- 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.”
Please welcome the newest addition to the NBA blogosphere.
This is not hyperbole. I’m convinced, at this very moment in time, that this is going to be one of the greatest ideas ever conceived in quite a while. Everyone envisions a basketball blog as nothing more than written type, with videos and podcasts serving as alternative story forms.
But what about spoken word? Meet basketball’s version of Def Poetry Jam.
Take it away, Matt Moore.
Like most ideas that come from our brains, this one was largely an accident and not a very well conceived. At one point or another, Rob Mahoney and I came to the conclusion that we wanted this new project, that we wanted it to be inclusive, and we wanted it to be new. What formed out of it was Voice on the Floor.
The idea? It’s an audio blog. Or a podcast. Or a podcast blog. Or something. The general concept that we’re striving for is “NPR for the NBA.” Or as one person tagged it, “This American NBA Life.” We didn’t want to do a normal podcast with two of us talking about stuff, we have those on Paroxysm and we’ll have them again. Instead what we wanted was an audio magazine, featuring two elements. An in-depth interview, my only content production of the project, and spoken-word essays, performed by both Mahoney and the wonderful talented people we’ve encountered in our time out here in the Wild, Wild West.
I will be proudly contributing to this fantastic project next week (Tuesday, to be specific) on the eve of opening night in the NBA, with a spoken word essay on LeBron James. The title?
“I Hope LeBron James Destroys Us All.”
Adonal Foyle recently endured the toughest day of his working career.
More difficult than a playoff defeat. More painful than knee surgery. More demanding than facing Shaquille O’Neal or David Robinson in their primes.
On Sept. 28, Foyle watched the Orlando Magic practice for the first time since he retired. He recalls feeling like a ghost no one could see or hear. It felt like the world just seemed to go on, oblivious to his presence, while he stood there waving and yelling, “I’m here! I’m not dead!”
But each new day is a bit easier.
Foyle, 35, is settling into his new job as the Magic’s director of player development. He helps his former teammates prepare for life away from basketball, serves as a confidante to them and assists the basketball operations department. [...]
Foyle seemed like the natural choice for the job. He spent 13 seasons as an NBA center, 2½ of them with Orlando. By the end of his professional career, he had risen to first vice president of the players’ union and had earned his teammates’ trust.
“He was like a father or like a brother to me who was teaching me what I was supposed to do on the floor, off the floor,” current Orlando center Marcin Gortat says. “He was teaching me all kinds of things about business, about the NBA, about being a professional player.”
Magic President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith calls Foyle “one of the brightest people” in basketball.
The past few weeks have reinforced Smith’s opinion.
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy: “I haven’t talked to Pat in a long time, certainly not since any of that. I didn’t take it as big of a deal as what everybody else did. He was upset about some of the things said about some of the players that he now has. I honestly did not mind his criticism of my comments as I said when he mentioned that I was out of line on my comments about Chris Bosh, he had every right to say something about that. I took offense to it and came back at some of the things that he said about Otis [Smith] primarily and his comments. Then just in general just accusing other people of moralizing and things and I had just heard too many things from Pat moralizing things over the years to not be able to laugh at that, that he was taking others to task at that. I didn’t take it as a big deal. He had his say, I had mine, people disagree in these kinds of situations all the time, and it’s no big deal. It didn’t change the way I thought about anybody that’s for sure.”
- For Jameer Nelson, there’s always room for improvement defensively.
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel is skeptical that Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson will earn enough playing time in Van Gundy’s rotation once the regular season starts.
- What will Malik Allen‘s role be with the Orlando Magic?
- Friday’s pre-season game between the Magic and the Miami Heat will be like …
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Anderson and Bass entered this preseason needing to accomplish separate goals. For Anderson, it was strengthening his body and becoming a more sound individual defender. Bass had to hit the boards harder and improve his grasp on the team’s defensive rotations. And both have succeeded so far. There are still concerns, though. Bass still needs to become more efficient offensively, as he’s used an estimated 59 possessions to score his 63 points this preseason. But he’s managed to harness his seemingly boundless energy and tenacity, turning it into a much-improved showing in the rebounding area.”
- Check out Dwight Howard‘s new shoes for the NBA year.
