- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Dwight Howard now has accomplished something Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon never did. The Orlando Magic center won the 2010-11 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award on Monday and became the first player in league history to receive the honor three years in a row. ‘It’s a great accomplishment,’ Howard said. ‘It’s a blessing. It’s an honor. And I just thank God for this opportunity and just for blessing me with the ability to be able to get stops on the defensive end, block shots, rebound, just do a lot of things and also have this award. Three times in a row is history. I never really thought about it like that until I saw the awards, but I just want to keep it going.’ Howard won this year’s award in a landslide. He earned 114 first-place votes out of 120 ballots cast. Boston Celtics power forward Kevin Garnett finished second. Dallas Mavericks center Tyson Chandler placed third.”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson was a non-factor in last year’s playoff series against the Orlando Magic, shooting 29.8 percent and scoring just 12.8 points per game in the four-game sweep. And now, one year later, he’s the player who hurt the Magic the most in Game 1 by scoring 25 points on 56.3 percent shooting. It’s not like Johnson has evolved as a player in 12 months – his scoring is actually lower this year. And the Hawks are comprised of mostly the same players, so it’s not like he’s getting better looks or less attention from Orlando. So, what’s the difference? The Magic’s primary defender on Johnson last year was Vince Carter, and this year it’s Jason Richardson. Is Carter’s defense that much better than Richardson’s?”
- Do the Orlando Magic have anything to worry about after losing Game 1?
- Dwight Howard achieved a never-before-done feat.
- Mike Prada of SBNation: “Apparently, it is possible for an NBA team to allow a player to score 46 points and be universally praised for it. Dwight Howard ran all over the Atlanta Hawks’ single-coverage, but because nobody else on his team decided to do much of anything, the Hawks came away with a Game 1 victory on the road. Howard and Jameer Nelson scored 73 points; everyone else on the Magic scored 20. Howard and Nelson shot 26-41; everyone else shot 8-34. It was a brilliant strategy by the Hawks to make sure that their horrible teammates had horrible games. Let’s praise them for it! Snark aside, the bottom line is this. Playing Howard straight-up and taking away the three-point shooters is a strategy. Allowing Howard to score 46 points and hope his teammates shoot 8-34 is not. Luckily, the Hawks shot nearly 50 percent from 16-23 feet and made it work. That doesn’t mean it’s a sustainable long-term strategy, but whenever writers are given the chance to question Howard’s worth as a player for being just the 11th player since 1985 to score 45 or more points in a playoff game and lose, they’ll take it.”
- Zach Lowe of The Point Forward: “There’s a reason the Magic ranked third in points allowed per possession and in the top five (per Synergy Sports) in defending pick-and-rolls where the ball-handler finishes the play (first); pick-and-rolls where the roll man finishes (fifth); spot-up chances (fifth) and scoring chances that followed offensive rebounds (first). They managed to do this all without a rotation player any group of league executives would comfortably describe as an above average defender at his position. There’s a reason no team allowed fewer shot attempts at the rim this season. “
- There are skeptics that wonder if the Atlanta Hawks will be able to beat the Magic.
- A great illustration as to the reason Howard won the Defensive Player of the Year award.
- One voter did not have Howard on his ballot for Defensive Player of the Year.
- Steve Aschburner of NBA.com: “The figure on the DPOY trophy, after all, surely is a perimeter guy, squatting down the way Naismith or Wooden would have taught, arms flared out in a defensive stance. Howard, of course, rarely assumes that position; he patrols inside the paint for the Magic, either lurking and banging behind his man, flashing over to give help or licking his chops at the shorties funneled his way by Magic teammates. That’s how he looked at the news conference, looming large, having his guys’ backs.”
- Royce Young of CBSSports.com provides his take on Howard’s impact on defense.
- The Hawks’ win in Game 1 was crazy, but not as crazy as the other first round games.
- M. Haubs of The Painted Area reveals his awards ballot.
- Shannon Booher of SLAM ONLINE marvels at Howard’s Game 1 performance: “Gooooood lawd! As good as he was, that is how bad his teammates (not named Jameer Nelson) were, on offense. And these aren’t playoff newbies. We are talking Hedo [Turkoglu]. Jason Richardson. Gilbert Arenas. The list goes on. Those guys won’t be as bad next game, but Howard probably won’t be as good, either. The Hawks have at least established that they are not going out like they did last year. No brooms here.”
