- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Point guard Jason Williams practiced fully with the Orlando Magic on Tuesday and could be activated for the team’s season opener on Thursday. [...] Williams underwent arthroscopic surgery on Sept. 30 to clear debris out of his left knee. He’s expected to back-up starter Jameer Nelson and free-agent signee Chris Duhon this season. On Tuesday, Williams participated in the Magic’s 4-on-4 and 5-on-5 full-court drills for the first time since the procedure.”
- Don’t expect an 11-man rotation from head coach Stan Van Gundy.
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post shares some numbers concerning Dwight Howard‘s jumpshot.
- Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones on the Orlando Magic: “After a brief scare, the mock turtlenecks are back in action. Crisis averted.”
- Mike Prada of SB Nation concludes that Howard is the most important figure in the NBA right now: “Orlando returns pretty much the same team that surrounded him last year, so barring a major trade, their best chance at getting over the hump is for their best player to fully realize his potential. Can he do it? The answer to this question will determine the trajectory of the entire league. Miami has no answer for Howard, even with their star-studded roster. The Lakers have size to match Howard, but for a team that depends on forcing interior mismatches, a resurgent Howard becomes an issue. The Celtics don’t have Perkins, Howard’s nemesis, for most of the season. Howard is fully capable of leading the Magic past all of the elite teams in this league. He just needs to become less methodical with his post moves, all while continuing to lord over the paint defensively. All this is possible, and if so, he will steal every major designation from his more highly-touted peers. He will be the real MVP. He will be the Pau Gasol-type MVP that every team must find an answer for. He will be the defensive player of the year. He will be the league’s best big man. After a summer where so many others stole the spotlight, it would be something if Howard finds a way to overshadow them all during the season.”
- Zach Lowe of The Point Forward wonders if the Magic have a go-to perimeter scorer.
- Dwight Howard writes about a variety of topics on his blog: “I did not like the way our preseason ended with not getting to play that game over in Tampa on Friday night. I felt so bad for the fans that had driven all the way over there and then there was no game because of the slick floor. I hope the fans know that it wasn’t our fault and that the court was REALLY slick. I just knew that I would have fallen down out there and ESPN would have had me on the “Not Top 10″ list. The NBA made the right call by canceling the game, but I hope those fans get to see us play at some point this season. Every time we go to the non-NBA cities, I know what it means a lot to those fans because they don’t get to see us that often. So I’m sorry, and I hope we’re back in Tampa again real soon.”
- The Painted Area makes their predictions of the new NBA year. Take a look.
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “The Magic may well be the best team in basketball. Scoff if you want, but they were the best team the second half of last season, and two-rounds into the playoffs you thought they were on pace to return to the Finals after sweeping aside the Bobcats and Hawks. Dwight Howard was a beast and Jameer Nelson had found a grove. Don’t let one series against a rejuvenated and hot Boston squad fool you, this team is very good and has a new focus this year. They will be near the top of the East, and they could win it all.”
- Howard is on the cover of the latest issue of Dime Magazine.
- Jeff Van Gundy talks about his brother — Stan: “I think my brother really needs to let his guard down a little bit more and speak what he feels the truth to be. One thing I’ve always appreciated about Stan is that he’s not afraid to say what he really thinks instead of giving the politically correct answers that we are so accustomed to hearing. You can disagree with him. You can disagree with him being as direct and as candid as he was. For me, when anybody ever calls me up and says, ‘Did you hear what Stan said?’ I get on the edge of my seat because I have no idea what that could possibly be. I always find it very entertaining.”
- Check out Basketball Prospectus’ season predictions.
Will Anthony and Paul be traded and swing the balance of power in the NBA? How bad does Anthony want out of Denver? The franchise has been trying to get him to sign a $66 million extension for months and he’s turned his nose up at it. But I give ‘Melo credit for wanting to win a championship and he knows that is never going to happen in Denver with the Lakers bullying everything west of the Mississippi River. But I hate to break it to Anthony, but the Knicks or Nets aren’t going to win a title anytime soon either.
Could a franchise such as the Magic, Celtics or Bulls pull off a blockbuster for Anthony or Paul midseason that would vault them ahead of the Lakers and Heat as championship favorites? As currently constructed, the Magic love their roster with their loads of depth and talent at every spot. President of Basketball Operations/GM Otis Smith has never been a big fan of mid-season moves, but Smith knows that the Magic aren’t going to pay the luxury tax forever and they might need to take their biggest, hardest swing at trying to win it all this season.
