When general manager Otis Smith signed Chris Duhon as a free agent in the offseason, the expectation was that the Orlando Magic would seal up the back-up point guard role for the next few years. Previous back-ups like Anthony Johnson and Jason Williams served their roles effectively for the Magic, but each of them were in the twilight of their careers and couldn’t be counted on long-term playing behind Jameer Nelson on the depth chart.
Hence the addition of Duhon, who is 28 and in the prime of his career. One problem.
Duhon hasn’t been playing very well for Orlando since the start of the regular season.
To be frank, Duhon’s numbers are atrocious and it remains to be seen whether or not head coach Stan Van Gundy sticks with him in the rotation. It’s tricky because the Magic signed Duhon as a free agent, hence there is an investment in him that needs to be seen all the way through. But at the same time, Van Gundy has to do what’s best for the team. If a player isn’t producing, a change must be made at some point in time.
So what’s wrong with Duhon? Well, almost everything.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Stan Van Gundy left Wisconsin hoping that Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, Mickael Pietrus and J.J. Redick will recover from their stomach virus in time to play Monday against the Atlanta Hawks. But Van Gundy also emphasized that he had no idea whether the foursome would be healthy enough. […] Redick came down with the illness first, beginning to experience symptoms early last Wednesday morning. Four days later, he still wasn’t ready to play in Milwaukee. Howard and Nelson became ill on Friday. So, if their illnesses last four full days, they wouldn’t be able to play against the Hawks.”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “Orlando Magic center Marcin Gortat dives for loose balls, leaps into the stands and hits the deck more comfortably than any 6-foot-11 human being should. His willingness to sacrifice his extremely large body is, in a lot of ways, what defines him as a player. But for Gortat, diving and clawing for every loose ball is not a big deal, as he’s been doing it his whole life — just not on the basketball court. Gortat, a native of Poland, didn’t even play basketball till he was almost 18. Instead, Gortat received his hoops training on the soccer field, as he spent his youth playing goalkeeper for his competitive soccer squad. ‘I was probably the world’s tallest goalie,’ he says. He played soccer all of his life — like almost everyone did in Poland — and he was actually a pretty good keeper for his club team, LKS Lodz. So when you see Gortat diving at a point guard’s ankles for a loose ball, there’s a chance he’s imagining it as a soccer ball rolling free inside the 18-yard box. Marcin Gortat, a k a the Polish Machine, a k a the world’s tallest goalkeeper.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “I was watching what was left of the flu-ridden Magic on Saturday night and wondering whether Jason Williams was going to pass the ball for the rest of his career. Finally, bang-bang-bang — J-Will nailed 3 three-pointers in a late stretch against the Bucks. With Jameer Nelson out and Chris Duhon continuing to struggle, Williams needed to provide some offense instead of seemingly getting out of the way and spectating. Williams is frustrated with his role — or no role — but this was a game he could have left an imprint on earlier if he hadn’t deferred so much. Dealing with being the third point guard hasn’t been easy, and I think that frustration was behind him getting tossed from two games. Yes, it makes you wonder what J-Will is thinking.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Orlando Pinstriped Post has learned, but has been unable to confirm, that the Orlando Magic may have recalled rookie center Daniel Orton from the New Mexico Thunderbirds, their D-League affiliate, after just a two-day stay. I again emphasize that I have yet to confirm this rumor, and neither the Magic nor the Thunderbirds have made an official announcement on the matter. […] Orton could be headed back to Orlando due to an injury of his own. He may have “tweaked something,” according to a person I spoke to, which explains why he left New Mexico’s game last night.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “On Thursday, Damien Wilkins was shooting baskets with regular guys at a gym. By Saturday, he was facing down LeBron James, the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player, with a frenzied crowd at American Airlines Arena expecting James to put on a show. The circumstances weren’t impossible to imagine since Wilkins had played 390 NBA games before the Hawks signed him on Friday. The result, though, was remarkable. Wilkins effectively harassed James to help spark Atlanta’s comeback attempt in the third quarter. The Hawks lost 89-77 but if Wilkins’ debut is any indication, he’s well suited to meet coach Larry Drew’s desire for an energetic and tough wing defender. Wilkins showed those qualities when he closely guarded James during stints in the first and second halves. James seemed annoyed that he couldn’t shake Wilkins, who wouldn’t allow him much space to start one of his dynamic drives to the basket. […] Wilkins’ strategy was best illustrated during a third-quarter sequence against James. Wilkins leaned against James and placed his arm against his back. James jab-stepped, but Wilkins didn’t budge. James feigned a shot, but Wilkins stayed put. Finally, Wilkins poked at the ball and the two wrestled for it as they crashed to the floor; officials called a jump ball.”
No Dwight Howard. No Jameer Nelson. No J.J. Redick. No Mickael Pietrus. And after spraining his right foot literally seconds after checking into the game in the second quarter, no Ryan Anderson either. Guess what?
