- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Seriously? Shaq wants us to believe he is rooting for the Magic and the City of Orlando to win a championship? That’s funny because two years ago when the [Orlando] Magic were playing the Lakers in the finals, Shaq tweeted that he was rooting for Kobe and the Lakers. Or was that a PR ploy, too, Shaq? And was it a PR ploy when you called Orlando a “dried-up little pond?” And was it a PR ploy when you ripped Dwight and called him an ”imposter?” And was it a PR ploy when you called Magic coach Stan Van Gundy a “bum” and a “nobody” and a “master of panic?” If that’s Shaq’s idea of selling tickets then I’m not buying. Even worse, it sounds now like O’Neal is trying to befriend Dwight [Howard], which is absolutely frightening news if you’re a Magic fan.”
- Breaking down the new suites at the Amway Center.
- Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com talks about diet and nutrition. Pretty neat breakdown.
- Get to know more about Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “About six weeks ago, I pointed out that a Dwight Howard action figure available for preorder on Amazon.com could offer a preview of the Orlando Magic’s as-yet-unrevealed black alternate uniform. This uniform appears in the current issue of SLAM Magazine, on newsstands now, which further fuels speculation that the team will unveil it soon. Twitter user @justinrcole posted an image on his account this morning. Independently–which is to say, “unofficially”–I’ve heard that the Magic indeed plan to introduce the uniform this season, though my source says there’s “no timetable” as to when. [...] If the latest issue of SLAM is any indication, though, the black uniforms will happen. It’s only a matter of time.”
- Dwight Howard is going to make a cameo appearance in New York. From a press release posted at SLAM ONLINE: “All 30 NBA teams will wear the new uniforms beginning this season. To commemorate this historic occasion, adidas and the NBA will produce limited edition, collectible authentic jerseys numbered and boxed with a seal of authenticity. Player jerseys were made in limited edition runs of 50, 100, 250 or 500 and are numbered sequentially and authenticated by Panini so that each boxed jersey is a unique collector’s item.”
- Check out the top blocks of the 2009-2010 season.
- According to Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie, “I” is for isolation plays: “[...] there are several types of isolation plays to choose from. A dump down to Dwight Howard against (initial) single coverage is technically an isolation play, but as much as we respect Dwight on both ends, you rarely see this type of play called. You rarely see it even for the low-post scorers that can hit free throws. Usually, you know, it’s for the hot shot. And the hot shots, as you’ve known them since grade school, are the ones that can dribble the ball. They’re not passing unless the defender hacks a limb off.”
- Don’t expect Carmelo Anthony to be traded to the Orlando Magic. Why? Because, surprisingly enough, the Magic don’t have the requisite assets that the Denver Nuggets are looking for.
- Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook examines some backdoor lob plays.
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy is one of the top defensive coaches in NBA history, though it certainly helps to have Howard as the anchor of his defenses.
Photo by Fernando Medina
Some of these pictures are intense.
In all seriousness though, the anticipation surrounding the start of a new NBA season is growing by the day. And for Dwight Howard, it will ultimately be up to him to lead the Orlando Magic to the promised land.
As the pictures vividly show, Howard is taking the task very seriously. Wherever Howard is, and in this case it’s back in Orlando, he’s putting in the time and energy to try to be the best player he can be. For Magic fans, that’s all they can ask for from their franchise center.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
“Does Orlando still have a window open to win an NBA championship?”
This question was asked last week and even though the answer may be obvious to some, it’s a topic that’s worth exploring as the Orlando Magic get ready to start training camp next week at the Amway Center. Yes, the Magic have a chance to win a title.
But it’s an opportunity that has been nearly vanquished after the Miami Heat pulled off — arguably — the greatest free-agent haul in league history by signing LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and a bevy of other players. Not only that but the Boston Celtics continued to add pieces to their core, bringing in Jermaine O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal (no relation). And then there’s the Los Angeles Lakers, a team in the middle of building a dynasty after winning the last two championships.
These are the teams that are primary threats to Orlando by varying degrees.
Rather than talk about a number of external factors that may or may not allow the Magic to win a championship in the immediate future, let’s direct the attention elsewhere.
There are a multitude of reasons why Orlando is still an elite team and a title contender for the time being, but probably lower on the totem pole compared to teams like the Heat, Celtics, and Lakers.
