Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 130

Dec 20

The Magic’s bench needs to improve

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE

I sat down with the task of writing about the Orlando player who most needs to redeem himself, but frankly, I just can’t do it.

As far as the major players on the roster, there just isn’t much sense in talking about “redemption.” We know Dwight’s situation. We’ve covered the bejeezus in the past out of Hedo’s slippage, and while I know Nate disagrees, I think his play suggests not so much the need for him to redeem himself as it does the fact that he ain’t that good anymore. Jameer has proven himself steady, with one outlier season of excellence. Jason Richardson is an aging leaper, and Glen Davis’ struggles weren’t really on the Magic and also I’m tired of talking about him, too.

You see what I’m saying? Most of the roster on this team has a floor and a ceiling that are about exactly the same. However, when you start looking at the reserves, you notice that how little contribution the Magic got last year from certified role players whose names aren’t Ryan Anderson. And so, while the failures of last season aren’t exactly on their heads, I think the players who most need to step it up this year are J.J. Redick, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark.

One of the best things about Van Gundy Ball is that the team system is able to absorb players with fairly limited skill sets and ask them to perform roles which accentuate their abilities, which allows the team to put players on the court who bring definable positive skill sets to their position at all times. This is a sharp contrast to an approach of trying to “steal minutes” — when Magic reserves are on the court, ideally, they are put in a role where their abilities are accentuated much more than their weaknesses are masked. In 2010, and even the season before that, this was often the case, but last season, the bench was populated with players either performing well below their career averages or failing to cultivate the one skill they could use to change a game.

Clark is a perfect example of the latter case, and the largest enigma currently on the roster.

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Dec 20

Can Hedo Turkoglu redeem himself?

Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

I’m tired of making 2009 comparisons. Yes, the Dwight-centered offense was clicking in 2009. Yes, guys were playing to (and beyond) their potential in 2009. Yes, Jameer Nelson shot the lights out from just inside the three-point line in 2009. Yes, the Magic were true contenders in 2009.

So this is my final plea. No more complaining and moaning about how this team has somehow fallen from grace and made more administrative mistakes than a scandalous charter school. This is it.

The guy who needs to prove himself more than anyone else this year on the Magic roster is Hedo Turkoglu. That is to say the guy who needs to come back to 2009 form is Hedo Turkoglu.

I’ll start by saying this — Hedo was a thorn in my side in 2009. Now, before the mud slinging begins, let me explain. I am first and foremost a LeBron James fan, and despite my affiliation with the Magic, I will come out now and admit that at the start of the 2008-2009 season when the Cavs acquired Mo Williams, I hoped more than anything else that it would be the year that LeBron won his first title.

I watched those playoffs closer than I’ve watched anything before, and admittedly as a straight up diehard LeBron fan.

From the very first quarter of the first game of the 2009 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Orlando was going to win the series. It actually wrenched my gut. There was no way around it. This team was too hot, too fluid, too zoned, and had too many leaders, the most deadly of which was Hedo Turkgoglu.

Turk was a beast. He commanded the offense with veteran vigor. He shaped the way the Magic played, and I don’t think I’m too far off in saying that he played like a captain — a leader.

It was not just his offensive threat, either. It was the fact that he was long (and confident) enough to stare down LBJ as if to say, “we don’t give flying fart about who you are and how you’ve swept every team in the playoffs to this point. We are the Magic, and we are going to beat you.”

It’s this very confidence that Turk lacks now.

