Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
“It’s an experience of awe.”
Those words, uttered by owner Rich DeVos during the Orlando Magic‘s television broadcast on Sun Sports, best described the feeling many Magic fans had as they witnessed the first NBA game in the brand new Amway Center. The host for the evening did not disappoint, as the Magic were able to defeat the New Orleans Hornets by the score of 135-81 to cap off a momentous occasion in the Central Florida community. As they say, you couldn’t have written a better script. Seven players for Orlando scored in double-figures, with Rashard Lewis, Ryan Anderson, and J.J. Redick leading the way with 23 points each. Quentin Richardson will forever be in the history books for the Magic as the first player to score a basket in the new arena — a 24-foot three-point jumpshot at the 11:41 mark in the first quarter.
When looking at the box score, the question begs to be asked.
Where to begin?
There’s a laundry list of things to address, so let’s get to the essentials.
Dwight Howard, also known as “Superman” by some, had a razor sharp game in limited minutes with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocks. Yes, the five turnovers are the lone blemish on Howard’s stat sheet but for the second time in three games, it was the manner by which he scored that was impressive. Remember, Emeka Okafor is no slouch as an individual defender, yet Howard was able to score against him with relative ease and two of his five field goals were jumpshots. Both jumpers looked good when they left Howard’s hands and even though it’s still early in the pre-season, it’s clear that the jumper is going to be a part of his arsenal this year. In years past, when Howard would miss a jumpshot or two (as he did against the Indiana Pacers on Friday), he would shelve the shot for months before trying it again in games due to a lack of confidence. However, against the Hornets, Howard did not hesitate to keep shooting when the situation presented itself. And the players around the NBA are noticing a change in Howard’s approach.
Howard’s mid-range game is real, folks, and it’s here to stay.
The next item of discussion is Lewis, who had a field day against the Hornets.
When Lewis is able to blow past Aaron Gray off the dribble for an emphatic reverse dunk, as he did in the second quarter, that’s usually a sign of things to come.
Whether it was at either small forward or power forward, there was no one for New Orleans that could slow down Lewis. None. Perhaps Lewis wouldn’t have fared as well on offense had David West suited up and played, but that’s neither here nor there. Trevor Ariza probably fared the best defensively when Lewis was at the small forward position, but it’s hard to come away with any definitive conclusions when they didn’t spend a lot of time going head-to-head on the court. The reality is that Lewis was able to score in a variety of ways, whether it was in post-ups or catch-and-shoot situations. Things got out of hand, in particular, in the third quarter when it seemed like Lewis was out there shooting by himself. Lewis got a number of open looks from drive-and-kicks, and he was able to make the Hornets pay.
[10:06] Lewis, 16-foot jumpshot (Howard assist)
[9:17] Lewis, 26-foot three-point jumpshot (Carter assist)
[7:05] Lewis, 25-foot three-point jumpshot (Nelson assist)
[6:01] Lewis, 15-foot jumpshot (Nelson assist)
[3:54] Lewis, 25-foot three-point jumpshot (Redick assist)
And how about Anderson?
For all the talk about Brandon Bass‘ improvements on defense, Anderson played like a man possessed tonight and is making a strong case to remain the back-up power forward to Lewis when the regular season starts in three weeks. The only thing that stood out like a sore thumb for Anderson was his defense against Peja Stojakovic. There were times when head coach Monty Williams decided to play Stojakovic at the power forward position in a small-ball lineup. It was one of the few things that worked out well for New Orleans, as Stojakovic was able to generate a number of points from that spot on the floor at Anderson’s expense. There were times when Anderson did a poor job of covering Stojakovic on the perimeter, which makes sense since he’s not accustomed to doing that defensively. That’s the lone complaint for Anderson. Other than that, Anderson’s ability to put up points in bunches makes a Lewis-Anderson frontcourt an appealing option for the Magic in certain matchups and situations.
Vince Carter was a bright spot for Orlando, despite the fact that he only scored 10 points on 12 shots. The main thing that stood out for Carter was his willingness to attack the basket at almost every opportunity. All of Carter’s field goals were in or near the paint. That’s encouraging to see and even though it’s one game, if Carter can continue that pattern of aggressiveness moving forward, that’s a good sign for the Magic.
Marcin Gortat played a beautiful game. And if that may seem like an exaggeration, it’s not because Gortat really did play beautifully. The energy and effort that Gortat displayed in 2009 when he had a career year for Orlando? It’s back. Gortat is playing just like he did two seasons ago. Tonight, it was the little things that stood out for Gortat. Yes, a turnaround jumper and lefty hook were Gortat’s notable highlights in the game. But more importantly, it’s Gortat diving on the floor for a loose ball, running the middle of the floor on the fast break like any fundamentally sound center would and getting rewarded for his hustle by getting the basketball for a dunk. That’s what matters for Gortat. It’s tough because it’s clear that Gortat has some tricks in his bag that he wants to show more, like his repertoire offensively, but he has a specific role on the Magic and needs to execute it to the best of his abilities. Gortat did that against the Hornets. Maybe it’s the hair.
By the way, who said Redick can’t create for himself? 13 free throw attempts says otherwise.
Lastly, it’s hard not to get excited to see Stanley Robinson when he’s able to get some burn. Late in the telecast, play-by-play announcer David Steele remarked that he thinks Robinson looks like someone that belongs in the NBA. Steele added that assistant coach Brendan Malone commented to him that Robinson could carve a niche out as a good defender in the league. It’s too early to decipher what will happen with Robinson’s career but there’s no questioning his effort or desire. Robinson was all over the floor when he played and was able to please the home crowd with an alley-oop dunk that exemplified why he’s nicknamed “Sticks” in the first place.
Robinson can fly.
All in all, it was a great night at the Amway Center for the Magic.
It’s safe to say there will be more memories to come in the future.