Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for games played Monday, Nov. 1, through Sunday, Nov. 7. It marks the 12th time that Howard has earned the league’s top weekly honor.
Howard’s Magic finished the week 3-0 and had an average margin of victory of 16.7 ppg. over Minnesota, New Jersey and Charlotte. Howard averaged 23.3 points, 13.4 rebounds and tallied 11 blocks on the week. On Tuesday versus the Timberwolves, Howard set a Magic franchise record for most blocked shots in a quarter with six, breaking his previous record of five in a quarter, while his eight blocks in the game stands as a season-high for the NBA this year. Howard also led the NBA in rebounds per game during the week, ranked second in the league in blocks per game and was third in the Eastern Conference in points per game.
Here is a recap of the week for Howard:
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Nov. 3 vs. Minnesota: Posted 18 points, 16 rebounds and eight blocks in a 128-86 win over the Timberwolves.
Nov. 5 vs. New Jersey: Tallied 30 points and 16 rebounds in a 105-90 win over the Nets.
Nov. 6 @ Charlotte: Scored 22 points and added eight rebounds in a 91-88 win over the Bobcats.
New Orleans’ Chris Paul took home the weekly award for the Western Conference.
Photo by Fernando Medina
While Chris Paul is reminding everyone why he’s the best point guard in the NBA, there’s another player that’s doing similar conversion tactics.
His name is Dwight Howard.
Mind you, Howard doesn’t need to remind many people that he’s the best center in the league but for those that like to insert Yao Ming’s name in the discussion when he’s healthy or Pau Gasol if they want to bend the positional rules a little bit, the first five games of the regular season have provided a refresher course for them. Yes, small sample size needs to be accounted for but it’s not too early to say that Howard is playing the best basketball of his career right now. Howard has taken his game to another stratosphere and even though he hasn’t faced some of his toughest challenges yet, namely the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, he’s been a dominant force against nearly everything that he’s crossed paths with.
Howard has been so dominant, the unthinkable is now a complete thought — he could be emerging as the best player in the NBA according to one linear metric.
This is not to suggest that Howard has reached that threshold because it’s early in the year and things can change in a hurry. Plus, even though he’s seen a dip in his numbers with the Miami Heat, there’s plenty of empirical evidence from years past to assert that LeBron James remains the top dog. Yet if James was still a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and still putting up the type of eye-popping statistics in which everyone has grown accustomed to, Howard is inching himself closer to rivaling that type of production. Again, it’s early but Howard is playing like a man possessed and it’s hard not to notice the change with eyes and numbers.
And all of these changes are coming on offense.
In an exciting game that went down to the wire, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Charlotte Bobcats by the score of 91-88 to win their third consecutive game of the regular season. After Quentin Richardson made a lefty layup in a 2/5 pick and roll with Dwight Howard to put the Magic up by three points with 9.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, excellent individual defense by Mickael Pietrus on Stephen Jackson forced the Bobcats to rely on Boris Diaw to come up with a game-tying three-point shot. Unfortunately for Diaw, Howard was there to contest the three-pointer, which hit the front of the rim, and Orlando was able to come away with victory. The Magic were led by Howard, who had 22 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two blocks, and set the tone early with 13 of his points coming in the first quarter. Rashard Lewis finally emerged for Orlando, finishing with 22 points and six rebounds while hitting clutch shots in the final stanza.
Lewis and clutch — two words meant for each other.
Despite the pace being low and it being a low-scoring affair, this was a fun game.
After a competitive half of basketball, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the New Jersey Nets by the score of 105-90. The Magic trailed by three points at halftime but were able to take control of the game in the third quarter, leading by as much as 20 points before coasting to a victory. Orlando was led by three of their four All-Stars — Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and Vince Carter. Howard was dominant, finishing with 30 points, 16 rebounds, two steals, and one block. Nelson had 20 points and six assists, while Carter had 19 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Rashard Lewis chipped in with 12 points, though it came at the price of inefficiency (5-of-15 shooting from the field).
This was an interesting game.