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Dec 19

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Magic entered Sunday’s exhibition tired. After practices and scrimmages on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, the team held a one-hour, 50-minute shootaround Sunday morning at AmericanAirlines Arena. It would be tempting to blame Orlando’s atrocious second-half performance versus Miami on all of that work. But won’t the Magic face even more grueling stretches during the compressed 66-game season? After all, the team will play a total of 19 pairs of back-to-back games and also one set of three games in three consecutive nights. To be sure, all NBA players confronted same conditioning obstacles. The lockout prevented players from using their teams’ training facilities from July 1 through Nov. 30 and from working out with help from assistant coaches, strength-and-conditioning specialists and athletic trainers. Still, the Heat faced the same restrictions, but they seemed to be much quicker than the Magic, at least on Sunday. Magic players insist that it would be a mistake to read too much into the blowout loss.”
  • Players on the Orlando Magic don’t think Dwight Howard’s trade rumors are a distraction.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reacts to the Magic’s preseason loss against the Miami Heat on Sunday: “Folks, preseason games are seldom pretty and this was more like a glorified practice, the by-product of the lockout. There would be more alarms going off if the Magic had been routed by the Charlotte Bobcats, frankly. You have to put it in perspective: The Heat played in the Finals last season and have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade an Chris Bosh, who, by the way, all helped torch the Magic in the telltale third quarter. It really wasn’t all that surprising. The Magic were dismantled by the Heat last season in their second regular-season game of the year in Miami — and that was after a full training camp and eight unbeaten preseason games. The Heat have three stars that few teams can match up against. The Magic can’t handle Wade, LeBron or Bosh at the two-guard, small-forward or power-forward positions.”
  • Magic fans are expressing their appreciation for Howard and have made it clear they want him to stay, but are they begging? Depends on who you ask.
  • Orlando looked terrible in their first preseason game.
  • Daniel Orton’s future with the Magic is yet to be determined.
  • In retrospect, Orlando’s decision to acquire Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and Gilbert Arenas in two separate trades last year was a bad one.
  • Glen Davis and Justin Harper show some holiday spirit.
  • Several NBA scribes don’t expect to see Howard in a Magic uniform after the trade deadline.
  • Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com: “What exactly Howard’s teammates were thinking as he talked like he was actually interested in being on the same path with them or that he’s in it together with them was not available for public consumption. Just know that Howard has publicly demanded a trade away from these teammates twice since the start of training camp.”
  • Chad Ford of ESPN Insider gives the Magic an ‘F’ for their offseason: “Tthe team re-signed the aging Jason Richardson to a reported four-year, $25 million deal despite the fact he didn’t appear to have any other serious suitors. This, as Magic fans know, is a Smith special. He signs players to big deals without context. The second was trading Bass for Davis. Bass made less money and is a better player. Go figure.”
  • A preview of the Southeast Division.
  • Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “Giving Jason Richardson and Glen Davis mid-size contracts is not the way to keep Dwight Howard, I don’t care how good a friend he is with them. The Magic sacrificed their future, which is going to become very important to them in the next six months, in order to try and make another run with the same team that didn’t succeed last year, plus Davis who is a big who doesn’t help their issues in rebounding and has conditioning issues. Re-signing Earl Clark doesn’t make a big enough impact to matter.”
  • Has Howard already checked out?
  • J.A. Adande of ESPN.com: “As tumultuous as the process of trading Chris Paul was for the Hornets, at least that’s over. Dwight Howard will be an issue for Orlando every day until he leaves (it still feels more like when than if). It’s already cost the Magic a CEO, who admitted making a wine-infused phone call to Howard at 1 a.m. When will the cap-clogged roster and ill-fitting parts cost them Howard himself? The only positive is this should make for some entertaining Stan Van Gundy news conferences.”

Dec 19

Player to watch: LeBron James

Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Magic Basketball previews the 2011-2012 NBA season with a look at the players we’re most excited to watch this year.

I’ll be honest with you.

When thinking about the player I’m most excited to watch this year, I tried to be in vogue and pick a rising star like Eric Gordon or Stephen Curry or John Wall. Those are guys who are on the precipice of greatness. Heck, they might not go down that path of stardom this season but you get the feeling they’ll find their way sooner or later (barring some unforeseen incident).

The problem is that Gordon, Curry, or Wall don’t make me excited to watch them play. In the case of Wall, the most dynamic player amongst the trio, that might seem like crazy talk. But living in Chicago and watching Derrick Rose play fills my basketball tummy with enough hyper-explosive point guard play that I’m more than satisfied. Wall doesn’t leave me wanting more. I see enough with Rose.

And as much as I delight in watching Dwight Howard play, with the satisfaction knowing that I’ve watched him grow into an elite and near-complete two-way player over the last several years, there’s one player that I would rather watch over him if I had to choose and it’s LeBron James.