- According to SLAM ONLINE, Howard is the fifth-best player in the league. Hard to quibble with that ranking when looking at the numbers, but it is hard to quibble with this critique: “We’ve seen the clip of him working out with Hakeem, but he’s had Ewing as his mentor and his jump shot is still broke. It’s also easy to spin baseline and jam when nobody’s guarding you. Yet, there’s no doubt over time, with focus and confidence, we’ll see the low-post game we crave from Dwight. And when that happens, the Magic will be on their way to a championship parade. [...] Dwight has always averaged more turnovers than assists, even more troubling when you consider all of his damn teammates are capable of knocking down threes, save for [Marcin] Gortat, the perfect Dwight backup. Add passing out of the post as a bullet point in his lack of low-post confidence list.”
- First, Howard has low post moves. The author thinks otherwise, however. Second, Howard can pass out of the post and does so very well. The reason why Howard has more turnovers than assists is because many of the “assists” he does get are of the Gretzkyian variety. Meaning, in other words, that Howard accumulates a lot of hockey assists that are not quantified. Look, Howard isn’t a perfect player but critique him for what’s relevant now, not three years ago.
- Zach Lowe of The Point Forward explains why he thinks the Magic are the forgotten contender: “Record aside, the Magic were the best team in the league during the 2009-10 regular season. They had the largest point differential, and they were the only team to rank in the top five in both points per possession and points allowed per possession. They obliterated the league during the second half of the season, posting a 33-8 record, and they swept the Bobcats and Hawks before falling in six games to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. And yet, that series defeat, combined with the emergence of the new-look Heat and some shrewd signings in Boston this summer, has moved the Magic to the fringes of the championship conversation.”
- The Basketball Jones preview Orlando’s season!
- Not sure how a matchup between the Magic and the Washington Wizards is more must-see than a face-off against that other team in the state of Florida on their regular season home opener, but whatever.
I’d like to send a shout-out to @buttermpancakes on Twitter for compiling this video a few days ago.
Elaine Thompson/AP Photo
The blogosphere is a fascinating place. It really is. When people read something so profound, so enlightening, they want to share this newfound treasure they’ve found to the rest of the world. Or at least try. This is one of those cases.
At FreeDarko, some of the best writers in the NBA universe have been trying to “crack the mystery of Hakeem Olajuwon and his Rockets” for the past few weeks — the articles that have been written are all must-reads.
En lieu of the ongoing storyline regarding Dwight Howard‘s relationship with Olajuwon, today, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook and Nate Parham of SBN Seattle teamed up to compare the 1995 Houston Rockets and the 2010 Orlando Magic.
It’s a comparison that’s apt, but not perfect, because the Rockets executed a 4-out/1-in offensive scheme on their way to a seemingly improbable championship in 1995.
It’s not a perfect comparison because there are many subtle differences when comparing the Magic to their contemporaries. Houston had Olajuwon, one of the best centers in league history and a magician on offense. Clyde Drexler was a dynamic scorer and an underrated passer throughout his career. Robert Horry was, at that time, at his athletic peak and a versatile player on both ends of the floor. The differences between the two teams can be further broken down, but Pruiti and Parham explain things in much greater detail.
The one thing that stood out in the article, however, was this breakdown:
This begins to bring some clarity to what the Magic lost in Hedo Turkoglu, if that wasn’t already obvious. Although comparing [Vince] Carter, Howard, and [Rashard] Lewis to Drexler, Horry, and Olajuwon appears to make more sense on the surface, the playmaking ability of Turkoglu – and even that of Courtney Lee – made that Magic team far more comparable as a unit in terms of being able to knock down perimeter shots and creating scoring opportunities with ball movement.
An argument is made that the 2009 Magic, not last year’s team, compare more favorably to the ’95 Rockets primarily because of Turkoglu’s playmaking ability at the small forward position. This isn’t to say that Vince Carter isn’t a playmaker because he is, but his playmaking consists of scoring rather than passing. Of course, Carter’s role is determined largely by head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s needs and wants on the roster. More can be said, but make sure to read the analysis.
When critics argue that Orlando can’t win a title with an offensive philosophy that asks for four shooters to surround one low post presence, they seemingly forget the Rockets of yesteryear. It’s true that Howard is no Olajuwon and Houston relied less on three-point shooting, but many of the strategies are the same and that’s what matters when trying to make sense of the current Magic era. Of course, at the end of the day, it’s Howard continued development on offense that will determine if the comparison becomes a reality.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Atlanta Hawks have a new head coach and a new philosophy on offense, but none it mattered.
Despite those subtle changes, the Orlando Magic were able to extend their pre-season winning streak to 20 games after defeating the Hawks by the score of 102-73. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. The two individuals that stood out for Orlando were Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass. No, that is not a typo. Howard finished the game with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and one block while Bass had 17 points and eight rebounds. Perhaps one of the more interesting things to take away from the game was the attendance at Philips Arena. Atlanta drew a crowd of 7,571 people. To put that number in perspective, a crowd of 8,516 watched the Magic’s open practice on Sunday at the Amway Center.
