Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 110

Feb 27

Magic Basketball TV: Favorite basketball movie growing up (Part 1 of 2)

ORLANDO — Growing up, some of my favorite basketball movies were “White Men Can’t Jump,” “He Got Game,” “Blue Chips,” and “Hoosiers.” I have other favorites but those are the ones that come off the top of my head right away.

So I was curious. What about NBA players? What was their favorite basketball movie (or movies) growing up? I asked a ton of guys and got a variety of answers but as I kept asking, the same ones started popping up.

In the case of Dwight Howard, well, see for yourself.

Feb 27

All-Star Aftermath

All-Star Weekend in Orlando is over but that doesn’t mean the coverage is over. For the next two days, Magic Basketball TV will make its return, showcasing interviews featuring almost every Eastern and Western Conference All-Star, a few Rising Stars participants, and other NBA players.

Most of the topics on MBN TV are lighthearted in nature. All players in the league are usually asked the same mundane questions over and over, so the queries posed to them were with the intent of allowing them to show their personality a little bit.

Feb 24

Magic Basketball Weekly: Welcome to the first annual Orlando Magic Starzz Competition

All-Star weekend is upon us and Magic fans can take this weekend to celebrate the several players being recognized as examples of a franchise peaking, to honor Orlando’s several All-Stars, and reflect on how well-run this franchise is.

Alternatively, we could drink heavily, and ignore the media inquiries that will start to gnaw at what pride remains in being an Orlando fan (aside: I find the “Dwight will leave Orlando and play for a warm-weather team in a tax-free state” argument a particularly charming sort of reasoning).

Since this is such a mixed occasion for Orlando fans — the city itself and the beautiful arena are being celebrated while the franchise is in a bizarre crucible of media speculation — I took the liberty of transcribing last night’s Magic players only pseudo All-Star events. These events were not open to the media but rather staged by the Magic players, for the Magic players, so that each could take part in something resembling All-Star festivities. All-Star festivities, that is, that do not take place at 3 AM in a club.

Anyway, what follows is my recounting of the first annual Orlando Magic Starzz Competition, which pit Magic players against each other in an array of fun contests resembling the All-Star Weekend.

Just so we’re all on the same page, I’m making this up.

Skills Challenge
Magic players Jameer Nelson, Chris Duhon, and Ish Smith dribbled around a series of obstacles staged inside of Amway Center, with the winner being the fastest around the track.

The Skills challenge was one of the less exciting contests of the night, as runaway favorite Jameer Nelson had the contest on ice early on. He began with a fairly impressive display of ball control through the cones as Duhon seemed preoccupied with throwing ball after ball directly into where the media ordinarily sit. Coaches and teammates called out “Chris, dribble forward, man — that’s the point!” as he continued hurling each ball into the stands with a sheepish grin on his face.

With Smith keeping Nelson honest into the shuttle run portion of the course, Jameer seemed to have rediscovered some of his old agility, deftly hitting each spot with a series of low and agile crossovers. However, heading into the third obstacle, security tackled Ish Smith, not recognizing him from any games and refusing to believe he was an actual NBA player. This left Jameer to cross the finish line uncontested, whereupon he missed the final layup and fell down.

Dunk Contest
Magic players Dwight Howard, Earl Clark, and Jason Richardson competed in a judged competition to ascertain who could throw down the most creative and pleasing dunk.

The dunk contest was the most hotly anticipated competition of the night, as Orlando boasted two former dunk contest staples in Richardson and Howard, while Clark had been intriguing fans for years with his unique blend of size and athleticism.

The first round was both exciting and a sad disappointment, because though Howard and Clark began the competition with basic but vicious throwdowns, Richardson found himself unable to complete a single dunk, repeatedly hammering the ball into the front of the rim as fans and teammates politely looked away. Howard and Clark were given 9.8s for their performance, while Richardson was given courtesy 8s and was eliminated.

In the second round, Clark showed his potential, throwing down a sprawling Tomahawk from a foot inside the free throw line. Howard kept pace by having Anthony Carter throw an alley-oop from halfcourt which he finished with a reverse, reaching above the square on the backboard to retrieve the pass.

