Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 195

Sep 15

Jameer Nelson’s Transformation to an All-Star Began in 2009

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Needless to say, Jameer Nelson made Kenny Smith eat his words after the game was over.

Sep 15

For Jameer Nelson, All Eyes on Him

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Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

If there’s one player for the Orlando Magic that could have a major impact on the season this year, aside from Dwight Howard, it’s fellow captain Jameer Nelson.

In the 2010 NBA Playoffs, there was no question that Nelson was the second-best player for the Magic. To some, that was a surprise.

Entering the first round against the Charlotte Bobcats, there were a few writers that thought Nelson’s matchup with Raymond Felton would be nothing more than a toss-up. To be honest? It’s hard to blame those people when comparing the regular season numbers of Nelson and Felton. Yet four games later, nearly everyone was forced to pick up Felton’s remains after Nelson torched him.

It was more of the same against Mike Bibby in Orlando’s series against the Atlanta Hawks. At this stage in his career, Bibby is known as a defensive sieve and Nelson made sure to remind those that forgot. If it wasn’t for the fact that nearly every player for the Magic played well, Nelson could have done the same damage to Bibby as he did to Felton in the previous matchup.

As for Rajon Rondo, many suggested that he dominated against Nelson for the Boston Celtics but that wasn’t the case. Did Rondo best Nelson in the series? In some aspects, yes, but ‘dominated’ seems too strong of a word since Rondo could do little to stop Nelson on his warpath in Games 4 and 5. But that’s neither here nor there. As they say, history is the propaganda of the victors.

At the very least, Nelson proved that he could play at an All-Star caliber level with consistency in the postseason for Orlando, as well as hold his own against — arguably — the best defensive point guard in the NBA. The cruel irony is that Nelson’s performance in the playoffs further twisted the knife in the hearts of Magic fans, many of which are convinced he could have been the difference maker in the 2009 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers if he was healthy.

It’s another ‘what if’ scenario that could be explored in the future at some point.

All in all, this is an important year for Nelson because he’s going to have to play like an All-Star if the Magic want to overtake the Celtics and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.

That much is clear.

Can Nelson play at that level this year?

