Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images
There is no rivalry between the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat.
There is no rich history between the two franchises.
Celtics vs. Lakers it is not. History? Boston and L.A. have decades of it. Geography? They are the East vs. West. Bad blood? Five words: Kevin McHale clotheslines Kurt Rambis. Great players? Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Jerry West are only the beginning.
And when it really comes down to it, a big reason why the Celtics and Lakers have an intense dislike for one another, is because the other was the only thing standing between them and a championship.
This isn’t Bulls vs. Pistons. For three years, Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all-time, was humbled by the collective power of head coach Chuck Daly and the “Bad Boys.” The “Jordan Rules” tested the Bulls to their very core. It took everything Jordan had — from extreme conditioning and toughness, the triangle offense, and his evolution as a teammate, to make it to the Finals.
This isn’t even Heat vs. Knicks. That was just violent.
Orlando and Miami, up to this point, have never competed against each other for even a conference championship. Whenever the Heat were an elite team, the Magic were merely good and vice-versa. They have played for state of Florida bragging rights, and little else. Sure, they had a somewhat memorable first round series in the 1997 NBA Playoffs, thanks in large part to Penny Hardaway’s Herculean efforts in Games 3 and 4 (back-to-back 40 point games) to make what was a one-sided matchup into a competitive battle.
That’s it, though.
For the Magic and Heat, countless players have come and gone. As such, not many star players have had a chance to leave an indelible mark on the head-to-head series. It’s true that Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard have been the most consistent faces, in terms of in-their-prime superstar talent, between Orlando and Miami in recent years, but there’s never been a signature moment between them.
No, it’s not a rivalry.
Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
After nearly four months, the wait is over.
We know the story by now. LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined forces with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat to create the SuperFriends. Afterwards, general manager Otis Smith and head coach Stan Van Gundy had a few words to say about the way James handled his decision (literally and figuratively), president Pat Riley fired back with comments of his own, Van Gundy offered a rebuttal, and here we are. The players for the Orlando Magic have been sick and tired with talking about the Heat, and tonight will be their chance to air out their frustrations.
To preview tonight’s matchup, I enlisted the wisdom of Kevin Arnovitz and Tom Haberstroh — both write for the Heat Index at the TrueHoop Network.
Arnovitz and Haberstroh provide their opinions on Mike Miller’s eventual role with Miami when he returns from injury, the matchup advantages for the Magic against the Heat, and more.
It’s been two games, of course, but how have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh looked together on the court?
Kevin Arnovitz: It’s far too early to assess meaningfully, but they’ve looked a little disjointed in the half court as a unit. They haven’t been on the floor enough yet to establish a rhythm to their sets or develop an intuitive sense of where the other two guys are going to be in less structured moments. Wade has been the least deliberate of the three — for better (W at PHL) and worse (L at BOS).
Tom Haberstroh: Like they have only played a handful of minutes together. The Heat seem to be experimenting with different sets to try to spark some chemistry and dust off the rust. But they’re not hitting on all cylinders yet and believe me, we’ll know when they are. There’s plenty of time to change this but LeBron has been far too conservative with the ball. He has barely attacked the basket in each of the opening quarters this season and that’s a large reason they’ve sputtered out of the gates so far. That will change as he gets more comfortable alongside Dwyane Wade.
Photo by Fernando Medina
Welcome to the Amway Center. Again.
In front of a nationally televised audience, the Orlando Magic christened their regular season home opener by defeating the Washington Wizards by the score of 112-83. For the Magic, they tied the largest margin of victory for a home opener in franchise history. And to be frank, this game was over when Orlando was up by as much as 18 points in the first quarter. The Magic were led by their four All-Stars, all with standout performances to varying degrees. Dwight Howard finished the game with 23 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks, while Vince Carter had 18 points and five rebounds, Jameer Nelson had 16 points and six assists, and Rashard Lewis had 13 points and seven rebounds. Each of them played efficient basketball, and the chemistry between the quartet has never looked better. Highly touted rookie John Wall struggled at times in his NBA debut, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting, nine assists, and three steals. Give credit to Wall for playing hard the entire time he was on the court, despite the lopsided score.