In the final round, Clark inexplicably refused to do anything but shoot jumpers from the elbow, despite repeated admonishment from all involved. Scores of fans implored Clark to use his athleticism as he earnestly flung shot after shot from the elbow.

Though Clark was disqualified, Dwight insisted on performing his final dunk, for which he brought in a tractor-trailer filled with 2,200 people dressed as Gatorade bottles. Howard took forty minutes jumping over each fan individually before finishing with an uninspired one-handed slam. Either legitimately awed by this feat of endurance or pimping the event for the sponsors, announcer Kenny Smith screamed as if he’d seen the messiah himself, yelling “IT’S OVER! EVERYBODY DRINK G2!”

Asked how he was inspired to come up with the dunk, Howard just said “Gatorade sponsored this, right? Gatorade!”

Three-Point Shootout
Magic players J.J. Redick and Ryan Anderson were each given stations of basketballs from behind the three point line to see who could hit the most shots.

The three point contest was easily the most competitive of the night. Both Redick and Anderson began by hitting shot after shot without interruption, and indeed appeared poised to keep doing so until Glen Davis ran onto the court and began pilfering basketballs off the racks and shooting himself. Multiple teammates yelled to Glen that he was taking shots from decent shooters, while two or three fans yelled back that Davis had championship experience.

Once a glowering Davis was coerced off the court by Stan Van Gundy, Anderson and Redick resumed shooting. Aside from one ten-shot stretch where not one single shot dropped, the two put on a beautiful display of shooting, and the score was so close it was not immediately clear who won. Inexplicably, Otis Smith descended to the court to explain that Glen Davis had won the contest.

Smith said, “Glen brings a lot of championship experience and also is friends with Dwight Howard, so I am motivated to keep him happy.”

Check us out next year for a recap of the second annual Orlando Magic Starzz Competition, featuring Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, and a few low first-round picks, with Brooklyn Nets guest announcers Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. I FEEL REALLY GOOD ABOUT THE COMING WEEKS FOR THE MAGIC, YOU GUYS.

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Feb 24

Welcome to All-Star Weekend in Orlando

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

There is no All-Star game more exciting than the NBA All-Star Game. As Bill Simmons expunges in his book, The Book of Basketball, to be at an NBA game is as close to the action as you can get in any sport without being behind a glass panel for protection.

You can hear the players talk, you can feel their sweat, and you can marvel in their size and athleticism that is so far beyond anything you have ever experienced. Put it simply, you are right there.

So for that reason it’s not hard to see why the NBA All-Star Game is better (or at least more jolting) than other sports. In baseball, the fans are far away from the players, rendering the actual game something of a boring formality. The Home Run Derby is certainly the spectacle fans want to see — more because of the close proximity and loose atmosphere than anything else. In hockey, the game is fun, but because of pads, helmets, and the speed of the game, it’s hard to pick out the great moments outside of the Skills Competition.

And no one likes the Pro Bowl in football because, well, the Pro Bowl is boring.

The awesome part about the NBA All-Star Game is the clarity in which we view these titans of athleticism. Whether during the slam dunk contest, the skills challenge or the game itself, the true star characteristics that each player possesses shines through in magnificent and mind-blowing ways.

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Feb 24

No clear end in sight for the Magic

Jim O’Connor/US Presswire

I’ve been flying a lot lately, and I don’t mind saying that I’m not the world’s greatest flyer. I’m not, you know, a total basket case about it — I think I’m able to sit in my seat and maintain what most people would say is a normal, masculine demeanor — but I’m a little more sweaty-palmed about it than I imagine most people are.

Every time the seat belt light comes one, I feel like I imagine every person forced into the Army by their fathers felt on D-Day. I start looking around the cabin and seeing how nervous other passengers look, and the answer is always NOT AT ALL. So I sit there in my seat and make the best face I can to articulate how trivial I find any turbulence while keeping my palms affixed to my thighs like a convict strapped in an electric chair.

