AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Ah, last week, ‘twas so very long ago. Back in those distant, sunnier times, the Magic were as foals, tottering around in the warming naivete of the new season, kicking their legs and just beginning to grasp their potential as thoroughbreds. It was in those carefree days that J.J. Redick told the Orlando Sentinel, “I like our team. We have a chance to be the best team I’ve been on in my six years with the Magic.” It was a lovely thought, the hopefulness of youth giving itself full, gilded voice until, on Monday night, the Magic played the worst offensive game of the franchise’s history. And now, a week after Redick uttered those charming, misguided words, we know in the harsh glare of hindsight that he might actually be right?
Readers of mine here at Magic Basketball will know that I have been wary of this team from the jump. Astute ones might even accuse me of severe, myopic grouchiness. I wrote at the start of the season that I didn’t think this team could surprise me. I wrote as late as last week that I still think the Magic are better off trading Dwight. My idea was that I was wisely insulating my rationality from my fannish impulses, and that years of organizational incompetence would force the other shoe to drop. I’m not writing today to fully reverse course — my pride prevents such a thing — but the past week has shown me some new things about this team, things I ordinarily don’t even look for as a viewer.
First, we have to discuss Monday night’s game. As one shot after another bricked off against Boston, I was watching with the same sort of morbid self-satisfaction an engineer might feel when he watches a shoddy bridge collapse. All of the conventional wisdom about the team seemed to be coalescing into a dispiriting beat down; I was prepared for days of internet commenters caps-shouting LIVE BY THE THREE, DIE BY THE THREE and talking about how this team isn’t tough because Dwight Howard isn’t tough, and so on and so on.
At around the third quarter, I was ready for every nonsense piece I thought I’d read about the next day, such as “Does Dwight smile too much?” or “Can Dwight ever play with enough of an edge to become really elite?” What I’m saying is, it was an emotionally fraught loss, because it seemed like the worst-case scenario we all could have seen coming was finally happening. The Magic were in a crowded part of their schedule, and the strength of the opposition up to that point had inflated the quality of the team. By the final horn, I was expecting that all of my worst predictions were coming true. But that’s the thing about this sardine can of a season. A single week contains about a twelfth of the team’s total schedule, and assumptions can be challenged pretty quick.
If Magic fans were to use word association for Earl Clark, the first word that would probably come out of their mouths? Potential. After languishing on the bench with the Phoenix Suns for two seasons, Clark came over in the Orlando Magic’s trade for Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson last season. And although he didn’t get a lot of playing time with the Magic, when he did see the floor, it became clear that head coach Stan Van Gundy had the makings of a defensive stopper on his hands. With his length and athleticism, Clark showed flashes of a player that could make an impact defensively.
Standing at 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Clark has a unique ability to defend small forwards and power forwards in the NBA. Clark’s interchangeability of quickness and strength, depending on the matchup, is what makes him a versatile defender. The problem for Clark, however, is that he’s a poor player on offense, which negates any of the positives he brings to the table defensively. Clark tries too often to be someone he’s not when he plays — a player that’s looking to score rather than a player that’s looking to defend. That’s precisely the reason that Van Gundy hasn’t used Clark much in Orlando’s rotation this season.
Yet against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, Clark got a chance to play extended minutes. Normally Van Gundy pairs Glen Davis with Ryan Anderson or Dwight Howard as part of the second unit in the second quarter of games. But with Howard saddled with foul trouble after picking up his third foul less than 30 seconds into the second quarter and Anderson needing rest after playing the entire first quarter for the Magic, Van Gundy turned to Clark on the bench. At this point in the game, Orlando was losing. But thanks in large part to Clark’s defensive impact, the Magic were able to withstand a lack of Howard on defense.
When Clark entered the game, Orlando was down by seven points at 29-22. By the end of the second quarter, the Magic were tied with the Pacers at 45 apiece. Clark and his defense was a game-changer for Orlando.
In the period, Clark had five points, three rebounds, one steal, and three blocks in a little more than 11 minutes of playing time. Clark made so many plays defensively, it seemed like he was a mini-Howard.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Orlando Magic General Manager Otis Smith indicated Tuesday that it is unlikely the team will extend the contract of power forward Ryan Anderson before Wednesday night’s 11:59 EST deadline to do so for members of the 2008 draft class. Anderson is on course to become a restricted free agent in July, and the Magic would have the opportunity to match any offer sheet that Anderson could sign with another team. […] Smith acknowledged that Dwight Howard’s unsettled situation did factor into the team’s decision because the team does not know what its roster will look like in the months and years ahead. Not extending Anderson’s contract helps maintain some flexibility. Anderson said before tipoff that he wasn’t worried about the situation and that he hadn’t thought much about a possible extension.”
