“We were fierce competitors,” [Patrick] Ewing said Saturday. “When Hakeem and I faced up, we wanted to kill each other.”
Ewing was only half-laughing.
Their careers have been intertwined, from college to the NBA. There is more respect between them than reverence, however.
Dwight Howard, innocently enough, has stepped right into the Ewing-Olajuwon rivalry to learn the game from two of the game’s best big men.
Ewing has had Howard under his considerable wing-span for the last three seasons as a Magic assistant coach.
Olajuwon cut in, so to speak. He contacted Howard during the playoffs and a relationship blossomed, leading to Dwight training five three-hour days with Olajuwon this summer.
If Ewing is bothered by either Howard seeking another big-man guru or by Olajuwon’s unsolicited advice, he doesn’t show it. [...]
Ewing said all that matters is growing Howard’s game and keeping him on the hall-of-fame path already traveled by Pat and Hakeem.
This article was going to come, sooner or later. Once it became know that Dwight Howard worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston during the off-season for a week, one of the first questions asked was ‘what does Patrick Ewing think about this?’
Ewing, of course, is the assistant coach of the Orlando Magic and has been Howard’s mentor, of sorts, for the past three years. And any hardcore NBA fan knows that Ewing and Olajuwon have a history with each other — most notably in the 1994 NBA Finals, when Ewing’s New York Knicks faced off against Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets. The Rockets won the series in seven games and for Ewing, it would be the closest he’d get to winning a championship. So, in a way, it makes sense for someone to think that Ewing would disapprove of Howard working with Olajuwon. The rationale being that Ewing’s competitive edge would blind him to the idea of a competitor, a rival in the ’90s, helping one of his players. It’s encroachment. Yet at the same time, that line of thinking doesn’t make much sense. It’s Howard’s choice. Ewing is irrelevant in this conversation.
To be frank, Dan Savage of OrlandoMagic.com said it best about Ewing:
He wants Dwight Howard to improve his game as much as any other coach on the Magic and he’s encouraged Dwight, he’s helped Dwight reach out to these people, so I don’t think there’s any sort of controversy there between Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon. Patrick Ewing wants what’s best for Dwight Howard, he wants what’s best for this team and ultimately, I think Patrick wants to be a head coach in this league and the best way for Patrick to become a head coach in this league is for the Magic to win a championship and the best way for the Magic to win a championship is for Dwight Howard to become the best player he can be.
Which is why, for Magic fans, it’s reassuring to see that Ewing doesn’t mind that Howard sought out to learn from another teacher. In the end, it makes all too much sense in the world.
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images
Hawks: Peachtree Hoops
Recaps: All Previews
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Magic forward Malik Allen said he hadn’t thought about what happened to him in Orlando three years ago. And that, folks, is a good thing. A great thing, actually. It means Malik’s ticker is ticking like it should. Allen was with the Chicago Bulls in 2007 when he suddenly left the bench during the second quarter of a game against the [Orlando] Magic. He had developed an irregular heartbeat — heart arrhythmia — and had to be taken to an Orlando hospital for an eventual two-day stay after being evaluated by Magic team doctors. Cardiologists in Chicago later diagnosed his condition as atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia, affecting about 2.2 million Americans. Obviously, Allen passed all the tests and is fine today. He did reveal to me that he has only had to use medication once to blunt a mini-episode since that scary night in Orlando.”
- Daniel Orton‘s knee is fine. Now he needs to lose weight.
- Want to know why there was a lighting malfunction at the Amway Center last night? Here’s the answer: “Magic spokesman Joel Glass said that the arena’s main lights typically are shielded to darken the arena when the home starters are introduced. But Glass said someone on Thursday actually turned off the lights instead of covering them. The lights then had to cool off before they would illuminate again.”