- Shaquille O’Neal: “I know what I have to say and what I have to do to get the game popping. So if people don’t think I like [Dwight Howard], then come watch the game and it will be a sold out game and my marketing techniques works like it’s always been working, then I know what I’m doing. But in real life, he’s cool, a great young player, represents the big men very well and when I’m done, I don’t really see anybody in his way. Hopefully he can win a couple of championships for the city because it’s a beautiful city, I’ve been living here 20 years and I’ll be living here for the next 20 years so hopefully he’ll get them there and take them over the top. Because if he doesn’t get them over the top, he’s going to get the blame.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “It’s after 10 o’clock on a weekday night and while the rest of the NBA is likely home on the couch or partying in the nightclubs, Dwight Howard is hard at work and oozing sweat out of every pore in a tucked-away, nondescript gym. Rap lyrics fill the air, thumping bass rattles the walls and the Orlando Magic’s superstar center joins right in grunting as he pulls his chiseled, 275-pound body up for those 10th, 11th and 12th pull-ups. Howard’s nighttime workout sessions come as most are heading to bed and after he’s already drilled on the basketball court with his Magic teammates for two hours earlier in the day. And these drills – ones that leave Howard’s adidas tank top drenched in sweat and his body needing three Gatorades to replenish the fluids lost – certainly aren’t for the faint of heart. They are the kind of explosive, quick-rep drills that make casual observers sore by just watching. And at times even Howard, arguably the NBA’s strongest and best-conditioned athlete, is left physically exhausted by a workout that looks as though it belongs in a Marines boot camp. But there’s a method to this madness for Howard, a consensus All-NBA selection last season. The push is there for Howard to climb to even greater heights and launch his star into grander stratospheres. He knows deep down that it’s his leap as a low-post threat that will help the Magic vanquish the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. Do that, Howard said, and the gold ball will be his someday and a championship banner will hang from the sparkling new Amway Center.”
- Click here to see video of Dwight Howard doin’ work.
- If LeBron James or Dwyane Wade play at the point guard position for the Miami Heat, who guards them for the Orlando Magic?
- The Magic’s starter at small forward is still yet to be determined. Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel chimes in: “While the starter will flip-flop throughout the season — both [Mickael] Pietrus and Barnes started last season before Barnes took hold of the position midway through the year — I’d bet on [Quentin] Richardson being the long-term starter. Pietrus said last year he likes to come off the bench, and the five-man unit numbers say the Magic are better off that way, as the Nelson-Carter-Pietrus-Lewis-Howard group performed far less efficiently than Nelson-Carter-Barnes-Lewis-Howard last season. Additionally, Richardson’s a better shooter than Pietrus and no slouch on defense.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel with a must-read article on Richardson.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post thinks Orlando can win more than 60 games this season, and maybe 65: “So does this Magic team have the talent to reach 60? Maybe the answer is obvious. It won 59 last year with its first- and third- most trigger-happy shooters–that’s the starting backcourt of Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson, respectively–placing 10th and 12th on the team, respectively, in True Shooting percentage. It won 59 the year before that with its All-Star point guard, Nelson, missing 40 games due to injury. Well, Nelson’s healthy now. Vanishing act in the Eastern Conference Finals aside, Carter adapted to the Magic’s offense as the year wore on. Quentin Richardson gives the Magic a true fourth three-point shooter around Howard, replacing Matt Barnes’ iffy outside stroke. Essentially, it’s hard to argue the team got worse, and it was on the cusp of 60 wins in each of the last two seasons. So yes, 60 wins ought to be in the cards for this Magic team, and if Nelson regains the off-the-dribble shooting touch that made him an All-Star in 2009, 65 isn’t out of the question, either.”
- It’s a myth that Howard has no post game.
- Allen Powell of SLAM ONLINE marvels back at Penny Hardaway’s point guard abilities: “Is it better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all? Is it better to have a career that rises like booming fireworks and ends with a disappointing fizzle, or to have a career that shines steadily like a dependable streetlight? When considering where to rank Penny a decision had to be made. Should tantalizing potential or tangible productivity be rewarded? Potential won. Penny Hardaway was The Man in the 1990s. His combination of size, strength, speed, court vision and hops was sickening. What he lacked in killer instinct, he made up for in pure, unadulterated talent.”
- Howard and Adonal Foyle did their part to help the country of Haiti. Howard writes on his blog: “I´ve got to say that this was an eye-opening trip for me. I´m so glad that I went there because what you see on TV just doesn´t do justice to how much devastation and poverty that there is in Haiti. These people still need our help and I´ve got a feeling it will be that way for a couple of years because the country is in such bad shape. I just hope that me going there will help remind people that they still need our help. I know some people have forgotten about the massive earthquake there in Haiti, but those people still need us to help them survive. If I could, I´d like to round up all the people interested in helping and fly them down to Haiti with me for another mission trip. That won´t be my last trip down there because I want to do everything in my power to assist the people there. God has blessed me with so much in my life, and I want to help as many people in need as I possibly can.”