Lewis and Ryan Anderson started at the forward positions for the Magic, but that alignment didn’t last long. At the 5-minute mark of the first quarter, head coach Stan Van Gundy replaced Anderson with Quentin Richardson and eventually Mickael Pietrus to play not only the 4-out/1-in offensive scheme that everyone is accustomed to seeing but also to matchup better with Travis Outlaw, who torched Orlando. It seems a little absurd that the Magic needed to tweak their defensive assignments for a player of Outlaw’s caliber, but he was playing extremely well on offense and the necessary changes needed to be made. Still, Outlaw finished with 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting so it’s not like he was contained.
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “Rashard Lewis is a team-first guy, always quick to mention his teammates before himself when asked about his individual achievements or desires. But throughout the preseason and the early part of the season, one thing’s evident: Lewis loves playing small forward. He played the four during the first three years in Orlando after playing the three his entire career in Seattle. Playing power forward, a position many critics didn’t think he could play, was something Lewis did without complaint. Tonight he will get his second start at small forward as a member of the [Orlando] Magic, and he’s again doing so without complaint. In his first start at the three, he admitted feeling “anxious” before the game and it showed in his play. He’s feeling better before tonight’s game.”
- Ryan Anderson calls Brook Lopez “a horrible friend.”
- Can head coach Stan Van Gundy keep the point guards happy?
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Owing to the cancellation of their preseason finale and the postponement of a game earlier this week against the New York Knicks, the Orlando Magic haven’t played many games lately, suiting up just three times in the last eight days and ten times in the last 31. That’s strange enough. Potentially weirder, though, is the Magic haven’t so much as played a competitive game in far longer. [...] Indeed, we have to go back to May 24th–a 96-92 overtime Orlando win over Boston in Game Four–to find the last compelling contest the Magic played. That’s 165 days without a particularly competitive Magic game.”
- Is tension a good thing for the Orlando Magic?
- Scott Carefoot of The Basketball Jones on Dwight Howard: “It’s still early, but those off-season sessions spent learning post moves from Hakeem Olajuwon look like they paid off. Previously, he was unlikely to try to score outside of the low-post unless there was no other option. Based on the assortment of turnaround and mid-range jumpers he’s showcased in this first three games this season, it should only be a matter of time before the Magic start running their offense through him. Oh yeah, he’s still pretty all right on defense and on the boards.”
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk keeps it real: “Players like routine. They like minutes, but they also like regular rotations. Van Gundy may be less into the routine than other coaches, but [Mickael] Pietrus has to live with it. Want more minutes? Defend, ball hard, force him to play you because he can’t take you out. At the end of the day, that’s all you can do.”
Coach Stan Van Gundy and General Manager Otis Smith met Thursday before the Magic’s practice. [...]
Their meeting came in the wake of small forward Mickael Pietrus‘ shouting match with Van Gundy near the bench on Wednesday night.
Frustrated with his dwindling role, Pietrus was pulled out of the game by Van Gundy after just three minutes into the final period during the Magic’s blow-out victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Amway Center.
Teammates, including co-captain Dwight Howard, tried to calm Pietrus. One player said that MP wanted to be traded if he’s not playing regularly, although MP told me he didn’t want to leave a contender.
Van Gundy and Pietrus both confirmed Thursday to the Sentinel that they exchanged words.
“MP was unhappy about when he went into the game and he was unhappy about me telling him to play defense,” Van Gundy said. “He didn’t like what I was saying and I didn’t like his response, so I took him out of the game.”
This was bound to happen sooner or later. The Orlando Magic have so many rotation-quality players, there are going to be instances when someone on the roster isn’t going to be happy with playing time. Last season, that was either Brandon Bass or Ryan Anderson. This year, because head coach Stan Van Gundy is making a concerted effort to play Rashard Lewis more at the small forward position, someone like Mickael Pietrus is feeling the pinch.
This situation won’t go away anytime soon, so it’ll be interesting to see how Van Gundy balances everything. Van Gundy has dealt with this before, so it’s not like it’s something new to him.