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “Magic fans don’t want to draw the line connecting the dots. You can’t blame them. But the loss to Atlanta seemed to move those dots toward being in a straight line. And if things don’t change Dwight Howard could connect them himself and devastate the Orlando franchise. The starting point is here: every time Dwight Howard rejects talking in any detail about his future free agent plans — he can opt out in the summer of 2012, but rightfully says that is too far away to think about — he falls back on two themes. One, he really likes Orlando and its fans. Secondly, that he wants to win championships. You can be sure that part two outweighs part one. He has said as much.”
Via the Orlando Magic:
Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic is the recipient of the 2010-11 Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award, the NBA announced today. Howard becomes the first player to earn the honor three straight seasons; only Dikembe Mutombo and Ben Wallace, with four each, have won the award more times.
The 6-11 center led the league with 66 double-doubles, including six 20-point/20-rebound efforts, while ranking second in rebounds (14.1 rpg) and fourth in blocks (2.38 bpg). With Howard manning the middle, the Magic allowed 93.5 ppg, ranking fourth in that category. The seventh-year veteran reached several historical milestones this season, including:
- On March 1 vs. New York, Howard, at 25 years and 83 days old, became the youngest player in NBA history to amass 7,000 career rebounds, passing Wilt Chamberlain, who was 26 years and 128 days old when he passed the 7,000-rebound plateau.
- He recorded at least 1,000 rebounds and 100 blocked shots for the sixth straight year; since blocked shots were officially tracked in 1973-74, only Moses Malone has done it more (seven seasons).
- He became one of only five players in NBA history since blocked shots became an official statistic in 1973-74 to record at least 6,000 rebounds and 1,000 blocked shots in his first 500 games.
As part of its support of the Defensive Player of the Year Award, Kia Motors America will donate a new Kia Sorento CUV to BETA Center, a private, nonprofit organization with 32 years of experience helping families in the greater Orlando area. Kia Motors will present a brand new Sorento to the charity of choice of each of four 2010-11 season-end award winners as part of the “The Kia NBA Performance Awards.” Following this season, Kia Motors will have donated a total of 16 new vehicles to charitable organizations since its support of the NBA’s prestigious year-end honors began with the 2007-2008 season.
Howard received 585 points, including 114 first-place votes, from a panel of 120 sportswriters and broadcasters throughout the United States and Canada. Boston’s Kevin Garnett finished second with 77 points and Dallas’ Tyson Chandler finished third with 70 points. Players were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote received.
Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images
You can take the Magic’s Game 1 loss to the Hawks in a number of ways.
You could be enraged–the Magic’s two most important players played one of the best games of their career, and the team still wasn’t competitive. You could despair–it sure looked like the loss exposed a lack of defensive flexibility on the wings and the extent to which the Magic rely on Hedo to create in the offense. I have to confess, though, that I’m not pulling my hair out or drowning my sorrows just yet. It strikes me that Game 1 was almost so logical as to be baffling, as each team basically played to an extreme version of what we already knew about them: the Hawks shot jump shots and hit them, while the Magic have frustratingly few options when Turk doesn’t seem up to being the creator he can be.
By now, you’ve heard the story about the game. The Hawks let Dwight get his and shut everybody else down. Well, except Jameer Nelson, for a quarter. But essentially, that was the ploy, and it worked. As I’m sure you’ve heard, the Magic scored 20 non-Dwight-or-Jameer points. Why, exactly did that happen? One number jumps off the page: 18 turnovers, which on the other end led to 21 points for the ATLiens. Some of this can be pinned on Dwight, as he had eight of those, but I think the biggest offenders, within the flow of the game, were Turkoglu and Arenas, both of whom displayed a maddening propensity to passively dribble into difficult situations while also seemingly refusing to put the pedal to the metal in scoring opportunities. Turkoglu, in particular, needs to step up for the rest of the series, because his passivity simply will not stand on offense or defense. It’s not a shock that Josh Smith took advantage of him, but it is a shock how little he imposed his will on the game. After Dwight, this team relies on positional flexibility with ball-handling spots, and that means Turkoglu has to be the engine a lot of the time.
Photo by Fernando Medina
I don’t want to belabor the point, but it might take more than a billboard to keep Dwight Howard in Orlando next season.
This has been a backend conversation all season long, and while most Orlando fans have considered it foolishness that Dwight would ever up and leave Orlando, it’s starting to become evident that the Magic don’t have a lot to barter with.
