Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 11

Aug 09

Jameer Week recap

August 4

August 5

August 6

August 7

August 8

Aug 08

Dallas: The next chapter

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Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

With Jameer Nelson having finalized a two-year, $6 million deal with the Mavericks last month, he joins just his second different team of his 10-season tenure in the NBA.

As has been covered comprehensively during “Jameer Week” here at Magic Basketball, Nelson has been a model for consistency (sans his 2008-09 season) and loyalty throughout his career. But he’s not done just yet.

Nelson may be 32 years of age, but he is still a valuable NBA player. In a league littered with fantastic point guards, the fact that Nelson has maintained a starting role into the beginning of his 30s says that he isn’t just hanging around the league to collect a few more paychecks.

Last season — while his 13.9 PER was slightly below the league average — Nelson did maintain solid offensive production. He generated an above-league-average 0.78 points per possession as the ballhandler in pick-and-rolls, per Synergy Sports. That number could possibly improve with him now playing alongside far superior pick-and-roll big men in Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler, as well as Chandler Parsons, who is expected to play some small ball power forward for the Mavs.

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Aug 07

2009: The year of Jameer Nelson

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Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Looking back at Jameer Nelson’s 10-year tenure in Orlando, the 2008-09 season will forever remain his finest year in a Magic uniform. For 42 magical games, Nelson was a pick-and-roll assassin that shot the ball with deadly efficiency.

Nelson’s brief transformation in becoming a basketball savant actually began in the playoffs the prior season. After alternating between being a starter and a backup during the 2007-08 regular season, Nelson had a breakout of sorts in the 2008 playoffs.

In the first round against the Toronto Raptors, many prognosticators expected the point guard tandem of T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon to outplay Nelson. Who could blame them? During the regular season, the collective production of Ford and Calderon dwarfed Nelson’s output. Instead, it was Nelson that badly outplayed T. Jose Caldeford, as the Magic won the series in five games.

Nelson followed up his standout performance against the Raptors by holding his own against an at-his-peak Chauncey Billups and the once-dreaded Pistons in the semifinals (albeit for two games, as Billups missed the rest of the series with a strained right hamstring).

Even though the Magic lost to the Pistons in five games, the biggest takeaway from Nelson’s exploits in the postseason was that he showed confidence in Van Gundy’s pick-and-roll-heavy attack. The indecisiveness he displayed during the regular season, in which he was unsure of his role offensively (it got so bad that Van Gundy benched Nelson for Carlos Arroyo at one point), was minimized. And he became much more aggressive on offense by actively looking for his own shot rather than strictly be a pass-first point guard, which allowed him to be more of a playmaker since teams had to respect his scoring ability.

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Aug 06

The measuring stick of NBA starting point guards

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Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Despite my disdain for the first-person POV that dominates NBA writing these days, it’s the only way for me to talk about Jameer Nelson with any sort of individuation. “I” must recount specific memories or encounters “I” had. These would be lost under a third-person objective, or the editorial “we” encompassing other Magic Basketball writers, both of which are a lot more comfortable narrative modes of expression.

It should be noted I was tempted to sing a paean to Nelson in the second-person, but I’ll just stick with my own thoughts to avoid any mockery or judgements in the comments when my tone is exposed as off-key.

Speaking of judgements and mockery, it’s hard for some basketball fan to remember the players that we see on an NBA court have already been whittled down to the very finest, not just in the United States, but the world at large. That’s what makes Jameer Nelson such a fascinating case. He is, for me, the mean for starting point guards in the NBA, which isn’t a bad thing.

While average can often be a pejorative term, in Nelson’s case it always seemed like a good way to understand what actually sets him apart. The 6-foot 193-pound native of Chester, Pennsylvania stayed in school not just for his sophomore season, but his junior and senior seasons as well — this despite being named a unanimous National Freshman of the Year.

And who can forget his undefeated senior season with Delonte West as his running mate in that incredible St. Joe’s backcourt? They combined to go undefeated during the regular season, then dragged St. Joes to the Elite Eight. Both of them went on to productive careers in the NBA (I’ll avoid the quirks in the West narrative for this piece).

If you look at Nelson’s 15.5 career PER, it’s nuzzled up right above the overall average for the league (15.0). Now look at the trajectory of his player efficiency rating — reaching its apogee during the 2008-09 season, his fifth in the league, with a 20.6 PER that later proved to be an outlier in his career — and you’ll notice he’s a good barometer for other players, too.

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Aug 05

Jameer Nelson, the Magic’s unsung hero

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Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

In January of 2012, I flew to Orlando to cover a couple Magic games. This was my first chance to get inside an NBA locker room and momentarily morph from an analytical blogger to a journalist. It was jarring, to say the least, but a couple of memories will stick with me forever.

Among those is my interaction with Jameer Nelson about two hours before a game, getting shots up, quietly walking to and from the locker room, and going through his routine. This probably wouldn’t have turned the heads of a regular Magic beat writer, but to me it spoke volumes. I, of course, made the mistake of approaching Nelson when he was in the locker room with a plate of food off the buffet.