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 14

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • General manager Otis Smith: “I think our team is better overall. I don’t think it was a matter of dismantling our roster and then putting it back together. I think it was a matter of keeping our team together, keeping some continuity and making some tweaks and adjustments, which we did by bringing in Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson. We brought them in so we would be able to do some things better than we did before. Now with all that said, we’re going to have to be a mentally tougher team than we have been the last two years. It has nothing to do with our Xs and Os or a jump shot made, free throws or rebounds. We just have to be a mentally tougher basketball team. Can we compete with those teams at that level? Sure we can. You don’t win 59 games back-to-back years and go to the Eastern Conference Finals back-to-back years and go to The Finals one of those years without being able to compete at that level. We just have to do the 1/8 of an inch, the amount that it takes you to go from good to great. We may go through some rough points in the season that we grow out of through the course of the postseason. That’s kind of why you go through an 82 game season. You’re not going to go through an 82 game season and win 69 games and just run through the playoffs that way. It doesn’t work that way. You’re going to have to experience some ups and downs, get some bumps and bruises and mend so that you can make a playoff run.”
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post wonders who will be the starting small forward for the Orlando Magic on opening night: “On the whole, [Mickael] Pietrus has youth and familiarity with the team’s system on his side, and he’s joined the Magic’s starting five in each of the last two season-openers. Yet he’s also started just 49 of his 129 games with the Magic, and the team fared better with him as part of the second unit last year, benefitting from Matt Barnes’ energy and hustle. Furthermore, a recent study suggested that the Nelson/Carter/Pietrus/Lewis/Howard configuration vastly underperformed last season; it proved less than the sum of its parts. Does [Stan] Van Gundy trust that lineup to put it together this year? If the answer is no, the job clearly belongs to Richardson, despite his earning less than half of what Pietrus will this season.”
  • Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated thinks Fran Vazquez comes away a ‘loser’ after the 2010 FIBA World Championships concluded a few days ago: “Remember Vazquez? Orlando’s lottery pick (11th overall) in 2005 who has never played a minute in the NBA? Vazquez had a couple of big games, highlighted by a 16-point performance against Slovenia and a 19-point showing against Canada. But he didn’t make a consistent impact, and he vanished in Spain’s loss to Argentina. What’s more, Vazquez sounds indifferent in interviews about ever playing in the NBA. No question Vazquez’s size (6-10, 229 pounds) and natural shot-blocking skills make him an intriguing prospect, but at 27 it might be time to write him off.”
  • Dwight Howard: “I think our team is fine how it is.  We don’t need much. We’re right there every year. It’s really the little pieces that make the engine go. What it’s really going to come down to is my leadership and how well me and Jameer [Nelson] work together. But I have to be the leader of the team in order to get us over the hump.”
  • There could never be enough chatter about the Magic and the Miami Heat.
  • See what I mean? Shaun Powell of NBA.com has more: “The stretch of Florida’s Turnpike between Miami and Orlando is famous for toll booths, orange groves, a handful of unfortunate possums who weren’t quick enough and now, for scorched earth. That’s from the piping rivalry being ratcheted up between the great basketball teams residing in the state. All the necessary ingredients are there to make for a spicy stew: Territorial and professional pride, championship aspirations, hard feelings, angry words, ego and intense competition. In other words, just what the NBA needs — a taste of drama with a strong kick to it. [...] Because this is how it works in sports, the basketball community will rush to have the Magic fitted for white hats. The same folks who despised Vince Carter, for example, will now root for him. J.J. Redick might even get some love. And everyone will revisit Van Gundy’s exit as coach in Miami and portray him as a victim, for good reason (although he did walk away with swollen pockets).”
  • An official welcome for Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel.
  • Chad Ford of ESPN Insider gives Orlando’s a C- for their off-season: “The Magic are loaded. They have deep talent at virtually every position and, as in the past two seasons, look poised to make another deep run into the playoffs. But as far as summers go, they didn’t have a great one. While teams like the Heat, Celtics and Bulls upgraded or reloaded, the Magic basically stood pat. Considering they failed to make the Finals this year, that’s a bit surprising. Magic fans are hoping that Redick continues to improve, that Duhon adds some stability at the point and that [Daniel] Orton could end up being a late first-round steal. But the truth is that while much of the East got better, the Magic stood still.”

Sep 14

More On the Verbal Spat Between Pat Riley and Stan Van Gundy

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Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Via George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel:

Geez, I go off to Richmond to cover a NASCAR race for a few days and look what happens:

We’re all going to need protective fire suits to cover the NBA this season. The Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat are going old-school nasty, making like Richard Petty and David Pearson, rubbin’ tires and tradin’ paint before the season even starts.

To briefly recap, Magic general manager Otis Smith called out LeBron James, questioning his competitive desire after signing with the Heat. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy ripped Chris Bosh, calling him Dwayne Wade’s “lapdog.” Then Miami Heat President Pat Riley shot back, ripping Smith and Van Gundy.

Then Van Gundy lashed back at Riley. [...]

For once, nobody can blame the media for trying to stir the pot. The pot’s already boiling over with contentious crossfire.

And that’s how it should be.

The best rivalries need a few obvious ingredients: Two great competitors (check), a contempt for each other’s lifestyle (check), and a lively volley of words between both sides (double-check).

Think Frazier-Ali, Celtics-Lakers, Yankees- Red Sox. Dare we add Magic-Heat to the mix?

The Three Amigos/Axis of Evil have already pranced and danced on stage at their coming out party in South Florida in July, complete with pyrotechnics and pose downs like they were part of a WWE show. They are the alpha dogs who are going to take a whizz on everybody’s lawn, including the one by that fancy-schmantzy new place in Orlando.

Another writer chimes in on this feud.