I’ve developed some coping strategies, of course. Self-talk, you might say.

I try and look at the stewardesses first. Are they walking around the aisles as if nothing is happening even as the plane is lurchingly dropping through the sky? No sweat. I think about the captains — those dudes have epaulettes and mustaches, I tell myself, and they don’t just give those out to people who can’t keep their heads in a crisis. Usually, between gauging the stewardesses and imagining the captain in aviator glasses smoking Marlboro reds and calling the attendants “doll face” over his radio, I calm myself down.

Except on my most recent flight, when I heard an attendant tell a guy standing in the aisle “This is probably going to get pretty bad.” This represented a major breach of trust, as far as I’m concerned. Isn’t it basically their job to tell you how often they’ve seen this? What if your surgeon was all “Hold up, this is gonna be excruciating” for second?

So for the next, like, four minutes I was picturing — I hope to God everybody does this — how I was going to handle the imminent crash. I imagined that I would begin consoling those around me, saying, “It’s out of our hands. The people in the cockpit are trained professionals.” As we plunged beneath the final cloud layer, unsure whether the pilot would pull off the emergency landing, I would face the end coolly and, if we all made it, memorably.

In real life, of course, I had turned off my iPod to devote all of my cognitive energy to grinding my teeth while the woman beside me, I swear on my life, continued knitting stuffed monkeys for her children out of used sweaters. Needless to say, I learned something about myself in that moment.

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Feb 23

Recap: Atlanta Hawks 83, Orlando Magic 78

Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

The main storyline is that the Atlanta Hawks, for the ninth time in 13 tries dating back to last season, beat the Orlando Magic, despite not having Al Horford, Joe Johnson, and Jason Collins.

And the main reason that the Magic keep losing to the Hawks is because they simply can’t score.

Zaza Pachulia assumed the role of “Dwight stopper” for a second time this season, limiting Howard to 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the floor in 40 minutes. One of the ways that Pachulia was able to limit Howard to seven field-goal attempts was by doing a great job of denying entry passes to the big fella. Throughout the game, several perimeter players for Orlando had great difficulty finding the proper angle to make an entry pass. As such, time and again, the shot clock would wind down and someone from the Magic would have to take a contested jumper.

This is where having a player that can create his shot at any time would have helped Orlando. Alas, that player has yet to be acquired by general manager Otis Smith.

Another fascinating subplot (carrying over from the first game this season) is witnessing head coach Larry Drew continue to rely on a rarely used defensive strategy — crossmatching. Typically, teams in the NBA don’t crossmatch because they may not have the personnel to do so. In this case, Drew is fortunate to have a versatile defender like Josh Smith.

With the requisite athleticism and strength plus a 7-foot wingspan, you have to figure that Smith should be able to defend a guy like Turkoglu without much trouble. Indeed, that’s what happened, as Turkoglu struggled to get a shot off against Smith with any consistency.

The other side of the coin is Marvin Williams. Listed at 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, Williams isn’t that much smaller than 6-foot-10, 240-pound Ryan Anderson. The worry that Anderson is going to beat Williams with his athleticism, strength, or length isn’t there. Additionally, Anderson is not much of a shot creator. So frankly, all Williams has to do defensively is account for Anderson on the perimeter — like he did in this game — and he’s good.

With Anderson and Turkoglu combining to shoot 8-for-29 from the floor (27.5 percent), Howard getting limited touches, and no one else besides J.J. Redick making much of an impact on offense, it’s not a surprise that the Magic lost to Atlanta. Again.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Josh Smith was fairly quiet in the fourth quarter as the Hawks desperately held onto a narrow lead. But J-Smoove dominated early, with 14 of his 22 points coming in the first quarter.

X-Factor(s)

Jannero Pargo and Willie Green were the unsung heroes. Pargo was unconscious in the second quarter, scoring 12 of his 15 points. Green made some critical baskets in the fourth quarter to help fend off Orlando’s rally.

