- If you haven’t noticed already, Tobias Harris now wears Dwight Howard’s old number for the Orlando Magic.
- I participated in a 5-on-5 today at ESPN.com to talk about Dwight Howard coming back to Orlando to face off against the Magic at Amway Center for the first time since being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason.
- “Magic fans would happily trade losing every game if it meant beating the Lakers.” (via Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post)
- A look back at how former Magic stars fared in their first game back in Orlando with their new teams. The list includes Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, and Tracy McGrady.
- Both the Orlando Magic and Howard got what they wanted from the blockbuster trade.
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk says the Magic will be fine without Howard: “Orlando’s plan was never to get equal value back in a deal for Howard because you never get equal value moving a superstar. It’s not possible. Try and you end up with Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries on oversized deals. Orlando GM Rob Hennigan made the smarter call — get good again by first getting young and bad. Get draft picks, be smart with them and build that way.”
- Jeff Zilgitt of USA TODAY Sports was among a throng of reporters that spoke to Howard during shootaround today. Here’s a summary of what happened: “Dwight Howard came to Orlando with talking points and stuck to them Tuesday. [...] Howard focused on what the Magic accomplished in his eight season – four consecutive 50-win seasons, two trips to the Eastern Conference finals and one trip to the NBA Finals – and avoided saying anything that would give fans further fuel for disliking Howard and the manner in which he left Orlando.”
- There’s a billboard in Orlando that is counting down the time until Howard leaves the city.
- Howard has a message for Magic fans: “I’ve said it plenty of times – I have nothing but love for the fans here. They made me into the player that I am today and I’ll always be thankful for that. I came here a boy and left a man and that’s made me a better person. So thank you to all of the fans who supported me – even throughout all of the bad times. There is a lot of people here who supported me.”
- Sekou Smith of NBA.com: “Closure. That’s what is on tap for Orlando Magic fans tonight when Dwight Howard makes his return to the building built upon his broad shoulders, the one that was supposed to house the city’s biggest and brightest star.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel with an interesting nugget: “Tonight, only one of Howard’s former teams will play for the Magic, point guard Jameer Nelson. Glen Davis is recovering from a fractured left foot, while Hedo Turkoglu is serving an NBA suspension for testing positive for an anabolic steroid. All the rest of Howard’s former Magic teammates have been waived or traded by the organization.”
- Stan Van Gundy thinks the Magic should retire Howard’s jersey (and O’Neal as well) when it’s all said and done.
- More from Howard on his time with Orlando: “We had a lot of great memories here,” Howard said. “They’ll never be taken away from me or from the people who supported us. So, I think I had eight great years here. We did a lot of great things. I saw a city go from a team where it was just like nobody in the stands to we got a new arena and we’re a packed house every night to see our team play. It was great to see that. Me and Jameer accomplished a lot here and our goal was to get people to come and support us. We did that.”
- It’s been a journey of discovery for Howard in recent weeks leading up to his rematch with the Magic.
- J.A. Adande and Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.com provide their takes on Howard’s return to Orlando.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The day is finally here. Dwight Howard makes his return to Orlando after getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason. Were the Magic right to send him to the Lakers? Should Magic fans boo or cheer him? Which team is headed for a brighter future?
Our 3-on-3 panel breaks it all down ahead of Tuesday night’s highly anticipated showdown.
1. Fact or Fiction: Trading Howard was the right move.
Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: Fact. It just wasn’t working out and everyone with a pulse knew it. It’s not going to help you in the long run to hang on to an asset who doesn’t want to be there in the first place. Good riddance.
Danny Nowell, Portland Roundball Society: Fact. In a perfect world, many things go differently, and the Magic ride a truly remarkable coaching and talent tandem to a long and fruitful period of contention. But this ain’t that world and the way things soured, moving on was best for everybody.
Noam Schiller, Magic Basketball: Fact. Assuming the alternative was Dwight leaving in free agency. With no apparent chance at keeping him by the time the deal went down, the Magic were facing rebuilding regardless. Jumpstarting the process by one year and some decent assets was the right move.
2. Boo or cheer: What should Magic fans do?
Drexler: I’m not the type of guy who boos. Clever cheer? Sure! Silent treatment? Even better. But booing is a little passe for my taste. It’s the cliche thing to do. That being said, I fully expect Magic fans to boo.
Nowell: Boo. I don’t, to be honest, have much opinion here. Eventually fans ought to cheer Dwight, but booing is within their rights and what I’ll imagine they do so soon after the departure debacle, so let ‘em fly, Orlando.
