Sloths are my favorite animal. They have been for years. Science has shown them to be both the cutest and most bro-some of all God’s creatures. Let me hit you with some sloth facts: They grow moss on them, because they chill so hard. Sometimes, if their babies fall out of a tree or something, they just completely let it slide, because getting out of your tree would harsh everybody’s vibe.
Once, when I was at a party, this completely awesome bro came up and asked a group of my friends — he was totally earnest, and even seemed a little bit worried — if he was chilling too hard. Sloths are the James Joyce of chilling too hard. They have stretched the art form of chilling to its natural limit, and have achieved a sort of referendum on the very idea of chilling at all.
So, naturally, when I saw this adorable sloth documentary popping up on every girl I know’s Facebook wall, I was thrilled, right? Wrong. I am not looking forward to adorably disgusting sloths becoming the new lolcat. I do not want to see a bunch of sorostitutes capering about with their sloth desktop backgrounds, or see a million “Daily Cute” Twitter blasts with pictures of sloths. Keep your pandas, internet cutesy people. Take your otters. But leave me my sloths. I liked them before you. I was the first person to appreciate the cuteness of mossy, negligent animal parents. That’s right, I’m hipster trolling you about sloths. I was into them when, like, nobody knew who they were, and you’re just about to get their sell-out album.
Which is exactly how I feel about the Denver Nuggets. Listen, the Nuggets are adorable. They have a young, small point guard and an old sort of fat one who would make an excellent buddy cop movie. They have a cleaner-shaven, European Val Kilmer playing small forward. Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried even sort of look like sloths (come with me on this, I’m not taking no for an answer). And they play such fun basketball. Oh god, they’re so fun. And, like sloths, the whole world is waking up to how awesome the Nuggets are. I’m not happy about it.
I’m not happy about the Nuggets becoming one of the hot topics for the season. Do I want to hear people for eight months yelling about how, if you adjust for pace, their defense is way better than conventional wisdom suggests? I do not. Do I want to read advanced shooting percentage breakdowns that take into account the Denver altitude? I do not. I want them to keep being the only team my girlfriend likes — because she likes the word “Nugget” and pronounces Nene’s name “ninny.” I want them to continue to play 40 players every game. I do not want their glorious ragtag weirdness to be scrutinized for effectiveness by every corner of punditry; I just want to let them keep being rad.
Like sloths, it is up in the air whether the Nuggets are the most “effective” animal when it comes to keeping your babies in trees or winning playoff games, but also like sloths, the Nuggets are willing to continue being awesome regardless. So the Nuggets are like sloths. I hear what you’re saying, though: “But the Nuggets are fast, and sloths are slow!” And to you I say, shut up. This is important to me.
ORLANDO — Rashard Lewis, while probably overpaid and lacking in big moments toward the end of his tenure in Orlando, left a lasting impact on teammates, coaches, and fans in Orlando. Upon his return on Tuesday night in the slaughtering of the Washington Wizards, I was curious if anyone had special Rashard Lewis memories.
So I took it to the locker room to find out exactly what Rashard meant to the Magic basketball organization. Was it a game winning shot in the playoffs? Was it goofy antics in the locker room? Just how is Rashard remembered here in Orlando? Magic Basketball found out.
Nate Drexler is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.
ORLANDO — There is no question that the All-Star Game is huge for any city that gets the privilege of hosting it. Mayor Buddy Dyer projected that over 50,000 visitors would come through Orlando during All-Star Weekend, generating over 100 million dollars in revenue for the city.
But what does this mean for the players? It’s easy to answer that for a guy like Dwight Howard, who has accumulated over seven and a half million All-Star votes in his short career. So I took it to the locker room and found out exactly what the All-Star Game means to the players and those in the Magic organization.
Nate Drexler is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Derrick Rose’s arrival not only puts Jameer Nelson on high alert, but it signals the start of a show-and-tell stretch for the Magic. Beginning with Friday night’s game against Rose and the Chicago Bulls — the league’s winningest team last season — the Magic face a schedule over the next 20 days that includes a West Coast trip and dates against six 2010-11 playoff teams. Orlando plays the Bulls, heads West to face Portland during a five-day, three-game trip and then takes on the likes of New York, San Antonio, L.A. Lakers and Boston (twice). The Magic (5-2) so far have only faced one team that made the playoffs last season — the Oklahoma City Thunder, in the season opener — and they were routed. The Magic will soon see how they stack up against some of the NBA’s top teams. [...] The Magic only played two preseason games in this compressed season, but they’ve enjoyed a soft opening after falling to the Thunder. The other six teams they have played in succession have a combined record of 10-27 (as of Thursday), including 0-6 Washington and 1-6 New Jersey. The six upcoming opponents on their agenda who made the postseason last season have a combined record of 24-14 (as of Thursday), topped by the Bulls’ 6-1 mark.”
