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Practice Report: Stan Van Gundy Continues To Talk About Defense; Dwight Howard Focuses On A Championship

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For Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy, it's all about defense and that continues to be a focus for the team as exhibition play begins to wind down. Van Gundy noted that the defensive effort he desires is there in practices, but he stated that the players need to transfer that over in games. So, for those concerned that the Magic's defense hasn't been up to snuff yet, be patient. It'll improve with time.  

 

I was able to speak with Van Gundy and Dwight Howard amongst the media once practice was over in the late morning/early afternoon.

 

Here's what they had to say:

 

Stan Van Gundy:

 

Do you think your players are thinking too much defensively?

Well, I don't think you can react instinctively until you understand exactly what it is that we're trying to do and I think again, some guys coming into a new system and the terminology is different and the rotations are different and things are done differently then where they came. It takes a little bit of time, that's some of it, but another part of it is just a tremendous intensity and a will to go out and get stops. I saw a little bit late in the game against Chicago, I thought we had pretty good determination to get stops, but certainly not consistent for us to be a good defensive team right now. 

As a coach, how has your preparation for the game progressed over the years? Has it changed? 

Not really. I think ... certainly if you talk to players that I've coached, I think that they would tell you that our preparation is thorough. They would also tell you that we do too much, in terms of preparation, and we're out here too long and we go over too much and I hear those comments every year. I respect them, then I continue to do these things the exact same way I've always done them so I don't know what to tell you. I see the trends in the league, some people are going away from walkthroughs and things like that, but that won't be us. That's just not the way I'm comfortable doing things. I'm not saying it's wrong and certainly everything has positives and negatives and those teams are doing it. I've read their reasons, they all make sense, I think they will get those benefits out of it but I'm just not comfortable with that. 

How have you liked Matt Barnes playing, so far, at the four?

Well, again, in games, he's gotten very little opportunity. We put him there for four or five minutes the other night [against the Chicago Bulls]. Both those guys [Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass] got two fouls in the first quarter, so we got him there for a few minutes but I want to get a little bit more of a significant look at it so and maybe that is a starting lineup. I don't know but that's not really how I'm looking at it right now  I mean, it'll probably be one of those other two guys but I want to make sure I see him at the four a little bit because we're going to need a third four-man with Rashard out and some teams go small and I think Matt has a better chance of guarding the perimeter fours, maybe, than those other guys so I want to look at it some. 

Is Jameer Nelson's back-up decided yet or is that still up in the air?

Well, nothing is decided until we get to next Wednesday so there's still games to play and practices to be had. I've been in it long enough to know something in your mind one day and then three days later, maybe you see something different and you go in a different way so by next Wednesday, we know who we're going to play but before then, I wouldn't say anything is definite.   

 

More after the jump.   

 

Dwight Howard:

 

Has your preparation for the game changed as you career as progressed?

Not really, I'm used to doing the same thing every day, every game. I try to keep a routine. I think that's one of the things a lot of players do - is the same routine every day. Then it seems like when you get out of that routine, you have a bad night.

I know when you guys break the huddle, you say 'championship'.  What type of focus do you guys have in trying to reach for that goal?

Well, we've been saying championship since I've been here. That's been one of our goals and it hasn't just started this year. A championship is always on our mind and it's one of those things that we try to get for our team. We see championship in our locker rooms, we have a trophy everywhere in our locker room. We all have to have that same mentality, a championship mentality, every year in practice we have to show it. That's one of those things that I've been doing since I've been here.  

Playing in the Olympics and winning a gold medal, have you transferred some of that mentality of winning it all against the world to winning it all in the NBA?

Well, it's the same. We kind of do the same thing, everybody has the same goal, which is to win a championship or win a gold medal and we have to put aside our egos, put aside what we do with our team, for the betterment of our team. I think everybody on the Olympic team, we made sure instead of going out there and trying to think that it's all about us, it was all about USA and bringing the gold medal back. The same thing with our team, it shouldn't be about individual goals or stats, but all of that stuff will happen once you reach those team goals.  

Is sacrifice a big deal when you're trying to win a championship?

Sacrifice is a big deal in life, period. If you want to be successful in what ever it is, there's something that you're willing to sacrifice to get that goal. For us, we have to sacrifice certain things as players, as individuals, to meet the team goals.  

 

Odds and Ends:

 

After practice was over, Rashard Lewis stayed behind to get some extra work in with Orlando Magic assistant coach Steve Clifford. The main thing that Lewis was working on was shooting off the dribble, "around the horn" (around the perimeter), as they say. Lewis was a machine for most of the drill, practically making every shot he put up inside the arc. Once in a while, Lewis would mix in some free-throws as a change of pace. Eventually, it appeared that fatigue began to set in and Lewis started missing some shots but it's clear that he is doing all he can to stay in shape once he begins serving his 10-game suspension next week. Lewis doin' work, indeed.