- The Orlando Magic will not exercise their team option for Daniel Orton in 2012-2013.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “The Magic were historically woeful on Monday night, setting all-time franchise lows for points scored in a game (56), points in a half (20), field goals in a game (16) and shooting percentage (24.6 percent) in an 87-56 loss to the Celtics. The good news for the Magic (12-5) is that they get another shot at the Celtics (7-9) on Thursday and another shot at wiping the memory of the 56-point nightmare out of their minds. This game will be at the Amway Center and on national television, and the Magic can’t wait to redeem themselves against the Celtics.”
- There are now box scores for every game in NBA history.
- Jemele Hill of ESPN.com: “Howard said in early December that he wants to be traded, but he has been backpedaling ever since. And despite Monday night’s awful loss to the Boston Celtics — somehow, the Magic managed to score just 56 points against a team that was without five players — Orlando has been playing well, which is making Howard’s decision that much tougher. In the trade demand last month, he indicated that his biggest issue was that the Magic didn’t have the right pieces to compete for an NBA championship. But the way they’ve played so far this season, they might be a dangerous team in the playoffs. If the Magic were losing, trading him would be a foregone conclusion, and few could blame him for wanting to leave. But demanding a trade from a playoff-bound team reflects poorly on Howard, who isn’t comfortable being a villain. Checkmate, Magic.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Smith also said Orton is ‘a big guy you don’t necessarily have to use right away.’ He could not have been more serious, as Orton has yet to play nearly two years after his selection.”
- The Orlando Magic found their shooting touch against the Indiana Pacers.
- It’s peculiar that the Magic didn’t offer Anderson an extension. This is the same team, of course, that has more than $50 million committed in Jason Richardson and Glen Davis for the next four years.
- Orlando is the 11th-most valuable NBA franchise according to Forbes.
- After surpassing Nick Anderson as the franchise scoring leader last night against the Pacers, Howard is cementing his legacy with the Magic.
- Mark Heisler of SheridanHoops.com: “Dwight, feuding once more with his caped predecessor who now has an open mike at TNT, doesn’t want to follow Shaq’s career path to Lakers. Unfortunately, D12 has yet to tell Magic he wants to be anti-Diesel badly enough to stay.”
- Another look back at Orlando’s win against Indiana.
- Tom Ziller of SB Nation: “Dwight is now the Magic’s all-time leading scorer, which sadly removes Nick Anderson from one of his last strongholds in Trivia Land.”
- Jason Walker of SB Nation: “Defense was key for Orlando, as it held Indiana to under 34 percent shooting after an 11-19 (58 percent) first quarter. That strong defense created easier basket opportunities for the Magic as they had one transition play in the first quarter and 14 the rest of the game, including nine in the second half.”
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Rebounding is one of those things you can thrive at if you put in the work. On the other hand, you could be born with a natural ability to sort of float to wherever the ball seems to come off the rim.
Dwight Howard has both of these things going for him.
It’s well-documented that Dwight works harder than most guys on the court. He logs more minutes, takes more of a beating, and has the supernatural ability to outwork and out-hustle guys who are half his size.
What I noticed, though, in watching some video from some of his more dominant rebounding games this year, is that it’s more than just elbow grease and size that gives Dwight an advantage under the hoop. Dwight has the uncanny ability to be in the right place when the ball clangs off the rim. He dances and floats and positions and schemes and at first you wonder how he was right where he needed to be to get a rebound. But on closer analysis, you realize that there is an art to this thing called rebounding, and Dwight specializes in it.
In watching dozens of Dwight’s rebounds using Synergy Sports Technology, I noticed a few things. First, Dwight doesn’t always box out, because he doesn’t always need to. Second, Dwight’s vision and ability to keep his man, the hoop, and the ball in a perfect triangle is probably his strongest attribute when it comes to defense and rebounding. And finally, Dwight is crafty and does not position himself the same way against every player, nor does he position himself the same way offensively as he does defensively.
