- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “This was an NBA walk-through that actually was a walk-through. The Orlando Magic did not do any running during their shootaround this morning at the St. Pete Times Forum because the court was too slippery. [...] The Magic are scheduled to face the Miami Heat here at 7:30 p.m. [Stan] Van Gundy said he would have kept his team at its hotel this morning and held a walk-through in a ballroom if he had known the court was so slippery. St. Pete Times Forum spokesman Bill Wickett said the court’s slickness was not caused by condensation from the ice underneath the wood. Instead, he said the basketball court had been stored for a long time and was cleaned after last night’s Tampa Bay Lightning hockey game. The spokesman said the court had not dried before the Magic arrived at the arena.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Regardless of what’s motivating [Vince] Carter, one thing is clear: it’s working. To great effect. Yet Carter’s attitude adjustment isn’t the only factor that appears to have contributed to is success. Indeed, the Magic are deploying him differently than they did last season, using him less as a facilitator and more as a jump-shooter. More specifically, data from Synergy Sports Technology show that Carter’s pick-and-roll involvement has dropped from 48.7 percent of his overall plays in 2009/10 to 34.4 percent this preseason. As a result of playing off the ball, he’s able to take more in-rhythm shots off the catch (33.9 percent), and fewer contested ones off the bounce (21 percent). On the downside, his assist numbers have taken a dive, which his incredible efficiency mitigates.”
- Dwight Howard and Marvel Comics team up for a rare collaboration.
- Ball Don’t Lie previews the Orlando Magic. A must-read: “The only thing stopping Orlando is smart play down crucial stretches of playoff games, and this means the first quarter as much as it does the fourth. Because the fourth quarter is rarely crucial when you lose the first. Jameer Nelson needs to lead his team offensively, Rashard Lewis needs to get back to where he was during the 2009 playoffs, and coach Stan Van Gundy will have to get the most out of what is easily the deepest team in the NBA. Championship, or bust. No other way to put it.”
- Zach Lowe of The Point Forward looks at the good and bad of the pre-season for the Magic. There’s not a lot of the latter: “Everything. The Magic are undefeated and outscoring opponents by a ludicrous 25 points per game.”
- Rashard Lewis is one of the worst shot blockers in the NBA.
- An opposing scout provides his take on Orlando for Sports Illustrated: “I don’t see Orlando being on the same level as Boston or Miami in the East, and a lot of it has to do with having Vince Carter as their go-to scorer. He can do it on certain nights, but I don’t think they can depend on him consistently in the playoffs. When he is doing most of the scoring and shooting, it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the team and what they’re all about. Defensively, Carter doesn’t help them either. The problem is they brought in Carter to replace Hedo Turkoglu, who played a big role for them going to the Finals two seasons ago. They ran many sets with Turkoglu handling the ball in pick-and-roll situations as if he was a point guard. He could post up, he could play both forward positions, he could handle the ball and he was so versatile — not a great shooter but he made big shots and plays — and most of all he was a matchup problem for everybody. Carter doesn’t create those mismatches, and their other players don’t flourish around him the way they did around Turkoglu a couple of years ago.”
- Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: “They appear to be third in line behind Miami and Boston, but Orlando will demand the respect of opponents by winning close to 60 games. No one thought much of the Magic two years ago either, and then they went to the Finals. They’ve kept their team intact, which gives them an advantage in teamwork over the Heat, and they’ve shown no interest whatsoever in ceding anything to Miami. The two Florida contenders will be on their way to developing the East’s best rivalry if they succeed in beating each other when they meet twice in the opening month.”
- Howard empathizes with LeBron James and the hateful tweets he’s received.
- ESPN previews the Magic, as well, and a lot of their criticisms are off-based (more on this later). Take it away, Chris Broussard: “Dwight Howard will be better and make a serious case for MVP, but the Magic as a whole are declining. They’ll still win lots of games, but with Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis just another year older, they’re heading in the wrong direction. Bottom line: they should’ve paid Hedo!”
- And lastly, NBA FanHouse previews the men in blue. Tom Ziller and Bethlehem Shoals provide a sound and accurate depiction of the forgotten contender in the Eastern Conference: “I’m fully convinced that having Patrick Ewing, the king of great but somehow disappointing centers, as an assistant coach has dragged Dwight Howard’s name unnecessarily through the mud. Like death and taxes, you can always count on a louse or two pointing out Howard’s flaws without acknowledging his amazing feats. Feats like winning three straight rebounding titles before turning 25. Like leading the league in blocks and rebounds two straight years. Like missing a whopping three games in six seasons. Howard doesn’t have Hakeem’s smooth or Duncan’s craft; he’s just a heap of muscles and a giant set of hands. So, like Ewing and even David Robinson, he’s discounted as a player not committed to getting better, to not being the man. Bull pucky. This is the best big man in the game today, an heir to Hakeem and Duncan in terms of impact on a game, any game. How quickly we forget that Howard’s team has beaten LeBron and the Celtics already.”
