Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 110

Jan 17

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Hey, Magic fans, you might want to show up at the Amway Center tonight just to say a potential goodbye to the Big Fella. Chances are he’s not going to be around much longer. When they announce his name, give him a standing ovation. Show him how much he is appreciated for what he has done. Thank him for loading a small-market team and a devoted town onto his broad shoulders and uplifting them and making them feel good about themselves and showing them that love and loyalty really do mean something in today’s self-indulgent sports world. I wish I were talking about Dwight Howard, but I’m not. I’m talking about Tim Duncan, who will be in town tonight with his San Antonio Spurs — a non-glitzy, unglamorous team he elevated into a champion. He is what Magic fans always hoped Dwight would be — the rock-solid foundation of a franchise and the enduring cornerstone of a community. That’s apparently not going to happen now. You know the story. Dwight told the Magic long ago he wants outta here. Wants a bigger market, a more glamorous lifestyle. Wants to make movies and records and reality TV shows.”
  • General manager Otis Smith has not been informed by Dwight Howard about his interest in the Los Angeles Clippers.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Dwight Howard trade-me saga is playing out exactly as expected. Another day, another report. This time, it’s Chris Sheridan, a former ESPN NBA writer who reported on his website that that Howard is adding the L.A. Clippers to his list of teams he’d agree to join, along with the Nets, Mavs and Lakers. Hours later, ESPN.com came back with a rebuttal, saying that there have been no “serious” discussions between the Magic and Clips. And so it goes.”
  • Will a player for the Orlando Magic compete in the Three-Point Shootout on NBA All-Star Weekend?
  • A look at Ryan Anderson’s career-high 30-point performance against the New York Knicks.
  • Teams should probably stop leaving Ryan Anderson open behind the three-point line.
  • Orlando is enjoying a relatively clean bill of health in the early stages of the regular season.
  • Howard has added the Clippers to his wish list.
  • The Magic used a zone to beat the Knicks in yesterday’s game.
  • With the trade rumors swirling, Howard is keeping his cool — for now.
  • Another recap of Orlando’s win against New York.
  • Royce Young of CBSSports.com: “Orlando might’ve picked up its best win of the season Monday in New York and the Magic did it behind Ryan Anderson’s scoring barrage. Anderson has emerged as a legit option for the Magic and with Dwight Howard inside, Anderson, a finesse power forward, can afford to play on the perimeter. It’s really a pretty perfect pairing, much in the way Rashard Lewis worked well playing alongside Howard. Anderson went for 30 against the Knicks and did it with seven 3-pointers.”
  • The Magic are handling the uncertainty surrounding Howard’s future about as good as they can.
  • Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated: “Neil Paine had an excellent post at Basketball Prospectus on Friday comparing stretch power forward Ryan Anderson’s season to those of the great outside shooter Peja Stojakovic in his prime. Even before he erupted for a career-high 30 points and went 7-of-13 from three-point range in Monday’s victory at New York, Anderson was improving the Magic offense by more than 17 points per 100 possessions when he was on the court compared to when he sat, according to Basketball Value. He is also spearheading the NBA’s most efficient offense and prolific long-range game, with Hedo Turkoglu likewise shooting better than 44 percent and J.J. Redick hitting 38.6 percent from beyond the arc.”
  • Is Howard putting forth a full effort defensively? John Hollinger of ESPN Insider isn’t so sure: “Orlando has historically been a top-five defensive team with just OK offensive output, but not this year: The Magic lead the NBA in offensive efficiency thus far. To an extent, roster moves have aided that push — Orlando began to play more offensively when it traded Rashard Lewis a year ago, and moving The Grenade Launcher into the starting lineup this year doubled down on that decision. The concern in Orlando, however, is that its previous success was built mostly on the defensive dominance of Dwight Howard, and he hasn’t been as impactful this season. He’s also been noticeably more reticent to contest shots when he has fouls, which may be a tactical decision. However, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to connect the other dots — at times he looks like a guy who is playing just hard enough to avoid being compared to Vince Carter. Howard is so good that he can get away with it most of the time, but the stat sheet shows he’s not impacting the game defensively as he did a year ago.”
  • Howard is sour on joining the New Jersey Nets.
  • Is it possible that Howard’s trade demand is affecting Orlando from an emotional standpoint?

