Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 109

Jan 20

3-on-3 roundtable: Getting to know the Lakers

Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

In the summer of 1996, Shaquille O’Neal joined the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent, leaving the Orlando Magic high and dry in the process. It’s been close to 16 years since that incident occurred so as the saying goes, time heals all wounds, right?

Well, given that there’s a legitimate possibility that Dwight Howard could be traded to the Lakers at the deadline, you can forgive Magic fans if they feel like old wounds are being opened up. Shaq was a franchise center that wanted to play in the bright lights of Los Angeles, and it’s more than obvious that Howard also wants that stage (the same applies for cities like Dallas and Brooklyn).

Will Howard actually leave the Magic?

No one knows the answer to that right now. What we do know in the immediate future is that the Lakers, playing on a back-to-back after losing to the Miami Heat on Thursday, are in town. Orlando and Los Angeles square off in their only matchup of the regular season. The Lakers, with a new head coach, a relatively new supporting cast, and a renewed Kobe Bryant (for now), have changed. As such, the Magic will be facing a different opponent than they’ve been accustomed to facing dating back to 2009.

For more on the Lake Show, Andy Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles as well as Darius Soriano and Phillip Barnett of Forum Blue & Gold drop some knowledge and share their insight.

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Fact or Fiction: The Los Angeles Lakers should be considered the favorites to win the Western Conference?

Phillip Barnett, Forum Blue & Gold: Fiction. Right now, I think the Lakers are in the mix to contend for the Western Conference title, but they’re far from the clear-cut favorites as they have been in recent years. Between Dallas defending their title and Oklahoma City on the verge of breaking through, winning the West will be a challenge for the Lakers.

Andy Kamenetzky, ESPN Los Angeles: Fiction. Unless you’re a Laker fan who puts the “home” in “homer.” The West’s best is clearly OKC, and a bunch of other squads are jockeying for the other spot in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers can be that team, and I haven’t bought into the demise many have predicted, but their margin for error is undoubtedly small.

Darius Soriano, Forum Blue & Gold: Fiction. The Lakers have holes at PG and (somewhat) at SF while having an unreliable bench. A team with that many question marks surrenders its status as “favorites” to win the West (or a championship) to a more complete team like the Thunder.