- Seriously. Read and re-read the previews of Orlando by Ball Don’t Lie and NBA FanHouse.
Editor’s note: Game has been canceled due to poor playing conditions.
Photo by Fernando Medina
This year, I was asked by Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference to provide a very quick preview of the Orlando Magic for the BBR Blog. It should be unveiled in the next few days or so.
Here’s a snippet of what I wrote:
Coming off a disappointing series against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Orlando Magic are on a mission to right the wrongs from last season. Dwight Howard put it upon himself to work out with Hakeem Olajuwon during the summer in Houston for a week in hopes of improving his low-post game, and the early returns have been positive. Vince Carter worked out furiously in the off-season to become stronger and more conditioned for the long road ahead and as a result, shaved off almost four percent off his body fat. As such, Carter is looking spry and has an extra pep to his step.
Make sure to check out the other previews.
There’s a lot of excellent insight from the NBA blogosphere. Take a look.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “You don’t have to watch hours of game tape or pore over pages of statistics to produce a scouting report on Jameer Nelson. The book on the diminutive Orlando Magic co-captain is simple: He’s a scoring point guard who looks for his own shot as often as he looks to pass. Wednesday night didn’t change that perception, but it showed that Nelson can help the Magic even when his own shot doesn’t fall. Nelson bedeviled the Dallas Mavericks by dishing out 10 assists in the 101-76 exhibition victory. [...] Nelson, who made just one of his eight shot attempts, impacted the game immediately. Six of his assists came in the game’s first six minutes. He fed Quentin Richardson for a 3-pointer for Orlando’s first basket. Twice, his passes set Dwight Howard up for easy dunks. His ability to drive — and force defenses to account for his shot — helped lead to a pair of treys from Vince Carter and a midrange jumper from Rashard Lewis.”
- More from Robbins: “The Magic waived Robinson after their 101-76 win Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks. The team already has an abundance of wing players, and with Quentin Richardson, Mickael Pietrus, Vince Carter and J.J. Redick in the fold, the team didn’t need to keep the small forward out of UConn. With the team well into luxury tax territory, finances might have played a role in the decision. Robinson signed a non-guaranteed contract worth $473,604, but the dollar-for-dollar tax meant the team would have had to pay another $473,604 if Robinson had stuck with the team and his contract became guaranteed.”
- Vince Carter needs to continue to be aggressive.
- Head coach Rick Carlisle is impressed with the Orlando Magic.
- Right now, the Magic are hitting on all cylinders.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “We may not have seen the last of Robinson in a Magic uniform, however, though this much is purely speculation on my part. A new NBA D-League rule stipulates that the last three players cut from NBA training-camp rosters prior to the D-League Draft on November 1st will be allocated to that NBA team’s D-League affiliate. This rule means that Robinson’s D-League rights will belong to the New Mexico Thunderbirds, the Magic’s affiliate.”
- According to Scott Carefoot of The Basketball Jones, Orlando is the best team in the NBA that no one is talking about: “Orlando started out slow this preseason with single-digit wins over Houston and Indiana, but then they kicked into high gear with a 54-point win over the Hornets, a 13-point win over the Bobcats, a 38-point win over the Bulls, a 29-point win over the Hawks, and last night’s 25-point win over the Mavericks. Those are monster wins over quality competition. This raises that question: What the hell is going on down in Orlando? Defense is happening, my friends. The Magic are shooting 49.8 percent from the field after seven preseason games while they’ve held their opponents to 35 percent shooting. Thirty-five percent! That’s like playing against an entire team of Rafer Alstons every game! It’s common knowledge that two-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard is the backbone of the team that finished third in Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) last season and first in that category the season before. But this season, it looks like the entire team has bought in to the importance of playing hard on D. Yes, even Vince Carter.?
- Want to hear Dwight Howard sing?
- Check out USA Today’s excellent infographic about the Amway Center.
- Mike Prada of SB Nation: “The watchability issue with Howard is that you always find yourself wishing his post moves were more defined. It’s unfair to say he has no post moves, because it’s much harder to be a post player in 2010 than 1995, but good teams certainly figured out how to limit his impact. Since we all love great post players, it’s frustrating. If his offseason work with Hakeem Olajuwon pays off in any way, it eliminates the most frustrating thing about watching the Magic.”