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

Jan 17

Preview: Charlotte Bobcats at Orlando Magic

7:00 ET | Fox Sports Florida
3-11 @ 9-3
Pythagorean Record: 2-12 Pythagorean Record: 8-4
Pace: 93.0 (8th) Pace: 89.9 (23rd)
Offensive Rating: 97.4 (27th) Offensive Rating: 109.7 (1st)
Defensive Rating: 109.0 (29th) Defensive Rating: 103.8 (19th)
Amway Center | Magic lead season series 1-0

Jan 17

Hedo Turkoglu in crunch time

An emerging storyline this season for the Orlando Magic so far has been Hedo Turkoglu’s renaissance on offense. In 12 games, Turkoglu’s True Shooting percentage is 61.6 percent, which is a career-high. Likewise, Turkgolu’s usage rate is 20.4 percent, which is important to note because it means that he’s been more involved on offense for the Magic, which is a stark contrast from his disappearing act last season (his usage rate in 2011 was the lowest percentage he put up since his rookie year with the Sacramento Kings in 2001). With Turkoglu scoring with efficiency and becoming more of a threat with the basketball once again, he’s aided Orlando to an 9-3 start to the regular season.

In some of those wins, Turkoglu stepped up in crunch time during the fourth quarter, reminding Magic fans that he can still be “Mr. Fourth Quarter” like he was in 2008 and 2009. During the Magic’s four-game road trip, the Portland Trail Blazers Golden State Warriors, and New York Knicks got a stark reminder of Turkoglu’s effectiveness in the final period of games. And the beauty of it, from Orlando’s perspective, is that Turkoglu did damage both by scoring and passing. In essence, Turkoglu was being the go-to guy in fourth quarters by doing what he does best — being a playmaker and making sound basketball decisions on the court. This is the Turkoglu that the Magic need.

Against the Blazers on Wednesday, Turkoglu stepped up as a safety valve for Orlando with his scoring. To set the stage, the Magic led by as many as 23 points in the third quarter. However, Portland put together a spirited rally in the fourth quarter and were able to cut Orlando’s lead down to three. With the Magic trying to hang on for dear life, head coach Stan Van Gundy entrusted Turkoglu during crunch time to help the team weather the storm. Which means that Turkoglu will run Orlando’s best play in the playbook and that’s the 3/5 pick-and-roll. That’s the play that Van Gundy wants to use with the Magic up by three points and needing a bucket.

SLIDE 1, 2, 3:

On this possession, Turkoglu waits for Howard to set the screen. Turkoglu quickly surveys the manner in which Gerald Wallace is defending him. Turkoglu disregards Howard’s screen and chooses to go to his left. For whatever reason, Wallace is allowing Turkoglu to go to his left uninhibited. Turkoglu takes the opening and begins to dribble penetrate into the lane. At this point, Wallace is behind Turkoglu and LaMarcus Aldridge is cheating towards Howard, perhaps anticipating a lob pass attempt. That doesn’t happen. Instead, Turkoglu — with Aldridge not providing much resistance defensively — makes the layup off the dribble.

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Jan 17

Stan Van Gundy uses a zone defense

For head coach Stan Van Gundy, his defense-first philosophy is one of the main reasons that the Orlando Magic have won 52 games or more in four seasons under his watch. With Dwight Howard manning the middle, some of the Magic’s defensive tenets are as followed: limit shot opportunities at the rim, don’t foul as to prevent free-throw opportunities, and coerce as many jumpshots as possible. Also, rebounding the basketball and getting back in transition (thus sacrificing chances for offensive rebounds) are things that matter a great deal to Van Gundy. Rarely will you see Orlando try and go for steals, for example, because Van Gundy would rather rely on fundamentals on defense than gamble and be out of position.