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Jan 19

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Stan Van Gundy plopped down into his chair for his postgame press conference and groaned. This loss hurt. If just one or two little things had gone differently, the Orlando Magic could have beaten the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. Instead, the Magic lost 85-83 in overtime. Van Gundy blames himself for not making key adjustments quickly enough. Von Wafer missed a foul shot that would have tied the game late in the extra period. And although J.J. Redick swished a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the end of overtime, he released the ball just a fraction of a second after the final buzzer. [...] The defeat ended the Magic’s five-game winning streak, and it also ended a grueling stretch in which the team played three games in three days. Playing without injured starters Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic used 10 players. But Nelson still wound up playing just over 38 minutes, and Van Gundy said afterward that was too much. But the Spurs (10-5) were playing their 10th game in 15 days, and they also were without injured guard Manu Ginobili. They also had not won on the road in five tries this season.
  • J.J. Redick’s running diary of the Orlando Magic’s one and only back-to-back-to-back of the regular season. It’s a must-read, especially since it contains this tidbit from Redick from last night’s gut-wrenching loss to the San Antonio Spurs: “We were down in the final seconds when Stan drew up a high pick-and-roll play for Jameer Nelson, and he found Ryan for a pretty good look from 3-point range. The shot was off, but Dwight got the rebound – as he did most of the night. It was about 3.4, 3.5 seconds when Dwight turned and threw the ball at me. I shot-faked and it was 1.8. If I shot the ball right away, the defender was so high I wouldn’t have gotten off a good shot so I really had two options. One was to jump into him, which looking back, it was kind of at an angle so I would have had to lean in. Two-tenths of a second was basically what I needed. I could have rushed that escape dribble a little more. If I could do it again, that would probably be it.”
  • After getting called for a foul trying to stop Richard Jefferson from connecting on an alley-oop play, Glen Davis pulled down his shorts and earned a technical foul.
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie on Penny Hardaway’s recent interview with SLAM Magazine: “As a high schooler, writing online back during Penny’s time in Orlando, I made plenty of Hardaway jokes while suggesting (not unkindly) that Darrell Armstrong take over as Magic point guard — moving Hardaway over to the less-strenuous off-guard position in the starting lineup. And because he didn’t tear up his knee in a publicized, Bernard King-sort of way, I’m definitely amongst the “we” when I tell you that we didn’t give Penny the respect his injuries deserved. And to understand, years later, that he was one of the first that had to undergo microfracture surgery in order to sustain his career? We all should have been bonding with Penny at the time, so to speak.”
  • Is Ryan Anderson in the same stratosphere as Dwight Howard when comparing their numbers? Well, let’s just say that the question isn’t as ridiculous as it might seem.
  • Danny Nowell made an appearance on ESPN.com’s Daily Dime, where he provided his take on the Magic’s loss against the Spurs: “As the Magic stood poised to vault the Spurs on Superman’s shoulders, two thrilling, if disappointing, plays proved the difference. With 16 seconds left in overtime, surprise standout Von Wafer hit a driving layup while being fouled to give the Magic a chance to tie, only to miss the free throw. It seemed as if he might get off the hook when Howard gathered a Ryan Anderson miss and kicked it to the perimeter with time expiring, but J.J. Redick’s swish was half a second too late. It was that sort of night for the Magic — a gutty fight to the final seconds, but a fraction too little a second too late.”
  • Another look back at Orlando’s loss against San Antonio in yesterday’s game.
  • Despite a monster game from Howard, the Magic couldn’t eek out a win against the Spurs.
  • Sebastian Pruiti of Grantland breaks down a key play from last night’s game between Orlando and San Antonio.
  • Howard had the line of the week in the NBA with his 45-point, 23-rebound performance against the Golden State Warriors.
  • A look at the possibility of Howard teaming up with Deron Williams in Dallas.
  • Quentin Richardson can be a good defender even when he’s not playing. Confused?
  • Also, make sure to check out Nowell’s insightful take on Carmelo Anthony at HoopSpeak.

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

Jan 19

An aerial view of the Eastern Conference

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Every so often, the writers of Magic Basketball tackle the world’s most important issues. In this case, we make a grand sweep of the Eastern Conference in the NBA and examine the early storylines being talked about by the mainstream media and blogosphere.

Are the Philadelphia 76ers for real? Have the Boston Celtics reached the end of the road? After their thrilling five-game series in the 2011 NBA Eastern Conference Finals last season, will the Chicago Bulls be pitted in a grudge match with the Miami Heat in this season’s Conference Finals?

And where do the Orlando Magic stand in all of this?
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Nate Drexler: No one in the East can beat the Heat or the Bulls. For real. No one. They will finish 1-2 no matter what.

Matt Scribbins: Let’s hold off on naming you Nateradamus. You’re a great writer, but I’m not in love with this prediction. I’m telling you this right now — the Bulls and Heat will not face each other in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Drexler: Alright, alright. That’s a nice safe position you’re sitting in. It’s sort of like the “technically, anything could happen” position that my buddy takes no matter what the score and clock say in any game. I get it. So let me ask you a hard question. If the Heat and Bulls aren’t playing each other in the Eastern Conference Finals, then which one of those teams will choke in the early rounds? And who’s going to beat them?

Scribbins: The favorite to beat the Heat has a rotation six deep — two ankle braces, two compression sleeves, and two knee braces. Seriously, it looks like Dwyane Wade wears sweatpants on the floor. And somehow he just collected a new injury while wearing more pads than an NFL offensive lineman! For the Bulls, I think Rose’s turf toe could make it nearly impossible for the reigning MVP to play at an elite level through a grueling regular season and playoff schedule. After the injuries take their toll, the 76ers, Magic, or Celtics will deliver the final nail in the coffin to one of these teams.

