Via the Orlando Magic:
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard led all Eastern Conference players, and was second overall, in the NBA All-Star Balloting program presented by T-Mobile with 2,099,204 votes. It marks Howard’s fifth straight appearance in the NBA All-Star Game and fourth consecutive time voted a starter.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, a three-time All-Star MVP, is this year’s overall leading vote-getter with 2,380,016 votes. It is Bryant’s 13th consecutive All-Star selection; only Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal, with 14 straight nods each, have more.
Joining Howard in the Eastern Conference starting lineup at forward are the Miami Heat’s LeBron James (2,053,011), the 2006 and 2008 All-Star Game MVP, and the New York Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire (1,674,995). The starters for the East at guard are the Heat’s Dwyane Wade (2,048,175), last year’s All-Star Game MVP, and the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose (1,914,996), who earns his first All-Star Game start. James and Wade are the first set of teammates to start an All-Star Game for the Eastern Conference since Wade and Shaquille O’Neal represented the Heat in 2007 in Las Vegas.
Bryant, the youngest All-Star in NBA history in 1998, and the All-Star MVP in 2002 and 2007, and co-MVP along with Shaquille O’Neal in 2009, is joined in the Western Conference starting backcourt by the New Orleans Hornets’ Chris Paul (1,281,591). The Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant (1,736,728), making his first All-Star Game start, and the Denver Nuggets’ Carmelo Anthony (1,299,849) are the starting forwards. The Houston Rockets’ Yao Ming gets the nod at center (1,146,426). NBA Commissioner David Stern will select a replacement for Yao, who is injured with a stress fracture in his left ankle.
After [Hedo] Turkoglu was the second-best player on the Magic team that lost in the 2009 NBA Finals to the Lakers, there was every reason to saddle up the old gang and let them take another shot again last season. But there were $53 million worth of reasons why it didn’t happen, the size of the free agent five-year contract that Orlando wasn’t willing to offer and Turkoglu got in Toronto. […]
Of course, a bigger version of the same accusation could have been made of the Magic, who blew up the best team in the history of their franchise in the name of fiscal restraint and managing the budget down the line when they were maybe standing on the doorstep of their first championship.
General manager Otis Smith has since admitted his mistake, albeit with a mountain of caveats. Though what really matters now is that Turkoglu returned to Orlando on Dec. 18, the day Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas also arrived in a declaration that shouted the future is now and the Magic have gone 13-6 (.684) since.
“I was disappointed and hurt when our Finals team traded away Hedo and Courtney Lee,” said center Dwight Howard. “I thought that was an awesome team that deserved another chance.”
As perhaps the last remaining dominant center in the league, Howard missed not only Turkoglu’s ballhandling skills and make big shots in key situations, but also his ability to make the entry pass into the low post.
“A 6-10 guy who knows right where I like it and can get it there? Yeah, I was glad to see him back,” Howard said.
Dwight Howard’s quotes are telling and reveal, in a way, his feelings about Vince Carter.
The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Indiana Pacers by the score of 111-96, getting back in the win column after losing to the Detroit Pistons on Monday. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as six players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard led the way for Orlando with 19 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks, and two steals. Howard befuddled Roy Hibbert defensively, holding him to four points and two rebounds in roughly 15 minutes of action. With Howard able to shut down the Pacers’ lone threat in the low post, they had to rely on a perimeter attack that couldn’t muster enough offense to overcome Hibbert’s lack of production. Yes, Indiana was able to make a game of it at times throughout the evening, but the Magic’s firepower offensively was too overwhelming. In total, Orlando was able to make 16 three-pointers, two short of their season-high. Jason Richardson finished with 19 points and nine rebounds. Hedo Turkoglu had an efficient outing, putting up 18 points (on 7-of-10 shooting), seven rebounds, and four assists. Ryan Anderson contributed with 14 points. Jameer Nelson had 12 points, while J.J. Redick chipped in with 10 points. Lights out three-point shooting by Orlando was the difference in the game, when it all comes down to it.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Reserve point guard Jason Williams did not join the Orlando Magic on their two-game road trip to face the Indiana Pacers tonight and the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, leaving his status with the team up in the air. When asked about Williams’ status after the Magic’s shootaround today at Conseco Fieldhouse, the team’s president of basketball operations, Otis Smith, responded: ‘Well, he’s not with the team. We’ll deal with him when we get back to Orlando.’ Williams participated in the team’s practice Tuesday at Amway Center, but with the impending return of big man Malik Allen from injury, Williams was slated to be taken off of the team’s active list because the Magic would have had 13 healthy players and NBA teams are permitted to carry 12 players on their active roster. This is Williams’ second absence from the team this season.”
