- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Howard knows that the Magic, as assembled, are not legitimate contenders. They don’t have the assets to appease Paul’s or Deron Williams’ team, either. The Magic are trying to romance Dwight with a promise, and a lot more money. Vander Weide told me that Howard can make $30 million in the fifth year of an extension in the new CBA — much more than he can make elsewhere. This will be different than the Shaq debacle of 15 years ago, when a young, naïve franchise was led on by O’Neal and then low-balled him out of the gate. Smith and Martins made it abundantly clear that if Dwight wants out, it’s on Dwight, not the franchise. Back in the day, Shaq spun it the other way. Vander Weide vowed that the DeVos family will not allow Howard to walk without compensation, as Shaq did.”
- From scooping Italian ice at Giants Stadium to becoming the CEO of the Orlando Magic, Alex Martins’ journey has been an interesting one.
- Magic players are getting ready for training camp on Friday.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Team officials said Vander Weide’s retirement has been planned for months and has nothing to do with Howard’s uncertain long-term future with the team or with a recent late-night phone conversation between Vander Weide and Howard. Vander Weide said he determined that his workload, which included memberships on two key NBA committees, had started to wear on him about a year ago.”
- Deadspin somehow made its way into Vander Weide’s press conference today.
- Chris Paul billboards are all around the city of Orlando.
- What does Vander Weide stepping down mean for the Magic?
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Martins said all of the pieces are in place for the Magic to once again contend for a championship this season, which will begin on Dec. 25 with Orlando at Oklahoma City in the nationally televised opener. Training camp opens on Dec. 9 with the Magic playing two exhibition games against the Miami Heat (Dec. 18 in Miami and Dec. 21 in Orlando). Martins feels that with Howard as the team’s anchor at center that Orlando can be a force in the Eastern Conference once again.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post has a must-read breakdown of what took place at Vander Weide’s press conference earlier today.
- Andrew Lynch of Hardwood Paroxysm: “What initially struck me as an awesome introduction to the new season for my favorite team now taunts me and flaunts the transient nature of this season in my face. Every visit to or from Orlando is a similar circumstance, potentially turned upside-down by the mighty hand of Otis Smith. Unless it’s turned right-side up again, 360-style, by the mighty hand of Otis Smith pulling the trigger on a Chris Paul-to-Orlando deal that might or might not be possible because SOURCES!”
- What’s the most interesting game we won’t see in the 2011-2012 regular season? Devin Kharpertian of Nets Are Scorching has an answer: “A two-way tie between Carmelo Anthony avoiding Denver in the “We’re Better Off Without You” game and Dwight Howard avoiding Los Angeles in the “Please, Please, Please Come Play For Us” game (for either Los Angeles team). Force my hand, and the Howard game gets a slight edge, if only because the Denver game can still happen next season.”
- Dwight Howard isn’t on the move for now.
- Orlando appears to be interested in Jamal Crawford.
- Has head coach Stan Van Gundy been questioning Howard’s leadership?
- Steve Aschburner of NBA.com thinks the Magic could be a surprise team in the NBA this season if they manage to keep Howard around: “One obvious answer is Orlando. If the Magic not only hang onto Howard but acquire someone who might convince their MVP candidate to stick around long-term, they continue as an East contender. If not, they’ll be counting the days till they get lottery lucky again.”
- NBA.com scribes try to predict Howard’s future whereabouts.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
I’m met with an interesting dilemma regarding Ryan Anderson. He is better across the board in offensive statistics than Brandon Bass, who shares his position. But pound for pound Bass is a better defender than Anderson. So how can you maximize Anderson’s game without making him a starter or changing Van Gundy’s schemes?
Please note, I’m not really sure, but I was willing to give this a look considering all of us at Magic Basketball had Anderson pegged as “the most intriguing player on the Magic roster” in last week’s 5-on-5 roundtable discussion at ESPN.com.
The first thing I had to do was take a look at this whole “Bass vs. Anderson” thing. By using the eye test, it was obvious that Bass had defensive strengths that Anderson lacked, but that Anderson was more of an all-around good scorer and contributor on the offensive end. Stats basically confirmed that.