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Jan 18

Recap: San Antonio Spurs 85, Orlando Magic 83 (OT)

AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

The San Antonio Spurs were able to defeat the Orlando Magic in overtime by the score of 85-83. For the Spurs, it was their first road win of the regular season. For the Magic, it was their one and only back-to-back-to-back of the season and they were unable to sweep all three games. The Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder remain the only teams in the NBA to accomplish the feat. With Orlando playing on a third night in a row and San Antonio playing on a back-to-back themselves, the quality of play was not very high, as both teams struggled at times to really get things going offensively. But in the end, the Spurs were able to escape with a victory after J.J. Redick’s game-winning three came after the buzzer, as he took an extra dribble to escape a defender trying to contest him at the three-point line after receiving the basketball. Ryan Anderson’s initial three-point attempt on the right wing clanked off the rim, but Dwight Howard got the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Redick. Unfortunately for Redick, his decision not to catch-and-shoot with the ball proved costly, as the clock ran out on him. San Antonio was led by Tony Parker, as he finished with a game-high 25 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds. Tim Duncan chipped in with 17 points and 10 rebounds. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as four players scored in double-figures. Howard put up 24 points, 25 rebounds, and three blocks. Ryan Anderson finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Von Wafer had 15 points coming off the bench, while Redick had 13 points. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Orlando.

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Jan 18

Reaction: San Antonio Spurs 85, Orlando Magic 83 (OT)

AP Photo/John Raoux


San Antonio Spurs 85 Final
Recap | Box Score
83 Orlando Magic

Dwight Howard
9-15 FG | 6-10 FT | 3 BLK | 25 REB | 24 PTS | +8

Matched up primarily against Tim Duncan, Howard had a field day on offense. That goes to show that, at 35 years old and playing on a back-to-back to boot, Duncan is far removed from the days in which he could contain the big fella. Howard generated most of his points offensively in 4-out/1-in offensive sets and also from offensive rebounds. It was a dominant performance.

Ryan Anderson
3-13 FG | 1-6 3P | 1 AST | 11 REB | 17 PTS | 0

Anderson just couldn’t get anything going on the perimeter, shooting 1-of-6 from three-point range. Tired legs maybe? Nevertheless, he was able to compensate by attacking the rim and drawing fouls. That’s why, despite shooting 3-of-13 from the field, he was still able to score 17 points. Those are the types of things that are encouraging to see when someone is struggling with their shot.

Von Wafer
6-11 FG | 3-5 3P | 1 AST | 1 REB | 15 PTS | 0

For a second straight game, Wafer was a spark plug coming off the bench for the Magic. In the first half, he was the only perimeter player for Orlando that could do anything on offense, scoring 11 points efficiently. After slowing down in the second half, his layup in crunch time in overtime was a positive but his missed chance at a three-point play was a negative.

J.J. Redick
4-11 FG | 5-6 FT | 1 AST | 3 REB | 13 PTS | +3

Redick didn’t really have much going for himself until late in the fourth quarter and early in overtime when he scored eight points rather quickly. With Turkoglu out and Jameer Nelson struggling mightily, the Magic leaned on Redick to be the go-to scorer on the perimeter. And had he not taken an extra dribble with time expiring in overtime, he would have done the job with a game-winning three-pointer.

San Antonio Spurs

Like Orlando, the San Antonio Spurs entered the game tired (playing on a back-to-back) and hobbled (missing Manu Ginobili to injury). And like the Magic, the Spurs struggled to play with any effectiveness for long stretches in the game. Fortunately for head coach Gregg Popovich, he was able to rely primarily on Tony Parker and Duncan to lead the team to victory.

