Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 140

Dec 09

Friday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic may file a formal complaint with the NBA that the New Jersey Nets — in their quest to entice Dwight Howard — violated the league’s tampering rules. ESPN, citing unnamed sources, is reporting that Howard met with Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov and Nets General Manager Billy King on Thursday night in Miami without the Magic’s knowledge or permission. Magic CEO Alex Martins said, and an NBA spokesman confirmed, that the Magic have not filed any complaints — at least not yet.”
  • More from Robbins: “Dwight Howard’s representatives have told the New Jersey Nets that they are his first choice and that he plans to ask the Orlando Magic for a trade, ESPN reported early Friday morning. […] Howard can become a free agent after the 2011-12 season, and speculation has been rampant about his intentions. He has declined to discuss his long-term plans publicly in recent weeks, and it’s unknown what, exactly, he has told Magic officials, although he has been in contact with them in recent days. Magic officials have said they will do everything they can to keep him with the organization for the long-term. But Howard has grown increasingly concerned with the team’s direction since the team’s first-round playoff loss last spring, occasionally hinting that he wants more help on the roster.”
  • Dwight Howard showed up to training camp.
  • Brandon Bass’ agent, Tony Dutt, comments on his client being traded to the Boston Celtics for Glen Davis: “We’ve had two or three conversations this morning. He understands the business side of it. It’s tough because he really, really likes Orlando. It’s part of the business, unfortunately. I’m very close with [Boston’s] Danny [Ainge]. At the end of the day, if Orlando doesn’t want him, he’s a valuable player. He’s a valuable asset to any team that he plays for. I don’t want to say I’m disappointed, but I’m disappointed on one side. I’m happy for Brandon that he’ll be in a position to play for a championship.”
  • Do the Orlando Magic call Howard’s bluff if he wants to be traded to the New Jersey Nets?
  • Andrew Bynum has higher upside than Brook Lopez according to Magic officials.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The NBA is certainly protecting its own interests by killing Chris Paul’s trade to the Lakers, but what about Orlando’s interests? Paul’s New Orleans Hornets, pro basketball orphans, are owned by the NBA. So how in the name of small markets and competitive balance can David Stern block Paul’s move and not Dwight Howard’s?”
  • Orlando CEO Alex Martins: “I’ll tell Dwight the same thing that I’ve said all week since we’ve been able to talk to him. That is that first and foremost we want him to resign here Martins. We’re going to continue to give him every resource and every asset that he needs and we need to be successful. We’ve proven we’ll do that over the last four years in particular. Our ownership has continued to invest in putting other players around him. The only thing that we haven’t been successful at is finishing that last step in winning the title.”
  • For head coach Stan Van Gundy, this season’s training camp will be an interesting one to say the least.
  • Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins have officially been signed to contracts, as well as free agents Larry Hughes and Gabe Pruitt.

  • Trade scenarios involving Howard.
  • More on the possibility that tampering charges will be filed against the Nets.
  • Brett Pollakoff of ProBasketballTalk on the impact of Gilbert Arenas being waived: “The ‘extra jolt in the free-agent market’ is the really interesting part of this, because these high-dollar players who are no longer worth those big contracts can still contribute something in most cases, and should have no problem signing somewhere for the veteran minimum salary since they’re still being paid on their old contract.”
  • David Aldridge of NBA.com: “Magic chief executive officer Alex Martins says that Orlando has not filed tampering charges against any other team for any illegal contact with star Dwight Howard. Martins says that the rules against tampering are clear and that if they had been violated in any way the team would pursue the abusers to the fullest extent of NBA rules. But as of Friday nothing has been filed with the league office. Howard has not publicly indicated that he wants to be dealt, and privately, the communications between Howard, his agent, Dan Fegan, and the Magic have produced mixed signals. At points, Howard indicates he might want to stay with the Magic, who have become a championship contender on his watch — only the Lakers and Celtics have won more regular season and playoff games over the last four years. But at other points, he indicates dissatisfaction with the makeup of the team. Orlando has had a contract extension on the table for Howard for some time, but he has — like other star players in recent years — not signed it.”
  • A timeline of today’s events with regards to Howard, tampering charges, and trade rumors.
  • Howard denies a meeting took place with the Nets.
  • Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com: “While Arenas represented the NBA’s worst contract, it’s possible that someone places a low-bill bid for his services in the blind amnesty waiver process. It’s also possible his many off-court red flags and controversial statements (including inappropriate Twitter posts) could lead teams to steer clear. Arenas, 29, will eventually catch on with someone, somewhere, but it remains an open question how many bridges he has left unburned.”
  • Additional thoughts on the possibility of Howard joining the Nets.
  • Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated: “A source close to the situation said early Friday that Orlando was also considering filing tampering charges against Houston, but that a Rockets claim will not be pursued due to lack of information.”
  • It’s been a busy day for Orlando.