Feb 23

Preview: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks
  • Date: Feb. 23, 2012
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Philips Arena

Records

  • Magic: 22-12
  • Hawks: 19-14

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Chris Duhon
  • Jason Richardson
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Dwight Howard

Hawks:

  • Jeff Teague
  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Marvin Williams
  • Josh Smith
  • Zaza Pachulia

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.2 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.9 (13th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.2 (12th of 30)

Hawks:

  • Pace: 89.9 (21st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.2 (19th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 100.5 (8th of 30)

Read about the Hawks

Hoopinion

Feb 22

Recap: Orlando Magic 108, New Jersey Nets 91

AP Photo/Bill Kostroun

When Glen Davis is getting easy buckets in the paint, you have to step back and second-guess how good your team is and start to question how bad your opponent is. At least, that was the story in the first half.

For the first 24 minutes, the Nets looked bored and ready to move on to a new dome. It was as if Deron Williams’ stand against Jeremy Lin a few nights ago was the last stand, and now the Nets have moved on, poised to take over Brooklyn.

Want proof? With four minutes left in the first, the game was still close and Dwight went to the bench with his second foul. From there, the Nets allowed a lineup of Duhon-Wafer-Q-Clark-Davis absolutely eat them alive. I’m talking about Q-Rich posting up, swinging it to Duhon who drives to the lane, and dishes to Davis for an and-one finish. Really? That only happens when you’re playing a team that doesn’t care much, or a team who is coming off a blood bath.

At one point in the second quarter, Von Wafer grabbed a defensive rebound and took the ball coast-to-coast for an uncontested dunk. If that doesn’t tell you about how ready the Nets were coming into this one, then you’re not paying attention.

Then the second half happened, and Deron Williams happened. Williams caught fire from deep and made 12 straight for the Nets, taking a big bite out of what was once a 20-point Magic lead.

The Orlando response was crucial. When Williams got hot, the Magic did not panic and start shooting threes and struggle offensively. They buckled down, set up their half-court set, delivered Dwight the ball, and let it pay off. Dwight didn’t go nuts in the post, but it opened up the floor for guys like Redick and Duhon to get good looks from deep. In a word, they responded with Magic basketball — the Dwight system — and re-extended their lead to 18 in the third.

Good time to note that Sheldon Williams did a nice job on Dwight in this game. That’s why the second half of this game was so fun to watch if you were a Magic fan. Even though Dwight wasn’t owning, Orlando kept going to him. He got his touches, and that opened up a much more natural offense for Orlando. Thus, Orlando recovered and kept a 16-point lead headed into the fourth.

If Dwight feels like he is not a closer, than I am not sure what he wants. In the fourth quarter, he got multiple touches and gave himself room to finish a few baby hook shots that helped keep the Nets at bay. Surely it helps to have a big lead going into the final quarter, but it seems as if Dwight in the post is the best minute-eating weapon any team could have to protect a lead in the closing minutes. Magic played that card to perfection to take the win.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Dwight Howard. This was a tough one since Orlando got good production from several guys on the floor, but you can’t deny a 20 and 17 effort from the big man.

X-Factor

Glen Davis. Baby gave Orlando a huge boost in the first half on perfect shooting from the field and led all scoring in the first half. He picked his spots in the second, but I was impressed with his rebounding for a change.

Defining Moment

When Deron Williams caught fire in the beginning of the second half, Orlando responded with a few three-pointers and a Dwight slam to re-extend their lead to 16 heading into the fourth.

That Game Was … a Breath of Fresh Air

Orlando shot well from the field, got production from guys like Glen Davis and Chris Duhon, and Dwight got all the touches he needed to be effective. Basically, all cylinders were firing in this win, something akin to 2009.

