- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all pooling their talents is unseemly or just unfair … unless they do it in your town, of course. [...] Remember the summer of 2000, when the [Orlando] Magic boldly toyed with signing their own Big Three — Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady? Wade really wasn’t going to leave the Heat. He was waiting for the cavalry. But a decade ago, the Magic wanted to start from scratch by signing the three biggest free agents in captivity. I don’t remember anyone in town thinking such an unprecedented, potential merger was bad for the game. Don’t recall a national media uproar over Duncan possibly joining Orlando and hitch-hiking his way to another title. It was a long shot to land all three, sure. The Magic had Hill (and T-Mac) in their pockets and pursued Duncan. They wanted at least two of them, with McGrady the third choice. Former Magic General Manager John Gabriel told me that ‘after Tim’s visit to Orlando, we got the sense he was considering us strongly. At that point, we were looking at maybe getting all three.’ There was one step needed to bring their talents to Orlando: Ask the three stars to take less money (a la the Heat). The plan never got that far.”
- Vince Carter‘s improved play on offense hasn’t been because of strategic changes.
- Mickael Pietrus‘ wrist is hurting, but he won’t sit out because of it.
- George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic have embraced their misery and pain. After all, doesn’t everyone consider them collateral damage this NBA season? They won’t be able to beat the Heat. They won’t be able to overcome Shaq and all those other tall tress in Boston. Thanks for playing, and please enjoy your consolation prizes this season. The Magic get it. And they are doing something about it.”
- Dwight Howard got baptized during the weekend. Good for him.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “For most rookies, the month before the NBA regular season typically offers a fantastic learning opportunity. The youngsters pick up X’s and O’s, but most of all, they discover just how much they need to improve in order to compete with veteran players. Instead, Orlando Magic first-round draft pick Daniel Orton has learned patience. Sidelined by a weak left leg he injured back in high school, Orton has watched from the sidelines as his teammates have spent the last month scrimmaging, playing exhibition games and jelling with one another. Orton knows his rehabilitation program likely will pay off in the long run. Still, that hasn’t made the present much easier to endure.”
- The Magic hope that Howard can three-peat as the Defensive Player of the Year. Head coach Stan Van Gundy: “His focus is good, and if it stays there, there’s no reason [Howard can't win the award again]. It goes far beyond his blocked shots and even beyond his rebounding. He’s extremely smart. He makes all the right rotations. He’s a great pick-and-roll defender. There’s really not a whole lot he can’t do defensively. There’s no reason he shouldn’t.”
- Evan Dunlap — also known as Ben Q. Rock — of Orlando Pinstriped Post looks back at the pre-season for Orlando (click here for Volume 2): “Surprisingly, the Magic were 16.5 points per 100 possessions more effective with a traditional power forward in their lineup, mostly due to their work on defense in those alignments. [Rashard] Lewis, the incumbent starter at power forward, wound up taking most of his reps at small forward this preseason, but he proved effective playing both positions. Lineups with [Marcin] Gortat at power forward–which is to say, lineups in which Gortat played up front with Dwight Howard–were potent on both ends of the court. Oddly, in prior years, that jumbo pairing fared better on offense than on defense. Gortat must have made strides in learning power forward this summer and in training camp, however, for the numbers here to be so impressive.”
- Two ESPN writers (out of 30) predict that the Magic will win the Eastern Conference.
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com concludes that the pre-season does matter to a degree: “OK. So the Magic probably won’t break the ’95-96 Bulls’ record of 72 wins. But Orlando’s dominant preseason is a reminder that they were statistically the best team last season, outscoring their opponents by 9.3 points per 100 possessions (Cleveland ranked second at +7.3). The playoffs were — and are — a different story, but this team is primed to be a regular-season juggernaut again. With Dwyane Wade out for most of the preseason, the Heat may need some time to find their rhythm, while the Lakers and Celtics are more likely to deal with injuries and also pace themselves to stay fresh. The Magic will hit the ground running next week and have proven that they can sustain quality in a season.”
- Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated thinks that Howard has a great chance to win the MVP award: “The voters will probably look away from both LeBron and Dwyane Wade, reasoning — perhaps unfairly — that the presence of another transcendent star undermines the MVP qualifications of each player. That leaves a handful of other leading candidates headed by Howard and Durant. Things will tip Howard’s way if the Magic win 60-plus games and he, once again, plays defense better than anyone.”
- Jameer Nelson is one of the biggest x-factors in the league this year.
- Manny Maduakolam of SLAM ONLINE previews Orlando’s season
- Ken Berger of CBSSports.com previews the year ahead for the NBA.
- “E” is for envy for the Magic, according to Chris Tomasson of NBA FanHouse: “Do the Orlando Magic envy what’s going on in South Florida? Maybe it will result in motivating Dwight Howard to unseat two-time defending MVP James to win the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.”
- Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference: It’s that time of year again. Time to plug a ton of projected numbers into a computer, simulate the NBA schedule thousands of times, and see what kind of predictions it spits out. This year I ran three sets of 2,500 simulated seasons — one based on statistical plus/minus (the raw version of which I posted here, but also adjusted for team using past franchise & coaching histories), one based on Win Shares (using the Simple Projection System method), and one based on a heavily regressed-to-the-mean version of last year’s Simple Ratings (not so much for prediction purposes, but as an experiment to see how well the “dumbest” possible projections fare vs. complex methods).”
- SCHOENE projects Orlando to capture the No. 2 seed in the East.
The chances are tied, ultimately, to Howard's development on offense. The Heat, Celtics, and Lakers are good but not unbeatable. That being said, it'll be difficult for the Magic to run that gauntlet if they want to win a championship.
Difficult, but not impossible.