- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic SF Matt Barnes said Thursday that his camp spoke with the franchise about extending his contract or awarding him with a new deal. “Yeah, we talked to them,” Barnes said told the Sentinel. “We’re going to wait until the season’s over.” Barnes’ agent is Aaron Goodwin, who also represents Magic C Dwight Howard. Barnes signed a two-year deal last summer, but he can opt out of his contract at season’s end. He has said he would love to stay with the Magic.”
- Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated lists the Orlando Magic as one of the teams that has a chance to win a championship this year: “Orlando attempted more threes than last year, while Dwight Howard averaged two fewer shots per game; but he is shooting a higher percentage at 61.1 percent and he is likely to win another defensive player of the year award. Put it all together and coach Stan Van Gundy has wrestled an apparently disparate roster back into title contention. They enter the playoffs on a 20-3 tear along with the confidence that they can reprise last year’s upset of Cleveland. They surely look like the biggest obstacle the Cavs will face this spring.”
- Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated previews the first round series between the Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats: “This could be a much tougher test for the Magic than it first appears. Their 3-1 season edge over Charlotte included two victories in the first three weeks of the season, before the Bobcats acquired Stephen Jackson. Since then, Charlotte extended Orlando to overtime before losing and then went into Orlando and beat the Magic in mid-March. Points will be precious, as Larry Brown’s Bobcats led the NBA in defensive efficiency (fewest points allowed per 100 possessions), Orlando was third and both teams play at a slower-than-average pace. If Orlando isn’t hitting its three-pointers, Charlotte could steal a game on the road — and the Bobcats finished (31-10) at home.”
- Charles Barkley chimes in on Orlando.
- Doug Collins recognizes that it’s not all about threes when the Magic play: “Normally teams that take a lot of threes play small. They stretch you out, they run, they quick shoot the ball and they want to get into a shootout. [The Magic have] Dwight Howard back there anchoring that defense blocking or changing shots. One of the things I love about Orlando is they’re a team that can get hot and throw up huge numbers but they can also beat you in a game where defense wins.”
- Want to know why Rashard Lewis has struggled against the Bobcats this season? Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post provides an explanation: “The poor shooting in spot-up situations is absolutely cause for concern, as spotting up is how Lewis gets 42.9% of his offense on the season, according to Synergy. That figure increased to 60.9% against the Bobcats, which makes his decline in effectiveness in those situations so jarring. He scored 7 times in 28 possessions when spotting up, or just 25% of the time for 0.679 points per possession, as the above chart shows. For the season, spotting up? He scores 45.5% of the time and produces 1.218 points per possession. What a dramatic drop-off. Thing is, Lewis can’t stop shooting. Orlando needs him to continue firing away, predominantly from beyond the arc, for its offense to work. He’s going to have to spot-up against the Bobcats, and he’s also going to have to convert those chances at a much higher rate. So the next question is, “how?” Honestly, he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”
- Bill Simmons of ESPN.com attempts to prove that Orlando can’t win four straight playoff series with Vince Carter on the team.
- Two of the top 10 five-man units in the playoffs, sorted by efficiency differential, are owned by the Magic. John Schuhmann of NBA.com has more: “The Magic starters are the best starting unit in the East, both offensively and defensively. If you’re willing to look at smaller sample sizes, you’ll discover that replacing Howard with Marcin Gortat gives you even better results, (Def: 85.2, Diff: +33.4), which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because Howard is the prohibitive favorite to win his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award. The starters-plus-Gortat lineup played in just 21 games together, and for just 74 minutes total.”
- With the use of video, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook breaks down the strengths and weakness, plus the tendencies, of Orlando and Charlotte.
- Bethlehem Shoals and Tom Ziller of NBA FanHouse offer a fun and insightful preview of the matchup between the Magic and the Bobcats.
- Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse: “At the start of practice Friday — in a mundane, two-on-two, pick-and-roll drill he has run a thousand times in his career — veteran Vince Carter surprised everyone by cutting loose with a dunk so emphatic, so focused, that it shook the goal, looking like something he did a decade ago in a nationally-televised game. Even Magic center Dwight Howard was impressed, turning to general manager Otis Smith, who was watching from a distance: “I guess he’s ready for the playoffs,” Howard said with a nod. Carter, 33, never has been more ready to play basketball, knowing through the next eight weeks he can redefine his career, change the perception he has fought the last 12 years, that he is nothing more than a great individual player who can dominate the highlight tapes. He wants to be known as a champion. And he finally has the chance to do it.”
- As Tom Haberstroh of Hoopdata shows, Howard gets a lot of And-1′s.
- Meet Jameer Nelson, Orlando’s championship x-factor, according to Austin Burton of Dime Magazine: “He wasn’t there for most of the ‘09 Finals run, so in a sense he’s still playing catch-up. By the numbers, it’s been a subpar year for Jameer: His scoring is down, his shooting percentages are down, his steals are down, and his turnovers are up. He also missed a solid month of the schedule with injuries. With Vince Carter assigned to create offense and run the pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard in crunch time, Jameer just needs to protect the ball, hit open shots, and defend his position.”
- Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference’s statistical plus/minus projection likes Orlando in 5 against Charlotte.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “If you consider yourself a connoisseur of defense, the matchup between the Charlotte Bobcats and the Orlando Magic is the series to watch. On the final night of the regular season, the Bobcats passed the Magic to finish the season as the NBA’s top defensive team. While the two teams have very different styles–Charlotte thrives thanks to excellent wing defense, forcing turnovers and solid performance in the paint, while the Magic funnels everything toward the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard–both have proven very successful. It’s on the offensive end that the two teams differ in results. Orlando’s fleet of excellent shooters around Howard set the NBA record for most three-pointers in a season. Charlotte has been substantially below average on the offensive end this season, which explains why the Bobcats are the seventh seed while the Magic boasted the league’s second-best regular-season record and is a heavy favorite in this series.”
- Will there be a title rematch between the Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers? Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie breaks down the possibility.
@Ben Gleicher, @derekk
Thanks. I'm happy that people have been pleased with everything. This just the beginning, rest assured.