Look at StayDwight.com, a website and foundation created by Ryan Totka to try to convince Dwight to stay in Orlando. It’s endearing, to be sure.
As the season started winding down and the playoffs loomed in the near distance, Magic fans and writers grew more and more skeptical of the Magic, and more and more in tune with this glaring problem of how to keep Dwight in Orlando.
Now we’re in the playoffs, and after Game 1, things look decidedly worse.
Dwight’s decision after this season remains a touchy one, and everyone, including Ryan Totka, knows it. In a section on his site titled, “Why Stay in Orlando,” Totka talks about the community and the economy, two things that, as seen before, don’t really matter to a competitive basketball player. If I’m Dwight Howard, I want a website that shows me with the use of advanced statistics that I have nothing to worry about in the next ten seasons. I want a breakdown of how a revamped bench and a healthy Gilbert Arenas will change things for the Magic. In other words, Dwight needs to know that if he stays in Orlando the Magic are going to win.
That’s not the message he’s getting right now.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic won’t sweep the Atlanta Hawks out of the playoffs this year. This time, the Magic look like the ones who could be steamrolled. In a dramatic reversal from last postseason, the Hawks dominated the Magic on Saturday, winning Game 1 of their first-round playoff series 103-93 at Amway Center. Only a Herculean night on offense from Dwight Howard and a spectacular third quarter from Jameer Nelson prevented the loss from turning into a rout. Almost nothing worked for Orlando. The Magic didn’t defend. They didn’t protect the basketball. And only Howard and Nelson posed a threat on the offensive end of the court. Howard scored a Magic playoff-record 46 points, while Nelson chipped in 20 of his 27 in the third period. Together, they accounted for 73 of the team’s 93 points. Shooting guard Jason Richardson? Small forward Hedo Turkoglu? They combined for just 10 points. Power forwards Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass? They didn’t score a point. The Hawks didn’t have that problem. Five players on their roster scored in double figures, led by shooting guard Joe Johnson, who poured in 25 points. After it ended, Howard looked dazed at the postgame press conference that he shared with Nelson. Howard stared blankly at the box score on the table in front of him for almost three consecutive minutes.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “As you might suspect, Hawks center Jason Collins and his brother, Jarron, played all the pranks that twins play growing up. Subbing on dates. Posing for one another in classrooms. Impersonating each other on the phone. Jason played a spectacular prank Saturday night on Dwight Howard. He was on the floor for just 18 minutes against him, scored a whopping one point and fouled out with half of the final quarter remaining. Howard tied a franchise playoff record with 46 points in Game 1 — and lost. Collins left the court like a battered pitcher, but he got the W. Nice gag. Are you kidding me? Ok, I now believe in Big Foot, aliens and Jason Collins — whatever mystical mojo that Collins conjures against Howard. He now has beaten Dwight’s team four of the last five times.”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic kept going to Dwight Howard Saturday night, and it’s hard to blame them. He was unstoppable, showing the world his offensive improvement translates to the postseason by scoring a career-high 46 points on 16-of-23 shooting. But for some pesky reason, the Magic don’t seem to play well when Howard goes off. They’re 3-4 when he scores at least 30 points in playoff games, and it’s no coincidence that most of those games featured teams who insisted on single-covering Howard, like the Hawks did during Saturday night’s 103-93 win over the Magic. It’s not complicated why this happens. Howard continues to get his points, but the Magic’s offense doesn’t open up because the defenders are staying glued to the perimeter players. That’s why the Magic shot 27.3 percent from three-point range and everyone except Howard and Jameer Nelson combined to score just 20 points.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “In the days leading up to Saturday’s Game 1 against the Atlanta Hawks, the Orlando Magic installed placards on each player’s dressing stall that featured a picture of the NBA’s Larry O’Brien championship trophy and the word ‘BELIEVE’ in bold, block letters. After the double-whammy that Orlando was hit with on Saturday – getting repeatedly gashed defensively and looking stagnant offensively outside of the play from captains Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson – the Magic likely had a hard time believing their shaky plight so early in these playoffs. Five Atlanta players scored in double figures and the Hawks shockingly shot 73 percent in the second and third quarters to stun the Magic 103-93 at the Amway Center despite a slew of franchise playoff records set by Howard and Nelson.