“I don’t do interviews before games, man,” he said.

It was nice to get that first greenhorn moment out of the way. He carried on, comfortably biding his time as tipoff approached. He said very little to anyone as I remember, but carried with him a respect that could only be garnered by those who played with him, watched him on a nightly basis, and were of the few people in the world that knew how vital he was to the Magic’s roster.

Nelson’s career has been overshadowed by several things, not the least of which was the Dwight Howard era. Throw in a lack of rings, a handful of awful contracts playing around him, the firing of Stan Van Gundy, and it became pretty easy to overlook Nelson.

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Aug 04

The end of an era

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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

From 2007 to 2012, the Orlando Magic were a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference. Over those five seasons, they won 65.7 percent of their regular season games, represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals once, raised three Southeast Division banners, and posted a playoff record of 31-28 (.525 winning percentage) — all of which was the culmination of Stan Van Gundy’s revolutionizing 3-heavy attack.

Before Van Gundy’s arrival, the Magic were stuck in mediocrity, but the pieces were in place to build something special and that is exactly what he did. Their offense and defense was centered around Dwight Howard, and the front office played to his strengths and weaknesses by surrounding him with players who could space the floor. Van Gundy then utilized those pieces in the best way possible, making Rashard Lewis a stretch four — one of the first the NBA had ever seen — and giving Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu free reigns as playmakers, which helped them develop into the most potent pick-and-roll team in the Association.

Sadly, all good things eventually come to an end and the honeymoon period came to a close quickly for the Magic. First, a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals the season following their triumphant run to the Finals, and then back-to-back first round exits in the seasons after. As a result, the franchise parted ways with Stan Van Gundy and his 3-point happy system in the summer of 2012 when their disgruntled star wanted a change, and soon after the dominos started to fall.

Rashard Lewis had already parted ways with the team at that point — they replaced him with another stretch four in Ryan Anderson — but in the months leading up to Van Gundy’s dismissal, rumors swirled around about teammates butting heads in the locker room. It didn’t take long for the rest of the roster to shake out.

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Jul 31

Reviewing the Magic’s free agent signings

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The Magic have presumably wrapped up their offseason acquisitions. There may be further preseason tinkering, but for the most part, we know who to expect on the roster next season. What’s left, then? To judge. And judge we shall.

If we strictly look at the free agency portion of the team’s activity, we see three signed players, all remarkably around the same age: Channing Frye (31), Ben Gordon (31), and Luke Ridnour (33). That’s not including Willie Green (33), who was claimed off waivers.

Frye warrants his own category, because he doesn’t follow the same pattern as the other three players that declined sharply last season from previous seasons.

In an article I wrote in April, I offered a grading tool to assess the Magic’s free agency. I said that we could look for the team to make a value free agent signing of a “relatively young player who is used to winning games.” This would not include another Jason Maxiell- or Ronnie Price-type signing. Green, Gordon, and Ridnour might fall perfectly into the Maxiell tier, but of course, none of them were the Magic’s most important free agent signing. That title would belong to Frye.

At 31, I’m not going to say that his age fits into the relatively young category. But you don’t have to reach for ways he fulfills the rest of the test. He’s used to winning games, particularly on a young team such as Orlando’s. Phoenix was the most surprisingly successful team last season, and Frye was a key contributor to that.

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Jul 25

Magic sign free agent Luke Ridnour

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have signed free agent guard Luke Ridnour, general manager Rob Hennigan announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal are not disclosed.

“We’re extremely excited to welcome Luke (Ridnour) and his family to Orlando,” said Hennigan. “Luke is a proven player in this league who is well-respected as a teammate and competitor. The depth and veteran experience he will provide to our backcourt will help our team continue to grow.”

Ridnour (6’2”, 175, 2/13/81) played in 61 total regular season games (14 starts) last season with both Milwaukee and Charlotte, averaging 5.0 ppg., 2.9 apg. and 1.6 rpg. in 18.7 mpg. He appeared in 36 games (12 starts) with Milwaukee, averaging 5.7 ppg., 3.4 apg. and 1.7 rpg. in 21.2 mpg. Ridnour was traded to Charlotte, along with Gary Neal, in exchange for Jeff Adrien and Ramon Sessions on Feb. 20. With Charlotte, he played in 25 games (two starts), averaging 4.0 ppg., 2.2 apg. and 1.4 rpg in 15.1 mpg. Ridnour led (or tied) the Bucks in scoring twice and in assists 12 times. He led (or tied) the Bobcats (now Hornets) in assists once. Ridnour scored in double figures a total of ten times, including a season-high 16 points on Jan. 11 at Oklahoma City. He also appeared in four playoff outings, averaging 2.5 ppg., 3.0 apg. and 1.0 rpg. in 9.0 mpg.