- Glen Davis promises to do more of the dirty work when he’s in the game.
- A showdown with the Chicago Bulls on Friday looms large for the Orlando Magic.
- Looks like Hedo Turkoglu needs a little work on his lob passes.
- Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Golden State Warriors are interested in pursuing Dwight Howard as a rental for the season: “Most teams aren’t willing to gut rosters to get Howard only to lose him to free agency in the summer. Yet, the Warriors made a run for Chris Paul as a rental, and are determined to offer more for Howard, a franchise center. Golden State is probably five years away from a new downtown San Francisco arena that will be more appealing to star players, but owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are determined to sell a top-five media market and rabid fan base to players. They would have to take a huge risk to make a deal for Howard, but sources said they’re determined to try whatever it takes to satisfy the Magic’s needs for a trade – including the construction of more complicated three- and four-team trade scenarios.”
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk on the possibility of Howard landing with the Warriors: “How much more would Golden State be willing to put in the pot just to rent Howard? Probably not much, but this is a new ownership group. That said, it’s kind of hard to picture Dwight Howard in a City uniform.”
- Ken Berger of CBSSports.com with a subtle bombshell and behind-the-scenes report on the Magic: “One more note on the Howard situation. With the future of the franchise teetering on Howard’s decision, multiple people plugged into league front-office dealings say it’s no sure thing that Smith, the GM, will be the one making the final decision on whether to trade Howard and where. With the resignation of Bob Vander Weide and promotion of Alex Martins to CEO, rival executives believe Martins is the one calling the shots. And among those shots could be adding to the Orlando front office, which is thin by NBA standards behind Smith. The most experienced and capable candidate on the market is former Hornets GM Jeff Bower, who has solid relationships with the Magic front office staff. Bower also worked with Martins in New Orleans. Tony Ronzone, the former assistant GM in Detroit and Minnesota, also is a free agent and sources say he’d be amenable to joining a revamped Magic front office with Bower in the lead role. Thus far, Martins has not reached out to any potential candidates as he settles into his new role, but sources believe the direction of the team — and Howard’s fickle approach when it comes to staying or leaving — could prime the pump for sweeping changes.”
- More on the Howard-to-Golden State rumor.
- Former Magic superstar Tracy McGrady blames his own talent for not practicing hard all the time.
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie offers up a recap of Orlando’s win last night.
- Ryan Anderson should get cyborg lungs so he can play 48 minutes every game.
- The Wizards are bad, as the Magic found out.
- Praise for Orlando’s 5-2 start to the regular season.
- John Hollinger of ESPN Insider: “Despite a soft early slate, the Magic are tied for ninth in defensive efficiency. They’ve been a top-5 defense throughout the Dwight Howard-Stan Van Gundy era and aren’t well-equipped to win with just offense, especially if the guards keep firing blanks. Nonetheless, the solid start and Anderson’s breakout have to have the Magic a bit more encouraged about keeping their franchise center beyond this season. A bit.”
- If you haven’t already, make sure to check out Nate Drexler on ESPN’s Daily Dime with his report from Amway Center following the Magic’s victory yesterday. Also, Danny Nowell makes a cameo appearance on ESPN.com as he contributes to a 5-on-5 roundtable discussion, taking a look at the surprise teams in the NBA so far.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
ORLANDO — After the Magic dismantled Washington on Tuesday, J.J. Redick said the Magic were able to take advantage of the Wizards by exploiting the fact that they are probably better offensively than defensively. The idea was to get early stops and squash any hopes of an offensive strike from the Wiz, while remaining confident that they could beat their defense.
That brought up interesting questions. What makes a good defense? What makes a good defensive player? The Magic are predicated on the concept that defense wins basketball games, and effort and intensity will get you there, so what does that look like per individual?
There are two players in particular on the Magic roster that have garnered a ton of respect over the years for their defensive ability — Dwight Howard and J.J. Redick, but Orlando is not necessarily known for their lockdown defense like, say, the Chicago Bulls are.
With the Bulls on their way into town, Stan Van Gundy expressed some concerns with what the Magic will be up against on Friday night. The first words out of his mouth after practice on Thursday were about how “long and quick” their front line is. Long and quick — are these the most-important elements of a good defensive player? I asked him.