I guess there’s better things to do in Hotlanta on a Monday night. In a sense, can’t blame the fans.
Let’s start things off with Howard.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Stan Van Gundy has conducted countless practices during his coaching career, but he rarely has held a team workout quite like the one that unfolded Sunday afternoon inside Amway Center. An announced crowd of 8,516 people streamed into the new building and watch the Orlando Magic run a 5-on-4 transition drill and scrimmage for about 50 minutes. The scene resembled a Midnight Madness event that major college basketball programs put on this time of year. Music blared over the arena loudspeakers as Van Gundy and his players stepped onto the main court. Orlando Magic Dancers waved pompoms. Fans cheered when a player unleashed a dunk or blocked a shot. [...] Van Gundy wore a portable microphone, and even people who sat in the upper deck of the cavernous new building could hear his every word.”
- Marcin Gortat likes when the Orlando Magic play tall ball: “I believe we can be really dangerous. Physically, I think we are one of the best in the league. I think the most important thing right now is just I’ve got to work on my game and just be consistent with everything I do.”
- Maybe Vince Carter should pace himself during the regular season.
- The Atlanta Hawks know that the Magic are their kryptonite.
- More from Robbins: “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. Lewis will also play some at the three, while both Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass will play at the four. Marcin Gortat will play primarily at center, especially during the first half. Point guard Chris Duhon and shooting guard J.J. Redick also are expected to receive playing time.”
- Matt Moore of ProBasketballTalk wonders how long Brandon Bass will last in Orlando: “Bass has produced well. His defense is lacking but his real problem is that he’s in a system which doesn’t speak to his talents at all. He’s not a stretch-the-floor guy, he’s a post-player with a slight midrange. Another spot and he could wind up with the minutes he’s been chasing for years. The question is exactly when Orlando will call it quits on the Bass experiment and get some assets that they can use.”
- A scout breaks down the Magic roster for ESPN Insider: “They could use a flat-out scorer off the bench, a Jamal Crawford-type to give them 16-18 points a night. They miss that punch. Vince Carter is not in the killer category. He gives you numbers but won’t buy into really being a good defender. And while he’s not a selfish guy, he’s a selfish scorer, a guy who dominates the ball when he gets it going. Because of Vince, I thought Rashard Lewis didn’t get enough touches last year. In the playoffs, Jameer Nelson’s lack of height and inability to bother opponents defensively hurts them. And then I’ve been told by players in that locker room that Stan Van Gundy’s act has worn thin. He’s a blatant yeller and screamer who’ll throw you under the bus in the press conference after a game. They’ve got too much pride to take the key out of the ignition, but there comes a time when a team completely stops listening to a coach, and I don’t think he’s far from that.”
- Take that quote for whatever it’s worth.
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com attempts to figure out if Orlando is capable of making even more threes this season: “The Magic set a record for 3-pointers made in a season last year, connecting on 841 (10.3 per game). They then went and signed 3-point specialist Quentin Richardson to replace Matt Barnes. [...] Still, the addition of Richardson, who was only outdone by James Posey (70.1 percent) and Keith Bogans (65.8 percent) when it comes to taking shots from beyond the arc, should have the Magic challenging their own record. In the preseason, the Magic have attempted 29.3 and made 11.3 threes per game, both increases over last season.”
- According to one NBA scribe, the Magic are projected to finish second in the Southeast Division.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus recaps the Northern California Symposium on Statistics and Operations Research in Sports (NCSSORS for short): “To me, the more practical takeaway is the reminder that individual player ratings are a reflection of many things beside talent. Roles, coaching, motivation and noise all complicate the relationship between ability and performance. As a result, we have to assume a degree of variability in player ratings. Basically, player A has to rate a fair amount better than player B for us to be confident he is truly the superior player–to the extent such a judgment really exists.”
- Is Bass increasing his trade value?
- Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: “Howard has to back up his preseason promises and be more assertive and dominant. Basically, if Miami loading up in free agency doesn’t put Howard on a mission of total destruction, then nothing ever will. But the Magic have issues other than the Heat. First, they have to prove that they’ve recovered from — and have learned from — the thorough beating inflicted on them by the Celtics in the playoffs last spring. They can’t even begin to worry about Wade and LeBron until they put that disappointment behind them. If the Magic are going to take the next step and get back to the NBA Finals, they’re going to need more toughness on the floor. That has to start with Howard.”