Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Today is a happy day for me, the culmination of a dream I’ve had lo these many weeks. Or two weeks. This is the week, dear readers, when you stepped up to the plate and offered me not two, not even three, but no fewer than FIVE emails to answer. So dedicated am I to encouraging y’all to participate in the majesty that is Magic Basketball Weekly, I will address all of the emails I received. Which is to say that I will skip my weekly rant to open the column and I will delve right into games of the week.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Nuggets 108, Sixers 104
Wizards 105, Thunder 102
Spurs 85, Magic 83
I am the cheapest person in the entire world, and for this reason, purchasing NBA League Pass for the first time this season was like getting a volunteer colonoscopy, especially given the fact that it was NOT DISCOUNTED AT ALL for the shortened season. All that said, on Wednesday night, I watched, within five minutes of each other, three of the most exciting finishes so far of the season. It ruled, and it was completely worth getting League Pass. Let me also say this: it completely sucks that the Magic did not beat the Spurs, but I am the sort of rationalizing, mincing, emotionally weak fan who consoles themselves by saying: “If it was that close on the third night of a back-to-back-to back without Turkoglu, I’ll take it!” See? Moral victories! There’s a reason we give them to six year olds!
Jazz 106, Nuggets 96
I feel like the Jazz are trolling me. I hate them. I always have. They are boring and they have a dumb name and for a billion years they had the boringest coach who has ever lived. I can not disassociate the Jazz from decades of hearing television honkeys bloviating about RESPECTING THE GAME every time Jerry Sloan’s crooked nose was shown. I don’t know why they can’t just go away and start sucking like logic says they should. Almost nobody on their team is good, and watching Raja Bell play basketball is like the first time you see your dad being unable to open a pickle jar. It’s depressing. You want me to talk about how much of a mouth breather Enes Kanter is? No. I won’t, because they don’t deserve this much thought. Go away, the Jazz, because you’re pretty decent.
Rockets 90, Hornets 88
I guess I have no idea what the appropriate three letter abbreviation/airport code deal is for New Orleans. Is it really NOLA? Isn’t that just slang for the sorts of fratdoofs who say HOTLANTA? Anyway, the Rockets are like the last good guy left in some art-house war movie, the sort of movie that sets you up for a happy ending where Mr. StrongJawButKindHeart is going to get the girl until WHAM! Right before the credits start, StrongJaw is killed, and Serbians or whoever are traipsing over his body. LIFE IS POINTLESS, THIS MOVIE IS SO SMART. That’s the Rockets.
Okay, fine. Quick rant. Dubstep sucks. I hate it. I will confess that I don’t usually get into music that is primarily experiential — i.e. more about the club than the living room hi-fi — but still. It’s sort of exactly what dorky kids who want to have a subculture where they can be cool and piss off their parents would design. WHOA BROA, SKRONKY BASS. DROP THAT SKRONKY BASS, BRUH. THEY’LL NEVER UNDERSTAND US. It isn’t even usually satisfying bass! It sounds like how when I was a little kid I used to blow into cardboard tubes and go durrdurrdurrdurr but also if somebody was trying to fix a zipper next to me doing that. Now, as always, because I am an insufferable elitist, I do have a couple of Metacritic-approved dubstep albums. Like Burial. (Srsly, guuuys, the sampling has so much organic soul behind it hurrhurrhurr). And I understand that I’m supposed to like James Blake, but that just seems like Chris Isaak with a sampler. Two first names on both of em, same pretty boy warble voice. Anyway. I hate dubstep!
Bonus stupid dubstep!
Reader Brian D.:
“I want to talk about “shot creators.” I hear a lot (for better or worse) about how the Magic have no shot creators. Apparently, this is bad because Orlando has no one who can get a shot off (by himself) when the offense breaks down.
I am confused, however, as to what exactly people want. Are they talking about ball dominant isolation-type players like Jamal Crawford? Is that really the kind of basketball they want to see? Didn’t the Magic already try that with Gilbert Arenas? Personally, I hate watching guys like Crawford spend 8 seconds on crossover dribbles only to hoist up a borderline no-look jumper. I don’t care if he made 70% of them or whatever it was against the Magic in the 2011 playoffs. There are reasons guys like Jamal Crawford switch teams every few years — and one of those reasons is LEFT LEFT RIGHT LEFT RAINBOW BANK SHOT THREE!
Or are they talking about the LeBron/Wade types who can blow by their defender and get to the rim / draw fouls? I agree that it’d be great to have a player like that, but let’s be honest here. Unless you pull a coup like the Heat did, you’re not just grabbing those guys off the street. There are only so many of them, and at the moment the Magic’s talent chips are invested in Dwight and guys who complement the system designed to support Dwight.
I guess I just don’t see the allure in going out and getting a player who will stop the ball. If isolation shots were really efficient, then maybe. But they’re not, and they’re awful basketball to watch, unless you’re talking about the All-NBA teams.
Personally, I would rather the Magic just hypnotize Jameer Nelson into forgetting about his 2009 shoulder injury so that he starts drawing contact and getting free throws again, rather than messing with the offense to integrate an iso player. But that’s neither here nor there.”