Feb 22

Preview: Orlando Magic at New Jersey Nets

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at New Jersey Nets
  • Date: Feb. 22, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Prudential Center

Records

  • Magic: 21-12
  • Nets: 10-24

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Dwight Howard

Nets:

  • Deron Williams
  • MarShon Brooks
  • DeShawn Stevenson
  • Brook Lopez
  • Shelden Williams

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.2 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.3 (13th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.1 (12th of 30)

Nets:

  • Pace: 88.8 (28th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.9 (12th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 111.2 (30th of 30)

Read about the Nets

Nets Are Scorching

Feb 21

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Mar. 15: It’s the NBA trade deadline, and it either could be the worse day for Magic fans since Shaq left in 1996 or the best, depending if Howard reverses field as the saga plays out this summer. Or Magic fans might be welcoming a new player or two. Mar. 16: Call it karma or fate, whatever. But if Howard is traded to New Jersey, guess what? The Magic’s first game after the trade deadline is against…. the Nets. How cruel. It could be Howard’s first game against his former team — and at Amway Center, of all places. You couldn’t make this stuff up. Magic boo-birds surely would let him have it, a night that might require extra security at the arena. Imagine Bynum wearing a Magic jersey. Or Howard could still be with the Magic, meaning he could be playing out the string until he becomes a free agent, possibly leaving the Magic with no compensation.”
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “While the weekly and sometimes daily conversations between Howard and Williams might concern some Magic fans because of their desire to play together – possibly with the Nets – Howard insists that the two are just friends. They became confidants in 2008 while playing for Team USA in the Summer Olympics and have talked basketball, life and other issues regularly. But the two friends will be enemies Wednesday night when the Magic (21-12) face the Nets (10-24) at 7:30 p.m. It will be the first time that Howard has played in New Jersey since issuing an early-season trade request that included the Nets as one of his preferred destinations.”
  • The odds that the Los Angeles Lakers trade for Dwight Howard at the deadline are “slim and none” according to a source that spoke with Ken Berger of CBSSports.com for a story.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “It seems odd to criticize Dwight Howard after a 28 point, 16 rebound performance — which included him stealing the ball from Brandon Jennings and scoring on the one-man fast break at one point — but we can’t help ourselves. His defensive effort is inconsistent. He is so talented he puts up numbers, but it’s hard to watch him and think he is fully invested. Ryan Anderson had the go-ahead three for the Magic in what was a close game. Jennings had 22 for the Bucks.”
  • Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated with midseason grades for all 30 NBA teams. The Orlando Magic get a B+ from Robson: “Orlando has made the best of a bad situation. The pivotal moment came after a 1-5 stretch in late January, which included an 87-56 loss at Boston, a 93-67 defeat at lowly New Orleans and blowing a 27-point lead at home against the Celtics. At 12-9 and in the midst of what coach Stan Van Gundy called the worst stretch of his five-year tenure, the team could have packed it in and waited for the trading deadline to resolve Dwight Howard’s lame-duck status. Instead, the Magic have won nine of 12 to thrust themselves back into position for home-court advantage in the playoffs. It is still possible that Orlando, knowing it needs to get something in return for its superstar center, will deal Howard by March 15. But both the player and the franchise can feel good about the way they are potentially closing out his legacy in Orlando.”
  • Dwight Howard is among the favorites to win the Defensive Player of the Year award.
  • Abe Schwadron of SLAM ONLINE: “In every single Orlando win over the Bucks over the past two weeks, the Magic have overcome fourth quarter deficits, and they now sit at 21-12 on the year, with a potentially awkward matchup at New Jersey up next.”
  • Which player that has played for the Magic has the best chance of having his jersey retired by the franchise? The list may surprise you.
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider is quite fond of Ryan Anderson: “For all the flak we give Otis Smith, let’s point out one thing he absolutely did right: getting Anderson as a throw-in in the Vince Carter trade with New Jersey. After two seasons as a reserve, he’s emerging as a star this season — in fact, he’s sixth in the East in PER and pushing Dwight Howard for the Orlando team lead in that category, helping keep the Magic afloat at 21-12 despite the fact that their guards can barely get the ball across the time line. Anderson’s long ball is so deadly when paired with Howard’s interior dominance that he has the second-best plus/minus difference in the NBA, exceeded only by that of the Clippers’ Blake Griffin. Orlando is plus-9.41 points per 100 possessions with Anderson on the court but a ghastly minus-10.11 points per 100 possessions once he checks out.”

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

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