- Mickael Pietrus has four words about the Magic: “Don’t sleep on us.”
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
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Gary Bassing/Orlando Magic
Via the Orlando Magic:
As part of the Amway ‘Positive Sprouts’ program, Amway, the Orlando Magic and rookie Daniel Orton joined together to build an edible garden at the Universal Orlando Foundation Boys and Girls Club on Saturday, September 18. The garden, benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of Orlando, also runs in conjunction with the NBA Cares Week of Service activities. The Amway ‘Positive Sprouts’ project teaches youth how to start and maintain their own edible gardens. An accompanying curriculum will educate youngsters about nutrition, organic gardening practices, and cooking from the garden.
Orlando Magic center Daniel Orton assists the youth of the Boys and Girls Club of Orlando with the garden. The garden is part of the Amway ‘Positive Sprouts’ program and teaches youth how to start and maintain their own edible gardens. The garden project also runs in conjunction with the NBA Cares Week of Service activities which was created to increase fan awareness about the importance of service.
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
As Courtney Lee hung in the air, anticipating the incoming lob for a last second shot in the NBA Finals, he likely didn’t know anything of what would happen as a result in the next 1.5 seconds. He would miss the alley-oop, a nearly impossible shot that he deserves credit for simply for managing to execute. He would wind up traded to New Jersey which would go on to be one of the worst teams in NBA history, then be traded to Houston. The [Orlando] Magic would swap out Hedo Turkoglu for an upgrade at shooting guard in Vince Carter. And the Magic’s best chance at an NBA championship would be snuffed out.
So the question has to be: Does Orlando still have a window open to win an NBA championship? [...]
Think of what they need in order to return to the championship if they don’t make a major trade this season. They need Carter to play better than he did last season, have everyone stay healthy, repeat last year’s performance, then overcome Boston’s defense and Miami’s starpower… just to make the Finals where barring a gigantic upset they’ll then face the same Lakers team that overwhelmed them two years ago. Orlando’s ownership group has commendably committed money to the team as it enters a new arena with a contending team. But unless it takes a major step back up the ladder, it may just be spinning its expensive wheels as the rest of the league continues to stay one step ahead of them.
Rest assured, I’m going to answer this question next week.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “I have it on good authority that Vince [Carter] has been one of the regulars at the Magic’s headquarters this offseason, working out daily with teammates and strength and conditioning coaches. Vince took it particularly hard last spring when the [Orlando] Magic were beaten by Boston because he didn’t play well in that series at all. He has to know deep down that the Magic can’t win a championship without him playing near his peak level. No, he’s not the player that he was five years ago, but Carter still has some pop left. He was relieved not to be traded away from Orlando, his hometown team, over the summer and knows the season ahead could very well be his last legitimate shot at winning a championship.”
- Want to know why Malik Allen is with the Orlando Magic? Look no further than his relationship with head coach Stan Van Gundy.
- Ben Osborne of SLAM ONLINE: “Forget the Heat for a second; the Magic haven’t even gotten the same hype this offseason as the Celtics (or respect; I was a bit surprised by the voting in yesterday’s Polladaday). But that doesn’t mean they won’t be a worthy challenger. Orlando is coming off a 59-win season and is just 15 months removed from playing in the Finals. While LeBron is the one who famously said he wants to be a “global icon,” Magic leader [Dwight] Howard is the one who spent this offseason traveling the world, spending time in China and India and readying for a trip to Haiti as we went to press, as well as working on commericals and a movie. Dwight has been so busy, in fact, that some fans wonder if he’s doing all he can to get better as a player. Well, in a great interview by our man Aggrey Sam, Dwight says that he can indeed do it all.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post asks “[w]hat are Howard’s chances of repeating as the league’s rebounder and shot-blocker? Who are his biggest competitors for those honors?” Click here for an answer.
- More from Rock: “The rumors surrounding the apparently unhappy Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony, a three-time All-Star and one of the league’s most dynamic scorers, won’t cease until he agrees to an extension with the Nuggets, or until they trade him. And the latest word is that the Orlando Magic are among the four teams to which he’d agree to be dealt. Kate Fagan, on the 76ers beat for the Philadelphia Inquirer, did some digging in the wake of Ken Berger’s report earlier this week that Philadelphia had entered the bidding for Anthony. While she shot that part of the rumor down, she did learn the Magic, Chicago Bulls, New Jersey Nets, and New York Knicks have made Anthony’s shortlist of destinations.”