Schiller: This is a cop out, but I don’t think there’s a right answer. Does an acrimonious exit and a 12 month Dwightmare overshadow a magnificent tenure that included the franchise’s first Finals win? I don’t know. Every fan in Amway Center will have to calculate that for him or herself.
3. Magic or Lakers: Better in three years?
Drexler: Lakers. I’m going to go ahead and assume L.A. will have an easier time acquiring good players in the next three years, and because the draft class next year is so weak at the top, I’m giving the edge to the Lakers.
Nowell: Lakers. Honestly, the Magic are probably better positioned roster-wise right now. But in the history of the league, betting against the Lakers is a sucker’s bet, and with massive money coming off the books in a few years and an extremely lucrative TV deal, I doubt the Lakers fear the tax man as much as we’d assume.
Schiller: Lakers. Barring Dwight becoming the first top NBA player to unprecedentedly leave Los Angeles, and/or the Magic striking gold in the draft, I don’t see how the Magic can build anything to trump the league’s top center and a market to draw any available free agent within three years.
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “The Magic clearly should have scheduled more games against the Sixers, who have given them two of their four victories since mid-January. The Amway Center faithful surely hope that No. 5 comes on Tuesday, when that trade-demanding, coach-killing and candy-loving Dwight Howard comes to town for the first (and last?) time as a Laker. The reception he gets should be interesting.”
- After their rematch with Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, the Orlando Magic wrap up the regular season by playing 11 of their last 17 games on the road.
- Post-game quotes following the Magic’s win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
- Howard apologizes to the city of Orlando (via Sam Amick of USA Today): “In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way. If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media. I really just got caught up in wanting to please everybody else. I really love that city. That was the hardest thing to do was to leave that city because I basically grew up there. That was my whole life. Orlando was it. I did not want to leave all that behind — the city, just everything about it. The fans. But I wanted a change for my life. I just felt like there was something else out there for me.”
- Stan Van Gundy believes that Howard deserves an ovation from Magic fans when he returns to Amway Center for the first time since being traded to the Lakers during the offseason.
- The Magic outplayed the Sixers down the stretch.
- Jameer Nelson expects a playoff-type atmosphere in Dwight’s return.
- Kelly DWyer of Ball Don’t Lie gives Howard credit for finally owning up to his mistakes in how he handled his departure from Orlando.
- Ben Golliver of The Point Forward: “Howard’s apology will fall on mostly deaf ears in Central Florida. While Howard hasn’t quite reached “LeBron James returns to Cleveland after The Decision” levels of hatred, he’s sure to be treated like Public Enemy No. 1 in his return to Orlando, where the Magic are 18-46 this season and staring down the barrel of a lengthy rebuilding effort.”
- Howard’s indecisiveness last season hurt him in the court of public opinion.
One of the most encouraging parts of this season for the Orlando Magic has been the play of two young big men — namely Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic. Despite being so inexperienced, both have shown nuanced offensive games that give hope for the future. Each has their own specialty on this side of the ball that we’ll take a closer look at.
Veteran in the post
Nicholson is only a rookie, but you wouldn’t think that if you just watched him go to work in the post. His game on the block is versatile, effective, and, mostly importantly, promising.
Nicholson is averaging 0.86 points per possession in the post while shooting 46.9 percent, per Synergy. Pretty impressive for a rookie. Nicholson’s go-to move is probably his reliable hook shot. He can shoot it with either hand, spinning baseline, or towards the middle.
Here are some examples of his steady hook:
Will he roll, pop, or pass?
As only a second-year player, Vucevic has shown a versatile and savvy pick-and-roll game. He can read the floor well and use his physical gifts to execute the right play at the right time.
He can roll, and use his size to seal off weak-side defenders and utilize his soft touch to finish. He averages 1.07 points per possession, per Synergy. He can pop — he’s one of the better midrange shooters in the NBA, shooting 42 percent from 16-23 feet, per Hoopdata. Lastly, his ability to see rotations on the fly and hit the open man has improved as the season has gone on.
The first two clips are fairly self-explanatory: Vucevic scoring in different ways out of the pick-and-roll. The third clip is probably the most impressive. He gets the ball out of the pick-and-roll and is swarmed by Miami Heat defenders. He calmly sees how Tobias Harris has cut (side note: very intuitive cut by Harris), pulling Jameer Nelson’s defender away. Vucevic then hits Nelson for the open three.