Let’s start with the first observation, which is that Dwight doesn’t need to box out a lot of the time. All of these observations sort of flow in and out of each other, so bear with me. Part of the reason that Dwight gets so many rebounds is that his positioning is so good that his opponents recognize when he has position. And frankly, there are times when players will just bail when Dwight is in the paint with his big wide base waiting for the ball to come off the rim. One of the things that makes Dwight so great is that this “position” is simply him being near the basket a lot of the time.
Very few times, especially late in games, do players challenge Dwight when he is under the hoop. In situations where he uses his body more actively, like when he’s facing Andrew Bynum or DeJuan Blair, those players will try to get a hand over the back of Dwight and cause some problems. But when he’s facing weaker opponents like Pau Gasol or Tim Duncan, it’s just a matter of being in the right place. Those players will usually shy away from putting up a fight.
Is it a respect thing? Maybe. But really it’s more of a inevitability factor where guys realize, “What’s the point here? He’s got position.” But that shouldn’t go overlooked. Getting to that position is an art in and of itself.
The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Indiana Pacers by the score of 102-83, a night after scoring a franchise-worst 56 points against the Boston Celtics. For the Pacers, it was their first home loss of the regular season and it was the second time they allowed a team to score more than 100 points against them (the Miami Heat accomplished the feat first). The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. Ryan Anderson led the way for Orlando, finishing with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field (including 5-of-7 from three-point range) and eight rebounds. Dwight Howard had a modest game for his standards, chipping in with 14 points, nine rebounds, and two steals in roughly 25 minutes of playing time (he was saddled with foul trouble for a majority of the first half). J.J. Redick had 15 points, while Glen Davis had 15 points, five rebounds, and two blocks. Hedo Turkoglu finished with 11 points and eight assists. The Magic got solid contributions from everyone in head coach Stan Van Gundy’s rotation, with Earl Clark making a cameo appearance as well. For Howard, by scoring 14 points, he becomes the franchise’s leading scorer in his eighth season, breaking Nick Anderson’s previous mark of 10,650 points.
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
6-11 FG | 2-4 FT | 2 STL | 9 REB | 14 PTS | +11
Howard didn’t get a lot of playing time because of foul trouble in the first half. That only delayed the inevitable for the big fella, as he became the Magic’s franchise scoring leader (breaking Nick Anderson’s record) in the third quarter — fittingly from a dunk in a 3/5 pick-and-roll with Hedo Turkoglu at the 9:59 mark in the period. A deserving honor for a larger-than-life figure.
8-14 FG | 5-7 3P | 1 STL | 8 REB | 24 PTS | +11
Anderson had little trouble scoring against the Indiana Pacers, hitting a game-high five three-pointers and proving yet again that he’s a much more potent stretch four than Rashard Lewis ever was. More importantly, though, was Anderson’s defense against David West. Granted, Anderson got help as Van Gundy consistently sent double-teams at West. Nevertheless, Anderson was able to slow West down.
6-13 FG | 1-4 3P | 2 AST | 3 REB | 15 PTS | +19
After a slow first three quarters, Redick got things going for himself offensively in the fourth quarter (scoring 11 of his 15 points in the period), particularly in pick-and-rolls where he was able to create his own shot off the dribble. Yes, he can spot up on the perimeter and shoot threes but his most underrated skill as a player is his ability to execute pick-and-rolls.
4-6 FG | 5-6 FT | 2 BLK | 5 REB | 13 PTS | +8
Davis quietly played a good game. It was the little things that mattered the most. He created contact in the paint and generated foul shots for himself. He got easy baskets. He played good defense. His play of the game came when he stripped Roy Hibbert as the 7-footer went up for a shot. Davis, then, barreled down the court for a dunk in transition.
