- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Want to play with Dwight Howard and the Magic? Only shooters need apply. It’s all part of the plan or “formula,” as General Manager Otis Smith calls it. When the Magic landed Howard in the 2004 draft, they decided to surround him with guys who could put the ball in the basket, especially from the 3-point line. “Shooting has to be a priority. You have to think about how to increase space for Dwight and the only way to do that is to put shooters around him,” Smith said. “We’ve done a good job at every position of finding guys who’ve been able to do that.” It’s the guy who has hit only one 3-pointer his entire career (while missing 18) that makes it all possible. Howard draws so much defensive attention that shooters are left uncovered. When the ball is moving crisply, the Magic can resemble a high-scoring video game.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “For the Atlanta Hawks, the question isn’t whether they can become the first team in NBA history to win a best-of-seven series after losing the first three games. Their central challenge is far more basic. Will they play hard when they host the Orlando Magic tonight in Game 4 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series? Atlanta’s two blowout losses — by 43 points in Game 1 and by 30 points in Game 3 — have left Hawks players and their coach questioning their own heart.”
- Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com: “Seven down, nine to go. That is the message around the Orlando Magic locker room as they prepare for Game 4 of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday at 8 p.m. ET. The ultimate goal is to claim 16 total victories in the postseason and, as a result, hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Magic have shown throughout the playoffs to be very capable of accomplishing this aspiration. They are a franchise-best 7-0 to start the postseason, have captured 13 straight victories dating back to the regular season and have been relentless in their quest to prove they are the best team in the NBA.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The Hawks’ issues might boil down to personnel, philosophy and payroll, with the three areas tied together. The Hawks can’t match the Orlando’s depth. That has contributed to offensive and defensive philosophies that have proven to be less effective in the playoffs than during the regular season. The team’s payroll lags well behind the league’s elite teams. The Hawks’ $66 million payroll ranked last among Eastern Conference teams in the playoffs. It’s $15 million shy of Orlando and $8 million behind the lowest payroll among the other seven teams still playing.”
- Ken Suguira of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Smith and Howard, Orlando’s All-NBA center, have outgrown daycare but not each other. They’ve been friends since they were young kids and were teammates, with Hawks backup center Randolph Morris, on the Atlanta Celtics AAU team in high school. [...] In that sense, not much has changed. Howard and Smith have gone at each other in the series, now 3-0 in Orlando’s favor, with Game 4 on Monday night at Philips Arena. Smith scores in transition, takes charges and swat shots; Howard controls the paint, throws down vicious dunks and drops in shots from the post.”
- Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “To break apart this roster now would be tantamount to surrender, and we know too well what that’s like. But to expect these players to respond more positively to this coach in his seventh season on the job is likewise folly. We Atlantans saw the same thing happen more than two decades ago when a good young team grew up around Mike Fratello but eventually stopped listening. Now as then, it comes down to one question: Is it easier to change the team or change the coach? And the answer, now as then, is that the Hawks can conceivably find an upgrade on Mike Woodson. They might not find another Joe Johnson. This summer isn’t the time to subtract talent. It’s the time to do as the elite teams do and add, add, add.”
I understand what Bradley is trying to say, though. The odds of the Hawks landing someone like James, Wade, Bosh are slim to none. Atlanta, unfortunately, may be better served signing a second-tier free agent and see how far they can go. I agree that Johnson doesn't deserve to be a max player, though.