- Since then, Jason Williams has been waived by the Orlando Magic.
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy will continue with the big men rotation of Dwight Howard, Brandon Bass, and Ryan Anderson manning the forward and center positions.
- Roy Hibbert talks about playing against Howard.
- Quentin Richardson — a consummate professional.
- Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com says that Tim Duncan had an odd impact on the Magic, even though he never signed with the team as a free agent in 2000: “This one may be kind of unusual since Duncan never played for the Magic. But he almost did. In 2000, when the Magic had a ton to spend on free agents, the franchise came very close to landing Duncan and, in effect, uniting him with their other prized signees, McGrady and Grant Hill. It’s very possible that if Duncan opted to join Orlando, the Magic would have captured multiple NBA championships by this time.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post puts things in perspective about Howard’s free agency.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “So where does that leave us with WARP, PER, WP, WS and the rest of the acronyms? Well, if you’re putting your complete trust in any single statistic to measure player value, that is surely a mistake. Each metric has its own biases that can be seen most easily in comparison to the others. I believe that WARP does a better job of reflecting value than anything else; otherwise I would use the others. Yet I still blanch every time I see Jason Kidd ranked in the league’s top 10 last season, which seems excessively kind. WARP tends to give too much credit to defenders who pile up steals and blocks while neglecting individual defense, so to consider them using only WARP would be a mistake. The other useful reality check for me is net plus-minus and, with the appropriate caution, adjusted plus-minus. A couple of years ago, when I pondered the state of APBRmetrics, I argued that the choice between box-score statistics and plus-minus statistics divided the community. Increasingly, however, I see people using both in combination. When they agree, they allow us to make a stronger conclusion about a player. When they disagree, that’s when basketball analysis becomes an art rather than a science. And that, to me, is the most interesting part of the whole process, especially when it becomes clear that there really is no such thing as player value in a vacuum. Everything is contextual based on role and system.”
- Howard for Defensive Player of the Year.
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic have waived guard Jason Williams, President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith announced today. The Magic’s roster stands at 13.
Williams (#44, 6’1”, 190, 11/18/75) played in 16 games this season for Orlando, averaging 2.1 ppg., 1.5 apg. and 1.4 rpg. in 10.7 minpg.
Originally selected in the first round (seventh overall) of the 1998 NBA Draft, Williams played in 777 career NBA regular season games with Sacramento, Memphis, Miami and Orlando, averaging 10.6 ppg., 5.9 apg., 2.3 rpg. and 1.20 stlpg. in 29.7 minpg. He has also played in 67 career playoff contests, averaging 8.3 ppg., 3.3 apg. and 1.9 rpg. in 25.9 minpg. Williams was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1998-99, currently stands as Memphis’ all-time leader in assists (2,041) and helped Miami capture the 2005-06 NBA Championship.
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
While the mainstream media continues to salivate over the prospects of Derrick Rose or Amar’e Stoudemire winning the Most Valuable Player award, there’s a player that deserves to get a lot more attention than he’s currently getting.
Yeah, Rose’s acrobatic forays to the rim are aesthetically pleasing to watch and high on entertainment value, with him occasionally putting the exclamation point on a play with a violent, two-handed tomahawk dunk. And when Stoudemire dives on pick-and-rolls for a power slam, it’s cool to see. Heck, are Rose and Stoudemire deserving of — as of right now — starting in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game? Sure, and they’re star talents on their respective teams. The problem is that they’re not MVP candidates, despite whatever narrative is being driven out there.
Howard is an MVP candidate. Should Howard win the award? It’s too early to say, of course, but Howard should be strongly considered at the very least. Howard has been a top five player in the NBA for the past several years and has always “been in the discussion” for the MVP. But because LeBron James was producing at a rate similar to Michael Jordan, Howard has always been nothing more than a footnote when the MVP ballots are distributed and the votes are made. However, this is the first year that Howard has a legitimate shot at taking home the hardware.