Last season Anderson had a better True Shooting percentage and a better effective field goal percentage. He also rebounded better and had a better Offensive Rating. And generally speaking, Anderson was a better player overall than Bass.
With this in mind, I start wondering, is he this good regardless of his role on a team, or did Stan Van Gundy stick him in the perfect place already to maximize his game? In a player profile on this very site last year, Anderson was given a B+ rating, but called “a role player and nothing more” for the time being.
Now you see where this is heading. Could Anderson be more than just a role player? Is that what makes him so intriguing?
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Usually when a team realizes the axe is hanging over their current era, one of the first questions that circulates is about the coaching. So far, though, as perhaps you’ve noticed, the spotlight has been on Dwight Howard and almost nothing else. Perhaps this is because the Magic are in sort of a bizarre situation with Stan Van Gundy, by all reasonable accounts a top five coach whose teams perennially overachieve but whose lack of mystical machismo or good suits has led to his being underappreciated.
We know two things, though: the Magic will be a completely different team within a year’s time, and it would be pure lunacy not to have SVG usher the team through the transition. Because it is fun to think about things like this, and because it is instructive to examine the coaching situation to figure out how the Magic will operate, I want to imagine what a rebuilding team helmed by SVG would look like.
At his only other professional head coaching stop, Van Gundy took over a Heat team that was in a weird place. This was before Dwyane Wade was really Dwyane Wade (who, despite a strong postseason, posted just a 17.6 PER on the year), and what little talent the Heat had meshed so poorly the team had won 25 games the year before. In Van Gundy’s first year, the Heat — just to recap, with a rookie star and only one other player whose PER was higher than 17 — won 42 games and gave the team with most wins in the league, the Pacers, a bear of a second round series. This is Van Gundy’s most “rebuilding” year and, given that the Heat were just two seasons away from a title afterward, I think it’s safe to call it an unmitigated success.
As the coach of the Magic, Van Gundy has demonstrated two things that I think would make him an ideal coach for a rebuilding team: a commitment to defense, and a willingness to play unorthodox ball to cater to his players’ strengths and limitations. Young players (remember those?) were developed as role players and given increased responsibilities as their skills developed, and under Van Gundy, this development has been rapid. Think about the fact that Courtney Lee went from being a non-lottery pick who was a spot player to having a play drawn up for him to beat the Lakers in the Finals — this is a coach who knows how to bring players along while negotiating their growing abilities and roles. You can see this time and again in Orlando, and nowhere more clearly than with Dwight Howard.
Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
The Orlando Magic kick off the 2011-2012 season on Christmas Day against the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road. For the casual NBA fans, Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook will do more than enough to pique their interest in the game. But a player to really look out for is James Harden without question. Harden really began to emerge as a playmaker in the 2011 NBA Playoffs and as a result, the Thunder may have a third star on their hands. Westbrook made a big leap from his second to third year in the league and Oklahoma City can only hope that Harden will do the same.
National TV games
It’s not surprising that the Magic are scheduled to appear in 24 nationally-televised games (including NBA TV). Ever since Orlando became an elite team and championship contender a few years ago, they’ve played in front of a national audience with regularity. That being said, the Magic have moved down the totem poll in the Eastern Conference and even though Howard is on the roster for the moment, questions continue to swirl around his future. What if Howard is traded during the season? Then what? The NBA would likely have to switch out a few of the games featuring Orlando to showcase other teams.
City of Angels
One of the first things that jumps out, when examining the schedule, is that the Magic don’t make a trip to Los Angeles to play either the Lakers or the Clippers on the road. Ain’t that something. However, it would be a cruel twist of fate if Howard played in either game as a visitor.
The Eastern elite
Amongst the East heavyweights, Orlando plays the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls three times and the Miami Heat four times. Like in any season, how good the Magic are will be dependent partly on how good they perform against the Celtics, Bulls, and Heat. This isn’t meant to be a slight on the New York Knicks but their roster as currently constructed isn’t good enough to be listed among the contenders in the Eastern Conference. And neither is Orlando for that matter.
Backs on backs on backs
The Magic have one back-to-back-to-back to deal with and it’ll come early in the season (January 16-18). The opponents are the Knicks, Charlotte Bobcats, and San Antonio Spurs. The first game is on the road and the latter two are at home.
Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus has more on the rare back-to-back-to-back:
Considering everything, back-to-back-to-backs apparently were actually somewhat easier for teams than back-to-backs during 1998-99. What we haven’t considered here is the cumulative effect of fatigue, and teams that knew they were playing three games in a row may have adjusted their rotations in the first two, meaning back-to-back-to-backs had an impact that can’t be felt from the last game alone. Still, when this year’s schedule is released Tuesday night, it’s probably not worth obsessing over how many back-to-back-to-backs your favorite team has. (Each team will have at least one such stretch and a maximum of three.) It’s unlikely to have much of an impact on how their season goes.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “On a day Orlando Magic officials pledged publicly they’ll do everything they can to keep Dwight Howard, the team announced that the second-highest person in the team hierarchy — a person who has been in contact with Howard recently — is leaving his post. Team officials announced that Bob Vander Weide, the son-in-law of Magic Owner Rich DeVos, has stepped down from his post as the Magic’s chief executive officer. Alex Martins has been promoted from president to CEO. Vander Weide, Martins and Dan DeVos — one of the owner’s sons and now the team’s new chairman — insisted that Howard’s situation had nothing to do with Vander Weide stepping down. [...] Vander Weide, a member the NBA’s labor-relations and planning committees, said he was waiting for the league’s labor dispute to be resolved before he made his intentions public.”
- In the same article, Bob Vander Weide explains the context of his phone conversation with Dwight Howard: “I can just tell you that, having spoken to Dwight Monday night after playing paddle tennis with a couple of buddies and having a couple of glasses of wine, I was not intoxicated, and we had a conversation. There was no hard feelings. He had called a couple of times, and I wanted to get back to him. The only thing I can say is maybe I should of waited until the next morning having been with buddies and having had a couple of glasses of wine. But it was not aggressive. It was not negative. It was more ‘where we’re going to be this week.’ And we talked candidly.”
- A look back at a 2008 profile on Vander Weide.
- A breakdown of the Magic’s 2011-2012 regular season schedule.
- The Orlando Magic will not be trekking to London this year.
- It appears the only way Chris Paul can land with the Magic is if he forces the hand of general manager Dell Demps.
- More on Orlando’s compressed schedule.
- How do you build a winning team?
- Royce Young of CBSSports.com chimes in on the rumors that the Magic are interested in acquiring Paul or Deron Williams in a trade: “What to make of these rumors? Well, first, they are a desperate attempt by the Magic organization to shift the discussion from the unprofessional conduct of one of their chief decision-makers during a critical time in the franchise’s history. The sooner everyone starts talking about rumors — any rumors — the more quickly everyone forgets that the guy employed to keep the only player worth more than a damn happy was too busy drinking wine and “paddling” to remember the basics of the boss/employee relationship. The bigger the name in the rumor, the better right now. Anything to restore some element of hope following a lockout and prior to the start of the 2011-2012 season.”
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie provides his thoughts on Vander Weide’s resignation.
- Today’s 5-on-5 roundtable discussion on ESPN.com discusses the possibility of a Paul and Howard union forming with the Los Angeles Lakers.
- The mood is awkward in Orlando.
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “Orlando thinks it has a 50/50 or better chance because Howard is conflicted. He does have roots in Orlando. And he wants to be liked and he saw how Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James took hits for leaving their markets. In his heart I think he wants to stay. But he also wants to win a ring, and he realizes that the Magic are a long way s from that right now.”
- Matt Moore of CBSSports.com reacts to Vander Weide stepping down.
- The waiting game continues with Howard.
- The odds of Paul and Howard being traded to the Lakers — together — is low.
- Important details on the amnesty provision in the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement: “[...] the provision will stay alive for the full length of the new collective bargaining agreement. Teams can use it only once, and only for ‘contracts in place at the inception of the CBA,’ according to a summary of the draft agreement.”
- In other words, the Magic can wait to release either Gilbert Arenas or Hedo Turkoglu from their contracts. It can be this season. It can be next season. That being said, a team is not allowed to acquire Arenas or Turkoglu in a trade and amnesty them.
- Magic fans just want Paul on the team as their Christmas present.