- “E” is for energy guys like Bo Outlaw!
Via the Orlando Magic:
As part of Amway’s ‘Positive Sprouts’ program, Amway, the Orlando Magic and Magic rookie Daniel Orton will build an edible garden at the Universal Orlando Foundation Boys & Girls Club (5055 Raleigh St., Orlando, 32811) on September 18, 2010. Orton will be joined by Orlando Magic representatives, Amway executives and employees, Boys & Girls Club staff and community volunteers to help build the edible garden that will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Orlando. The garden project also runs in conjunction with the NBA Cares Week of Service activities.
Amway has built gardens in six other cities around the country this summer with the Orlando Magic joining the partnership to build the Orlando garden. The build will serve as the final location for the Positive Sprouts program in 2010.
The Amway Positive Sprouts project mobilizes volunteers and incorporates the gardening expertise of the Green Education Foundation (GEF) to teach youth how to start and maintain their own edible gardens. An accompanying curriculum will educate youngsters about nutrition, organic gardening practices, and cooking from the garden.
With the start of the NBA season just weeks away, every NBA team will host a variety of hands-on service events through Oct. 25 in a collaborative effort to give back to children, families, and the community and to increase fan awareness about the importance of service.
The NBA Cares Week of Service aligns with President Obama’s recent launch of the United We Serve initiative (serve.gov), which seeks to expand the impact of volunteer work in existing organizations and encourage individuals to make a difference in their communities. Fans can find out about volunteer opportunities and learn more about the NBA’s community partners by going to NBA.com/nbacares.
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic announced the signing of power forward Malik Allen on Thursday, rounding out the Magic’s current roster at 15 players. Terms of Allen’s deal aren’t disclosed, but the contract certainly won’t be guaranteed past training camp. Allen is most likely just a training camp body. Allen, a 6-foot-10 journeyman who has played with seven teams over his nine-year NBA career, appeared in 51 games with Denver last season. He traditionally plays power forward — a position the Magic are overloaded at — so it’s safe to assume he’ll need some help (injury, trade, etc.) to make Orlando’s regular-season roster.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Allen is primarily a jump-shooter; Synergy Sports Technology classifies two-thirds of his shot attempts as jumpers, converting them at a 40.8 percent clip. Due to his lack of lift and poor touch, he is well below par as a finisher at the basket, converting just 11 of his 25 shots at point-blank range, according to HoopData. As I wrote this morning, whomever the Magic invite to camp will face long odds to actually make the team. That seems especially true for Allen, who would clearly be the team’s seventh big man to use only in case of emergency. But he is regarded as a hard worker and a good locker-room presence, which works in his favor. In case you’re curious, Allen will wear uniform no. 35.”
- Royce Young of CBSSports.com talks about flopping in the NBA.
- Dwight Howard is, apparently, dealing with a little domestic trouble.
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk sets the record straight on newly-acquired Malik Allen: “Allen was not particularly impressive in Denver, so it is a little interesting that the Magic went with the veteran rather than a youngster they could bring along and develop. Then again, this is a veteran team who wants a ring, so Allen may be a better locker room fit. Either way, he’s in.”
- If there was a new expansion team in the NBA, which Magic players would they take?
- Tom Haberstroh of ESPN Insider takes a look at the worst five players for every NBA franchise. The criteria was that “a player needed to have played at least 10 minutes per contest over the course of at least 100 career games with the franchise.” The lucky winners for Orlando were Greg Kite, Jeff Turner, Anthony Avent, Gerald Wilkins, and Mark Acres.
- More positional analysis from Haberstroh at Hardwood Paroxysm: “Pretty much all point guards feature a long two game. The most long-two resistant point guard last year was Chris Duhon and even he took more than the typical center did. Gotta have that pull-up jumper to keep the defender honest off the dribble.”
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie with a must-read article about blogs: “The idea behind a blog, as vague a term as it is in September of 2010 is still valid. Still brilliant. Still worth getting giddy over. It’s the idea that writers can put things into the machine, and have their work pop out without much editorial stank in the way. This isn’t always a good thing. This isn’t often a good thing. But it’s changed things. It’s the idea that writers can speak in a voice that wasn’t handed down to them by Medill or Mizzou or ages of journalistic how-tos muddling and mixing and creating an unremarkable beast out of what was once a talented and of-him/herself writer. The idea that I can toss out a 43-word sentence like the one you just struggled through, and not have it be covered in red ink a day and a half later.”