- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Boston Celtics crafted the blueprint for beating the Orlando Magic. Now the Atlanta Hawks will rely on that strategy against the Magic when the teams begin their first-round, best-of-seven playoff series tonight at Amway Center. Cribbing directly from the Celtics’ successful playbook, the Hawks will dispatch a rugged center to guard all-star Dwight Howard one-on-one, a tactic that could allow the rest of Atlanta’s players to closely defend Orlando’s dangerous perimeter shooters. [...] Howard dominated. Orlando sank treys seemingly at will. And the Magic humiliated the Hawks, sweeping them out of the second round by winning four consecutive games by an average of 25.3 points. So, once he was named Atlanta’s head coach, Drew adopted the Boston model. Drew started journeyman Jason Collins at center. He shifted all-star Al Horford from center to power forward and moved Josh Smith from power forward to small forward. Those moves paid huge dividends when the Hawks won three of four games against the Magic during the recently completed regular season. Howard made only 43.1 percent of his shots against the Hawks, his lowest shooting percentage versus any team. And the Magic hit just 22.6 percent of their 3-point tries.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Howard and [Jameer] Nelson seem like an unlikely pair at first blush. Dwight is 6-foot-10, 275 pounds, an Atlanta native and a single father. At 25, he’s four years younger than Nelson. A five-time all-star, he has blossomed from as a skinny teen drafted No. 1 overall out of high school into one of the NBA’s biggest attractions. Jameer is nearly a foot shorter, hailing from hard-scrabble Chester, Pa., married and a father of three. He played four years in college, and has had to prove doubters wrong because of his height. The Magic acquired him after a draft-day trade with Denver. Nelson rewarded their faith by being named to the all-star team in 2008-09. ‘Dwight and I are very fortunate to be here together. We don’t know any other organization,’ Nelson said. ‘I got some gray hair and he’s finally got facial hair. We’re still young. I’m 29 and he’s still a baby.’ They are the last men standing from that 2004 roster. Everything has changed except No. 12 and No. 14. Through various trades and transactions, 71 players under contract with the Magic have come and gone since ’04, including a whopping 16 since the end of the 2009-10 season. Howard and Nelson aren’t only the Magic’s longest-tenured players. They are currently the seventh longest-running NBA tandem on the same team, sharing that distinction with five other sets of teammates.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick is the active type and one who doesn’t feel right physically if he’s unable to get in a workout or break a sweat on a daily basis. He’s so committed to that routine that Redick even found a way to mix in a weight-lifting workout or two last summer when he was on his honeymoon in Europe. So being unable to do much of anything at all for a three-week period and being out of action with the Magic for more than a month because of a lower abdominal strain was downright torturous for Redick. Once he was cleared to resume rehabilitation, Redick attacked the sessions where his arms and legs were strapped to tension bands, but not being able to play basketball worked tricks on his mind.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “All season Joe Johnson has said he looked forward to the playoffs so the Hawks could “prove everybody wrong.” That’s everybody who witnessed the Hawks’ surrender to the Magic in the playoffs last spring and said the team lacks mental toughness. The group includes critics who saw essentially the same Hawks players return this season and dismissed them as true Eastern Conference contenders. It includes one-time optimists who dismissed the Hawks as they staggered over the final two months of the season. Johnson didn’t say so, but he also could have been talking about himself. He struggled against Orlando for his second consecutive fade in the postseason. Johnson came out of last year’s big NBA free-agent summer with the most expensive contract in the league at $123.7 million, a deal that was roundly criticized. Johnson made his fifth consecutive All-Star game, but had the least productive and efficient of his six seasons with the Hawks. As it turns out, Johnson gets another crack at the Magic in the playoffs, but he said he doesn’t feel a burden to carry the Hawks.