Which is why witnessing Van Gundy rely on a zone defense to win a game for the Magic is plain shocking. It just doesn’t happen. Van Gundy doesn’t use a zone because he doesn’t want to nor does he need to. Given that Orlando has finished sixth or better in Defensive Rating since 2008 and has a three-time Defensive Player of the Year at his disposal, can you blame Van Gundy? Yet with the Magic ranked 18th in Defensive Rating entering their contest with the New York Knicks on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Van Gundy decided to go into his bag of tricks and use a rarely-used defensive scheme. With the Knicks attacking the rim, drawing fouls, and racking up points in the paint, Van Gundy went with a zone.

It’s not so much that Van Gundy utilized a zone. With Howard in foul trouble with five fouls and Orlando going neck-and-neck with New York in crunch time, it’s that Van Gundy threw the zone out there at the perfect time. It served as the Magic’s trump card and the Knicks had no answer for it.

And it wasn’t like Orlando’s zone defense was spectacular. New York just generally did a poor job of attacking it. There’s a lot of ways to attack a zone and strategies can vary, whether it’s high school, college, whatever, but some of the basic things that players are taught is to attack the middle and keep the ball moving.

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Jan 16

Recap: Orlando Magic 102, New York Knicks 93

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

BOX SCORE

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the New York Knicks by the score of 102-93, extending their winning streak to a season-high four games and sweeping a four-game road trip that started on the West Coast. In a rare matinee game, the Magic started off slow but battled back and forth with the Knicks for a majority of the day. However, in the fourth quarter, Orlando was able to turn on the jets and come away with a victory. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as four players scored in double-figures. Ryan Anderson finished with a career-high 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field (including 7-of-13 from three-point range) and seven rebounds. Anderson torched New York, surprisingly outplaying Amar’e Stoudemire in the process. J.J. Redick, filling in at the shooting guard position for an injured Jason Richardson, had 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field. Hedo Turkoglu chipped in with 15 points and four assists, while Glen Davis came off the bench to put up 12 points and six rebounds. Carmelo Anthony led the way for the Knicks, finishing with a game-high 33 points (albeit on 27 shot attempts), eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals. Saddled with foul trouble up until the fourth quarter, Stoudemire had 10 points in roughly 22 minutes of playing time.

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Jan 16

Reaction: Orlando Magic 102, New York Knicks 93

AP Photo/Seth Wenig


Orlando Magic 102 Final
Recap | Box Score
93 New York Knicks

Dwight Howard
3-6 FG | 2-9 FT | 3 BLK | 10 REB | 8 PTS | +2

Howard has had better days. Tyson Chandler toed the line with his post defense, utilizing tactics that generally aren’t allowed (outstretching his arms and using both hands to push Howard from behind) but getting the benefit of the doubt. Howard earned a technical foul after airing out his grievances to official J.T. Orr. All in all, Chandler deserves most of the credit for containing Howard.

Hedo Turkoglu
11-19 FG | 7-13 3P | 1 STL | 7 REB | 30 PTS | +15

With Howard kept in check offensively, Anderson stepped up to the occasion in the Mecca of basketball and put on a shooting clinic. Anderson made seven three-pointers, with most of his looks being generated from staggered pick-and-rolls or in catch-and-shoot situations. When the damage was done, Anderson found himself with a career-high 30 points and Knicks fans were left shaking their heads.

Hedo Turkoglu
5-9 FG | 4-7 3P | 4 AST | 2 REB | 15 PTS | 0

Seven fourth-quarter points for Turkoglu, including a banked-in three-point shot that gave the Magic an 87-85 lead, one that they’d never relinquish. Turkoglu’s other three-pointer in the period came when Orlando was trying to shut the door on the New York Knicks. It’s safe to say that Turkoglu has become Van Gundy’s go-to guy in fourth quarters once again. Turkoglu has earned that right.