- The Magic are not in the business to trade anyone on the roster right now.
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “Orlando has been incredibly dominant in the preseason, winning its seven games by an average of 25 points. Using a standard statistical formula for expected wins, Orlando’s preseason point differential translates to 81-1 record over an 82-game season. So which game will they lose? OK. So the Magic probably won’t break the ’95-96 Bulls’ record of 72 wins. But Orlando’s dominant preseason is a reminder that they were statistically the best team last season, outscoring their opponents by 9.3 points per 100 possessions (Cleveland ranked second at +7.3). The playoffs were — and are — a different story, but this team is primed to be a regular-season juggernaut again.”
- Rashard Lewis thinks that Howard has a good chance to win the MVP award this season.
- Zach Lowe of The Point Forward: “The easy choice for the deepest team, and the Magic should be deep — their payroll is hovering around $95 million, right there with the Lakers for the league’s highest salary. The Magic have 11 legit rotation players, and one of Stan Van Gundy‘s biggest challenges will be sorting out minutes between a quality of group of forwards while deciding how often he wants to play Rashard Lewis at small forward. With Brandon Bass giving Orlando quality preseason minutes, it looks as if all 11 guys have bought into the system.”
- Many NBA scouts think it’ll be the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
- Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated says Orlando is nothing “more than a fabulous regular-season team.” Okay, so we’re going to base that comment off ONE playoff series last season against a team that matched up extremely well with the Magic?
- Should the Magic trade for Gilbert Arenas? Ric Bucher of ESPN Insider thinks so: “I don’t know if Arenas can be the difference-maker. But I do know the Magic need to make a move and take their best shot at a title right now. If Arenas shows he’s the ol’ Gil in a couple of months, then the market opens up more and maybe they don’t get him, because the Wizards assuredly would prefer to move him out West. And then the Magic are toast as far as title hopes this year. Let’s face it, Vince for Hedo (and Courtney Lee) turned out to be a bad deal. They needed Carter to be Vinsane and he just played like one of the guys.”
- Please read the Gilbert Arenas conundrum.
Via the Orlando Magic:
WHO: Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard, Joey Fatone, Lil Shawn & Obie, Orlando Magic Dancers and STUFF the Magic’s Mascot.
WHAT: Dwight Howard will host an album release party celebrating the debut of his first album, Shoot For The Stars, which launches on October 26th from Razor & Tie / KIDZ BOP. Howard will be joined by Joey Fatone, Lil Shawn & Obie, Orlando Magic Dancers and STUFF the Magic’s Mascot to officially launch his album. The event will feature a question and answer segment with Howard and Fatone, an autograph session and samplings of the album’s music.
The full-length CD includes MVP worthy recordings of popular arena anthems and classic hits, plus the original song, “Shoot For The Stars,” which encourages his young fans to pursue their dreams. A portion of the CD’s proceed go to benefit BETA Center, the Orlando based organization whose mission is to provide kids and parents with the knowledge and support needed for strong and healthy families.
The event is by invitation only and is not open to the public.
WHEN: Saturday, October 23, 2010, 4 – 6 p.m.
Looking for a challenge from the opposition so that head coach Stan Van Gundy could finally play his starters extended minutes in the pre-season, the Orlando Magic got what they wanted — sort of — against the Dallas Mavericks as they won their 20th consecutive pre-season game by the score of 101-76 in the final exhibition game at the Amway Center before the regular season home opener next week. The Magic were led by dominating performances from Dwight Howard and Vince Carter, as they had 20 points each. Howard also had 13 rebounds and four blocks. Despite not scoring much, Jameer Nelson chipped in with 10 assists and five rebounds. As the numbers show, it was another lopsided victory for Orlando.
What else is new?
The Mavericks did put up a fight in the first half, trailing by two points at halftime. A big reason for that was because the Magic’s second unit got killed in the second quarter against the 5-man combination of J.J. Barea, Dominique Jones, Caron Butler, Dirk Nowitzki, and Tyson Chandler. Dallas put on a clinic offensively, running a lot of pick and pops for Nowitzki, pick and rolls for Chandler, backdoor screens for the wing players, and more. It was just beautiful to watch. Likewise, until the starters for Orlando checked into the game at the 4:37 minute mark in the period, the reserves were struggling to create for themselves on offense. That was a big reason for Dallas’ 16-2 run and six point lead in the quarter.