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

Jan 18

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “While back-to-backs and back-to-back-to-backs are brutal, the compressed schedule did diminish an often-despised exercise of NBA life: the morning shootaround. Players got something to celebrate from the lockout after all. So many games in so few days have forced teams to reduce workloads, saving the sleepy-eyed (or, ahem, blood-shot eyed) from having to report for 10 a.m. workouts on some game-days. Piling into buses and heading into cold arenas on the road just to hear Stan Van Gundy yell is not the way to start your day, apparently.The Magic will not hold shootarounds during this three-game stretch, and it’s a wonder Van Gundy isn’t convulsing. Van Gundy is a big believer in practice, unlike Allen Iverson, although the short sessions that primarily focus on the night’s opponent sometimes have turned into lengthy, full-blown practices for the Magic. This produces grumbling by players seeking more Zs, not Xs and Os.”
  • Von Wafer and Glen Davis were the unsung heroes in the Orlando Magic’s win against the Charlotte Bobcats last night.
  • Hedo Turkoglu won’t play against the San Antonio Spurs in tonight’s game (back spasms).
  • The Magic go for a rare back-to-back-to-back sweep.
  • Dwight Howard and Davis are skillful at resuscitating each other.
  • Turkoglu is one of the reasons why Orlando is off to a 10-3 start.
  • How could Howard land with the Los Angeles Clippers? Here’s how.
  • Andrew Bynum compliments Howard.
  • Zach Harper of HoopSpeak: “Again, as long as Dwight Howard is in an Orlando uniform, this is one of the best teams in the entire NBA. The defense hasn’t been great this season (just 19th in the league) but the offense is nearly as good as we remember it from the Finals run days. Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick have been as good as you can hope from them. Anderson is not only filling the void Rashard Lewis left when he stopped being good, but he’s better in the stretch-4 role than Lewis ever was.”
  • A recap of the Magic’s win against the Bobcats yesterday.
  • More on Bynum praising Howard.
  • Howard as a Harlem Globetrotter? You don’t say.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “Charlotte hung in this one — they were up three at the break and it was tied heading into the fourth — as the Bobcats didn’t double Dwight Howard and stuck with guys on the perimeter, and Orlando could only knock down 31.8 percent of its threes (Howard’s foul trouble didn’t help). Orlando needs those threes. It eventually got them. While Dwight Howard led the way with 25 points on the night it was Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Von Wafer — yes, Von Wafer — who each had 8 points in the fourth quarter to help the Magic pull away.”
  • Rob Mahoney of the New York Times’ Off the Dribble blog praises Ryan Anderson’s efficiency: “Anderson’s per-minute stats had previously hinted that he was capable of a scoring explosion if given the appropriate playing time, but his performance this season has exceeded even those projections. Anderson ranks 10th in the league in per-minute scoring, ahead of Rose, Wade, Blake Griffin, Dirk Nowitzki, and oodles of other prolific scorers. Yet Anderson is only able to score those points with the help of his teammates; 80 percent of Anderson’s made field goals this season were set up with an assist, a shockingly high mark for such a consistently effective scorer. Anderson needs to have his shots created for him, but even with that precondition, his accuracy and ability to find open space have made him tops among Magic players in per-minute scoring this season.”
  • Andrew Lynch of Hardwood Paroxysm: “It’s been over a decade now, but the meetings between these two teams will always remind me of how close Tim Duncan was to signing with the Magic and completely changing the landscape of NBA history.”

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

Jan 18

Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic

7:00 ET | Sun Sports
9-5 @ 10-3
Pythagorean Record: 9-5 Pythagorean Record: 9-4
Pace: 91.7 (16th) Pace: 90.3 (23rd)
Offensive Rating: 108.9 (T-1st) Offensive Rating: 108.9 (T-1st)
Defensive Rating: 104.9 (21st) Defensive Rating: 102.9 (15th)
Amway Center | First meeting this season

Jan 18

Keeping Dwight Howard around

AP Photo/John Raoux

Well, here we are. The Magic are winning, and there is no end in sight to the Dwight Howard saga. In some ways, this was the least likely scenario, as it sure seemed as if Orlando’s roster and Dwight’s disposition would make this season like getting a root canal. Such was my prediction, anyway. And yet, the Magic have continued — in some ways, rediscovered — their proficiency as a regular season team, and that is going to raise the question.