Sep 13

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “[J.J.] Redick didn’t waste much time announcing himself as a legitimate contributor last season. Making an emergency start in place of Vince Carter, who missed the game due to a sprained right ankle suffered two nights earlier, Redick played a team-high 45 minutes. And, uh, produced a line that even a healthy Carter may not have been able to match: 27 points, five rebounds, and six assists to Redick, who mixed three-point bombing (five-of-eight from beyond the arc) with aggressive drives during which he looked to draw contact, or at least attention, for a kickout. And yeah, the Raptors scored 116 points, but that’s not on Redick: their starting frontcourt poured in 80 of those points, so it wasn’t like Redick was a liability at the other end.”
  • A behind-the-scenes look at the photo shoot for the Orlando Magic dancers.
  • Matt Moore of ProBasketballTalk takes a look at the aftermath of Pat Riley and Stan Van Gundy‘s war of words: “So who’s on target here? Well, the answer is both. The criticism against the Heat has been more than a little ridiculous, considering they’ve broken no laws, and done nothing that a vast majority of people would do: choose to work with their friends in a tax-free state with a higher professional ceiling. “The Decision” aside, most of the comments have been purposely inflammatory. But SVG has a point that Riley hasn’t exactly been squeaky clean throughout his career and calling the presser certainly doesn’t look like he ignores the press. Expect a lot more of this this type of side-mouth work from both the Heat and their critics this season. The new reality in the NBA is going to take some time to adjust to.”
  • Rob Peterson of NBA FanHouse: “This is a fight, however, Van Gundy can’t win no matter how right he is or how right he believes he is. It’s a matter of public relations and public perception. As incredible and as honest as he is with the press, Van Gundy comes off as the classic shlumpy grinder. He’s a guy who bends the game to his will with an impeccable white board and unassailable basketball mind. In Riley, you have a guy who loves to live his part as impresario and hoops taste-maker. The man can coach because he can adapt. Have the best athletes on the planet? Showtime! Have a bunch of no talent hacks, with the exception of an All-Star center? Meet the early ’90s Knicks. Add to that he has five rings as a head coach, all achieved in bespoke suits without breaking a sweat. [...] That may be the biggest rub of this whole thing. Van Gundy’s excited retort stems from fear as much as it does loathing of Riley and his assemblage of max-contract mercenaries. Outside of the 15,000 true Heat fans, no one liked the signings and often weren’t quiet about it. “
  • The “bad blood is already building up” between the Magic and the Miami Heat.
  • Want to see Shaquille O’Neal highlights circa 1994? Now you can.

Sep 13

Sun Sports & FOX Sports Florida Announce 2010-11 Magic TV Schedule

Via Sun Sports/FOX Sports Florida:

With the debut of the majestic new Amway Center this season, the Orlando Magic continue their quest for an NBA championship in 2010-11. Under the guidance of head coach Stan Van Gundy, the Magic seek a fourth consecutive Southeast Division title, a third straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, and most importantly, look to capture their first NBA title. Once again, NBA All-Star center Dwight Howard will headline one of the league’s most successful cast of players.

As the team’s longtime TV partner, Sun Sports and FOX Sports Florida will be there all season as the two networks combine to offer Orlando Magic fans 71 regular season game telecasts, all in HD, with 38 scheduled on Sun Sports and 33 on FOX Sports Florida.

In addition, four preseason matchups will air live this season. The first preseason telecast will be October 5 at the Houston Rockets from Hidalgo, TX, at 8:30pm ET on Sun Sports.

Then, on October 10, the Magic play their first preseason game in the new Amway Center. Sun Sports will not only televise that historic game, but will also offer fans a spectacular look at the Magic’s new home with a special, one-hour live pregame show beginning at 5:00pm ET. The network will be set up in multiple locations both inside and outside the building giving fans watching at home a bird’s eye view of all the festivities that night.

Click here for the 2010-11 schedule.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 13

A Look Back at a Classic Game Between Two Elite Teams

Sep 13

The Amway Center’s Potential

Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel

Via Mark Schlueb of the Orlando Sentinel:

When the Orlando Arena opened in 1989, few people had heard of the newfangled Internet, and mobile phones were the size of bricks.

When its replacement opens Oct. 1, the technology inside the new Amway Center will have changed as much as it has in people’s homes during the past 21 years.

“It truly will be the most technologically advanced arena facility in North America,” Orlando Magic President Alex Martins is fond of saying.

Since the $480 million arena’s conception, Magic and city officials have made technology an integral part of the project, from the 1,100 flat-panel video screens throughout the building to an advanced telecommunications network not much different from the one that controls America’s air traffic.

The state-of-the-art technology means more flash for fans, who will be bombarded with images and sound before they even walk in the door. And just as important for the team’s owner, it also means more advertising cash for the Magic. [...]