For reasons I’ll explain, LeBron is a player I have to watch no matter the circumstance, no matter the cost, no matter what. He’s must-see TV. He’s the hotly-anticipated Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao PPV fight that everyone is dying to see and willing to purchase in a heartbeat. He’s the video game you wait outside your local Gamestop to buy at a midnight release party. I could go on and on but you get the picture.

The feeling of ‘I HAVE TO SEE HIM PLAY’ began when ESPN2 aired LeBron’s high school game against Mater Dei High School on January 4, 2003. That’s when I got a first look at LeBron and I was instantly intrigued. As a result, I didn’t miss LeBron’s NBA debut on the road against the Sacramento Kings later that year.

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Dec 16

Dell Demps has advice for Otis Smith

Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

Via Sports Radio Interviews:

“It’s funny I talked to the general manager, Otis Smith, and he’s a great guy. I think Otis Smith will come out of this smelling like a rose. It’s tough. These are franchise changing decisions and if you don’t have a situation where you feel like you are going to put your franchise in the best shape there’s no timeline. There is the trade deadline timeline, but there’s no rush to do it right now.”

For those who may not know, Dell Demps is the general manager of the New Orleans Hornets. And in case you haven’t heard, the Hornets traded Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. Paul’s future whereabouts, after he notified the Hornets that he would not be re-signing with the team, had been in question ever since the lockout ended. No more.

Although the Hornets had to trade the best point guard in the NBA, a superstar, and a franchise centerpiece, they got a king’s ransom in return — Eric Gordon, Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round pick, Chris Kaman (and his expiring contract), and Al-Farouq Aminu. With that haul, the Hornets can begin the rebuilding process organically.

Yes, New Orleans will be terrible this season but that’s not a bad thing in the league. It’s better to tank, especially in a loaded 2012 NBA Draft, because that will give the Hornets a chance to build around Gordon with two high draft picks that may produce any number of young prospects, like Anthony Davis for instance.

For the Orlando Magic, if they’re forced to trade Dwight Howard, they can only hope they’re able to follow New Orleans’ blueprint.

Dec 15

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “To those who witnessed the Orlando Magic’s scrimmage on Thursday, Dwight Howard was his usual dominant self. Only this time instead of using his considerable muscle, he instead flexed some finesse. Time and again, Howard showed off the growth in his game by anticipating double teams by stepping back and draining several jump shots. But no amount of good news from Howard on the court, it seems, can offset the fact that there’s been no movement in his stance of wanting a trade from the Magic. Orlando still has every intention of trying to retain their franchise center, but Howard said on Thursday that his desire to play elsewhere remains firm. [...] Howard, who can opt out of his contract after this season and become an unrestricted free agent, requested a trade last week from the only franchise that he’s ever played for in seven NBA seasons. His agent, Dan Fegan, was given permission to negotiate potential deals with the New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks – the three teams that Howard has said he would sign a long-term extension with.”
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy reveals his mindset with regards to the Orlando Magic’s rotation. Earl Clark could have a bigger role this season.
  • The latest on the Dwight Howard trade saga.
  • Brett Pollakoff of ProBasketballTalk: “It’s unfortunate for Magic fans to hear, but it’s true nonetheless: The best thing for the franchise would be to trade Dwight Howard sooner rather than later, for the most assets it can get in the best possible package. Orlando’s current roster isn’t capable of getting past the second round of the playoffs, and the team doesn’t have many attractive assets of its own to bring in the level of talent it’s going to take to make Howard think it’s worth it to stay.”
  • Does Howard want to be a white knight? Or does he want to turn to the dark side?
  • Bill Simmons of Grantland: “Put it this way: If I’m Dwight Howard, I’m thinking about titles and titles only. I don’t care about money — that’s coming, regardless. I don’t care about weather — I have to live in whatever city for only eight months a year, and I’m traveling during that entire time, anyway. I don’t care about “building my brand” and all that crap — if I don’t start winning titles soon, my brand is going to be “the center who’s much better than every other center but can’t win a title.” I care only about playing in a big city, finding a team that doesn’t have to demolish itself to acquire me, finding one All-Star teammate who can make my life a little easier (the Duncan to my Robinson), and winning titles. Not title … titles. I want to come out of this decade with more rings than anyone else. I want to be remembered alongside Shaq, Moses and Hakeem, not Robinson and Ewing.”

