Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 130

Jan 05

The meaning of defense in Orlando

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.”

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Jan 04

Recap: Orlando Magic 103, Washington Wizards 85

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images


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.

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Jan 04

Reaction: Orlando Magic 103, Washington Wizards 85

AP Photo/John Raoux

Orlando Magic 103 Final
Recap | Box Score
85 Washington Wizards

Dwight Howard
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.

Ryan Anderson
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).

Hedo Turkoglu
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.

J.J. Redick
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.

Washington Wizards

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.

Jan 04

Preview: Washington Wizards at Orlando Magic

7:00 ET | NBA TV
1-4 @ 4-2
Pythagorean Record: 0-5 Pythagorean Record: 4-2
Pace: 92.2 (13th) Pace: 88.2 (28th)
Offensive Rating: 92.4 (30th) Offensive Rating: 107.2 (4th)
Defensive Rating: 105.7 (20th) Defensive Rating: 100.9 (12th)
Amway Center | First meeting this season

Jan 04

Magic Basketball needs your help

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.

Jan 04

Rashard Lewis still a Magic at heart

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

Lewis emphasized that he feels no ill will toward the Magic and that he wishes the best for the franchise that signed him to a huge free-agent contract in July 2007.

He remains in touch with former teammates, most notably point guard Jameer Nelson. He also hopes the Magic can retain Dwight Howard for the long-term.

He even said he rooted for the Magic in last spring’s playoffs.

“I still felt like, in my heart, I was a part of that team, and I wanted them to win,” he said.

“I still want this city to win the NBA championship. I thank them for everything that they’ve done for me: for giving me an opportunity to come and play here with Dwight Howard, with a first-class organization, with a great coach in Stan Van Gundy and with great fans.” […]

Lewis, 32, sacrificed during his time in Orlando.

He is a natural small forward who played power forward without complaint. With Howard patrolling the middle, Lewis spent much of his time as a spot-up shooter. Lewis often was overmatched as a one-on-one defender against bigger opponents, but he was a good team defender who usually was in the right place.

“He’s one of the greatest teammates and team players that I’ve been around in my career,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “He was willing to do anything.”

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

Jan 03

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Only a year and a half has passed since the Orlando Magic made a crucial decision about J.J. Redick. The team chose to retain Redick by matching the three-year, $19 million offer sheet Redick had signed from the Chicago Bulls as a restricted free agent. It’s tough to believe, but the Magic have another contract-related decision to make about Redick within the next six months. It was not disclosed at the time — the team does release details about player contracts — but the Magic essentially hold a team option for the final year of his deal, the 2012-13 season. In the highly unlikely event the Magic waive him before July 8, Redick would not be owed any of the roughly $6 million he is due for that season, and he would become an unrestricted free agent. […] Team options and player options are relatively common in the NBA, and it would seem that retaining Redick for 2012-13 would be a no-brainer unless he is traded before then.”
  • As the Orlando Magic try to retain Howard long-term and pair him with a star player, trade assets are emerging on the team’s roster.
  • Ryan Anderson is trying to focus more defensively.
  • Now is a perfect time for a Matrix reference in light of Anderson’s hot start this season.
  • Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus pens a thoughtful piece on player evaluation: “In a single game, for example, scouting should get more consideration than the other two factors. As Dean Oliver once aptly noted, ‘Individuals see a basketball game better than the numbers, but the numbers see all the games.’ The crucial takeaway is that none of the evaluation methods is sufficient on its own. Plus-minus statistics are often unreliable, individual statistics are incomplete and we can be fooled by what we see (or don’t see). We’ve long moved past the outdated notion that scouting and statistics are opposed to each other. Instead, at their best, they work together to help us form more robust evaluations that are more likely to prove correct.”
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk on the Magic’s loss last night: “This is a schedule makers win — Orlando was playing their fourth game in five nights and just looked tired. It was a slow, slow game (82 possessions) which added to the feeling of everything dragging.”
  • Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated: “After getting pasted by the Thunder on Christmas, the Magic rebounded with four straight wins before falling in Detroit on Monday. The system is the same: They are taking and making a ton of threes, while daring opponents to try to challenge Dwight Howard inside. While Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson and Glen Davis have struggled, Hedo Turkoglu is compensating for his porous defense with hot outside shooting, Ryan Anderson (19.2 points, NBA-high 22 three-pointers) is producing at power forward and J.J. Redick continues to improve. But the schedule has been pretty soft to this point, and tougher opponents are likely to expose Orlando’s utter lack of depth at center. Before fouling out late against the Pistons, Howard had been whistled for just 13 fouls in his first five games.”

