardson said he'll spend New Year's Day attending the Capital One Bowl supporting his Michigan State Spartans against the Alabama Crimson Tide. He left the practice facility wearing green basketball shorts adorned with the Spartans logo. He said he would paint his face, and given the passion with which he discussed the game, it wouldn't surprise me if he followed through on that.

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