So Anthony and Paul, who both want out of their current situations and would prefer to team up somewhere a la the Miami Thrice, could very well swing the balance in the NBA come February. Denver and New Orleans aren’t winning much this season, and the trade deadline could be the point where they are moved to a contender.
Until the trade deadline comes and goes, the possibility of the Orlando Magic acquiring either Carmelo Anthony or Chris Paul will continue to linger in the background. And if it becomes clear that the Magic — in their current state — will not be able to beat the Miami Heat or the Boston Celtics in a seven-game series, the trade winds will start to swirl harder.
Especially when it’s common knowledge that general manager Otis Smith has accumulated a plethora of assets to execute a blockbuster trade — in theory.
Tonight, the SuperFriends will face off against the Celtics and everyone will finally have a chance to see LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh on the floor together (barring an injury) in a game that matters. This will, undoubtedly, be one of the most anticipated regular season openers in NBA history and for Magic fans, it’ll be a great opportunity to scout the competition.
Not everything, regarding the Heat and C’s, will be figured out tonight but the process of unveiling the fog of war will begin. Rest assured, the same attention will be given to Orlando and Miami when they square off on Friday. For now, it’s a three-way dance in the Eastern Conference and the Magic, Heat, and Celtics are the participants.
Should be fun to watch.
Photo by Fernando Medina
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic will make their season debut in the new Amway Center when they face the Washington Wizards on Thursday, October 28. Gates open at 6 p.m., while fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 7:55 p.m. for pregame festivities.
To celebrate this momentous occasion, the team will hold a special pregame presentation, including a building dedication with Orlando Magic Chairman Rich DeVos, Orlando Magic President Alex Martins, NBA Commissioner David Stern and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, culminating with a high energy video on the NBA’s tallest, most high-definition, center-hung videoboard. Orlando Magic All-Star Dwight Howard will also address the crowd.
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade all pooling their talents is unseemly or just unfair … unless they do it in your town, of course. [...] Remember the summer of 2000, when the [Orlando] Magic boldly toyed with signing their own Big Three — Tim Duncan, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady? Wade really wasn’t going to leave the Heat. He was waiting for the cavalry. But a decade ago, the Magic wanted to start from scratch by signing the three biggest free agents in captivity. I don’t remember anyone in town thinking such an unprecedented, potential merger was bad for the game. Don’t recall a national media uproar over Duncan possibly joining Orlando and hitch-hiking his way to another title. It was a long shot to land all three, sure. The Magic had Hill (and T-Mac) in their pockets and pursued Duncan. They wanted at least two of them, with McGrady the third choice. Former Magic General Manager John Gabriel told me that ‘after Tim’s visit to Orlando, we got the sense he was considering us strongly. At that point, we were looking at maybe getting all three.’ There was one step needed to bring their talents to Orlando: Ask the three stars to take less money (a la the Heat). The plan never got that far.”
- Vince Carter‘s improved play on offense hasn’t been because of strategic changes.
- Mickael Pietrus‘ wrist is hurting, but he won’t sit out because of it.
- George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic have embraced their misery and pain. After all, doesn’t everyone consider them collateral damage this NBA season? They won’t be able to beat the Heat. They won’t be able to overcome Shaq and all those other tall tress in Boston. Thanks for playing, and please enjoy your consolation prizes this season. The Magic get it. And they are doing something about it.”
- Dwight Howard got baptized during the weekend. Good for him.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “For most rookies, the month before the NBA regular season typically offers a fantastic learning opportunity. The youngsters pick up X’s and O’s, but most of all, they discover just how much they need to improve in order to compete with veteran players. Instead, Orlando Magic first-round draft pick Daniel Orton has learned patience. Sidelined by a weak left leg he injured back in high school, Orton has watched from the sidelines as his teammates have spent the last month scrimmaging, playing exhibition games and jelling with one another. Orton knows his rehabilitation program likely will pay off in the long run. Still, that hasn’t made the present much easier to endure.”
- The Magic hope that Howard can three-peat as the Defensive Player of the Year. Head coach Stan Van Gundy: “His focus is good, and if it stays there, there’s no reason [Howard can't win the award again]. It goes far beyond his blocked shots and even beyond his rebounding. He’s extremely smart. He makes all the right rotations. He’s a great pick-and-roll defender. There’s really not a whole lot he can’t do defensively. There’s no reason he shouldn’t.”