A lot of kudos should be given to Orlando for emphatically beating an inferior opponent. However, the Wizards made things too easy for the Magic by offering little resistance in terms of interior defense. According to Hoopdata, Orlando shot 18-of-21 at the rim and 10-for-15 inside 10 feet. Add to the fact that the Magic were able to get to the free-throw line a total of 32 times, and it’s easy to see why this game was barely competitive after the opening tip.
Those numbers are absurd.
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “So, Dwight Howard can hit mid-range jumpers now? That doesn’t concern the Washington Wizards. Coach Flip Saunders and center JaVale McGee both reiterated the same point: they’d rather have Howard shooting jumpers than scoring in the paint. [...] Saunders mentioned Karl Malone as a player who expanded his game from the low-post to out away from the basket. He believes Howard could become ‘nearly unstoppable’ when he progresses his offensive game to that point, but right now he’s not all that afraid of Howard’s jumpers.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “There won’t be any surprises in the Orlando Magic starting lineup for tonight’s season opener against the Washington Wizards. Coach Stan Van Gundy said moments ago that his starters will be Jameer Nelson at point guard, Vince Carter at shooting guard, Quentin Richardson at small forward, Rashard Lewis at power forward and Dwight Howard at center. Point guard Jason Williams will be on the team’s active roster tonight, Van Gundy said. Big man Malik Allen will be on the inactive list.”
- Head coach Flip Saunders is wary of the Washington Wizards receiving a “haymaker” early in tonight’s game against the Orlando Magic: “There’s going to be an unbelievable amount of energy in this building with the new building. Orlando, they’re playing extremely well. They’ve got something to prove, and they’ve been one of the top three teams in this league the last three years and not a lot of people are talking about them right now.”
- Win one for the Amway Center? Say what? Note J.J. Redick‘s response.
- Brian Schmitz talks about the artwork at the new arena.
- George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel conducts an excellent Q/A with Bob Vander Weide, CEO of the Magic. Here’s a snippet from Vander Weide: “I don’t hear our guys saying anything about respect because once they get on the court they get the respect. The only thing they might say is we’re a little sick hearing about Miami. But I think every team that plays us, knowing where we’ve been the last two years, is going to respect us on the floor. Does that mean that somebody on ESPN is going to call us out as the champions to be? Who cares?”
- Dress up head coach Stan Van Gundy!
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “The team was at its very best with Nelson running the show on offense, and wasn’t too bad with him on defense, either. As such, he owns the team’s second-best efficiency differential. Lewis is the team’s best option at either forward slot, which lends credence to Van Gundy’s idea that it’s best to move Lewis around based on matchups, which in turn gives the Magic comfort with different, versatile offensive approaches. I’m surprised we saw so litle of Carter at small forward, given how often he and Redick paired up on the wings in the postseason. And [Marcin] Gortat got hardly any time alongside Howard in a big lineup, though when together, they proved effective.”
Via Fox Sports Florida:
The first 2010-11 edition of Sun Sports/FOX Sports Florida’s acclaimed “Inside the Magic” series premieres Wednesday, November 3, at 10:00pm ET on FOX Sports Florida immediately following the Minnesota @ Orlando game telecast.
“Inside the Magic: 10-10-10 Opening Night” will feature:
- Hosted by former Miss Florida and now FOX Sports Florida/Sun Sports reporter, Megan Clementi
- On October 10, 2010 the Orlando Magic played the New Orleans Hornets in the first game in the new Amway Center. FOX Sports Florida cameras were on-site documenting the entire day, from the laying of the parquet court to the preparations of the food, technology, and game presentation staff, and capturing the reactions of fans attending this inaugural game.
Viewers will hear from:
- Jameer Nelson, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Stan Van Gundy
- Chief Executive Officer Bob Vander Weide
- President Alex Martins
- Director of Broadcast Production Kevin Cosgrove
- Radio Play-by-Play Announcer Dennis Neumann
- Levy Restaurants Executive Chef John Nicely
- Lots of fans!
Via ESPN Stats and Information:
The [Orlando] Magic moved into a new building this year. Their home opener was Oct. 28 against the Wizards. Last season, they were at Amway Arena and in the offseason, Orlando moved 10 blocks to Amway Center.