As the season, and for that matter, rebuilding process as a whole go on, the offensive development of these two players is something to keep an eye on. There’s no debate that these two players will play a prominent role in the future of Orlando.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
7-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 BLK | 17 REB | 14 PTS | -1
Just another day in the office for Vucevic. You can’t help but wonder what Sixers head coach Doug Collins was thinking as he watched Vucevic post his second double-double against Philadelphia this season (out of three regular season meetings) and his 35th double-double overall. The same player that Collins benched in the playoffs last season in favor of Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes.
9-17 FG | 5-9 3P | 5 REB | 10 AST | 24 PTS | +7
Jameerkat emerged from his burrow to play an excellent ballgame. He played distributor early on, with seven of his 10 assists coming in the first quarter. But as the night wore on, Jameer became much more aggressive offensively — particularly in the pick-and-roll. And it was his baseline jumper with the shot clock winding down and the Magic up 96-91 with 32.8 seconds left that iced the game.
7-14 FG | 2-3 3P | 0 REB| 4 AST | 17 PTS | +5
Not a bad week for Afflalo. He was clutch in Orlando’s win against the New Orleans Hornets and he came up big again against the Sixers. Afflalo made back-to-back buckets in crunch time that allowed the Magic to pull away from Philadelphia, including a corner three with 59.8 seconds left that served as the dagger. Needless to say, Afflalo isn’t afraid to take a big shot.
7-16 FG | 1-4 3P | 7 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | +11
Harris had the highlight of the night when he threw a nifty behind-the-back pass to Vucevic for a dunk in the second quarter. Even though it’s admirable that Harris isn’t shy about trying to score, it’s nice to see that he’s capable of setting up his teammates every now and then. That sort of playmaking will go a long way in helping Harris become a more complete player offensively.
What a strange game for the Sixers. Thaddeus Young went bonkers, Damien Wilkins somehow hurt Orlando as a scorer, and Jrue Holiday — Philadelphia’s lone All-Star this season — looked downright terrible at times. Then you had Hawes having one of his random good games. The Sixers, as a team, were all over the map en route to another loss.
- Teams: Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic
- Date: March 10, 2013
- Time: 6:00 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Florida
- Arena: Amway Center
- Sixers: 23-38
- Magic: 17-46
- Jrue Holiday
- Evan Turner
- Charles Jenkins
- Thaddeus Young
- Spencer Hawes
- Jameer Nelson
- Arron Afflalo
- Maurice Harkless
- Tobias Harris
- Nikola Vucevic
- Pace: 90.9 (21st of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 100.9 (28th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 105.3 (12th of 30)
- Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 102.2 (25th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 109.2 (26th of 30)
Read about the Sixers
AP Photo/John Raoux
6-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 BLK | 6 REB | 12 PTS | -23
During his 25-point, 21-rebound performance against the Miami Heat on Wednesday, at times it seemed like Vucevic was that one big kid playing against a bunch of little kids at a local rec league, using his height to score and rebound at will. Against the 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert and the Pacers, a team known for their length, that size advantage went out the window quickly.
6-13 FG | 2-5 3P | 1 REB | 1 AST | 18 PTS | -20
The highlight of the night for Afflalo was his little fracas with Paul George early in the first quarter. The altercation began after Afflalo drove to the basket against Roy Hibbert and George, and drew a non-shooting foul on Hibbert. Afflalo and George got entangled under the basket after the play was over, then threw an elbow at each other, which triggered a double-technical.
3-10 FG | 2-5 3P | 3 REB| 6 AST | 10 PTS | -22
After picking apart the Heat’s defense two days ago, Nelson had a much harder time breaking down Indiana defensively. And Hibbert, an elite defender that deserves consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, was the main reason for that. He lorded over the paint and that made it tough for Nelson to wreak havoc with dribble penetration.
5-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 7 AST | 12 PTS | -7
There isn’t much to say about Udrih’s performance, given that most of his stats came in garbage time when the Pacers had already put the game to bed. If there’s anything to note, it’s that Udrih scored all of his points in the fourth quarter. He did much of his damage running pick-and-rolls and pulling up for midrange jumpers, which is what he does best.
After getting embarrassed by the Magic in a 97-86 loss on January 16, Indiana exacted a bit of revenge this time around. D.J. Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough provided a nice boost coming off the bench, helping the Pacers build a double-digit lead in the second quarter. Then George put the nail in the coffin by scoring 18 third quarter points and helping to blow the game wide open.