- Evan Dunlap — also known as Ben Q. Rock — of Orlando Pinstriped Post looks back at the pre-season for Orlando (click here for Volume 2): “Surprisingly, the Magic were 16.5 points per 100 possessions more effective with a traditional power forward in their lineup, mostly due to their work on defense in those alignments. [Rashard] Lewis, the incumbent starter at power forward, wound up taking most of his reps at small forward this preseason, but he proved effective playing both positions. Lineups with [Marcin] Gortat at power forward–which is to say, lineups in which Gortat played up front with Dwight Howard–were potent on both ends of the court. Oddly, in prior years, that jumbo pairing fared better on offense than on defense. Gortat must have made strides in learning power forward this summer and in training camp, however, for the numbers here to be so impressive.”
- Two ESPN writers (out of 30) predict that the Magic will win the Eastern Conference.
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com concludes that the pre-season does matter to a degree: “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. With Dwyane Wade out for most of the preseason, the Heat may need some time to find their rhythm, while the Lakers and Celtics are more likely to deal with injuries and also pace themselves to stay fresh. The Magic will hit the ground running next week and have proven that they can sustain quality in a season.”
- Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated thinks that Howard has a great chance to win the MVP award: “The voters will probably look away from both LeBron and Dwyane Wade, reasoning — perhaps unfairly — that the presence of another transcendent star undermines the MVP qualifications of each player. That leaves a handful of other leading candidates headed by Howard and Durant. Things will tip Howard’s way if the Magic win 60-plus games and he, once again, plays defense better than anyone.”
- Jameer Nelson is one of the biggest x-factors in the league this year.
- Manny Maduakolam of SLAM ONLINE previews Orlando’s season
- Ken Berger of CBSSports.com previews the year ahead for the NBA.
- “E” is for envy for the Magic, according to Chris Tomasson of NBA FanHouse: “Do the Orlando Magic envy what’s going on in South Florida? Maybe it will result in motivating Dwight Howard to unseat two-time defending MVP James to win the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.”
- Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference: It’s that time of year again. Time to plug a ton of projected numbers into a computer, simulate the NBA schedule thousands of times, and see what kind of predictions it spits out. This year I ran three sets of 2,500 simulated seasons — one based on statistical plus/minus (the raw version of which I posted here, but also adjusted for team using past franchise & coaching histories), one based on Win Shares (using the Simple Projection System method), and one based on a heavily regressed-to-the-mean version of last year’s Simple Ratings (not so much for prediction purposes, but as an experiment to see how well the “dumbest” possible projections fare vs. complex methods).”
- SCHOENE projects Orlando to capture the No. 2 seed in the East.
Via the Orlando Magic:
For the first time in team history, the Orlando Magic will broadcast 17 home games and two road games in Spanish. The home games will be produced by Sun Sports and Fox Sports Florida, while the road contests will be produced by the local Fox Sports regional network.
The broadcasts will be seen in both Orlando and Tampa via Bright House Networks. News 13 En Espanol, Channel 613 and 130, will televise games in Orlando, while Bay News 9 En Espanol, Channel 900 and 154, will broadcast games in Tampa. The first of 19 games televised in Spanish will be Friday, November 5 vs. New Jersey.
The home games will be called by familiar voices as Joey Colon, entering his 13th season with the Magic’s Spanish radio broadcasts, will continue with his play-by-play duties for television. Colon’s partner, Ramon Rivas will serve as the color analyst in his sixth year with the broadcast team.
The Magic also continue with their Spanish radio broadcasts announcing their partnership in mid-October with Radio Luz 1270 AM (WRLZ) as the new flagship station for all radio broadcasts. Every preseason, regular season and postseason Magic game will be broadcast on the WRLZ network. VIVA 1160 AM will also return for its second season as part of the Magic Spanish Radio Network.
In an effort to further connect to the growing Hispanic fan base in Central Florida, the Orlando Magic launched ElOrlandoMagic.com in early October. The new and improved Spanish website serves as the official source for the Hispanic community. The site features original content and coverage of the Magic including in-depth game coverage, breaking news, features, video clips, photo galleries, podcasts, press releases and team information in Spanish.
Click here for the 2010-2011 schedule.
Last week, Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm approached me to see if I was interested in writing a prologue of the Orlando Magic’s season for his site.
Needless to say, the decision was a no-brainer.