Amway Arena Amway Center Square footage 367,000 875,000 Width of seats (in inches) 18” 20-24” Restrooms 8 37 Elevators 4 18 Public concourses 1 8
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Did you know that tonight is, in effect, the start of the [Orlando] Magic‘s playoff push? Forget the calendar. Stan’s blueprint is designed so the Magic at times prepare for the postseason during the regular season, from developing young players to experimenting with certain schemes to seeing that aging Vince Carter reaches the title run in one piece. [Stan] Van Gundy concedes this strategy is essentially a first for him. And it’s not going to be easy. You might even see him lighting up in blue hues. Like a lot of coaches, he lives in the moment, game-to-game, trying to win that particular night. General managers are big-picture people; coaches are reviewing instant snapshots. The idea of preparing for May in January is as foreign to most coaches as Thai cuisine. Then again, most don’t have a contender like Van Gundy does. The Magic are close, with a Finals trip and two Eastern Conference Finals appearances the past two seasons. They are figuring out how to scale that hump. And Van Gundy realizes that The Postseason Plan might require getting away from tried-and-true formulas of the past that have assured wins on a given night.”
- Want to know how to stop John Wall? Ask Daniel Orton, or not.
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “The coaching staff has already begun preparing for the Heat game. Van Gundy said the coaching staff usually doesn’t work ahead, but with so many days off in a row, they’ve exhausted all of the preparation they can do for the Wizards. The players, meanwhile, have done no preparation for the Heat.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “When [Jameer] Nelson and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy met following the crushing Eastern Conference Finals loss to Boston last spring, they talked about where Nelson could improve his game the most. Van Gundy asked that he push himself to become a better defender. To do just that, Nelson went through hours of agility drills to better his side-to-side movement and footwork and he trained again with boxing drills to make his hands and reactions better. And Van Gundy said he’s seen positive results in the preseason. He hopes that it carries over to Thursday when Nelson will be matched up with Wall, Gilbert Arenas and Kirk Hinrich at times throughout the game.”
- A preview of Dwight Howard‘s season.
- Are the Magic tough enough? Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com tries to answer that question.
Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images
Virtually every set of predictions lists one of three teams as champion: the Lakers, Heat or Celtics. I’m wondering if this consensus is missing the boat on reality, and I’m not just saying that because the Heat and Lakers looked somewhere south of dominant Tuesday night.
In light of the fact that Orlando dominated the preseason after dominating the second half of last season, I find it particularly hard to swallow how dismissive most people seem of the Magic’s chances.
Apparently lots of people saw last year’s Eastern Conference finals and decided the Magic can’t be trusted in the playoffs … which might be a better argument if they hadn’t won the East a year earlier (with Rafer Alston playing point guard, for Pete’s sake). If the effects of Dwight Howard-stopper Kendrick Perkins’ knee injury linger into the postseason, the Magic might be able to outlast Boston in a potential meeting. Alternatively, they may not need to play the Celtics at all.
And then there’s the wild card: trades. Remember, you don’t win with your November roster; you win with the roster you take into the playoffs. Look at the top teams and at which ones have the assets to make major upgrades between now and the trade deadline, and you’ll quickly notice that it’s not the Lakers, Celtics and Heat who are holding the cards.
Teams such as Portland, Oklahoma City, Houston and Orlando sit on major asset troves, which could enable them to make the necessary upgrades and roster tweaks to push them up another level. You don’t think Orlando becomes a favorite if it can use its assets to pry Paul from New Orleans?
And that’s what boggles the mind. More and more, the Orlando Magic are being labeled as a great “regular season” team. For those that can’t read between the lines, that’s a nice way of saying that the Magic are soft or can’t cut it in the playoffs. Problem is, that argument doesn’t carry weight.
Because the core of the Magic, the same core that went to the NBA Finals in 2009 is still intact. It’s not like this is a cast of characters that haven’t stepped up on the big stage. Just because Orlando had a one bad series against the Boston Celtics, shouldn’t dismiss all the things they’ve accomplished the last two years. Rashard Lewis, especially, is a player that’s receiving a lot of undue criticism for how he performed against the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, leading some people to believe that he’s yet to have a breakout series in the playoffs.
I guess Lewis’ performance in the Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers doesn’t qualify.
If the Magic were a team that hasn’t proven anything in the postseason then yeah, it’s fair to say they can’t be trusted. But to dismiss them as a title contender?
That seems premature.