Dec 09

Magic waive Gilbert Arenas

Via OrlandoMagic.com:

The Orlando Magic have waived guard Gilbert Arenas and designated him as the team’s amnesty player, President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Otis Smith announced today.

UPDATE: This is what I wrote in Gilbert Arenas’ player evaluation in June:

The Arenas that the Magic got, for the most part, was an inefficient shooting, turnover-prone, sometimes-hobbled player. There were those that argued that Arenas needed a lot of minutes to be effective. Thing is, in 29 of Arenas’ 49 games with Orlando, he played more than 20 minutes a night. If anything, head coach Stan Van Gundy displayed an extreme amount of patience with Arenas, giving him a lot more rope that he probably deserved.

It’s true that Arenas’ freelancing ways didn’t mesh well in Van Gundy’s structured schemes offensively. But it’s also true that Arenas’ freelancing ways were precisely what the Magic were trying to inject into a lifeless offense.

It didn’t work.

Arenas was brought on to — in theory — provide a scoring punch on the perimeter. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Orlando Magic got a delusional player that thought he was still a superstar from 2006. The problem is that many of Arenas’ skills had left him long ago and he hasn’t come to grips with that yet.

Arenas was a spectacular failure with the Magic and even though they have to pay the remainder of his contract, this move creates a little payroll flexibility because it no longer counts against the team’s salary cap and luxury tax.

Dec 09

Magic trade Brandon Bass for Glen Davis

Via Marc J Spears of Yahoo! Sports:

Celtics trading F Glen Davis in sign and trade to Magic for F Brandon Bass, source tells [Yahoo! Sports].

UPDATE: At Bob Vander Weide’s press conference on Wednesday, in which he formally stepped down as CEO of the Orlando Magic, general manager Otis Smith was peppered with questions pertaining to Dwight Howard’s future with the franchise. This is what Smith said:

“We’re gonna continue to put the best team on the floor to win an NBA title. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to listen to everything Dwight has to say and placate to that. That doesn’t necessarily mean how our organization is ran. Our organization is ran… we want him here as long as we can have him here, and our organization is ran to win a title. We built a culture here for a reason.”

Here lies the problem. According to a report, Glen Davis is one of the players that Howard wanted the Magic to acquire. Howard and Davis have a friendship that dates back to their time in AAU. The issue is that, after Smith said that he wasn’t going to placate to Howard, he does just that.

Exacerbating the problem is that, on top of trying to appease Howard (which is the same cosmic mistake that the Cleveland Cavaliers made with LeBron James), Orlando — talent-wise — just got worse by trading away Bass and acquiring Davis in return.

For all of Bass’ shortcomings, which primarily was due to the fact that he wasn’t a great fit with the Magic in the first place because of his inability to spread the floor like Rashard Lewis and Ryan Anderson, he struggled with team concepts defensively even though he’s a good individual defender, and his skill-set was better suited as a top-flight reserve than as an average starter, it doesn’t change that he’s a good player with a fair contract ($4 million per year). Bass was one of the last good assets Orlando had left. And now it’s gone. Better yet, the Magic just improved the Boston Celtics’ roster — a team they’re directly competing with in the Eastern Conference.

