Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 108

Feb 17

Magic Basketball Weekly: Superman I vs. Superman II

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Ugh, Shaq. By now, you’ve almost certainly read his latest stupid attempts to needle Dwight Howard, saying it would be a “travesty” if Howard left Orlando. Which is immediately ridiculous, because, you know … Shaq did that.

I’m not the first person commenting on this story, but this latest little whine has taken my Shaq hate to new levels. I’ve never enjoyed Shaq because I can’t stand his constant insecure posturing, his disingenuous media manipulation or his inability to coexist with anybody taking even a modicum of attention from him. But for some reason, I really think the casual fan is still fooled by Shaq’s act — I find it impossible to believe that anybody in 2012 thinks Shaq is actually an enormous jokester who just can’t help shooting straight, but it seems as if a lot of folks still think that. It’s baffling.

I find Shaq’s fascination with Dwight doubly frustrating because it’s just so obvious how threatened Shaq feels by Dwight, which is ridiculous. Look, I love Dwight, and he’s a more balanced player than Shaq ever was, not to mention an even more incredible athlete than young Shaq, but he’s clearly not currently as effective as Shaq was in his prime. Again, I am definitely NOT saying that Dwight isn’t an historically effective player, but good God, you guys remember what Shaq was capable of, right?

For him to spend his retirement trying to distance himself from every talent who also draws media attention is pathetic, and it makes me wonder what the appeal of Shaq’s persona is. Seriously — what about Shaq as an image or personality has grown his fan base? He doesn’t “just win;” he constantly ran his mouth and was frequently out of shape or clearly not trying. His biggest single advantage — being an enormous human — isn’t something you can seem to cultivate by scheduling post-loss shooting sessions in opponent’s gyms.

In fact, it seems like Shaq is at least as insecurely image conscious as LeBron, as periodically lazy as Rasheed Wallace and as preternaturally gifted as any one ever. Isn’t that the recipe for people seriously hating an athlete? Didn’t he play for like 13 teams in the last 3 years of his career? Isn’t he the single worst and least funny television analyst on an otherwise entertaining and insightful show? What is going on here?

I guess I’m willing to fall back on the standard explanation of the viewing public conflating decency as a human with the ability to win basketball games, but it seems like Shaq would’ve done more than enough to undermine that. I’m actually a little puzzled by this. Why don’t more people hate Shaq?

INTERMISSION

Bonus footage of Magic Shaq stomping on Tokyo, shaping whole worlds in the chaos of his wake.

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Feb 17

It’s not magic, it’s execution

When the Orlando Magic faced off against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 30, they were tired, injured, and playing a losing brand of basketball. The Magic were playing their sixth game in eight nights, the starting backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson was out of commission, and the losses started to pile up in a hurry. The Magic scored a franchise-worst 56 points in a loss against the Boston Celtics on January 23, somehow blew a 27-point lead at home against those very same Celtics no less than three days later, then got blown out by the New Orleans Hornets to top it all off. The Hornets are 6-23.

Orlando was a battered and beaten group in a physical and mental sense.

The Sixers aided in the Magic’s continued misery by handing them their fourth straight loss and fifth in six games, winning 74-69. The final score is deceiving because Orlando had 49 points with 3:19 left in the game before going on a 20-6 run to escape putting together another franchise-worst performance on offense a week after doing so against Boston.

But in a lockout-shortened schedule, things can change in a hurry.

Heading into Wednesday, the Magic were playing some of their best basketball of the season, winning six of their last eight games. And both losses, which came against the Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta Hawks, came in overtime. Needless to say, it was going to be interesting to see how Orlando would fare in their grudge match against Philadelphia.

Unfortunately for the Sixers, they ran into a buzzsaw. The Magic shot 15-of-25 from three-point range, played great team defense for prolonged stretches, and got the win.

What was most impressive about Orlando’s victory was that the offense annihilated the NBA’s best defensive team. Crisp ball movement and flawless execution for the Magic produced excellence.

And Ryan Anderson was in the middle of it all, putting Philadelphia’s defense in a blender and spitting it out. Anderson had already proved against the Miami Heat on February 8 that he was a tough cover, with Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem finding out the hard way. For the Sixers, Lavoy Allen and Thaddeus Young found out for themselves the perils of defending Anderson.

In the first quarter, Orlando jumped out to a 23-6 lead before Philadelphia closed the gap at the end of the period. Anderson spearheaded the assault by scoring 14 points.