Dec 15

Magic re-sign Earl Clark

Via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Earl Clark has agreed to a two-year deal with the Orlando Magic, league source tells Y! Sports.

UPDATE: Good signing.

It’s been reported that Earl Clark desperately wanted to re-sign with the Orlando Magic, spurring a more lucrative offer from the Denver Nuggets to make it happen.

Onto the peripherals. Clark’s numbers with the Magic last season, admittedly, were not very good. Although Clark brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm onto the court when he played, he didn’t produce (a sub-10 PER will attest to that for example). On offense, if Clark wasn’t finishing at the rim, he struggled to put the ball in the basket everywhere else with limited range and a shaky jumpshot. Clark’s True Shooting percentage was 46.8 percent in 2011, which is nothing to sneeze at. Clark’s potential, though, is associated with his defense.

At 6-foot-10, Clark is diverse enough athletically to defend opposing small forwards and power forwards. That’s the intrigue with Clark because, let’s be frank, outside of Dwight Howard and maybe Glen Davis, the Magic are lacking for players that can effectively defend forwards. And head coach Stan Van Gundy raves about Clark’s defense, as he feels that will make him an impact player in the NBA. That is, if Clark is open to carving that niche out for himself in the league.

Amidst the Howard hoopla, Clark will be a player to keep an eye on. Van Gundy is a proven developer of young talent and it’ll be interesting to see if Clark makes any progress in his second year with Orlando. Typically players in their second season with Van Gundy do.

If he can improve on his offense and further develop on defense, Clark could find himself becoming a bigger factor in Van Gundy’s rotation.

Dec 15

Player to watch: Stephen Curry

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Magic Basketball previews the 2011-2012 NBA season with a look at the players we’re most excited to watch this year.

When Eddy asked me to think of a player I was most excited to watch, my mind immediately went to every player on the Thunder roster. But — curses! — Nate beat me to it with his killer piece on Tuesday on James Harden, the league’s pre-eminent beard.

I realized I’m tired of talking about Ryan Anderson, even though I’m really stoked for his season, and tired of hearing how excited everyone is for Ricky Rubio. And then I wanted to write about one of the players involved in these mega trade rumors, but I realized that those are being covered so exhaustively that even thinking the name Chris Paul triggers some sort of trauma-induced narcolepsyasdfjasfmcea.ddffll. See? Like that. It just happened.

In trying to think about who I was excited about this year, I was forced to stare into the new Twitter-created attention abyss, wherein everything about the NBA is so rapidly transmitted, commented upon and digested that anything exciting is ground into a mealy pulp of commentary within minutes. For those of you scoring metaphors at home, I just said that Twitter has turned the NBA into a chasm of boring oatmeal — everything in today’s news cycle happens so fast that you can’t be surprised by anything, and everything fresh about the league is so quickly overexposed that it becomes stale.

Even the rookies, for God’s sake: I already know how Rubio struggles with his shot, I already know about Derrick Williams’ problems as a “tweener” (there’s a word I would banish from English) and I know how Jan Vesely’s girlfriend kisses and what every basketball writer I follow thinks about that.

I realized I was struggling to dredge up excitement because I have a hard time imagining being surprised any more. And then, somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I thought: “Stephen Curry.”