Advertisers who can afford it will also be able to have their product or name displayed on every screen in the building at the same moment, an opportunity the Magic is selling as “the moment of exclusivity.”

It’s not clear how much the Magic and the city spent on the building’s high-tech features, but the team has the most to gain. Under an agreement with the city, the Magic keep the revenue from the sale of advertising, naming rights and luxury suites in exchange for an annual payment to the city of $1.75 million, an amount that increases 3 percent a year.

As training camp is set to begin in less than a month for the Orlando Magic, it’s very important to note that ownership is paying nearly $94 million in salaries and that’s before the luxury tax is taken into account. This is going to be the most expensive roster in franchise history and Magic fans need to be enjoy this era while they can, because it’s not going to last forever.

The Magic are spending a lot of money to take advantage of Dwight Howard‘s prime and an opportunity to win a championship. That being said, it’ll be interesting to see how much of an influx of revenue Orlando will see and how that’ll impact the team’s ability to continue to pay the luxury tax in future years when the Amway Center opens in less than a month.

That’s a point of emphasis that isn’t being talked about enough and it should be, given that the Magic are a small-market team in the NBA.

Money is nearly no obstacle for the Magic right now, given that owner Rich DeVos has opened up his checkbook the past several years, but it remains to be seen whether or not the investment pays off. Orlando is going to have a tough road ahead in the Eastern Conference, having to deal with the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat.

More advertising cash means more revenue for Orlando, but how much?

We’ll find out eventually.

Sep 12

Fact or Fiction: Vince Carter is Valuable Enough to Merit an Upgrade at the Wing Position in a Trade

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Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Fact or Fiction presents both sides of key issues the Orlando Magic will face in the upcoming season.

Vince Carter’s expiring contract is the Magic’s best opportunity to upgrade the wing position with a high-quality player (go-to guy) for the future.

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Fact
The off-season is nearly over for the Orlando Magic and the rest of the NBA, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t any drama along the way. After the Magic lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, the rumor mill began to heat up concerning Vince Carter‘s future with the team after his lackluster performance in the series.

In late June, word broke out that Chris Paul was open to being traded as long as he got a chance to win and soon after, there was a report that Orlando offered Carter in a trade alongside Jameer Nelson for the all-world point guard. And when Carmelo Anthony indicated his desire to leave the Denver Nuggets nearly a month ago, the Magic were initially listed as a team of interest. Even though Carter’s name wasn’t explicitly brought up in any trade scenarios, it was assumed that he could be dealt since he would be replaced by Anthony at one of the wing positions.

Why all the chatter about Carter?

Because Carter has, more or less, an expiring contract. It’s important to note that Carter’s contract in 2012 is guaranteed for $4 million if he’s waived before June 30, 2011. Even though it’s not a purely expiring contract, there’s no question that any team acquiring Carter in a deal would save a chunk of money.

It’s clear that Carter has value and could be a trade chip for Orlando at the deadline, if general manager Otis Smith wants to explore the possibility.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 12

Stan Van Gundy Responds to Pat Riley

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Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:

While the rivalry between the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat might lay dormant at times during the offseason, the venom between the two heated, hated sides clearly never bubbles too far below the surface.

And old rivals Otis Smith, Stan Van Gundy and Heat president Pat Riley have made sure that the vitriol between the two teams continues to flow all summer long.

Irked at some of the comments from Smith, Orlando’s President of Basketball Operations, and Van Gundy, the Magic’s head coach, following Miami’s free-agent signings of LeBron James and Chris Bosh in July, Riley went on the offensive on Friday. He was highly critical of Smith, Van Gundy and TNT analyst Charles Barkley for becoming the “moral conscious or moral authority’’ of players in the NBA.

Van Gundy, who worked in Miami with Riley for 12 seasons from 1995-2006, fired back on Saturday at the many inconsistencies in Riley’s behavior and criticisms through the years.

“I thought it was pretty typical. I was kind of amused by it, especially reading down through the interview,’’ Van Gundy said. “He goes into Charles Barkley, me and Otis and then says he doesn’t worry about what people say. Wait, you called the press conference, you went off and everybody and you don’t care what people say? Clearly, he cares a great deal about what people say. I was laughing when I saw that.’’

Did I not say it was personal between the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat?

These are two franchises that don’t like each other.

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