Let’s address Davis.

Is Davis an NBA-caliber player? Yes. Is Davis a good player? No. Aside from being a decent defender (mostly because of his ability to draw charges, which is a redeeming defensive quality), Davis is extremely inefficient on offense, a below-average jumpshooter, and a below-average rebounder (for his position) that constantly has to battle with his weight. Cumulatively, Davis is a worse player than Bass and it’s not even close. Oh, and with a 4-year, $26 million contract, Davis is overpaid. As if Orlando doesn’t already have enough players being paid more than they’re worth.

How does Davis fit in with the Magic? Who knows.

What we do know is that Smith placated Howard, weakened Orlando as a team, wasted an asset, improved a conference rival, and gave away a good player on a fair contract for a bad one that’s overpaid.

Dec 09

Is Dwight Howard headed to New Jersey?

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Via Chris Broussard of ESPN.com:

Dwight Howard will ask the Orlando Magic to trade him to the New Jersey Nets, and a deal could go down as soon as Friday, sources close to the situation said.

Howard’s representatives have already told the Nets that they are his preferred destination.

When Howard speaks to the Magic, he will tell them that he will not re-sign with the team after this season, sources said. There is also a chance that Howard will not attend the opening of training camp Friday, according to a source.

As ESPN.com reported last week, the Nets are ready to offer the Magic a package built around center Brook Lopez and two first-round draft picks, New Jersey’s own and one the Nets acquired from Houston in a previous trade, according to sources.

New Jersey is also willing to take back Hedo Turkoglu and the three years, $34 million remaining on his deal.

The appeal of the Nets for Howard is the chance to play with All-Star point guard Deron Williams and the Nets’ move into a new arena in Brooklyn for the start of the 2012-13 season.

Dec 08

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “It appears that the NBA lockout has taken a toll on the Orlando Magic. The team has laid off 20 full-time staff members and determined that up to 12 other open positions will be eliminated, three league sources told the Orlando Sentinel. The moves impact most of the organization’s departments but not the basketball operations department. They were announced to the team’s remaining full-time staff of about 170 people on Tuesday. A Magic spokesman would not comment. A team policy prohibits employees from commenting about staffing matters. On Jan. 1, the Magic put a hiring freeze into effect because team officials anticipated that a labor dispute between league owners and players could lead to the cancellation of games. As a result of the hiring freeze, 12 positions that were open or became open stayed unfilled.
  • Larry Hughes — yes, that Larry Hugheshas been invited to the Orlando Magic’s training camp. No word if any other former members of the Golden State Warriors will be attending as well.
  • More from Robbins: “Howard’s long-term status will not be resolved in the next few days. It just won’t. But we may see some major clues as to the team’s long-range strategy. If the team wants to start creating cap space for the free-agent bonanza of the summer of 2012, it can do so by inking Jason Richardson to a free-agent deal and sending him to another team via a sign-and-trade. That would help the Magic create room under the cap if the Magic receive a contract that will expire after the 2011-12 season or an unguaranteed contract or picks.”
  • Dwight Howard’s birthday wish list.

Dec 08

The nitty gritty on Dwight Howard’s future

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Via Bill Ingram of HOOPSWORLD:

The new CBA allows veteran players to extend their deal to a maximum of four years, meaning at no time can your extension push you past four guaranteed years. Dwight has two more years on his contract with the Magic, with an option coming this summer. As of today, Dwight can only sign a two-year extension with the Magic, as this season and next would count towards the four allowed. Next summer Dwight (and Chris Paul and Deron Williams) could opt out and sign a new contract for five years. BY waiting until July, Dwight can sign for two more years than he can sign for now.

So there will be no extension for Dwight.

Hence the reason that Deron Williams declared that he was opting out of his contract with the New Jersey Nets. From a financial point of view, it makes sense.

The same logical applies to Dwight Howard.