J.J. Redick
8-12 FG | 3-6 FT | 1 AST | 3 REB | 21 PTS | +10

Redick got off to a quick start with 11 consecutive points at one point in the first quarter, giving the Magic a much-needed boost on offense when the team needed it. Redick was generally quiet the rest of the way until the fourth quarter, when he made back-to-back layups in transition and two free-throws after that to ice the game for Orlando.

New York Knicks

The Knicks are for real on defense. With Chandler anchoring the paint, a more engaged Carmelo Anthony, and lengthy wing players like Iman Shumpert, it’s easy to see the improvements defensively for New York. With Stoudemire in foul trouble until the fourth quarter, Anthony carried the load on offense. It worked out at first, but Anthony got cold in crunch time despite getting good looks.

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

Jan 16

Preview: Orlando Magic at New York Knicks

1:00 ET | Sun Sports
8-3 @ 6-6
Pythagorean Record: 7-4 Pythagorean Record: 6-6
Pace: 89.8 (24th) Pace: 94.0 (4th)
Offensive Rating: 109.5 (1st) Offensive Rating: 100.0 (23rd)
Defensive Rating: 103.9 (18th) Defensive Rating: 100.6 (8th)
Madison Square Garden | First meeting this season

Jan 16

3-on-3 roundtable: Diagnosing the Magic’s early start

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

With one-sixth of the regular season in the books, the Orlando Magic are 8-3, Dwight Howard hasn’t been traded yet, Ryan Anderson may be emerging as a star, and J.J. Redick is off to the best start of his career. There’s a lot of positives to point out for the Magic.

Yet with Orlando’s one and only back-to-back-to-back this season starting today and a schedule that’s about to get tougher in the next coming weeks, there’s a lot of questions waiting to be answered.

Magic Basketball is here to try to forecast the road ahead for the Magic.

_______

How many wins do the Orlando Magic get on their lone back-to-back-to-back?

Nate Drexler: Two. It really shouldn’t be too much trouble to pick up the first two out of three. It will be San Antonio who presents the biggest problem for Orlando. On the back end of a back-to-back-to-back, the Spurs will just be too tough. It will be next to impossible to show up ready to compete with San Antonio after that much travel. 

Danny Nowell: Two. I would say three, as I think all three of these teams are decent matchups for the Magic right now, but focus and effort have already been occasionally lacking, and this is the stretch in the season that most requires effort and focus.
 
Matt Scribbins: Three. They’re clearly a better team than the Knicks and Bobcats. For whatever reason, teams have been playing surprisingly well in the final game of the dreaded back-to-back-to-back. The Magic have too much momentum right now to lose at home to a depleted Spurs team in a huge gut check match up.

Fact or Fiction: Ryan Anderson will be named an All-Star this season.

Drexler: Fiction. You basically have to live in Orlando to know how well Anderson is playing this season, and when I say “good,” I simply mean compared to how he’s been in past years with fewer minutes. His strong play and efficiency is a pleasant treat to be sure, but not making any kind of national news.

Nowell: Fiction. He will perform at an All-Star sub level, but the lack of name recognition and the perception of his being a one dimensional player will keep him out of the game.

Scribbins: Fiction. All-Stars are not necessarily the best players from the first half of the season. Lots of nominations are nothing more than lifetime achievement awards. However, players often make it a year after they bust out so Anderson may positioning for a spot on next year’s roster.

What about the Magic’s 8-3 start has surprised the most? 

Drexler: The fact that they aren’t winning in pretty ways. Several wins have been battles against sub-standard teams, and in previous years I feel like the Magic would have dominated some of these wins way more than they have this year. Put differently, I’m surprised the Magic aren’t competing with upper-echelon teams like the Bulls or the Heat (preseason).