Despite playing the basketball equivalent of a skeleton crew, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the Detroit Pistons by the score of 104-91 to extend their winning streak to a season-high six games. Even though a stomach virus depleted the roster and forced the Magic to play with eight players, they performed like a more talented version of the “Heart and Hustle” team in 2000. Orlando has won a lot of games over the years but given the circumstances, this was one of the most impressive wins in franchise history. That’s not hyperbole. The Magic should be proud of this win because they played with tremendous energy and effort. It was a balanced attack for Orlando, as five players scored in double figures but the leaders of the game were Vince Carter and Brandon Bass. Carter, for one night, was the focal point of the Magic’s offense and superb in his role, finishing with 25 points, nine assists, and three steals. Bass was equally brilliant, scoring a career-high 27 points on 11-of-12 shooting and serving notice that he’s a legitimate Sixth Man of the Year candidate in the NBA. Marcin Gortat chipped in with 14 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. Quentin Richardson and Rashard Lewis each had 15 points at the forward positions.
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month presented by Kia Motors for games played during October/November. It marks the fifth time of his career that Howard has earned the league’s top monthly honor (April 2006, November 2006, November 2007, December 2007).
Howard was fifth in the Eastern Conference in scoring, averaging 21.8 points on .594 shooting, which ranked second in the conference and third in the league. To go along with his offensive production, Howard ranked fourth in the league in rebounds, averaging 12.1. He helped the Magic get off to a 13-4 start, putting the team atop the Southeast division. Howard’s month was highlighted by his defensive performance on Nov. 3 versus Minnesota, where he had eight blocks, representing an NBA season high, while also setting a new Magic franchise record for blocks in a quarter with six. Howard hit the game-winning shot on Nov. 27 at Washington, and in addition, he was named player of the week twice, for weeks ending Nov. 7 and Nov. 28.
Here is a recap of the month for Howard:
Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
Nov. 3 vs. Minnesota: Recorded 18 points, 16 rebounds and a season-high 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 victory over the Nets.
Nov. 24 vs. Miami: Registered 24 points to go along with 18 rebounds in a 111-100 victory over the Heat.
Nov. 27 @ Washington: Compiled a season-high 32 points, 11 rebounds, two blocks and hit the game-winning shot to defeat the Wizards by a score of 100-99.
Utah’s Deron Williams took home the monthly award for the Western Conference.
There are many ‘what if’ questions that Magic fans ask on occasion. Some wonder how the Orlando Magic would have fared if Grant Hill was healthy. Others try to figure out if the Magic had a chance to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals if Jameer Nelson didn’t have to rush back from injury to play.
Although Orlando lost in five games, apart from Game 1, this was a competitive series.
In fact, the Magic were two plays away from heading into Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead if Courtney Lee made a game-winning layup in Game 2 and Derek Fisher didn’t hit a game-tying three-pointer in Game 4 with 4.6 seconds left in the fourth quarter. And this was with a hobbled Nelson running around the court while this was all happening.
Nelson tortured the Lakers in the regular season and many people ponder the possibilities of him playing in the Finals at the All-Star level he was playing.
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
So far, Jameer Nelson has been having a good year for the Orlando Magic.
Fully healthy and springboarding off a strong performance in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, Nelson is back to playing like an All-Star point guard during the regular season. A big reason that the Magic rank fourth in the NBA in efficiency differential (+8.0) and second in point differential (+7.9) is because of Nelson’s stellar production offensively. It may surprise people, however, that Nelson is doing more to help Orlando on offense with his passing than at any other point in his career.
Is this trend sustainable?
It remains to be seen. But let’s go back in time and offer a refresher course on how Nelson emerged as one of the better point guards in the league for the Magic.
How about January 16, 2009 against the Los Angeles Lakers?
There are many Magic fans that remember that date vividly because it marked not only the “official” arrival of Orlando as an elite team and championship contender, but it was Nelson’s coming out party as a clutch performer and emergence as an All-Star caliber player in front of a nationally televised audience. Yes, Nelson had big games against the likes of the San Antonio Spurs and other good teams earlier in that year but this was the Lakers. At Staples Center. In primetime.
It was something more than just a regular season game for the Magic.
And for Nelson, it was his christening.
For the evening, Nelson had 28 points and eight assists while all of his damage came in the fourth quarter when the game was going back-and-forth between Orlando and Los Angeles in a matchup of two heavyweights.
The traits that people have been accustomed to seeing from Nelson — deadly shooter, drive-and-kick extraordinaire, pick and roll maven — these past few years were on full display against the Lakers in the period. It was an iconic sequence of events for Nelson because not only did it reveal his growth in head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s system but also unearthed his potential to be an impact player for the Magic when the stakes were high.
Nelson displayed flashes of brilliance in the 2008 NBA Playoffs against the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons, but everything came together that night.