Photo by Fernando Medina
Two blockbuster trades.
Nine wins in a row.
For people that are wondering why there’s been a lot of attention surrounding the Orlando Magic lately, those are a few reasons. Every writer in the mainstream media and blogosphere has an opinion on the new-look Magic.
Like Beckley Mason, one of the rising stars in the NBA blogging universe.
Mason is the proprietor of HoopSpeak, a general basketball blog which joined the TrueHoop Network in October 2010 and is a must-read for hardcore fans. Mason and his colleague — Ethan Sherwood Strauss — aren’t afraid to touch on topics ranging from the ongoing saga involving Carmelo Anthony’s future with the Denver Nuggets, the confusing brilliance of Chris Paul, or even James Harden and his beard. As a result, it only seemed appropriate to tab Mason and gather his insight on one of the most popular storylines in the league. That other team in Florida.
Mason provides his opinion on how Orlando stacks up against the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference, the player (or players) that intrigue him the most on the Magic, and more.
For more wisdom from Mason, make sure to follow him on Twitter — @BeckleyMason
It’s been 11 games since general manager Otis Smith pulled the trigger and made two blockbuster trades to shake up the roster for the Orlando Magic. In the meantime, the team has gone 9-2 — winning the last nine in a row. What are your thoughts on the moves?
When I read about these moves on Twitter, my initial reaction was “this makes the Magic incrementally better but this isn’t an earth shaking move.” I think that sentiment has been proven wrong.
Evaluating the trade today, I’d argue it’s gone a long ways toward solving the Magic’s greatest deficiencies over the first half of the season, which were that they didn’t push the ball enough for easy offense and didn’t have enough play makers on the court. [Jason] Richardson is, I think, the best transition shooting guard in the league. He’s great at shooting the spot up three and seems to beat his man down court a handful of times each game. He has this nuanced skill that I never noticed before he played in Phoenix, which is the ability to catch the ball over his shoulder/head like a wide receiver on a fly pattern then finish under control. He also loves oops, and Jameer [Nelson] throws a mean oop.
I’ve always thought the Magic’s main issue on offense wasn’t that Dwight [Howard] couldn’t be the offensive focal point, but that Jameer Nelson, and I’m a Jameer fan, is only so-so as a playmaker. Adding Gilbert [Arenas] and Hedo [Turkoglu] seems to alleviate that problem, and as a result the Magic are scoring much more easily and can score better on broken plays when Gilbert and Hedo can just make the right decision with their instinct and vision. I guess they might be marginally worse defensively, but they became so much better offensively it’s silly to get hung up on losing Pietrus and Gortat’s defensive impact.
Does anyone even remember Vince Carter?
You can’t quite quantify it, but the Magic have a great energy about them. You would know better than me, Eddy, but it just seems Gil, Richardson and Hedo have lightened the mood in the lockerroom and that everyone is excited to be together. That positive JuJu seemed to work wonders for Phoenix last year, when they clearly loved and trusted each other in important moments and hostile environments.
Assuming the Magic pickup a back-up center by the trade deadline, how do you see the them stacking up to the Heat and Celtics compared to their previous iteration at the start of the regular season?
I think this is not nearly as big of an issue as some other people do. Do the Lakers fret over not having a good enough back up shooting guard? No! Are the Magic small without Dwight? Yes. But they’re also a great passing team with four three point shooters. So what if they become the Knicks for stretches, worrying about someone who will only play 8-12 minutes a night in the playoffs is more a reflection of our lack of faith in Dwight staying on the court.
But yes, it would of course help them. I’ve heard Camby’s name bandied about, and if they can acquire him it would be incredible. Camby is such a smart defender and active rebounder, but I think Magic fans might be surprised at how intelligent and useful he is on offense. Joel Anthony he is not. Camby makes the high-low pass as well as any big in the league, and can consistently hit from 16-18, so [Stan Van Gundy] could also go gargantuan and play him with Howard if he got the urge.
As far as Boston and the Heat are concerned, I think they’re moves are going to help more against the Celtics. Miami is the best pick and roll defense in the league, but Turkoglu seems to give Boston real problems. Also, Gilbert will absolutely murder whoever comes off the pine for Rondo, and can actually post Rondo at will too. [Brandon] Bass is also a tough match up for KG because he’s so quick and attacks off the dribble so well. I’d worry about Rondo eating Jameer up like he did in last year’s playoffs, but I think Orlando is, as a whole, a scary match up for Boston.
Against the Heat, who are my pick to get That Chip, something they have in their favor is Richardson will be a tough cover for Wade. When Dwyane goes to the basket, he tends to have trouble rotating back, allowing the man covering him to leak out for threes and lay ups. Ray Allen killed him on this action in their second meeting. Clearly Richardson is not in Wade’s class as an overall player, but his transition game matches up well against Wade’s tendencies.
I’m not sure how much Turk adds against the Heat, but having an extra playmaker certainly won’t hurt… though you have to let him guard LeBron. Ultimately, it seems Jameer and Dwight will need to be the difference against the Heat, more than the new guys.
In your opinion, what does Orlando have to do to win a championship this year?
I don’t think the Magic can beat the Heat, but Boston might. If the Magic can get on the opposite side of the playoff bracket as Miami and Boston, I could see them knocking off the Celtics to get back to the finals. Whoever comes out of the West will be beatable.
Which player on the Magic intrigues you the most and why?
It’s not one person, but the budding relationship between Gilbert Arenas and J.J. Redick. They are both crafty, intelligent players on the court, and they seem to have a good vibe going off the court.
Redick cracked me up when he said, “there’s something about Gilbert’s face… I just want to punch it.” Who doesn’t love a spunky, high scoring bench? I would totally watch a buddy cop show called BenchMob, in which Redick and Gilbert are cooling off crooks by day and heating up the scoreboard by night. You’re a big deal Eddy, can you make this happen, please?
I like to thank Beckley for taking the time to answer my questions.