Originally selected by Seattle in the first round (14th overall) of the 2003 NBA Draft, Ridnour has appeared in 783 career NBA regular season games (493 starts) during his 11-year career with Seattle, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Charlotte, averaging 9.6 ppg., 4.6 apg., 2.3 rpg. and 1.01 spg. in 26.7 mpg., while shooting .862 (1,272-1,475) from the free throw line. He also played in 22 career playoff games (11 starts), averaging 7.9 ppg., 3.3 apg. and 2.4 rpg. in 24.3 mpg. Ridnour ranks eighth among active players and 28th in NBA history in career free throw percentage. He finished seventh in the NBA in total assists (550) in 2005-06.

Jul 24

Magic sign Devyn Marble

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Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have signed rookie guard Devyn Marble, general manager Rob Hennigan announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal are not disclosed. The draft rights to Marble (56th overall pick), along with Evan Fournier, were acquired from Denver in exchange for Arron Afflalo on June 26.

Marble (#11, 6’6”, 200, 9/21/92) played in 136 career games during four years at the University of Iowa, averaging 12.5 ppg., 3.4 rpg., 2.9 apg. and 1.29 spg. in 27.6 mpg. He ranks second on the school’s all-time games played list with 136. Marble also ranks in Hawkeyes’ history in scoring (fifth, 1,694 points), assists (sixth, 397) and steals (seventh, 176).

As a senior (2013-14), Marble played and started in 33 games, averaging 17.0 ppg., 3.6 apg., 3.2 rpg. and 1.82 spg. in 30.2 mpg. He was named First Team All-Big Ten after leading the team in scoring and ranked second in assists. Marble scored in double figures 27 times.

During his junior campaign (2012-13), Marble played and started in 37 games, averaging 15.0 ppg., 4.0 rpg., 3.0 apg. and 1.14 spg. in 30.5 mpg. He led the Hawkeyes in scoring and assists, and was named Third Team All-Big Ten.

Marble is the son of Roy Marble, a former NBA player and the all-time leading scorer in Iowa history.

Jul 22

Harris, Oladipo chosen to USA Men’s Select Team

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Orlando Magic

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

Orlando Magic players Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo were selected as two of the 13 players for the 2014 USA Men’s Select Team that will train July 28-31 with the 2014 USA Basketball Men’s National Team during its training camp in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA Basketball announced today. The squad features eight players owning USA Basketball experience, including four members of the 2013-14 NBA All-Rookie first team.

Joining Harris and Oladipo on the 2014 USA Basketball Select squad are: Harrison Barnes (Golden State Warriors); Trey Burke (Utah Jazz); Jimmy Butler (Chicago Bulls); Draymond Green (Golden State Warriors), Tim Hardaway Jr. (New York Knicks); Doug McDermott (Chicago Bulls); Mason Plumlee (Brooklyn Nets); Miles Plumlee (Phoenix Suns); Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics); Dion Waiters (Cleveland Cavaliers); and Cody Zeller (Charlotte Hornets).

“USA Basketball’s Select Teams are critical for getting some of the game’s brightest and most promising young players experience at the USA National Team level, and getting them into our pipeline,” said Jerry Colangelo, USA Basketball National Team managing director. “Again this summer, as was done in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012, the members of the USA Select Team will play an important role in helping prepare the USA National Team for the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

“Being chosen for the Select Team is an honor and an important step in becoming involved in USA Basketball’s National Team program in the future. In the past, current national team players like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, as well as many other outstanding players got their USA National Team start through the Select Team.”

Members of the USA Select Team will assemble in Las Vegas and train with the USA National Team July 28-31 (12:00-3:00 p.m. PDT). All practices will take place at UNLV’s Mendenhall Center.

The USA National Team opens its 2014 training with the Las Vegas training that concludes with the Aug. 1 (6:00 p.m. local time) 2014 USA Basketball Showcase that features a Blue-White intrasquad game at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center. Tickets for the 2014 USA Basketball Showcase start at $10, and can be purchased by calling 702-739-FANS or online at www.UNLVtickets.com.

The 2014 Select Team features five players who completed their rookie NBA season in 2013-14, three who wrapped up their second NBA season, two three-year NBA players and two players who will make their NBA debut in 2014-14.

Harris played in 61 games (36 starts) last season with the Magic, averaging a career-high 14.6 ppg., a career-best 7.0 rpg. and 1.3 apg. in 30.3 mpg., while shooting .807 (197-244) from the free throw line. He led (or tied) the Magic in scoring 13 times and in rebounding 16 times.

Oladipo was named to the 2013-14 NBA All-Rookie First Team. He appeared in 80 games (44 starts) with the Magic, averaging 13.8 ppg., 4.1 rpg., 4.1 apg. and a team-high 1.61 spg. in 31.1 mpg. He was tied for 15th in the NBA in steals. Oladipo was named the NBA’s Rookie of the Month for both December 2013 and February 2014, and became just the second rookie in Orlando history with 1,000+ points, 300+ assists and 100+ steals in a season (Hardaway).

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