Nowell: At this point, I’d say the team has stylistically inverted my expectations. I might have predicted fairly similar results record-wise, but I would’ve expected a record built on defense and making do with an average offense. The opposite has been true.

Scribbins: Easily the 3-0 West Coast road trip. To be honest, I was shocked the team went into Portland and crushed the Blazers in the 1st half and actually hung onto the lead. Portland is a miserable place to play, but the Magic handled the situation with aplomb and provided some hope for the rest of the season.

Jan 13

Friday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic already have completed one-sixth of their regular season, and enough games have passed to start drawing some conclusions. As coach Stan Van Gundy surveys his team, he sees plenty of valid reasons for concern. But even the unabashed worrier sees something that he loves about this group of players. They fight. That intangible quality came into full focus as Orlando won all three of its games on a successful West Coast road trip, including Thursday’s 117-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors. Although two of those victories came against admittedly lower-echelon teams, the Magic encountered adversity and overcame it. [...] Those positive moments included a performance against the tough Portland Trail Blazers in which the Magic perhaps played better on the offensive end than at any time since they clobbered the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 1, 2010. Orlando’s ball movement has improved, at least for now. Small forward Hedo Turkoglu, plagued by maddening inconsistency last season, has heightened confidence and made key clutch plays down the stretch of the wins over the Blazers and the Warriors. And the team’s offense has shown admirable efficiency as a whole.”
  • Jason Richardson’s knee injury, which occurred against the Golden State Warriors, is deemed not serious.
  • If Von Wafer wants to earn more playing time, he’s going to need to improve his defense according to head coach Stan Van GUndy.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel on Dwight Howard: “Can the Magic contend? That’s the question. They have no cap-space flexibility to attract another star, but you know who can change all that? Dwight. If Dwight really wanted to play the part of GM, he can try. All he has to do is turn the tables on the Nets, ask Williams to force his way to Orlando in a trade and see what the two can do here with better pieces than the Nets have (along with better weather and no state income tax.) He can be a one-team, one-town man who becomes the franchise hero forever, which is essentially the sales job that owner Rich DeVos told me he used when talking to Dwight. Howard is putting his reputation on the line at the trade deadline, what he stands for as a player, as a competitor.”
  • A look back at Howard’s record-breaking night against the Warriors.
  • It was a successful road trip for Howard and company.
  • Head coach Mark Jackson’s Hack-a-Dwight strategy backfired.
  • With every win, the possibility that the Magic gamble and keep Howard past the trade deadline grows. Marc Stein of ESPN.com has more on the scenario: “In the surprise of the week on this scorecard, I heard officials from two teams insist that Orlando’s keeping Howard past the March 15 trade buzzer is the scenario they actually expect … even if that means exposing the Magic Kingdom to the prospect of being leveled again by a repeat of Shaquille O’Neal’s defection without compensation to the Lakers in the Olympic summer of 1996. Could GM Otis Smith and Magic ownership really dare to let the trade deadline pass and risk the sight of Howard’s leaving not only for the 2012 London Games in July but also for a new full-time team … while getting nothing back in return? Just to show fans they exhausted every concept they could concoct to try to keep Dwight?”
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider: “Here’s the thing about Hack-a-Dwight, or Hack-an-anybody: The player has to be an exceptionally bad foul shooter for this strategy to have much merit. Emphasis on exceptionally. It works with Ben Wallace or DeAndre Jordan. With just about anyone else, it’s highly questionable. Take Thursday night, for instance. Dwight Howard is a career 59.5 percent foul shooter and has done slightly better than that each of the past three seasons. But let’s take 59.5 percent as his chances of converting any given free throw. Sending him to the line for two shots produces an expected return of 1.19 points from the foul shots, a scoring rate better than that of any offensive team in the history of basketball. Just sending him to the line time after time is one of the worst percentage moves a team could possibly make.”
  • Golden State had no one to stop Howard offensively in last night’s game.
  • Howard isn’t interested in being traded to the Warriors.
  • Howard’s 39 free-throw attempts stole the show in Orlando’s win yesterday.
  • J.J. Redick enjoyed his time in Portland.
  • More on Howard’s lack of interest to play for Golden State.
  • Chris Bernucca of SheridanHoops.com: “You are the GM of an NBA team. It is the start of training camp, and your owner wants a championship this season. Every player is a free agent who can be signed to a one-year contract. Who is the first player you sign? I might sign Howard, who is the most dominant player in the league at his position.”
  • Zach Lowe of The Point Forward provides his take on Jackson’s ill-fated decision to intentionally foul Howard throughout the game between the Magic and Warriors.
  • Steve Perrin of SB Nation: “To be fair, Jackson was dealt a bad hand in this game, facing the most dominant big man in the NBA in the Warriors’ first game since losing Kwame Brown for the season with a pectoral tear. With his best and biggest low post defender sidelined, the Warriors were down to Biedrins and a bunch of smallish power forwards to try to contend with Howard. Jackson may have felt that Howard was going to score more against his team straight-up than he would at the line. Even so, it was the wrong strategy on every level — statistically, from an entertainment standpoint, for the game itself, and eventually on the scoreboard.”
  • Hack-a-Dwight has spawned other “hyphenated player-specific NBA defensive strategies.”
  • Tom Ziller of SB Nation with some revealing numbers: “In the fourth quarter, when Golden State fouled Dwight the most, Orlando scored 37 points in 24 possessions, or 1.54 points per possession, which is like Max Roach-level rhythm.”
  • Howard was more efficient when he shooting from the free-throw line as opposed to when he was shooting from the field against Golden State.
  • Similarities between Ryan Anderson and Peja Stojakovic.