SLIDE 1, 2:

This possession is a microcosm of how the night went for the Magic. Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard execute a 3/5 pick-and-roll (a side screen-and-roll on the left side). Andre Iguodala, an elite perimeter defender in the league, decides to go over the screen, while Elton Brand sags off as Howard rolls to the basket. Defensively, everyone for the Sixers is doing their job except for Allen.

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Feb 16

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Were it not for a certain sensation out of New York sweeping the basketball world right now, Orlando Magic power forward Ryan Anderson might be the runaway favorite for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award with the way he’s dramatically boosted his scoring average and become the game’s most impressive 3-point shooter. But since we’re talking about Jeremy Lin – and who isn’t these days after the way he’s taken the NBA by storm – there’s a connection between the New York Knicks’ guard and Anderson. With both hailing from Northern California – Anderson from El Dorado Hills and Lin from Palo Alto – and being born just three months apart, they regularly played against one another in junior circuit leagues and AAU ball. And even though they both led their respective high schools to state titles as high school seniors, Anderson and Lin were told along the way they’d never be very good college players, much less make it to the NBA. So when Anderson and Lin met back when Lin was still a member of the Golden State Warriors, they relived memories of their younger days and how they had defied the odds to get to the NBA.”
  • Is there someone on the roster for the Orlando Magic that can surprise like Jeremy Lin?
  • Dwight Howard will coach in the 2012 Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.
  • The field for NBA All-Star Slam Dunk has been set.
  • Who will win the dunk contest?
  • Linsanity may hit Orlando during All-Star Weekend.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “It’s unclear whether Smith was being serious, but Magic General Manager Otis Smith indicated to the Orlando Sentinel that his team is not considering the 6-foot-6 guard. The Magic could use their midlevel exception of up to $5 million to sign J.R. Smith, but that would have a drawback. The team’s current salary-cap total for this season is $68.7 million, according to HoopsWorld, and the league’s luxury-tax threshold is set at $70.3 million. The Magic would pay an extra dollar for every dollar they are over the threshold at the end of the season.”
  • Tom Haberstroh of ESPN Insider with a must-read piece on Howard’s worth as an elite two-way player in the NBA: “Acquiring a two-way talent such as Howard or James is like using a two-for-one deal at the grocery store. Instead of eating up $30 million of cap space by handcuffing a dominant offensive force (say, Anthony) with a dominant defensive force (say, Tyson Chandler), you can pay James or Howard to do both things for you at half the price. Since you can only play five players on the court, having a two-way player to fulfill both jobs (two NBA stars for the price of one!) is among the biggest market inefficiencies a GM can exploit. That’s why every owner was willing to bend over backward and fly to Ohio to make a sales pitch to James. If Howard finishes the season in Orlando, we’ll see GMs do the same for him.”
  • The Magic have one of the best transition defenses in the league.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “This game followed the old axiom “you can’t win a game in the first quarter but you can lose it.” Orlando raced out to a 23-6 lead and never trailed. The Sixers tried, they made some rallies — like when they made push to cut it to nine inside of four minutes. But back-to-back threes by Ryan Anderson and Jason Richardson pushed the lead to 15 and all but sealed it. Anderson finished with a game high 27, Dwight Howard had 17. Lou Williams led Philly with 21. This game was a far cry from the meeting a couple weeks ago where the 76ers held the Magic to 69 points total.”
  • Peter Walsh of SLAM ONLINE raves about Ryan Anderson: “Ryan Anderson has been shooting the lights out this season. The third year pro has hit 80 three’s this year, 19 more than anyone else in the league; he is also one of the few (only?) players to hit more three-point field goals than two-point field goals. The guy is an assassin and in my opinion, for what it’s worth, he should have been an All-Star. Last night Anderson continued his hot shooting with 7 three-pointers (on 10 attempts) against one of the best defensive teams in the L.”
  • Rodger Bohn of SLAM ONLINE conducts a Q/A with Penny Hardaway.
  • Anderson gets an “E” for effort for his performance against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, in which he scored 27 points and made seven three-pointers.
  • Anderson is proving to be more bang for the buck than Rashard Lewis was for Orlando.

Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

Feb 16

The Ryan Anderson manifesto

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Dwight Howard is not only the best player on the Orlando Magic but one of the best players in the NBA.

That’s a given.

It’s because Howard is so good and, in many his respects, some of his supporting cast is so bad that there’s chatter of him fleeing the Magic for greener pastures, whether it’s at the trade deadline or in free agency. And the mainstream media as well as the blogosphere have been doing their job in analyzing the situation, trying to figure out which player — whether it’s Kobe Bryant or Deron Williams or Dirk Nowitzki or whoever — would be the ideal fit and complement to Howard as that second star. 