- More from Schmitz: “It’s no secret that Magic power forward Brandon Bass wants to find a place to play, whether it’s in Orlando or somewhere else. And the way he’s played lately, he might get his wish — and my guess is the Magic are only waiting for the right deal to come along. Bass is showcasing his talents for other teams, such as the Indiana Pacers, who need power-forward help. Trouble is, the Pacers want to give up Dahntay Jones or Solomon Jones. I can’t imagine the Magic being interested, unless the Pacers give up a first-round pick. Bass put together his second consecutive solid game Thursday night, and you know what was odd about it? Coach Stan Van Gundy started his second team and the rainy-day lineup didn’t include Bass. So he wasn’t even in the top 10.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel assesses the Magic’s pre-season up to this point.
- Get to know more about Jason Williams.
- Brandon Bass has been improving, especially on defense.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post chimes in on the impact Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon have been able to make for Orlando. Needless to say, Richardson and Duhon are glad they’re not with the Knicks anymore.
- Some locker room observations from the Magic’s win against the Charlotte Bobcats last night: “Bobcats forward Darius Miles visited Richardson in the Magic’s locker room immediately following the game. Miles was already decked out in designer jeans, a collared shirt, a baseball cap, and top-of-the-line headphones, while Richardson had only just emerged from the shower. The former Clippers teammates chatted privately in front of Richardson’s locker for a few minutes before Miles departed.”
- According to Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones, head coach Stan Van Gundy is a “screaming, mustachioed class act.”
- Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com thinks Van Gundy set a dangerous precedent with his apology.
- Want to gain NBA knowledge? Listen to this podcast.
- Dwight Howard thinks he’ll get accustomed to the new technical foul rule, thanks to prep school. Here’s what Howard had to say: “I went to a private school growing up. They had a lot of crazy rules, rules you didn’t agree with, rules you didn’t necessarily think were right, but you just had to (live by them). They want us to cut down on talking to the refs, as hard as that may be. We’ve adjusted to everything else that’s put out there. So we’ll adjust.”
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “Van Gundy had every right to see his backups play and see how they would do — it’s preseason. But credit the coach for seeing the big picture and feeling bad about it.”
Here’s Part II of my roundtable discussion (click here for Part I). In this segment, different Orlando Magic writers talk about Dwight Howard‘s evolution on offense with the help of Hakeem Olajuwon, and more.
What will it take for opposing players to respect Howard’s jumpshot just enough and as such, alter the way they defend him?
Melnick: Howard has to have more confidence in his shot and just shoot his jumper more often. Anyone who has been to a Magic practice has seen Howard make the shot fairly consistently. Up until now, Howard hasn’t had the confidence to consistently take the shot. If Howard begins to shoot more and more, his confidence is going to grow. Defenders will have to respect that shot and that will allow Howard to use his superior athleticism to blow by his opponents like he does when he faces slower defenders. We saw a glimpse of this in Orlando’s first preseason game when Howard utilized a spin move to get easy looks against Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets.
Robbins: I’m not sure. I think Howard is so effective on the inside, that it would take a lot for opposing teams to significantly alter the way they defend him because if he gets the least bit of space down there, he’s unstoppable. He’s already next to unstoppable and the only way to really stop him when he’s close to the basket is to foul him. He’s got to show that he can hit that 12-15 foot jumper with regularity, with a very solid regularity, for them to leave the hoop. Certainly we saw Yao Ming respect that jumper in the first pre-season game. If you recall, Dwight hit a pair of those mid-range jumpers in the game’s first six minute and then Dwight used a pump-fake to get Yao to commit for a great drive to the hoop. I don’t know if other centers will play Dwight that way. I think Yao is rather immobile, so we’ll see what happens. Time will tell with that.
Rock: He has to start hitting them, which can’t happen unless he takes them, which can’t happen until he feels comfortable taking them, which can’t happen until he takes a few hundred per day. He’s accomplished the last two parts. Let’s see if he can continue progressing. Until then, we have the memory of his sinking two jumpers over Yao Ming, and then driving by him for a score when Yao honored his shot, this preseason to hold onto.
