A new day of training camp came praise from head coach Stan Van Gundy, as he pointed out the good play, after the first few days, of the point guards for the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard (of course) after the morning session was over.
I was able to speak with Van Gundy, Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Brandon Bass amongst the media after practice. Here's what they had to say:
Stan Van Gundy:
Vince stated that he played a little bit of the one, yesterday. What are some things you're looking for from him at that position?
We're not, really. I mean, not a whole lot. We may get to that point but it's just ... we got three point guards and two teams, and so somebody has got to play point guard on the other position. I mean, right now, our point guards are all playing very, very well and as far as a whole position of guys playing well, that's probably been our best position. All three guys have played well so right now, I don't have plans to play him at the point.
In terms of determining lineup combinations, what are some specific things you're looking for?
You know what, again, I'm not really even thinking in that regard right now. I'm just ... that's more speculation. I understand the interest in it, I do, but that's not where my mind is right now. My mind is on just getting our guys to all play well and to execute what we're doing on both ends of the floor. I'm not thinking about that right now.
How's Gortat looking? Have you seen improvement in his play?
Well, it's tough. It's tough to gauge him right now because the only guy he plays against in three scrimmages is Dwight [Howard]. Dwight is playing great right now and Dwight is certainly getting the best of that battle but that's a tough, tough matchup and a tough standard. I think March is fine. I think he's improved a great deal and I think he's better than a lot of centers in this league but to come out here, it's not the European championships.
How have Morris Almond and Linton Johnson looked so far?
Morris had a great, great scrimmage, today. He had four threes in the first half. He played very, very well today and Linton plays with great effort all the time so those guys have been playing well.
Do you like the fact that Brandon Bass shoots the mid-range jumper with efficiency?
Yeah, he's shot the ball very well. I mean, last year I thought for Dallas, in particularly on the baseline, and he has shot the ball well here in camp the same way.
How have the new players been adjusting to your defensive philosophy?
It's a process. It's three days, two and a half days, I mean, it takes a lot more time than that so we'll just keep working at it. It's going to take some time.
More after the jump.
How was practice, Dwight?
How's practice? Oh, it's tough. We had a very long practice today so it was pretty tough.
How's Marcin looking? I know that he's been working on his game during the off-season. Have you seen improvement from him while you've been matched up with him?
He's been doing pretty good. Right now, he's trying to get the new guys into the offense so it's not a battle between me and March. There's no battling going on in practice, we're just trying to get better.
How have your new teammates been adjusting to Stan, overall?
I think pretty good. Stan is going to be Stan and those guys understand that we try to do a good job of talking and letting them know how Stan is before we start practice but it's different, throughout the summer when you have Stan, there's a calm Stan and as soon as Media Day hits, that's when the basketball Stan kicks in and there's a difference.
In terms of free throw shooting, Stan thinks that anything less than 70% from the line would be a disappointment. Do you have a set goal to get to that point?
I just have to shoot. You're going to miss free throws some days, and some days you're going to make them. I know yesterday in practice, we're scrimmaging, I shot the ball the same way and it was going in and out every time. I just kept shooting it and in today's scrimmage, I did the same so it happens. You're going to have good days and bad days, but the biggest thing is for me to stick with it.
How do you think the new guys have gotten accustomed to Stan's coaching style?
They're getting it, they're getting it. It's still going to take some time for those guys but even for the returning guys, I think it's a little different so we're all still learning things but the most important thing is to play hard and play aggressive.
What has J-Will's presence meant to the team, given that he's won a title?
He's bringing ... he leads by example. He's not a vocal leader right now. One of the things I've learned from him right now is he plays hard and practices hard.
How anxious are you to play your first pre-season game, just to get out there?
I'm anxious to play, period. No matter if it's pre-season, practice, whatever. I sat out more than half the year last year and unfortunately, it happens but I come back a little bit hungrier.
Would you like to get a hold of [Cleveland Cavaliers guard] Delonte West, just to offer him some support?
Yeah, definitely. He knows I'm here for him, he knows that I love him as a person and as a friend and I'm here for him and if he needs me, I'm here.
Do you have any difficulty trying to balance being a scorer and a passer?
No, I'm still a scorer. No matter who's on the team, no matter what the situation is, I play the game ... I play hard, defensively I try to play with toughness, and offensively I try to play to score. I'm a scorer.
In terms of the new players, has anybody stood out to you so far with their play?
Well, everybody ... one thing you got to recognize as a player is that Brandon Bass plays hard. We know that he's going to play hard and that's the way he's been playing throughout this training camp.
Did getting your first tattoo at 18 have any special meaning to you?
I just wanted a tattoo. *laughs*
Has there been some tattoos that you've wanted to get and some others that have meaning to you?
They all have meaning, they all have meaning. They may not mean anything to you but they make sense to me. *laughs*
Which one hurt the most?
The one on the back.
Well, your first pre-season game is against the Mavericks [Brandon Bass' former team]. Do you have any anticipation for that game?
No, sir. It's just a normal, regular pre-season game. Just play hard, get better, and continue to get adjusted with the team, team chemistry, on the offensive end and the defensive end.
Any specific things that you want to work on in that game?
Just getting adjusted with our system on both ends of the court. That's all and continue to build on my endurance, get in shape, and figuring out ways to help out this team more.
Do you still keep in contact with some of the guys in Dallas?
Yeah, I still ... me and Dirk [Nowitzki] text each other once in a while.
How's practice been going so far, in terms of getting acclimated to Stan's defensive philosophy and all that?
It's getting better every day. Coach [Van Gundy] been telling me some of the things that I've been improving on, and that's all I really want to do is improve every day. If I can do that come the first game of the [regular] season, I'll be ready,
Do you use your wingspan to your advantage, in terms of guarding people?
My wingspan, for when I block shots and I play defense, I use my wingspan, my explosiveness, my quickness and all of that kind of helps me guard bigger guys and even point guards sometimes. Last year, I switched off on guards. All of that helped me being quick and being explosive and low to the ground.
Are you pumped for the LSU/Florida game?
Yeah, me and Jason Williams [former University of Florida player] ... we've been talking about it.
You talking a little trash with him?
We might put a little wager on it.
Well, you're in the middle of Gator Country so has he or anyone else been talking smack with you?
It's all good. I know where I'm at. They're going down there to Tiger land.
Have you ever been in LSU's stadium?
Oh, it's crazy. If you ever want to go a game, that's the best football game you can possibly go to.
How loud is it?
It's crazy, there are 100,000 people there every game.
Have you spoken with JaMarcus Russell [former LSU quarterback] or anyone else on the football team while you were there?
No, not since they've been in the league [NFL]. We kind of separated, but when we was on campus, JaMarcus would come into my room and chop it up.
Odds and Ends:
I turned off my digital recorder and I ended up chatting with Brandon Bass for 5-10 more minutes about Hip-Hop and music alongside writers from the Orlando Sentinel. One thing I've learned in speaking with him is once you get him on a topic that he likes talking about, Bass a real easy person to have a conversation with. Out of all the Orlando Magic players that I've been able to speak to, Bass is quickly becoming an individual that I've gotten to know more and more in a short period of time. I do think fans will rapidly support him once they see him on the court, because Bass is a player that's willing to do the dirty work for the team, willing to hustle, and willing to play defense. Bass is like Bo Outlaw, in that regard (defensively, of course; there's no doubt that Bass is the better offensive player).
In my opinion, at least.