The second star that Orlando supposedly does not possess.

Yet there’s someone for the Magic that’s already a great fit alongside Howard, even though he may not be thought of as a star or an All-Star or whatever label you want to use even though he’s playing at that level

His name is Ryan Anderson.

Although Anderson isn’t a household name yet, more and more people are beginning to recognize not only how good he is but also how unique of a player he is. 

Getting-to-know-you stage
Anderson isn’t much of a ballhandler or shot creator, meaning he doesn’t do much to create for his teammates or himself. But what Anderson lacks in creativity, he makes up for in productivity and efficiency. 

For example, Anderson is an excellent three-point shooter. So far this season, Anderson leads the league in three-point field goals made (87) and attempted (200), while ranking among NBA leaders in three-point shooting percentage (43.5 percent). It’s true that other players shoot at a higher percentage than Anderson, but not many can match his volume while maintaining a high percentage (some can, like Kyle Korver). Anderson’s three-point proficiency allows him to be a perfect complement to Howard. Anderson can spread the floor and maximize spacing on offense both for Howard and Orlando in general. 

Players that shoot three-pointers at a high clip are a dime a dozen in the league.

Players that shoot three-pointers at a high clip listed at 6-foot-10 and are a great offensive rebounder? Those are rare.

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Feb 15

Recap: Orlando Magic 103, Philadelphia 76ers 87

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

BOX SCORE

The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers by the score of 103-87. The Magic avenged one of their worst losses of the regular season, which occurred on January 30 against the Sixers on the road. Orlando lost 74-69 in that game, which upped their losing streak to a season-high four games. The Magic won this time around. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as six players scored in double-figures. Ryan Anderson blitzed Philadelphia, finishing with a game-high 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting from the field (including 7-of-10 from three-point range). Dwight Howard finished with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks. Jameer Nelson had one of his best games of the season, putting up 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting from the field, 14 assists, and four rebounds. Jason Richardson chipped in with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field (including 4-of-5 from three-point range), three assists, and two steals. Hedo Turkoglu had 14 points and seven rebounds, while J.J. Redick had 12 points. Super-cub Lou Williams led the way for the Sixers, amassing 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting from the field (including 2-of-4 from three-point range and 5-of-6 from the free-throw line), seven assists, and four rebounds. Excluding back-to-back three-pointers by Evan Turner and Williams for Philadelphia at the tail end of the first quarter, the entirety of the period was a microcosm of how the rest of the game would go for Orlando.

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Feb 15

Reaction: Orlando Magic 103, Philadelphia 76ers 87

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images


Orlando Magic 103 Final
Recap | Box Score
87 Philadelphia 76ers

Dwight Howard
8-15 FG | 1-3 FT | 2 BLK | 14 REB | 18 PTS | +21

Howard was the conduit by which the Magic systematically destroyed the Philadelphia 76ers’ defense. Offensively, Orlando centered its gameplan around pick-and-rolls with Howard as the anchor, as he aided Nelson and Turkoglu in their quest to drive-and-kick the Sixers to death. When Howard wasn’t too busy setting screens, he was getting his in the post (primarily against Nikola Vucevic).

Ryan Anderson
9-12 FG | 7-10 3P | 1 STL | 2 REB | 27 PTS | +17

Poor Lavoy Allen. Filling in for injured Spencer Hawes and matched up against Anderson, Allen had no chance defensively. Before Allen could blink an eye, Anderson scored 11 points against him in the first quarter. That forced Doug Collins to call upon Thaddeus Young to defend Anderson for the remainder of the game. That didn’t pan out so well either for the Sixers.

Jason Richardson
5-10 FG | 4-5 3P | 2 STL | 3 AST | 14 PTS | +23

Richardson was quiet but efficient on offense. Outside of his layup in the first quarter on a screen-and-curl, with Howard setting a pin-down screen on the right block to free him up on the left side, all of Richardson’s field goals were three-pointers. The last of his three-point shots typified the Magic’s night, with it coming directly from a 1/5 pick-and-roll with Nelson and Howard.

Jameer Nelson
5-8 FG | 1-2 FT | 14 AST | 4 REB | 12 PTS | +19

If Howard was the conduit that allowed Orlando to pick apart Philadelphia with ruthless efficiency offensively, Nelson was the table-setter. Time and again, he executed pick-and-rolls. Time and again, he dribble penetrated into the lane and probed the Sixers’ defense. Time and again, he found the open man on the perimeter. At the end, he accounted for 50 of the Magic’s 103 points.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia is considered by some as a contender in the Eastern Conference because their point differential and efficiency differential rank among the elite in the NBA (the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Oklahoma City Thunder just to name the favorites). But as the saying goes, matchups mean everything and the Magic proved to have almost all the advantages in this game.

Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

Feb 15

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “There is only one certainty in the Dwight Howard saga. By the NBA trade deadline on March 15, which is now just one month away, the Orlando Magic front office will have made perhaps the most important personnel decision in franchise history. Little has changed in recent weeks. Howard has kept his trade request on the table, and Magic officials continue to sound content to wait until March 1 to reassess their situation. The front office believes there’s no rush to make a decision — that Howard still would be in high demand if General Manager Otis Smith, CEO Alex Martins and Chairman Dan DeVos decide they must trade the six-time All-Star before the deadline. In the meantime, members of the Magic front office hope that they can convince Howard to stay. They figure that winning games, being around teammates and hearing support from fans cannot hurt. Martins is in contact with Howard almost every day. Even the team’s 85-year-old owner, Rich DeVos, has made his sales pitch to Howard. Among other things, DeVos has told Howard that he might never develop as close a connection with a another city’s fans as Howard currently has in Orlando. The Magic have a reason to feel confident. If they keep him beyond the trade deadline, they will be able to offer him one additional year at higher annual raises than any of the other 29 teams. But even that might not be enough.”
  • Shaquille O’Neal: “”Orlando’s come a long way since the ’92 All-Star Game. The nightlife here is fabulous. The real estate has been fabulous. You still have Disney around the corner for you to bring your family. So I think it’s going to be a great event. It’d be good if he could put on a show and get the love and the support from the fans here and win the MVP. Hopefully, he stays, because that arena there is one of the best arenas in the country. If he leaves, it’ll be a travesty.”
  • Head coach Doug Collins talks about tonight’s matchup between the Orlando Magic and the Philadelphia 76ers.
  • The field for the 2012 Foot Locker Three-Point Contest in Orlando for All-Star Weekend is set.
  • Chris Bernucca of SheridanHoops.com tabs Magic-Sixers as “tonight’s best game.”
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie comments on O’Neal’s recent quotes about Howard: “Howard has made his fair share of missteps in how he’s handled his frustrations with Orlando, but we’re really hoping Shaq ends this silly and transparent batch of sly digs. It was unfortunate that O’Neal couldn’t work out with Orlando, or Los Angeles towards the end, or Miami once Pat Riley tired of him, or the Suns once Phoenix figured out he was a terrible fit, or Cleveland. It’s unfortunate that he’s keeping the same tone even after retirement.”
  • Justin Kubatko of Basketball-Reference: “It is with great pleasure that I announce the debut of Basketball-Reference.com’s latest and greatest set of research tools: Play Index+. Play Index+ utilizes over ten years of play-by-play data, allowing the user to sift through and summarize millions of plays with just a few clicks of the mouse.”
  • Five trade ideas involving Howard.
  • Three more trade scenarios pairing Howard with a second star for Orlando.
  • O’Neal’s thoughts on Howard’s future are nothing more than ironic.
  • Are the Magic a leading candidate to acquire J.R. Smith?
  • Eric Pincus of HOOPSWORLD: “While the Magic already have two shooting guards in Jason Richardson and J.J. Redick, they also have the advantage over most suitors with about $4.9 million of their Mid-Level Exception (MLE) still available. Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, a team cannot use their full MLE to climb to $4 million over the luxury tax. Currently the Magic are under; any investment in Smith would put Orlando above the threshold.”
  • Will Howard be traded at the deadline? NBA scribes chime in.
  • Mark Heisler of SheridanHoops.com: “Still win a lot for team with their issues. In latest, Dwight says he wants ball in crunch time (“Just get on my back. That’s why they call me Superman”). Of course, it would help if Supe made more than 56% of his free throws.”
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy argues against the assertion that Howard has checked out of games this season.

Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

Feb 15

Preview: Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic

7:00 ET | Sun Sports
20-9 @ 18-11
Pythagorean Record: 23-6 Pythagorean Record: 16-13
Pace: 89.6 (19th) Pace: 89.3 (25th)
Offensive Rating: 106.3 (7th) Offensive Rating: 103.3 (14th)
Defensive Rating: 96.2 (1st) Defensive Rating: 101.3 (12th)
Amway Center | Sixers lead season series 1-0