Should they keep Dwight no matter what this season?

Let me say, first off, that I’m not wondering whether Dwight Howard should choose to stay. I’m wondering whether it makes any kind of decent sense to hold on to Dwight and use the team’s current success as their best argument for keeping him. I know it’s the route a lot of fans would like to see the team go, but so far, the Magic as constructed with Dwight Howard on the team do not seem to have a compelling enough argument to risk trying this approach.

Going forward, the team’s approach with Dwight is all about risk management. Any of the popular choices — trading Howard for young players and picks, trading Howard for Andrew Bynum, holding on to him through the season — carry some risk and some reward. And of those three options, I think holding onto Howard is still the highest risk/lowest reward proposition.

With a trade for young players, the risk of a terrible team, which is high, is mitigated by the almost certain reward of stocking Orlando’s talent pool with players who will learn the game from Stan Van Gundy. With a player like Bynum, the medium risk of a bad team is offset by the reward of having gotten something back for your franchise-sized void while having the Lakers absorb a bad contract (Turkoglu). In the final scenario, the unknowable risk of Dwight’s leaving is offset, or not, by the potential reward of the team staying at its present level. Of course, the team’s present level, while enjoyable to watch on a nightly basis, is hardly worth risking having nothing to show for Howard’s departure.

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Jan 18

Stan Van Gundy: Lucky, brilliant, or both?

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

With injuries to both stars and role players plaguing the league, I wonder if Orlando is lucky to be close to full strength 13 games into the season. I mean everyone has injuries, right? So what gives? Is Orlando lucky, or are they well coached?

Stan Van Gundy, though working with a less-than-lethal roster, is doing some clever coaching this season. We know all about Van Gundy’s defensive schemes, his offensive genius, and his ability to inspire — but another layer of the Van Gundy onion is seen in his ability to manage minutes on this sub-standard roster.

In this season, more than others in recent history, minute distribution is of the utmost importance, because unless you are named Dwight Howard (or Superman or Captain America), you’ll be hard pressed to log 37-40 minutes per game in this bang-bang season and not pull a hammy (or get trench toe).

So it’s not so surprising that an astute veteran like SVG would make adjustments for the shortened season. In fact, the lowering of minutes is not uncommon league-wide. But what SVG is getting, and perhaps better than other coaches in the league thus far, is productivity and efficiency from unpredictable guys in the context of minute shaving.

Look at Ryan Anderson as a great example. Anderson’s minutes are up from his previous year (he’s close to 30 minutes per game as opposed to 22 or 23) as a starter. Guess what else went up for Anderson? His points, rebounds, and virtually every other stat.

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Jan 17

Recap: Orlando Magic 96, Charlotte Bobcats 89

AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats by the score of 96-89, extending their winning streak to a season-high five games. Despite playing one of their worst games of the regular season, the Magic were able to get their act together in the late stages of the fourth quarter, pulling away from the Bobcats after being tied at 67 apiece entering the period. Orlando played with little energy and effort in the first three quarters, which made for some unsightly basketball at times but with Charlotte being a bad team, it didn’t matter. The Magic made enough plays in the final period and got the win. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard put up a game-high 25 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, and four blocks. Jameer Nelson finished with 17 points and four assists. Hedo Turkoglu chipped in with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals. Ryan Anderson had 13 points and three steals. Von Wafer came off the bench and gave the Magic a lift, finishing with 13 points. Let’s get right to business because, to be honest, describing the first 42 minutes of the game would be insulting. After sleepwalking for most of the night, Orlando put together a five minute stretch (from the 5:37 mark in the fourth quarter up until there were 42 seconds left in regulation) that won them the ballgame.

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