Here’s a snippet of what I wrote:
It’s championship or bust for the Orlando Magic. Like last year. But this year feels a little different. Yes, the Miami Heat are the proverbial elephant in the room and with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh forming like Voltron, they will be the standard bearer in the Eastern Conference much to head coach Stan Van Gundy’s chagrin. Yes, the Boston Celtics remain the litmus test for the Magic, in the sense that the C’s will continue to be a difficult matchup with their personnel. The Celtics seemingly endless supply of big men, which begins with Kendrick Perkins (when healthy), Jermaine O’Neal, and ends with Shaquille O’Neal, will push the limits with Howard when the two conference rivals face off against each other.
Kanye West once said, “no one man should have all that power.”
However, there’s one player for Orlando that has the power to change everything that happens in the East and that’s Dwight Howard.
Make sure to check out the rest of my Magic preview.
Also, keep an eye out for the remainder of HP’s “incomplete” 2010-2011 NBA previews.
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
The [Orlando] Magic say [Fran] Vazquez — who stood them up after they drafted him in the first round in 2005 — is coming around to joining them for the 2011-12 season.
He has another year left on his contract with FC Barcelona.
“It’s more open now than it has been in the past with Fran,” Magic assistant general manager Dave Twardzik told the Sentinel.
After the Magic surprisingly picked Vazquez No. 11 — ahead of Indiana’s Danny Granger — he burned and embarrassed the club with his no-show.
He put his name in the draft, but quickly became intimidated by the moment — even after arriving in Orlando, post-draft, for media interviews.
Barely able to speak the language and fearful of the culture shock as a small-town kid, Vazquez decided to stay in his native land. His father had died and his girlfriend — now his wife — wanted no part of the NBA.
Twardzik said barriers have now been knocked down, to some degree, because Vazquez has matured and learned a bit more English.
“All that has changed in many ways,” Twardzik said.
A 6-foot-11, 230-pound power forward/center, Vazquez, 27, had a nice upside when the Magic selected him. He struggled mightily at times after signing a four-year deal with Akasuayu Girona.
His stock is apparently up again with Barcelona, according to overseas reports, especially as a defender and shot-blocker.
This is encouraging news.
Of course, there are Magic fans that could care less about Fran Vazquez but why have that attitude when he is someone that could help the team? Sure, the Orlando Magic have a bit of a logjam at the forward and center positions but at the very least, Vazquez is another asset for general manager Otis Smith. And if there’s something that Smith likes, it’s assets.
For those that are unaware of Vazquez’ skill-set, he’s like Marcin Gortat in a lot of ways. Gortat is a bigger body, of course, but both are big men that thrive on pick and rolls offensively as well as do an excellent job of defending (particularly in the shot blocking department) and rebounding the basketball. If there’s some downsides, it’s that Vazquez — at the age of 27 — is older than Gortat and offers a redundant skill-set. That being said, especially in this era of the NBA, a team can never be lacking for skilled big men and that’s a luxury the Magic already have. It could be an even greater luxury if Daniel Orton develops in the next few years.
Theoretically speaking, if Vazquez does come overseas next season and proves to be a capable player, Smith could make the economical decision of trading Gortat for a position of greater need or as part of a package to acquire a star. The catch is that Orlando would likely have to negotiate a new deal with Vazquez because he probably wouldn’t accept being paid on the league’s rookie scale. The good news, however, is that Vazquez’s contract would presumably be cheaper than Gortat’s. Maybe all this talk is for naught and Vazquez doesn’t play with the Magic in 2012, but it should be seen as a good sign that this discussion is taking place.
For years, the possibility of Vazquez playing in the NBA wasn’t even talked about.
Now it is.
And that’s a step forward.
Photo by Fernando Medina
Tweaks and adjustments.
For the Orlando Magic, tweaks and adjustments have been made not only with the roster but also with strategy. This season, head coach Stan Van Gundy has made a commitment to make the Magic’s offense less predictable, and the results — even if it was pre-season — have been good.
There’s a lot of new wrinkles offensively for Orlando, but one of them has been the insertion of the “Horns” set. In short, two big men stand at both elbows on the court and set screens for the wing player with the basketball. The play design has lots of potential for success because of the diversity of options. Examples will be provided in a second.
The main attraction of the “Horns” set, however, is that it solves some of the spacing problems the Magic have when Rashard Lewis is at small forward and Brandon Bass is at power forward.
Because Bass is not a stretch four in the mold of Lewis or Ryan Anderson, it’s been difficult for Orlando’s offense to operate seamlessly as it usually does because he doesn’t have three-point range. As such, there were times last year when the Magic would get bogged down offensively because no plays were designed to take into account Bass’ skill-set, which centers around an efficient mid-range game.
That problem has been solved, somewhat.
Let’s take a look.
- 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.