That said, the league’s best center by far still very much wants to be in Orlando, and he is willing to give them every opportunity to keep him. What that means to Dwight is that he wants the Magic to be contenders, and to that end Orlando has a short list of players they would like to add in an effort to return to contention. Atlanta’s Josh Smith, Philadelphia’s Andre Iguodala and Golden State’s Monta Ellis are on that list.

None of this is groundbreaking news. Sure, Howard may want to stay with the Orlando Magic but will he? That’s yet to be determined.

And as for Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala, and Monta Ellis, each of them would help the Magic, yes.

Smith is an All-Star caliber talent and although he’s mind-numbingly frustrating to watch on offense, combining his defensive abilities with Howard would make Orlando — already a top five unit on defense — even better on that end of the floor. Plus, it would push Brandon Bass back into a more suitable role coming off the bench. It’d be worth mentioning that the Magic would once again run into playing time issues at power forward (when Rashard Lewis was around) with Smith, Bass, and Ryan Anderson. However, to acquire a player of Smith’s caliber, Orlando would likely have to give up Anderson in a trade, rendering the point moot.

Iguodala is probably the most intriguing of the three players mentioned because even though he remains a fringe All-Star caliber player, at best, he’s an elite perimeter defender (only Tony Allen is better). Give head coach Stan Van Gundy a defensive pairing of Iguodala and Howard, and there’s a good chance that the Magic would have the best defense in the NBA. Iguodala is an inconsistent jumpshooter, doesn’t attack the rim as much as he should (which means he doesn’t get to the free-throw line as much as he should), but he’s an underrated playmaker and Orlando could always use another one of those.

If Iguodala is the most intriguing player, Ellis is the least intriguing player. Oh sure, Ellis can score a lot but he was aided by playing in a fast-paced offense (the Golden State Warriors were fifth in pace last season) and leading the league in minutes played. As John Hollinger pointed out in his player profiles at ESPN Insider, when looking at Ellis’ scoring on a per-minute, pace-adjusted basis, he ranked 17th in scoring rather than eighth if you were looking at points per game. And that’s not even mentioning that Ellis isn’t a very efficient offensive player either. Or that Ellis rarely tries on defense. Or that, to compound the problem defensively, Ellis is an undersized two-guard that can be exploited by the Joe Johnsons of the world. Ellis may seem like an intriguing player but Van Gundy would have his hands full trying to make him fit in well with the Magic. More so than Smith and Iguodala.

The question that should really be asked is whether or not Smith, Iguodala, or Ellis would be enough to help Orlando overtake the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, and Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference? Unless the Magic got more than one of them, the answer is likely no. Which would make it that much harder for Orlando to convince Howard to stay.

This isn’t meant to paint a bleak picture for Magic fans.

This is meant to grasp the reality of the situation.