Rossman-Reich: They may never fully respect Howard’s jump shot. After all, what would you rather give up? A 12-foot jumper from Howard or a dunk or a 5-foot hook shot that leaves Howard in good position for the offensive rebound. But to get teams to really respect it, he has got to come out with it early in the season and early in games and make two, maybe three per game. It sounds extreme, but, again, what kind of shot would you have Howard rather shoot? He has got to really be killing teams with his jumper before teams start to defend it the way Howard can take advantage of it.
Savage: To me, it’s simple. He’s got to make them. It’s as simple as that. I think the key for Howard is take a few early on in the game, be confident with them, knock them down. If he takes them early on in the game and establishes that, it’s going to carry over to the later periods. As we saw when the Magic played the Rockets against Yao Ming, Dwight Howard took a few early shots early in the game, knocked them down, Yao Ming stepped up, and then he started blowing past him. I think that’s the key. If he can knock a few of those down in the first quarter, opposing defenses are going to start playing up on him and then he can use the advantage of switching back-and-forth and exploding past people and using his biggest asset, which is scoring within the circle.
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
To continue Magic Basketball’s preview of the 2010-2011 season for the Orlando Magic, I gathered writers that cover them on a day-to-day basis. Each writer, except for one, has media access with the Magic and offers an authoritative voice concerning the team.
So, without further ado, here are the participants:
Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel
Dan Savage, OrlandoMagic.com
Ben Q. Rock, Orlando Pinstriped Post
Andrew Melnick, Howard the Dunk
Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily
Each individual provided his opinion on which team in the Eastern Conference — between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat — is a bigger obstacle for the Magic, Ryan Anderson‘s role on the team, and more
Which team concerns you more — the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat?
Andrew Melnick: This is tough because both teams will present a lot of problems. The Celtics have added a few nice pieces and look very deep but I think this year’s Magic team is better equipped to handle them. Before media day, the Magic had a lengthy meeting (somewhere around three to three-and-a-half hours) and based on the comments from several players, toughness — both mental and physical — is being stressed this season. I think the Magic, through losing to the Celtics last year, are better equipped to deal with them this year. Dwight Howard’s performance in the second half of the series also backs up that statement. He is learning to play differently against different big men (i.e. using finesse against the powerful Kendrick Perkins).
The Miami Heat offer a completely different challenge. Not only do they have three All-Stars and arguably the two best players in basketball but all of three of them have absolutely torched the Magic throughout their careers. In fact, Dwyane Wade averages more points against the Magic (29.9 ppg) than he does against any other team. Chris Bosh (23.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and LeBron James (28.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 6.4 apg) have put up huge numbers as well.
I don’t see how the Magic can consistently deal with all three of these players on the defensive end (well, I don’t see how anyone can) and with Wade and James defending the perimeter, it’s going to make life very difficult for Orlando’s shooters and drivers.
The Heat also put pretty good talent around their big three, including sharpshooter and former Rookie of the Year (while with the Magic) Mike Miller.
Dwight Howard should be able to handle all of the Miami’s big men but with James and Wade constantly penetrating, it’s going to be quite difficult for Howard to stay out of trouble – he’s going to have to be extremely careful and pick his battles.
Stan Van Gundy, how could you?
How could you not pencil in a single [Orlando] Magic starter Thursday night?
Now I realize it was a preseason game and players need nights off.
But all of them?
No Dwight [Howard], Vince [Carter], Jameer [Nelson], Rashard [Lewis] or [Quentin Richardson] in the lineup.
The Magic trotted out Marcin Gortat, J.J. Redick, Chris Duhon, Ryan Anderson and Mickael Pietrus. [...]
Again, what was shocking is that this was so un-Van Gundy. He wants to win every game, preseason to postseason. I mean, the Magic had a 17-game preseason winning streak at stake.
“It’s a legitimate gripe,” Van Gundy told me when I asked what he would say to fans who purchased seats. “I understand if people were upset.”
Immediately after the game, Van Gundy said he wanted to see his back-ups perform as a group, which is why he started them all. [...]