“You start with a combination of size and quickness. If you have length and quickness you at least have a shot at being a great defender. But then I think also what’s underrated about a lot of those guys is great intelligence to really understand your own teams system, other teams personnel, and then the discipline to do what you’re supposed to do consistently, time after time after time after time. That’s what makes a great defender.”
So what is Stan most concerned about when Chicago comes to Orlando on Friday?
“First of all I think physically they’ve got guys like Luol Deng who was very underrated last year. To not make the All-Defensive team was absurd.”
So this makes sense. You have to be athletic, you have to have size, you have to be fast, but that’s not it. SVG made it clear that you also need the x-factor. You need to want to do it, and not just once but “time after time after time after time.”
The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Washington Wizards by the score of 103-85, spoiling the first game that Rashard Lewis played at Amway Center as an opposing player (he was injured last season). The Magic jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, overwhelming the Wizards from the get-go. Orlando was led by a balanced attack, as four players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard had a 20-20 game, the 34th of his career and the second this season, finishing with a game-high 28 points, 20 rebounds, and three blocks. Ryan Anderson was a per-minute monster, contributing with 23 points (7-of-16 from the field, 3-of-5 from three-point range, and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line) and 15 rebounds in roughly 28 minutes of playing time. Hedo Turkoglu had 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, eight assists, and five rebounds. J.J. Redick finished with 14 points. The aforementioned Lewis had six points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field and four rebounds. This one was over when head coach Flip Saunders was forced to take a timeout less than four minutes into the first quarter, as Orlando scored the first nine points of the ballgame. The Magic played with a tremendous amount of energy and effort, almost playing hyper at times. For Washington, there was nothing they could do to stop Orlando from dominating on both ends of the floor.
AP Photo/John Raoux
11-13 FG | 6-14 FT | 20 REB | 3 BLK | 28 PTS | +23
Historically, Howard has dominated in head-to-head matchups against JaVale McGee and the rest of the frontline for the Washington Wizards and tonight was no different. Howard scored at will, whether it was in pick-and-rolls, post-ups, or via offensive rebounds. His rebounding and defense was stellar as well. The lone red mark against the big fella was his free-throw shooting.
7-16 FG | 3-5 3P | 0 AST | 15 REB | 23 PTS | +24
Anderson is seen by many in the analytics community as a per-minute darling because of his ability to produce in limited playing time. This was the case in 2010 and 2011. It’s true that he is averaging 31.7 minutes per game this season, but he only played roughly 28 minutes against the Wizards and put up some eye-gaudy numbers anyway. The best stat? Seven offensive rebounds (more than Howard).
7-9 FG | 0-1 3P | 8 AST | 5 REB | 14 PTS | +25
It was a quiet but efficient game for Turkoglu. He did his usual damage in pick-and-rolls, nailed a few fallaway jumpers, and made some layups in transition. Perhaps the best thing that can be taken away (the same goes for Anderson and others) is that he didn’t play a lot and should be well-rested for an important game on Friday against the Chicago Bulls.
5-11 FG | 1-4 3P | 2 AST | 1 REB | 14 PTS | +10
Redick was fine. He didn’t do anything spectacular. It’s worth noting that Redick continues to run a play with Howard that continues to be effective. It’s an entry pass from Redick that leads to a handoff pass from Howard. When players for the Magic make that entry pass, they cut towards the lane and Howard typically fakes a pass. Redick, though, gets the ball for a mid-range jumpshot.
A lot of people predicted a breakout season for John Wall, thinking that he would continue to develop into the next Derrick Rose. It’s still early but so far Wall has yet to impress. He’s getting to the free-throw line plenty of times, but that jumper of his remains poor and he’s not converting at the rim enough. Those are some things that need to improve.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.
We’re about to start doing a new recurring feature here at MBN, something a little more free-flowing than we sometimes do, and something we want you to contribute to. Every Friday, I’ll be doing a weekly roundup type deal (name TBD), and as part of it, I want y’all to email me questions or concerns about the Magic, the league in general, or really just anything.
Funny story you want to share? Send it. Soul-searching questions I’m unqualified to answer but will any way? Send ‘em. This column will be part hoops analysis and part WHATEVER I WANT TO TALK ABOUT (read: liquor), so you’ve got some latitude. One hitch: I won’t run profanity, but if you have a story clean enough where all I need is to redact a few NSFW words, fire away.
Send all of your brilliant, asinine or humorous missives to us at mbnhoops[at]gmail[dot]com.
I’ll be starting this Friday, and I’m counting on you.
Danny Nowell is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.