But the Mavericks’ success was short-lived, as the Magic were able to regain the lead heading into the second half. From there, Orlando clamped down defensively, holding Dallas to 11 points in the third quarter and putting the game away with relative ease.
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic have waived forward Stanley Robinson, President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Otis Smith announced tonight after the Magic’s preseason game vs. Dallas. Orlando’s roster now stands at 14 players.
Selected in the second round (59th overall) of the 2010 NBA Draft by Orlando, Robinson (6’9”, 210, 7/14/88) played in five preseason games with the Magic, averaging 2.0 ppg. and 2.4 rpg. in 8.2 minpg.
Robinson played in 126 career games during his four years at the University of Connecticut, averaging 9.8 ppg., 6.2 rpg., 1.0 apg. and 1.03 blkpg. in 26.3 minpg. He helped the Huskies reach the NCAA Final Four in 2008-09.
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “Many Orlando Magic observers, including some of us here at the Orlando Sentinel, were a bit skeptical when Stan Van Gundy said both Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass would play every night. While both players earned playing time this preseason, it just didn’t seem logical or plausible for Van Gundy to utilize an 11-man rotation on a nightly basis. Van Gundy clarified a bit further on Wednesday morning. According to Van Gundy, the plan is to play both Bass and Anderson backup power forward minutes in the first half every night. Then in the second half, he’ll decide which one to play based on matchups and who has the hot hand.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Mickael Pietrus is expected to play for the Orlando Magic tonight in their preseason exhibition against the Dallas Mavericks. Pietrus sat out Orlando’s last two preseason games because of lingering soreness in his right wrist, which was hurt when he took a charge Oct. 14 against Charlotte. Coach Stan Van Gundy said he’ll employ a starting lineup tonight of 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.”
- Earlier today, Dwight Howard surprised the Orlando media with copies of his new album and “a huge smile on his face.” Oh, and Howard impersonates Adonal Foyle in this video.
- Will the Orlando Magic get off to a fast start in the regular season?
- Zach Lowe, in a Sports Illustrated roundtable discussion about the Miami Heat, thinks that the Magic could provide the biggest test for them: “Orlando is a more interesting case to me. The Magic have Howard, the one player for whom the Heat really don’t have an answer, and they have a system on both ends they execute well and consistently. They obviously don’t have Miami’s superstar talent – Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson have proved merely “good” or “very good” at this point in their careers. But I like the idea of a System vs. Superstars battle, and I think Orlando could give the Heat problems.”
- Austin Burton of Dime Magazine: “Just like their Finals run in ‘09, this will be a year of exploiting matchups for the Magic, and whether they’ll be on the positive or negative end of those exploitations. In a seven-game series, Miami has to find a way to neutralize Dwight. Against Boston, the Magic are the team that needs to adjust. Van Gundy has to find a way to keep “Superman” from being locked in a phone booth while opening up looks for Vince.”
- M. Haubs of The Painted Area thinks Orlando will finish with the second-best regular season record in the NBA when it’s all said and done.
- It’s all about good habits for the Magic. Tracy Weissenberg of SLAM ONLINE explains: “A lot of people base Orlando’s identity on the fact that they are overlooked. And compared to Miami and Boston, they are. But in the locker room, all the players — including those who tasted the bittersweet success of reaching the NBA Finals and the new faces hoping to get there — define the team by something far more basic and a lot less subjective: the way they practice. [...] The dynamic of the NBA changes rapidly, and while success can be ephemeral, work ethic is a key to longevity. There are always going to be teams and players willing to put in the time, and the Magic hope that this season, time behind the scenes eventually leads to the spotlight.”
- Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie takes a closer look at Howard’s new kicks.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus with some revealing data about Rashard Lewis at small forward: “Orlando has used these bigger lineups in five of its six preseason games (the exception came last Thursday against Charlotte, when Lewis and fellow stars Vince Carter and Dwight Howard got the night off; the Magic still won by 13). Going through the play-by-play for those games, I found that Lewis has played small forward for 82 of his 125 minutes. During those 82 minutes, Orlando has outscored its opponents by an incredible 75 points–a +43.7 point differential per 48 minutes. The Magic has been strong in the preseason no matter the lineup, but has gone supernova with Lewis at the three. I’ve been dismissive of the notion of moving Lewis back to small forward in the past because of my belief that it takes away some of what makes Orlando special (the ability to spread the floor around Dwight Howard) and because I’m not sure Lewis is as effective defending the perimeter as the post at this stage of his career. However, it’s impossible to argue with the results. Lewis has played well individually (he’s made eight three-pointers in 15 attempts) and the backup bigs have all taken advantage of the increased opportunities.”