Dec 07

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Howard knows that the Magic, as assembled, are not legitimate contenders. They don’t have the assets to appease Paul’s or Deron Williams’ team, either. The Magic are trying to romance Dwight with a promise, and a lot more money. Vander Weide told me that Howard can make $30 million in the fifth year of an extension in the new CBA — much more than he can make elsewhere. This will be different than the Shaq debacle of 15 years ago, when a young, naïve franchise was led on by O’Neal and then low-balled him out of the gate. Smith and Martins made it abundantly clear that if Dwight wants out, it’s on Dwight, not the franchise. Back in the day, Shaq spun it the other way. Vander Weide vowed that the DeVos family will not allow Howard to walk without compensation, as Shaq did.”
  • From scooping Italian ice at Giants Stadium to becoming the CEO of the Orlando Magic, Alex Martins’ journey has been an interesting one.
  • Magic players are getting ready for training camp on Friday.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Team officials said Vander Weide’s retirement has been planned for months and has nothing to do with Howard’s uncertain long-term future with the team or with a recent late-night phone conversation between Vander Weide and Howard. Vander Weide said he determined that his workload, which included memberships on two key NBA committees, had started to wear on him about a year ago.”
  • Deadspin somehow made its way into Vander Weide’s press conference today.
  • Chris Paul billboards are all around the city of Orlando.
  • What does Vander Weide stepping down mean for the Magic?
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Martins said all of the pieces are in place for the Magic to once again contend for a championship this season, which will begin on Dec. 25 with Orlando at Oklahoma City in the nationally televised opener. Training camp opens on Dec. 9 with the Magic playing two exhibition games against the Miami Heat (Dec. 18 in Miami and Dec. 21 in Orlando). Martins feels that with Howard as the team’s anchor at center that Orlando can be a force in the Eastern Conference once again.”
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post has a must-read breakdown of what took place at Vander Weide’s press conference earlier today.
  • Andrew Lynch of Hardwood Paroxysm: “What initially struck me as an awesome introduction to the new season for my favorite team now taunts me and flaunts the transient nature of this season in my face. Every visit to or from Orlando is a similar circumstance, potentially turned upside-down by the mighty hand of Otis Smith. Unless it’s turned right-side up again, 360-style, by the mighty hand of Otis Smith pulling the trigger on a Chris Paul-to-Orlando deal that might or might not be possible because SOURCES!”
  • What’s the most interesting game we won’t see in the 2011-2012 regular season? Devin Kharpertian of Nets Are Scorching has an answer: “A two-way tie between Carmelo Anthony avoiding Denver in the “We’re Better Off Without You” game and Dwight Howard avoiding Los Angeles in the “Please, Please, Please Come Play For Us” game (for either Los Angeles team). Force my hand, and the Howard game gets a slight edge, if only because the Denver game can still happen next season.”
  • Dwight Howard isn’t on the move for now.
  • Orlando appears to be interested in Jamal Crawford.
  • Has head coach Stan Van Gundy been questioning Howard’s leadership?
  • Steve Aschburner of NBA.com thinks the Magic could be a surprise team in the NBA this season if they manage to keep Howard around: “One obvious answer is Orlando. If the Magic not only hang onto Howard but acquire someone who might convince their MVP candidate to stick around long-term, they continue as an East contender. If not, they’ll be counting the days till they get lottery lucky again.”
  • NBA.com scribes try to predict Howard’s future whereabouts.

Dec 07

Is Ryan Anderson more than a role player?

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I’m met with an interesting dilemma regarding Ryan Anderson. He is better across the board in offensive statistics than Brandon Bass, who shares his position. But pound for pound Bass is a better defender than Anderson. So how can you maximize Anderson’s game without making him a starter or changing Van Gundy’s schemes?

Please note, I’m not really sure, but I was willing to give this a look considering all of us at Magic Basketball had Anderson pegged as “the most intriguing player on the Magic roster” in last week’s 5-on-5 roundtable discussion at ESPN.com.

The first thing I had to do was take a look at this whole “Bass vs. Anderson” thing. By using the eye test, it was obvious that Bass had defensive strengths that Anderson lacked, but that Anderson was more of an all-around good scorer and contributor on the offensive end. Stats basically confirmed that.

Last season Anderson had a better True Shooting percentage and a better effective field goal percentage. He also rebounded better and had a better Offensive Rating. And generally speaking, Anderson was a better player overall than Bass.

With this in mind, I start wondering, is he this good regardless of his role on a team, or did Stan Van Gundy stick him in the perfect place already to maximize his game? In a player profile on this very site last year, Anderson was given a B+ rating, but called “a role player and nothing more” for the time being.

Now you see where this is heading. Could Anderson be more than just a role player? Is that what makes him so intriguing?

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Dec 07

Stan Van Gundy and the future of the Magic

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Usually when a team realizes the axe is hanging over their current era, one of the first questions that circulates is about the coaching. So far, though, as perhaps you’ve noticed, the spotlight has been on Dwight Howard and almost nothing else. Perhaps this is because the Magic are in sort of a bizarre situation with Stan Van Gundy, by all reasonable accounts a top five coach whose teams perennially overachieve but whose lack of mystical machismo or good suits has led to his being underappreciated.