After an ideal start to the game, with Howard picking up two fouls in the first quarter as well as Hibbert and Danny Granger combining for 20 of the Pacers’ 29 points in the period, it was all downhill from there. Indiana was unable to inflict more damage to Orlando when Howard picked up his third foul early in the second quarter. The Magic’s defense flummoxed the Pacers.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “In their first 15 games this season, the Orlando Magic never folded, even in losses. There’s a first time for everything. The Magic unraveled Monday night, and the result was the worst single-game offensive performance in team history. They set franchise single-game lows for points scored and field-goal percentage as they absorbed a 87-56 beatdown by the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. […] But why did it happen? Monday offered the Magic a golden opportunity to beat the Celtics. Ray Allen sat out with an ankle injury. Rajon Rondo did not play because of a wrist problem. Even Mickael Pietrus, Chris Wilcox and Keyon Dooling were hurt. And the rest of the Celtics had played the day before. The Magic not only failed to take advantage of the situation. They imploded. Avery Bradley, Boston’s second-year point guard, set the tone immediately by pressuring Nelson as Nelson brought the ball upcourt. Bradley fired up his teammates, and he also appeared to unnerve Nelson.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “I covered the Magic’s 84-57 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Dec. 4, 1996 in which Orlando tied an NBA all-time low for scoring. Yeah, you think, well, that’s rock-bottom. Never see anything as futile as that again from a Magic team. Sixteen years later, move over ‘96 Magic. You guys have the monkey — a monkey the size of King Kong — off your backs. […] The ‘96 Magic were missing three starters — Penny Hardaway, Dennis Scott and Nick Anderson, all nursing injuries. The 2012 Magic were healthy, and every starter was on the floor against the Celtics.”
- Glen Davis is wondering if the Orlando Magic offer the best fit for him.
- A look at the numbers from the Magic’s 56-point outing against the Boston Celtics.
- Davis and Brandon Bass talk about being traded for each other.
- The regular season carries some importance for teams trying to win a championship.
- In case you missed it, here’s the Celtics’ tribute video to Davis last night.
- Andrew Lynch of Hardwood Paroxysm: “Holy Shammgod, do the Magic need a mulligan. Orlando got repeatedly punched in the face, figuratively, by an over-the-hill Celtics team that was without its starting backcourt yesterday, and the best thing they can do is move on and get the next game under their belt. This Indiana team, though, won’t be a pushover by any stretch of the imagination.”
- Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com: “Yes, the Magic were historically awful on Monday night but if we’ve learned one lesson over the last month, it’s that there will be the occasional super-ugly shooting night where great teams look terrible. This team has posted exceptional offensive efficiency numbers through the first month of the season; their body of work on that end is beyond reproach. They clocked the Lakers, dumped the Knicks and handled the Bobcats last week too. There’s no way there are nine teams in the NBA better than the Magic.”
- Seems like everyone has a trade idea involving Dwight Howard nowadays.
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk recaps Orlando’s dreadful game against Boston: “It was that kind of game for the Magic. On one kick-out to a wide-open Jameer Nelson in the third quarter he tried to go up and the ball just slipped out of his hands, and when he caught it when he landed he was whistled for traveling. The whole night just seemed to go like that. The play started to effect their effort, which got worse as things wore on. It happens, especially this season. Wash it off in the post game shower and move on.”
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Van Gundy will be featured on HBO Sports today.
- Franklyn Calle of SLAM ONLINE has more on the Van Gundy brothers being profiled: “Some of the highlights of the segment include the story of their first ever NBA game coaching against each other in November of 2003, when Jeff was at the helm with the Houston Rockets while Stan was the head coach in Miami. After Jeff’s team “crushed” the Heat, sending Miami to a 0-7 record, he went on to give his older brother, Stan, a philosophical pep talk–something along the lines of finding satisfaction in loses and taking pleasure in improvement–to which Stan warmly responded with an ‘F you.’ ”
- Another look back at the Magic’s loss against the Celtics.
- Howard is a darkhorse MVP candidate.
- Orlando is playing well despite last night’s clunker and Howard’s future in doubt.
- The Magic get an F for yesterday’s performance.
- Jason Richardson did something strange against the Celtics.
- Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated isn’t high on Orlando right now.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Before Sunday, it had been months, maybe even years since Glen “Big Baby’’ Davis took his gaudy 2008 NBA championship ring out of the safe. Heck, he even thought he had lost the oversized bauble at one time when he mistakenly left it in a safe that he had given away. But on Sunday, with his Orlando Magic rolling along at an impressive 11-4 and on the verge of him returning to Boston, Davis brought the ring with him to practice to serve as motivation and a reminder. […] Davis returns to Boston on Monday for the first time since leaving the Celtics for the Magic back in November. Technically, the Magic acquired the 6-foot-9, 290-pound Davis and reserve shooting guard Von Wafer in a sign-and-trade deal for Brandon Bass, but he wanted to play for the Magic in order for a larger role on the team. The Magic sought Davis because of his toughness, emotional nature and willingness to do some of the dirty work that the team sorely needed. Those two wants – the Magic wanting Davis to do dirty work and Davis wanting more of a primary role – have clashed at times, but Orlando has been delighted by his play of late as the Magic have won six of the past seven games.”