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

Jan 13

Magic Basketball Weekly: Hack-a-Dwight and Mark Jackson

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Every morning on my way to work I listen to this awful local radio show called Bob and the Showgram. I think every town has one of these shows, where some fat-sounding man alternately wheezes and yells into a microphone while slack-jawed cronies occasionally pipe in with nonsense. It’s racist, homophobic, misogynistic and I CAN’T STOP LISTENING TO IT. Don’t get me twisted, it’s not that I like it — I hate it with the hot fire of a thousand hells — but for some twisted reason I can’t pry myself away.

I know that provoking me is the entire reason these fools make any money, but because I am the worst person in the entire world, I grind my teeth and white-knuckle my steering wheel every morning so that I can feel superior to these people. Which I am. I am way superior. I would enjoy the content of NPR so much more, but because of some sick pact I have with my inner loathing, and also because I have like sixty more years to wear socks and Tevas and listen to women loudly smack their lips over chanterelle mushrooms into a microphone (isn’t that what they do on NPR?), I keep listening to the Showgram.

I feel the same way about a Hack-a-Shaq or Hack-a-Dwight defense. Aside: can we never again say Hack-a-Dwight? It doesn’t even rhyme, which was the whole reason in the first place for the Hack-a-Construction. Morning shows should be fun, but Bob and his sick warped, awful cronies have made them miserable. AND YOU ARE JUST LIKE HIM, MARK JACKSON. THE DISEASE IS INSIDE YOU.

Basketball games are supposed to be a fun and acrobatic celebration of human accomplishment, and not a seven hour suckfest of me wondering why Dwight Howard can not keep his elbow at a consistent angle over his head. It becomes a reductive, Dadaist torture, wherein I am forced to contemplate an miniscule, asinine movement over and over again until I am reduced to weeping on my sofa.

Mark Jackson, you are better than this. You are supposed to be fun and wacky and sort of dumb — you are not supposed to be one of those Bellichickian win-at-all-costs bots. Basketball is a game, for entertainment, and I do not think you are as smart as Greg Popovich for fouling Dwight Howard eleventy jabillion times. The only reason I still like Popovich is because he has taken projecting misanthropy to new, hilarious levels.

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