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “It’s tempting, I believe, for Magic fans to panic here. I’m not entirely sure that’s warranted. Yes, the Hawks scored efficiently. I understand that much. But it’s the Hawks’ first truly great offensive performance against the Magic’s typically stout defense since March 22nd, 2008, when Mike Bibby (five three-pointers) helped the Hawks score 112 points in 96 possessions… in an Orlando victory. Indeed, the Hawks went more than three years without cracking 1.1 points per possession against Orlando, and I’m skeptical their jump-shooting core of Johnson, Jamal Crawford, and Josh Smith can continue to hit mostly difficult shots with a high degree of accuracy. But the Magic still have serious issues to work out if they are to rally back and take this series. Apart from the serious scoring imbalance, turnovers continue to plague the team. Their 18 miscues tonight led to 21 Hawks points. Howard will draw criticism for his 8 turnovers, but if anything, Quentin Richardson (2 turnovers in 7 minutes despite hardly ever touching the ball) and [Gilbert] Arenas (3 in 12 minutes) deserve a bit more scrutiny.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The Hawks flipped the switch. Suddenly guard Joe Johnson looked like a five-time All-Star again. Jamal Crawford found the form that made him last season’s Sixth Man of the Year. Kirk Hinrich showed why the Hawks traded for him in February. And when the Orlando Magic attempted to rally from 18 points down in the fourth quarter, the Hawks responded with the kind of toughness and resolve they had shown only occasionally in the regular season. The Hawks stunned the Magic 103-93 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoffs on Saturday night. They nullified Orlando’s home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series that continues here Tuesday. It was a surprising result given the history and circumstances.”
- Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: “A tremendous win for the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, that degree of jump shooting accuracy is unlikely to be sustainable for another game but neither can Dwight Howard (for an entire game) nor Jameer Nelson (for another half) be expected to be so simultaneously tremendous again for the Magic, especially if Larry Drew can resist the temptation to ask Josh Powell and Etan Thomas to defend Howard for a 12-minute stretch of the first half or leave Kirk Hinrich on the bench for a ten-and-a-half minute stretch of the second half so Nelson can enjoy the freedom of being guarded by Jamal Crawford.”
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
The Atlanta Hawks were able to defeat the Orlando Magic by the score of 103-93 to win Game 1 in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. In one felt swoop, the Hawks were able to win a postseason game on the road and wrestle home-court advantage away from the Magic. The key for Atlanta was getting production from their starters, excluding Jason Collins, and Jamal Crawford. Five players scored in double-figures for the Hawks, including a team-high 25 points from Joe Johnson on 9-of-16 shooting from the field, and each of them were able to take over the game at different junctures. Orlando’s inability to slow down Atlanta offensively in the second and third quarters proved to be their downfall. The Hawks shot 72.7 percent in those periods and turned the ball over just three times, allowing themselves a chance to score on nearly every possession. Atlanta was able to make a number of jumpshots, many of them on open looks, and that was that. On the flipside, the Hawks’ strategy of allowing Dwight Howard to do whatever he wanted on offense worked, as they were able to contain every player on the Magic’s roster not named Howard and Jameer Nelson — another important factor. It’s the reason that Howard played the best game of his career and Orlando lost. Howard was dominant on both ends of the floor, tying a career-high with 46 points and 19 rebounds. Howard set a playoff franchise record by scoring 31 points in the first half and tied another record (with Tracy McGrady in 2003 against the Detroit Pistons) with the most points scored in a postseason game. It was a phenomenal effort by Howard but overlooked because the Magic were unable to come away with a victory. Nelson was also spectacular, starting off slow with one point in the first half but finishing with 27 points and six rebounds while setting a playoff franchise record by scoring the most points in a quarter with 20 in the third. In a lot of ways, it was a strange game for Orlando because their two best players performed to their maximums but the rest of the team faltered. It was a paradox in some ways.
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
I gathered writers, the best of the best in the blogosphere, to participate in a roundtable discussion and answer some of the most pertinent questions concerning the Orlando Magic as the 2011 NBA Playoffs are set to begin.
So, without further ado, here are the participants:
Each individual provided a quick breakdown of the series between the Magic and the Atlanta Hawks, his opinion on the player that is the x-factor for Orlando in the postseason, and more.
If the Orlando Magic make it past the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, is facing off against the Chicago Bulls (as opposed to the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics) the best chance for them to return to the Eastern Conference Finals for a third consecutive year?
Zach Lowe: No. I don’t see facing the Bulls as any more advantageous to Orlando than facing Boston or Miami. Conventional wisdom has it that the Magic have problems with Boston, but much of that conventional wisdom was based on the presence of Kendrick Perkins and overlooks how competitive games between the two have been. Bottom line: Boston, Miami and Chicago are all excellent teams, and the Magic will have a tough time beating any of them–just as each of those three will have to work to beat Orlando.