Feb 14

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “A training camp that practically began with the sudden retirement of their chief executive officer also included a trade request by their franchise player, and the superstar’s long-term future still hasn’t been resolved. And, after a strong start to the season, the team went into a mystifying funk that included two bitter losses to the Boston Celtics. The team seems to be snapping out of it now. The Magic have won six of their last eight games, with the two losses coming in overtime. [...] Monday’s win was a solid, workmanlike performance even though Howard flirted with foul trouble from the middle of the first quarter onward. Five Orlando players in addition to Richardson scored in double figures, including Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and Hedo Turkoglu, who chipped in with 14 points apiece. Earl Clark came off the bench to provide one of the most energetic performances of his Magic tenure, scoring eight points, grabbing five rebounds and blocking two shots. The team produced just nine turnovers, five of them by Turkoglu.”
  • Dwight Howard and Kevin Love are vying for a rebounding title this season.
  • Howard’s comments about wanting the ball in the fourth quarter, after the Orlando Magic had a come-from-behind win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, were ill-timed.
  • Howard celebrates “D12 Foundation Day.”
  • The Magic put together a collective effort in last night’s win against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
  • What should Orlando do with Howard as the trade deadline (March 15) nears? Bradford Doolitte of Basketball Prospectus looks back at history as a precursor: “By not gutting the roster when O’Neal left, the Magic delayed their rebuilding for a few years, but they eventually reached the conclusion that bottoming out was the way to go. Bad luck is the only thing that prevented the Magic from being a power in the early part of the last decade. When that happened, Orlando again went into the toilet, but was able to emerge with another elite franchise building block.”
  • A look back at the Magic’s win against the Timberwolves.
  • Who’s the best potential teammate for Howard? The answer, after John Hollinger of ESPN crunched the numbers, is Chris Paul: “I’ve long felt that a Chris Paul-Dwight Howard combo would be the league’s most unstoppable pick-and-roll tandem, and now I have some backing for my theory. Howard wouldn’t need to create offense on post isos with a point guard maestro like Paul running things, while Paul’s ability to create shots and avoid turnovers would dramatically offset Howard’s propensity for miscues. Throw in the obvious synergy of Paul’s ability to throw alley-oops and Howard’s talent to convert them, and putting these two together with the Clips would arguably provide an even more spectacular version of the current Lob City spectacle.”
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalK: “The Magic started to pull away in the second quarter as their defense tightened up and Jameer Nelson began to exploit the fact he was being covered by the even-smaller J.J. Barea. Nelson also did a good job of setting up Ryan Anderson, who had 10 points in the first half and 13 for the game. Then the Magic started the third quarter on a 10-1 run and Jason Richardson got hot (13 in the quarter, 17 for the game). Good win for Orlando on a night Dwight Howard is quiet due to foul trouble (11 points).”
  • Jason Richardson continues his strong play.
  • Zach Harper of HoopSpeak with a Valentines Day gift for Orlando.
  • Howard didn’t play particularly well against Minnesota in yesterday’s game.

Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.

Feb 14

Jason Richardson goes nova

Since being traded to the Orlando Magic on December 18, 2010, Jason Richardson has had a lot of ups and downs with the team. This season, leading up to the month of February, it had mostly been downs for Richardson, as he struggled to play well offensively for an extended period of time.

But since the start of February, and after resting for two games (against the Philadelphia 76ers on January 30 and Washington Wizards on February 1), Richardson has had his best stretch of games in the regular season so far. In seven games up to this point, Richardson has averaged 18.1 points per game on a True Shooting percentage of 62 percent. That’s despite shooting 47.4 percent from the free-throw line in that same span. Richardson’s excellent efficiency has been buoyed mostly due to his three-point shooting, which is at 52 percent for the month as of today.

It’s been written before that Richardson’s value is tied directly to his shooting. That remains true. When Richardson is shooting the ball well, he’s a net positive on the court for the Magic.

In the case of Richardson’s outing against the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday, when his shot is on (which is rare to see at this stage in his career), he can single-handedly carry an offense on his back. That’s precisely what occurred for Orlando, as Richardson poured in 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field (including 9-of-11 from three-point range).

After a quiet first half, in which he scored three points, Richardson was unconscious in the third and fourth quarters. More importantly for the Magic, though, is that Richardson’s blistering shooting performance aided in the team’s 16-0 run late in the fourth quarter and allowed them to overcome a 10-point deficit with 4:58 left to ultimately win the game.

A look at three of Richardson’s four three-pointers in the final period.

SLIDE 1, 2, 3:

This possession is puzzling for one reason. At this point in the game, Richardson had already made four three-pointers in the third quarter. Yet the Bucks defended Richardson as if they forgot any of that happened. This play is so elementary, it’s a little insulting — quite frankly — that it led to an easy three-point shot for Richardson on the left wing.

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