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Dec 14

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “For now, it appears that the Orlando Magic front office has decided there’s no reason to rush into trading Dwight Howard, because the same offers — and perhaps better ones — likely still will be available right up until the March 15 NBA trade deadline. And perhaps Howard’s thinking about his future will change by that time. But Smith also denied multiple reports that said Magic officials have told teams they are ending trade talks for their All-NBA center. [...] Rumors swirled Wednesday that the Magic had been in serious talks with the New Jersey Nets for a three- or four-team trade in which the Magic would have traded Howard and sent away the contracts of Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon. In return, the two best players the Magic would have received center were Brook Lopez from the Nets and small forward Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trail Blazers. Smith wouldn’t confirm or deny that he had those talks, but he did indicate that he’s in no rush to make a move.”
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel thinks the Orlando Magic should start Glen Davis at power forward alongside Dwight Howard.
  • Today at ESPN.com, Danny Nowell and I joined Henry Abbott, John Hollinger, and David Thorpe to discuss the possibility of Howard joining the New Jersey Nets.
  • Chris Palmer of ESPN Insider breaks down what a partnership between Howard and Kobe Bryant might look like in Los Angeles.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk on the latest news that the Magic won’t be trading Howard any time soon: “The Magic are trying to slow everything down. The process they can do that with, the rumor mill is another matter. In the end, if they can’t re-sign Howard to an extension (and that is not looking likely) they have to trade him or watch him walk for nothing, just like happened with Shaquille O’Neal. But the Magic have wanted to take their time with this from the start, this move fits in with that.”
  • John Brandon of Grantland speaking on behalf of Magic fans: “We’re prepared for Dwight Howard to leave. Whether in the next few days or at the trading deadline or after the season. We’d rather him stay, because he’s a stunning athlete with a beaming grin, and also because we drafted him, which for outdated reasons means something to us. He’s never swiped a board for anyone else. The mind-boggling alley-oops have always been ours. The humiliating swats, property of Orlando. But we’re emotionally prepared for him to leave. For one thing, we’ve been through this before with an even scarier big man who was part of a better Magic team. If training frontcourt talent is our role, we’re at peace with that. If the Magic’s niche is to draft physically unique big men with the first overall pick, train them for a few years until they possess a semblance of a back-to-the-basket game, and then ship them to a big city to win championships, so be it. And Orlando and its residents, being the good sports we are, will even get those big men some NBA Finals experience without letting them actually win a championship. We want them to still be hungry when they hop on a plane toward their cosmopolitan destiny.”
  • Trading Howard may just come down to a matter of timing.
  • NBA scribes discuss the possible fallout with Howard’s ongoing saga.
  • For now, Orlando will try to win with Howard en tow.
  • If you enjoy NBA drama, this offseason has been full of it already.
  • Who would the Magic rather have? Andrew Bynum or Brook Lopez? Let it be known that a writer from Nets Are Scorching penned this piece.
  • Orlando needs way more in return if they trade Howard. That’s the opinion of Zach Lowe of The Point Forward, in which he comments on the rumored three-team proposal between the Magic, New Jersey Nets, and Portland Trail Blazers: “This is obviously a work in progress, but even this refined proposal amounts to Lopez, some middling first-round picks and a salary dump for Orlando. Wallace is a very good player, but he’s 29 with a game built on speed and ferocity. The ferocity will last, and Wallace is a hard-working, smart player. It’s not as if he’ll fall of the NBA map in his early 30s. But giving long-term deals to speedy wing players at that age is generally risky, and the Magic, in this scenario, may well decide to just let Wallace walk when his contract expires after the 2012-13 season.”
  • Howard reportedly remains firm in his stance that he wants out of Orlando.

Dec 14

Dwight Howard sends a stern warning to the Magic

AP Photo/John Raoux

Via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Howard has warned the Magic if they don’t move him by the March 15 trade deadline, they’ll lose him for nothing in free agency. Howard told the Magic again on Tuesday that he wanted a trade, a league source said.

“Dwight’s not a happy camper,” one league source told Y! Sports.

The Magic still prefer what the Lakers could offer in any possible future trade talks, with a possible package of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum more attractive on a pure talent basis. The Nets have been far more aggressive in the pursuit of Howard than the Lakers, who are usually methodical in trade discussions.

The Orlando Magic don’t have to do anything right now. The New Jersey Nets aren’t going anywhere and neither are the Los Angeles Lakers now that Chris Paul has been traded to the Clippers. If the Magic decide to trade Howard, their primary objective is to negotiate from a position of strength. And that strength will begin to grow as the trade deadline nears.

Now that the Lakers have struck out on Paul, it’s almost assured they’ll focus on Howard. Unless, you know, Los Angeles wants to try to compete in the Western Conference with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and filler. If the Lakers want Howard, they have to trade for him, which will almost assuredly create a bidding war between them and the Nets. Remember, New Jersey can’t strike out on Howard either because then they run the risk of losing Deron Williams.

Let the games begin.

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