Howard doesn’t do the sexy things that voters like to see, like score, score, or score, but rest assured that his value to the Orlando Magic is irreplaceable.
A look at the numbers
The beauty of analyzing the league right now is that there’s scads of data that can quantify a player’s worth. In this day and age, there’s no excuse for people not to be able to make an educated decision about the rightful choice for MVP based on evidence and observation. Narratives shouldn’t be determining the winner, despite the insistence by writers that it makes for a nice story.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “It would be tempting to attribute the Orlando Magic‘s 103-96 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Monday night to midseason doldrums. Even the best NBA teams suffer two or three embarrassing losses at home. It happens. But perhaps the loss revealed larger problems that must be addressed before the postseason arrives. What will happen if the defense doesn’t improve? Won’t Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics carve up the Magic more easily in the playoffs than Austin Daye, Tracy McGrady and Tayshaun Prince did on Monday? How about LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat? ‘Either we get it together or we’re just going to be a playoff team that doesn’t win a championship,’ Magic center Dwight Howard said. Howard made that statement after the Magic allowed Daye, McGrady and Prince to score 20 points apiece and Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey to score 16 points each. Obviously, the Magic’s perimeter defense suffered through an awful night.”
- Josh Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “When the Magic made two blockbuster trades on Dec. 18 with Phoenix and Washington, they sacrificed some of their defense for more offensive firepower. Gone is 7-foot shot-blocker/rebounder Marcin Gortat, gritty wing defender Mickael Pietrus and underrated post defender Rashard Lewis. Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas are a part of the Magic now, but all three have made their marks in the NBA with their offensive exploits. Still, [Stan] Van Gundy feels that the Magic can get back to being an elite defensive team. Since the trades on Dec. 18, Van Gundy said the Magic rank sixth in the NBA in points per possession, a statistic that he said truly explains a defense’s true worth. But, as he stressed, that’s clearly not good enough.”
- Which team in the NBA gets the most bang out of their buck? Hint: it’s not the Orlando Magic.
- What DOESN’T make an MVP? Zach Lowe of The Point Forward ponders that question.
- M. Haubs of The Painted Area: “I rank Howard far, far ahead of Stoudemire, as his presence as the game’s most dominant defensive player has been the most important factor in keeping the Magic strong no matter who his teammates are. And, of course, Howard is displaying an expanded offensive game, to boot. I thought Dwight was the MVP through November, and he’s still a very strong contender to ultimately get my mythical vote.”
- Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones: “Dwight being vocal about the Magic falling short in the playoffs isn’t very encouraging for this season’s prospects, and it’s even less so for the coming season. Entering the postseason with a defeatist attitude isn’t going to help win any games and actually losing in the playoffs could make Dwight resigned to his fate with the Magic. And an unhappy Dwight is one that might leave eventually. It’s basically the worst possible scenario for all Magic fans, and hearing the first inklings of it coming from their star player is especially worrisome.”
- A scout chimes in on the new-look Magic since the blockbuster trades: “I think Gil could make a bigger impact in the playoffs, but he has to learn how to be more aggressive learning the offense and trying to fit in as opposed to what it looks like to me, which is an NBA Finals contender trying to figure out how to fit Gil in. I haven’t seen it yet”
- Henry Abbott of TrueHoop wonders who’s the title favorite in the NBA right now.
- John Hollinger of ESPN Insider: “Regardless, Orlando’s play post-trade can no longer be ignored. The Magic are a small-market team and the narrative behind the improvement hasn’t been sound-bite friendly, plus 13-3 doesn’t sound quite as impressive as ripping off a double-digit winning streak. But they’re playing better than any team in the Association, and it’s not clear to me why one would expect them to stop any time soon. At the very least, that should be enough to get the presumed duopoly atop the East reclassified as a triumvirate.”
- Dwight Howard talks about last night’s loss against the Detroit Pistons: “Either we get it together and learn from games like this or we´re just going to be a playoff team that doesn´t win a championship. I have faith in this team and know what we can do when we are locked in and focused, but we can´t be flipping the switch on and off from game to game. Championship teams bring it every night and we have to get to that point where we play hard no matter the score or the opponent.”