AP Photo/Christian Palma
If you’re a Magic fan and you didn’t watch the game, it’s easy to look at the final score, see that the Orlando Magic lost, and shrug your shoulders in a display of indifference.
With Stan Van Gundy sipping Diet Pepsi somewhere without an NBA head coaching gig, Dwight Howard taking his flatulent talents to the City of Angels, and Ryan Anderson playing small forward for the New Orleans Hornets (wait, what?), it’s no secret that the Magic are projected to have one of the worst records in the league this season. Without the presence of one of the best coaches in the NBA, a top five player, and a premiere stretch four, wins are going to be hard to come by for Orlando. That much is certain.
But the Magic’s loss against the Hornets wasn’t because of a lack of talent (it should be noted that guys like Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington did not play). It was a matter of circumstance.
After three quarters, Orlando was up 66-54 and in total control of the game. That’s because the Magic’s starters severely outplayed New Orleans’ starting lineup. And Orlando did it primarily by playing a hybrid brand of basketball offensively.
Head coach Jacque Vaughn wants to play an up-tempo style while allowing the players to be creative on offense (i.e. not call plays every single possession, which is a direct contrast from the Van Gundy days). And that was reflected on the court, as the Magic played with a bit more pace and flow than what is usually seen from them. But remnants of Van Gundy’s philosophy still remain offensively (such as Vaughn’s desire for player and ball movement), as Orlando ran pick-and-roll sets and initiated plays from the elbows (“Horns” set). It was interesting to watch the game unfold and see two different philosophies play out on the floor in unison with each other.
Aside from the fact that Orlando’s second unit coughed up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter to lose the game, not much else can be taken away from the Magic’s first preseason tilt. Apart from Gustavo Ayon’s performance.
Ayon, playing in his home country of Mexico, impressed in his Magic debut. Starting at center, Ayon played to his strengths. He did a good job of scoring in pick-and-rolls, running the middle of the floor in transition, and passing out of the high post. His defense was generally solid but then again, his primary assignment was dreadful (Robin Lopez was -22 in roughly 22 minutes of playing time) so take that observation with a grain of salt.
Ayon is no Dwight. He’s not a once-in-a-generation type of center built like a Greek god. He’s merely a fundamentally-sound center and a good player. And that’s okay.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)
Before Orlando let the game slip away in the fourth quarter (getting outscored by 17 in the period), Ayon set the tone early with his energy and effort. He finished with 12 points and six rebounds.
LVP (Least Valuable Player)
It’s one thing to be underwhelming (Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers), it’s another thing to struggle (Anderson), but to look like you don’t belong in an NBA uniform? Like Lopez did? That’s bad.