ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Even before the lockout began, this season was shaping up to be a pivotal one for the Magic’s long-term future with team centerpiece Dwight Howard able to opt into free agency in the summer.
Howard was not spotted at Amway Thursday, but Brandon Bass, J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, Chris Duhon and Daniel Orton all worked out and got assessments from the team’s training staff. None of them spoke with coach Stan Van Gundy or general manager Otis Smith, though, per lockout rules.
It’s not exactly the start of the season any of them expected, but both the players and Van Gundy said that they plan to make the best of the situation with training camps expected to open next week.
“I’ve almost felt paralyzed in a way, not physically, but just kind of planning-wise,” Redick said of the toll the lockout took on him. “It’s hard to plan anything. My foundation, I haven’t been able to plan an event, my workouts, it’s kind of been the same old thing every day. You don’t really know when to ramp it up, you have nothing to really shoot for.
“I’m just happy something is getting done and we’re on pace to play some basketball, which is all anybody really cares about.”
Anderson said getting in a 66-game schedule will be demanding.
“It’s going to be a lot,” he said. “It’s going to be obviously a lot of games in a short amount of time. When that comes around, it will be tough. I know we’ll be playing a lot of back to backs. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be different, but I know we’re going to be prepared and ready for that.”
As happy as Magic fans may feel to see basketball returning later this month, clearly the 6-foot-11 elephant in the room is Howard and whether or not he will decide to sign a new deal with the Magic after the season.
Howard has said previously that he would like to stay in Orlando, but wants to see evidence that progress is being made for the Magic to win a championship. He said in a magazine interview recently, though, that he planned to explore all options this summer.
As for dealing with what will likely be endless questions about Howard’s future, Van Gundy said he’s more worried about it distracting the rest of the players. He said he expects Howard – the three-time defensive player of the year – to be the same.
“We expect him to be great, and I would expect that he’ll be even better than he was a year ago, and he’ll go out and play basketball and play it hard every day,” Van Gundy said. “And then when the time comes, he’ll make whatever decision is best for him. That’s exactly the way it should go. I don’t think it will distract him from playing
Van Gundy wouldn’t comment on whether there has been talk of possibly trading Howard and said he would yield to management.
“Dwight deserves the right, when the time comes, to make a decision,” he said. “And Otis and our ownership will make a decision that’s best for them. In the meantime, we’re all trying to win games. That’s my priority.”
Nelson, who came into the league with Howard in 2004 and who he calls his best friend, said he is clueless about where Howard’s head is at right now.
“Our job is to play basketball and we can’t be focused on what the media says,” Nelson said. “With the Dwight situation I don’t know what’s going on.”
Redick said he realizes the uncertainty could take its toll on the team.
“It will be a distraction. It can’t not be,” Redick said. “…I hope it’s not going to distract how we play, but I’m sure there’s going to be at least one question per day from here on out about Dwight’s future from you guys. I expect that, and I’m holding you to that.”
Updated December 1, 2011