Fifteen minutes after I left Van Gundy, he called my cell.
“It’s been bugging me,” he said. “I want to say I’m sorry and I was wrong. I thought I reasoned it through, but I can’t justify it. If it was the first game that somebody came out to see, you bring your kids … I’d be upset, too.
“I won’t do it again.”
If there’s one thing you need to know about head coach Stan Van Gundy, is that he’s not afraid to own up to his mistakes when he’s wrong.
That’s an admirable trait for anyone, let alone a coach in the NBA.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “An arena isn’t the only magnificent structure recently completed on the [Orlando] Magic‘s campus. As difficult a project as it was, from start to finish, the shiny new place comes in second to what has been built inside its walls. Under construction for years, Otis Smith made the declaration on Wednesday. [...] Smith’s work is done. Well, at least the hardest part, the part many general managers never manage to pull off, much less get right. Here we have the unveiling of a winning atmosphere, the Magic way of doing things, a culture that can breed championships. How to work, how to play. I know what Magic fans are probably thinking: OK, Otis, show us the title! And you know what? Otis wholeheartedly agrees. [...] What’s the big deal about the environment? Only everything. It’s the difference between the Yankees and Mets, Patriots and Raiders, Celtics and Clippers, Charlie Sheen and Charlie’s Angels. Players come and go — and the clueless ones should go first in your long-range blueprints. Winning cultures endure, from the telegraph to Twitter. And that’s what Smith feels he has at long last accomplished in HIS building. For this one, there was no speech from the mayor. No ribbon-cutting ceremony. No grand announcement. That’s not Smith. What he built he built largely away from the glow, in silence, in no-nonsense nuance, in moves great and small.”
- The Orlando Magic have been working on their zone defense lately.
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy on Stanley Robinson: “His attitude’s great. His attitude’s exactly what you want. He comes in, he works hard, keeps his mouth shut and his ears open. He really tries to learn both from coaches and the other players. He never makes an excuse. He’s really, really working at it. And then I see a guy who really understands this game. He does the things he can do, he’s a great cutter, he gets on the offensive glass, he runs, he’s working hard defensively, he’ll take his shots but he’s never forcing the issue; he’s just got a great understanding of what his game is.”
- Dwight Howard got more serious because he “got older.”
- John Denton of Orlando Magic.com: “Once a light-hearted group that enjoyed the ‘Magic Show’ pregame routine and usually had as many laughs as dribbles during practice, the Magic have taken on a serious tone so far in an effort to maximize their potential. Co-captains Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson have made the biggest changes, attacking each day with business-like attitudes. And the tone has just filtered down from there to a point now where Van Gundy can’t help but rave about the focus of this Magic squad.”
- For what it’s worth, Denton predicts the Magic will win 65 games this season.
- According to Shaquille O’Neal, Howard is one of two “real” centers left in the NBA.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus introduces WARP2: “The bigger question is where WARP has room for improvement. Here, we focused on the differences between how WARP and adjusted plus-minus rated each player on offense and defense. For example, Kobe Bryant’s adjusted offensive plus-minus in 2007-08 was +10.4 points per 100 possessions. His Offensive Rating was +6.4 points per 100 possessions compared to league average. Thus, adjusted plus-minus rated Bryant as 4.0 points better on offense. Are there shared traits among players who are overrated or underrated by WARP? For the most part, these correlations are close to zero, indicating that WARP is properly valuing each statistic. The most notable differences share a common theme–three-point shooting. The correlations indicate that players with higher three-point percentages and especially three-attempt percentages tend to rate better by adjusted plus-minus than by WARP. Essentially, there appears to be a value to spacing the floor that is not captured by the individual statistics of three-point shooters.”
- Pelton’s adjustment of WARP rewards three-point shooters that were undervalued before. As such, Rashard Lewis and Quentin Richardson see their value increase.
- Vince Carter is “Bad” … no, really.
Photo by Fernando Medina
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