Let me first of all start by saying that, Brian, I love that you have taken the time to email us, and I know that I have asked for this, so technically I am being hoisted on my own petard, but THAT IS SO LONG OF AN EMAIL. Because I wanted to reward everybody who wrote in, and because this is actually a pretty smart question, I will publish it. But let’s reign this is in a bit for next week, okay everybody? You don’t want 3,000 words of me anymore than I do.
Now, Brian, to your question. Get out of my head! The Magic built some success because they don’t just run high screens for their best wing scorer and hope something happens. I understand the value of a guy who can get a decent look against any type of defense, but kowtowing to conventional wisdom and trying to acquire that kind of player is partially what hurt the Magic so much. When you bring in a player like Vince Carter, shot creator par excellence, you’re getting a player whose value is inflated by league perception, who doesn’t allow the offense to play the full width of the court, and who is not effective without the ball in his hands. Some teams need, and even thrive, with guys like that. But it’s just not what the Magic need.
“What are the odds Dwight Howard plays out the season with Orlando, then parts ways with the Magic via a sign-and-trade?”
My, what a compelling and BRIEF question. Now, I got it into my head that the new CBA changed the sign-and-trade rules, but in trying to find an answer to this question, I couldn’t find any rule prohibiting sign-and-trades like we’re used to thinking of them. Closest I could find was rules about teams over the luxury tax not being allowed a S&T. Correct me if I’m wrong, world. Assuming you can sign-and-trade, I don’t know how much it changes, but I also hadn’t really considered the point. We know Dwight has a fairly limited list of places he’d want to sign, and he’d have to agree to a sign-and-trade in the first place. Don’t we already know, then, what the possible deals are for Dwight? I think he still makes a little more money by doing a sign-and-trade (again, if anybody knows different, holler), but I don’t think these chances are high, to be honest.
“Lets hop into the year 3000 and watch the results of the What If machine from Futurama. It’s July 2011. The DeVos family cans Otis for fear of losing Dwight due to mismanagement as a sign to Dwight their committed to making the right moves. They hire you, with your extensive championship pedigree. What moves do you make to become legitimate contenders?”
Okay. Ummmm. I acquire his friend Glen Davis? Honestly, I think that the best thing you could do is ship out expensive players who have any value — like Turkoglu, as well as he’s playing, and Jason Richardson, if there’s any hope of trading him — for next to nothing in return. Like, straight, stupid-looking salary dumps. Because assuming the team is keeping Dwight, they have a pitch to make to free agents, and they will need money to spend, and if you can sell him on totally redesigning the current look of the team in the name of true, perennial contention …
Probably all of that is a terrible idea? Here’s what’s a nice thing; I’m not a GM, and there are things I don’t have to know in order to be able to criticize them. Also, I’m a ninny. But seriously, GMs like Otis have a wealth of information and resources I’m not even aware they have, and they also have a more difficult job than I can understand. I think financial flexibility at nearly any cost is the answer, but if I were smart enough at making mediocre teams into immediate contenders, I’d probably be doing that for a living.
Reader Carlo Simone:
“Hopefully you guys have more emails to sift through this week but if not here’s my question.
The Magic have emerged as the number one team in offensive efficiency (before the Spurs game which I’m sure knocked them down a few pegs). This is great news since the past two years have seen the Magic’s offense stagnate often. How sustainable do you feel this production is? Furthermore, can Stan get these guys to play better defense this year and really be dangerous in the NBA?”
I think it’s pretty sustainable, actually. I think the defense should improve, and certainly the schedule is going to get stiffer, but we might be looking at a team pretty similar to this at year’s end. The guys who make the offense work right now, with the exception of Dwight, are not nearly as athletic and rangy as the supposedly “limited” players who used to fit in the Magic’s system. Now, do I think this team, as constituted, can be “really dangerous?” If getting to the second round is really dangerous, I do. The offense is for real — these are intelligent players who seem to be playing within themselves and producing genuine good looks. I think, thought, when a team with across the board size and talent has seven games to work it out, it’ll be curtains.
And finally, my friend and now-reader Susannah responds to something I wrote last week:
“’Aside: can we never again say Hack-a-Dwight? It doesn’t even rhyme, which was the whole reason in the first place for the Hack-a-Construction.’
I could not agree with you more. It should be Smite-a-Dwight or something. My question, however, is: do you know Dwight Howard’s relationship status? It has been a longtime dream of mine to, uh, Hack-a-Dwight, as it were.”
Susannah raises two excellent points: First, what do you guys think of Smite-a-Dwight? It’s a little too cutesy, no? Can we keep working on this? Help me out here.
Secondly: All of the women in my life can be convinced to sit through a Magic game because of Dwight, and I can’t blame them. Even if his head is slightly pointy, my GOD. He’s the hottest NBA player, right? Just because of the shoulders? Who’s hotter than him?
Also, he’s not single, is he? I have heard some things about his status, but I can’t remember them, and I refuse to dabble in licentious gossip.
That’s my time! Thanks for reading. Remember — email mbnhoops[at]gmail[dot]com with anything you want me to answer, especially if you know about Dwight Howard’s relationship status or a better name for fouling him.
Danny Nowell is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.