Beckley Mason: It’s a better match-up than Miami because LeBron just kills them, but I don’t think the Celtics, as they are playing now, would be worse than the Bulls. I think the idea that Boston could single-cover Dwight [Howard] with Shaq is fairly laughable, but at least he might draw Howard into some fouls. The Bulls on the other hand won’t isolate Noah, and so Howard would seem less susceptible to picking up cheapies against Chicago. In any event, to get past any of the top teams in the East, the Magic wings are going to have to shoot the lights out.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Boston Celtics crafted the blueprint for beating the Orlando Magic. Now the Atlanta Hawks will rely on that strategy against the Magic when the teams begin their first-round, best-of-seven playoff series tonight at Amway Center. Cribbing directly from the Celtics’ successful playbook, the Hawks will dispatch a rugged center to guard all-star Dwight Howard one-on-one, a tactic that could allow the rest of Atlanta’s players to closely defend Orlando’s dangerous perimeter shooters. [...] Howard dominated. Orlando sank treys seemingly at will. And the Magic humiliated the Hawks, sweeping them out of the second round by winning four consecutive games by an average of 25.3 points. So, once he was named Atlanta’s head coach, Drew adopted the Boston model. Drew started journeyman Jason Collins at center. He shifted all-star Al Horford from center to power forward and moved Josh Smith from power forward to small forward. Those moves paid huge dividends when the Hawks won three of four games against the Magic during the recently completed regular season. Howard made only 43.1 percent of his shots against the Hawks, his lowest shooting percentage versus any team. And the Magic hit just 22.6 percent of their 3-point tries.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Howard and [Jameer] Nelson seem like an unlikely pair at first blush. Dwight is 6-foot-10, 275 pounds, an Atlanta native and a single father. At 25, he’s four years younger than Nelson. A five-time all-star, he has blossomed from as a skinny teen drafted No. 1 overall out of high school into one of the NBA’s biggest attractions. Jameer is nearly a foot shorter, hailing from hard-scrabble Chester, Pa., married and a father of three. He played four years in college, and has had to prove doubters wrong because of his height. The Magic acquired him after a draft-day trade with Denver. Nelson rewarded their faith by being named to the all-star team in 2008-09. ‘Dwight and I are very fortunate to be here together. We don’t know any other organization,’ Nelson said. ‘I got some gray hair and he’s finally got facial hair. We’re still young. I’m 29 and he’s still a baby.’ They are the last men standing from that 2004 roster. Everything has changed except No. 12 and No. 14. Through various trades and transactions, 71 players under contract with the Magic have come and gone since ’04, including a whopping 16 since the end of the 2009-10 season. Howard and Nelson aren’t only the Magic’s longest-tenured players. They are currently the seventh longest-running NBA tandem on the same team, sharing that distinction with five other sets of teammates.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick is the active type and one who doesn’t feel right physically if he’s unable to get in a workout or break a sweat on a daily basis. He’s so committed to that routine that Redick even found a way to mix in a weight-lifting workout or two last summer when he was on his honeymoon in Europe. So being unable to do much of anything at all for a three-week period and being out of action with the Magic for more than a month because of a lower abdominal strain was downright torturous for Redick. Once he was cleared to resume rehabilitation, Redick attacked the sessions where his arms and legs were strapped to tension bands, but not being able to play basketball worked tricks on his mind.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “All season Joe Johnson has said he looked forward to the playoffs so the Hawks could “prove everybody wrong.” That’s everybody who witnessed the Hawks’ surrender to the Magic in the playoffs last spring and said the team lacks mental toughness. The group includes critics who saw essentially the same Hawks players return this season and dismissed them as true Eastern Conference contenders. It includes one-time optimists who dismissed the Hawks as they staggered over the final two months of the season. Johnson didn’t say so, but he also could have been talking about himself. He struggled against Orlando for his second consecutive fade in the postseason. Johnson came out of last year’s big NBA free-agent summer with the most expensive contract in the league at $123.7 million, a deal that was roundly criticized. Johnson made his fifth consecutive All-Star game, but had the least productive and efficient of his six seasons with the Hawks. As it turns out, Johnson gets another crack at the Magic in the playoffs, but he said he doesn’t feel a burden to carry the Hawks.