We know two things, though: the Magic will be a completely different team within a year’s time, and it would be pure lunacy not to have SVG usher the team through the transition. Because it is fun to think about things like this, and because it is instructive to examine the coaching situation to figure out how the Magic will operate, I want to imagine what a rebuilding team helmed by SVG would look like.

At his only other professional head coaching stop, Van Gundy took over a Heat team that was in a weird place. This was before Dwyane Wade was really Dwyane Wade (who, despite a strong postseason, posted just a 17.6 PER on the year), and what little talent the Heat had meshed so poorly the team had won 25 games the year before. In Van Gundy’s first year, the Heat — just to recap, with a rookie star and only one other player whose PER was higher than 17 — won 42 games and gave the team with most wins in the league, the Pacers, a bear of a second round series. This is Van Gundy’s most “rebuilding” year and, given that the Heat were just two seasons away from a title afterward, I think it’s safe to call it an unmitigated success.

As the coach of the Magic, Van Gundy has demonstrated two things that I think would make him an ideal coach for a rebuilding team: a commitment to defense, and a willingness to play unorthodox ball to cater to his players’ strengths and limitations. Young players (remember those?) were developed as role players and given increased responsibilities as their skills developed, and under Van Gundy, this development has been rapid. Think about the fact that Courtney Lee went from being a non-lottery pick who was a spot player to having a play drawn up for him to beat the Lakers in the Finals — this is a coach who knows how to bring players along while negotiating their growing abilities and roles. You can see this time and again in Orlando, and nowhere more clearly than with Dwight Howard.

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Dec 07

Brief thoughts on the Magic’s schedule

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Christmas Day
The Orlando Magic kick off the 2011-2012 season on Christmas Day against the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road. For the casual NBA fans, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook will do more than enough to pique their interest in the game. But a player to really look out for is James Harden without question. Harden really began to emerge as a playmaker in the 2011 NBA Playoffs and as a result, the Thunder may have a third star on their hands. Westbrook made a big leap from his second to third year in the league and Oklahoma City can only hope that Harden will do the same.

National TV games
It’s not surprising that the Magic are scheduled to appear in 24 nationally-televised games (including NBA TV). Ever since Orlando became an elite team and championship contender a few years ago, they’ve played in front of a national audience with regularity. That being said, the Magic have moved down the totem poll in the Eastern Conference and even though Howard is on the roster for the moment, questions continue to swirl around his future. What if Howard is traded during the season? Then what? The NBA would likely have to switch out a few of the games featuring Orlando to showcase other teams.

City of Angels
One of the first things that jumps out, when examining the schedule, is that the Magic don’t make a trip to Los Angeles to play either the Lakers or the Clippers on the road. Ain’t that something. However, it would be a cruel twist of fate if Howard played in either game as a visitor.

The Eastern elite
Amongst the East heavyweights, Orlando plays the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls three times and the Miami Heat four times. Like in any season, how good the Magic are will be dependent partly on how good they perform against the Celtics, Bulls, and Heat. This isn’t meant to be a slight on the New York Knicks but their roster as currently constructed isn’t good enough to be listed among the contenders in the Eastern Conference. And neither is Orlando for that matter.

Backs on backs on backs
The Magic have one back-to-back-to-back to deal with and it’ll come early in the season (January 16-18). The opponents are the Knicks, Charlotte Bobcats, and San Antonio Spurs. The first game is on the road and the latter two are at home.

Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus has more on the rare back-to-back-to-back:

Considering everything, back-to-back-to-backs apparently were actually somewhat easier for teams than back-to-backs during 1998-99. What we haven’t considered here is the cumulative effect of fatigue, and teams that knew they were playing three games in a row may have adjusted their rotations in the first two, meaning back-to-back-to-backs had an impact that can’t be felt from the last game alone. Still, when this year’s schedule is released Tuesday night, it’s probably not worth obsessing over how many back-to-back-to-backs your favorite team has. (Each team will have at least one such stretch and a maximum of three.) It’s unlikely to have much of an impact on how their season goes.

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