- Dwight Howard has been named the Eastern Conference Player of the week for January 16-22.
- There was no shootaround for the Orlando Magic before tonight’s game with the Boston Celtics.
- A must-read interview by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel with NBA commissioner David Stern.
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “There’s talk that the Magic might play out the season without trading Dwight Howard. They’re playing well, but do they have any chance of knocking off the Bulls or Heat to get to the conference finals? Health will be a factor, but they’re 1-4 against Chicago and 2-2 against Miami over the last two seasons.”
- Amin Vafa of Hardwood Paroxysm: “In recent years, this matchup would be touted as a defensive slugfest and an Eastern Conference Finals preview. Today? The most notable part of the matchup is comparing Glen Davis to Brandon Bass after they switched roles. Boston is injury-hobbled and slipping on defense. Orlando is drama-hobbled, and also slipping on defense. Let’s hope it’s a good game regardless.”
- Glen Davis might cry before playing against the Celtics.
- Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “It’s not just Ryan Anderson shooting lights out: Hedo’s doin’ it under the radar, too. And as noted in the Weekend Dime, Dwight has debunked any notion of trade uncertainty impacting his production, on course to be just the NBA’s second 20-and-15 man since Moses in 1982-83.”
- A new Howard trade rumor involving Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler.
- Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston: “So the book on Bass when he arrived was that he was an upgrade offensively, but was a step backwards on defense. That’s been somewhat true, though Bass has been both far better as both a rebounder and a man-on-man defender than we originally imagined. He’s still learning the team’s help defense philosophies and has been late on rotations, but his consistent offensive contributions afford him more patience on the defensive side (where his one-on-one numbers remain spectacular).”
- The Magic’s schedule gets a little bit tougher this week.
- Would Orlando be better off with Stoudemire and Chandler instead of Howard? Probably not.
- Zach Lowe of The Point Forward opines whether or not the Magic are slowly becoming a contender again in the league: “I wrote two weeks ago that we’d learn a lot about Orlando’s legitimacy when we saw whether its offense — its undoing last season — could hold up against better competition. So far, so good. With the exception of a stinker against the Spurs on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back, Orlando’s motion-heavy system functioned well in tough games over the last 10 days against Portland, New York and the Lakers — each among the league’s top 10 in points allowed per possession. The Magic’s offense has jumped from sixth in points per possession to second over the last two weeks, and their defense, an early season problem, is creeping back toward the overall top 10. If the Magic can keep up this kind of two-way play, they are a legitimate threat — if an underdog, still — to the Bulls and Heat in the Eastern Conference. We’ll learn even more in the five-games-in-seven-days stretch that starts Monday and includes two games apiece against Boston and Indiana.”
- Marcin Gortat, formerly a back-up center to Howard for Orlando, is having a career year with the Phoenix Suns. Jared Dubin of Hardwood Paroxysm pens an excellent article explaining the reasons that Gortat is fulfilling his potential.
- The Magic are bringing in a lot of traffic to their official website.
- Gilbert Arenas, currently a free agent, still hasn’t found a home yet in the NBA.
- Beckley Mason of HoopSpeak: “Anderson, just 23 and starting for the first time in his career, came to the Magic to be Rashard Lewis’s understudy and is making a name for himself reprising and expanding Lewis’s famous role—the stretch four marksmen. Van Gundy’s offense, like so many in the NBA, seeks to spread the floor around a rotating pick-and-roll attack designed to punish defenses for deploying extra defenders to address the primary pick-and-roll action. It fixes the defense on the torturer’s rack, pulling it apart until it eventually breaks and surrenders an open shot. […] It is at this moment, when the defense rushes to the paint like so many white blood cells to the Howard’s infecting presence, that Ryan Anderson shines. Most teams can surround a pick-and-roll attack with a couple competent shooters, but few can boast a big man with the consistent deep stroke that has made Anderson an early season sensation. Even Glen Davis, for all his flaws, is a reliable catch-and-shoot threat from 18 feet. Every time Howard rolls with his hands high, defenses facing the Magic must triage the threat, and Anderson has responded by killing those that leave him untreated.”
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.