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

Jan 03

Glen Davis and the post-up

Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE via Getty Images

For all the menacing things Glen Davis did while he was in Boston, he has not seemed to find his groove in Orlando yet.

I chose that word carefully: menacing. He was kind of a pest. Playing off Garnett and Perkins in the post during the Celtics’ prime, earning hustle points, banging on the boards, and kicking you while you’re down with that soft touch from about 15-18 feet.

But why was he so brutal? It was because as limited as he seemed, he had so many ways that he could beat you offensively. He had the pick-and-roll, the post-up, the spot-up, and ever-obnoxious offensive rebound.

That’s really what the Magic need out of Davis this year, but up until now they haven’t exactly seen it.

Let’s look at what we know about Davis. He’s a decent rebounder; good post defender, good scrap player, and can shoot the ball relatively well when he’s not out too far.

The problem right now for Davis is that he’s become an offensive threat in the past few seasons, but has failed to utilize it thus far in Orlando.

Synergy Sports Technology shows that roughly a quarter of his offensive production has come from the pick-and-pop. Well, he’s also rolled a few times (or aimlessly wandered to the paint, if you will). But by in large his weapon off the pick-and-roll is to pop and get a little fade jumper when the defense closes.

That percentage seemed low, so I took a look at his numbers from last year. To my surprise, Davis worked off the pick-and-roll for less than 17 percent of his offense in his final season in Boston. Over 20 percent of the time he was spotting up (no surprise there), but guess where another huge chunk of his offense came from? Posting up!

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Jan 03

Dealing with an organizational identity crisis

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Through the first six games of the season, the Magic have shown themselves to be a team of poles and contrasts. There have been stretches, like the comeback win over the Raptors or the second quarter in the loss against Detroit, when the Magic seem to have rediscovered the discipline, positional flexibility, and cunning that have been the hallmarks of their most successful recent teams.

At other times, though, the Magic have seemed content to allow games to be dictated to them stylistically, joylessly drifting from one contested twenty-footer to another. Watching the team struggle — both to win games and to forge an identity — it’s impossible not to notice the looming presence of fatigue.

You’re going to hear the “f” word a lot this season, which is a natural function of the compressed season and the media’s inability to use a thesaurus (see: Republican candidates’ “surges,” etc.). Of course, it’s not wrong to point out the effect that this marathon of a sprint of a season will have on players’ physically and emotionally. But in the case of the Magic, the fatigue imposed by the schedule is dwarfed by the fatigue that will come from playing through the Howard media maelstrom, as the franchise faces the risk of buckling under the tremendous weight of scrutiny they will face every night.

As other fan bases have found out all too recently, every win or loss is filtered through the context of the “will he or won’t he” game that will drive the season narrative. In a league like the NBA, where fans spend as much time cataloguing draft picks, trades and pipe dreams as they do box scores, that constant speculation has the potential to render the actual game results meaningless. The Magic are thus confronting fatigue on two different fronts, and their first games have shown how they might combat or succumb to it.

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Jan 02

Recap: Detroit Pistons 89, Orlando Magic 78

AP Photo/Paul Sancya


The Palace at Auburn Hills has been the house of horrors for the Orlando Magic in recent memory and tonight was no different. The Pistons defeated the Magic by the score of 89-78. With the victory, Detroit snapped Orlando’s four-game winning streak. The Pistons deserve all the credit in the world for coming away with the win but this is a case where a lockout-shortened schedule finally caught up to the Magic. Playing on their fourth game in five nights and also playing against a team that was rested, Orlando simply had little energy. Detroit was methodical on offense and relentless on defense. Ben Gordon led the way for the Pistons, finishing with a game-high 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting from the field (8-of-9 from the free-throw line), six assists, and three rebounds. Rodney Stuckey didn’t shoot the basketball very well but he was aggressive in attacking the basket and he contributed with 14 points (10-of-13 from the free-throw line), four rebounds and two steals. Tayshaun Prince had 14 points and five rebounds, while Greg Monroe had 10 points and nine rebounds. Dwight Howard finished with 19 points, seven rebounds, and five steals. Ryan Anderson had 13 points and six rebounds, while Hedo Turkoglu also had 13 points.

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