- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “It was a pretty basic off-day practice for the Orlando Magic on Thursday. They worked on defending cuts – which was a problem in the first half against Houston – and containing pick-and-rolls for much of the practice. There was a lot of full-court work. And offensively, they worked on their “basic stuff,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. The biggest item of note came after practice ended, when Dwight Howard stayed for about 45 minutes to work on his mid-range jumper with Patrick Ewing (entry pass) and Daniel Orton (rebounding). [...] Van Gundy said he had no problem with Howard’s jumpers against Houston. Howard went 2-for-2 on mid-range jump shots.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “I watched in open-mouth amazement after Thursday’s practice as Dwight Howard drained shot bank-shot after bank-shot, then made some turnaround jumpers. He worked for about 20 minutes with assistant coach Patrick Ewing and center Daniel Orton, catching and shooting. I’m not crazy about his turnaround J. But anything that doesn’t make him as predictable as he has been in the crowded paint and draws in defenders can’t be all bad.”
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy on Marcin Gortat: “He’s tried to focus on some other things, and making some improvements offensively and things, and that’s fine. But the bottom line is, as he heard last Monday not just from me but from his teammates, is his role is those three things. He needs to defend, rebound and run, and I don’t think his focus was right this week. I’m not in a panic and I’m not angry. I have great faith in him. He’s a smart guy, he plays hard, he knows what we’re doing, and he fits well with us. I don’t have any overriding concern, but he does need to get his focus back to where it needs to be.”
- After undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, Schmitz has a greater understanding of Jameer Nelson‘s road to recovery (same injury) when he came back to play in the 2009 NBA Finals.
- Previewing Chris Duhon‘s season with the Orlando Magic.
- Dwight Howard is happy to see Yao Ming on the court.
- Enjoy three-plus minutes of Howard taking AND MAKING jumpshots.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “The Orlando Magic began their preseason Tuesday night in a victory over the Houston Rockets which can alternately be described as thrilling and sloppy. The banner change in their lineup was playing Rashard Lewis at small forward for a majority of his minutes, though he indeed started at power forward. But as I noted yesterday, Lewis was the only player who manned more than one position for Orlando. Which, in turn, got me thinking about the other multi-positional players on the team’s roster, and which two-player combinations might be similarly compelling.”
- Royce Young of CBSSports.com: “There’s only so much Howard can take from three days of training with The Dream. But that’s a whole heck of a lot more knowledge than he had before. Howard may be somewhat transformed this year, but that comes down to him taking the principles he learned with him and continuing to work on them. He can’t expect three days of training to make him into Hakeem Olajuwon. But if Howard starts getting even a little bit of it? Again, oh my.”
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk thinks Gortat should get the ball a little bit more.
Via the Orlando Magic:
Single-game tickets for the first half of the 2010-11 Orlando Magic regular season will go on sale to the general public Friday, October 8 at noon. The Magic will make its regular season debut in the Amway Center when they host the Washington Wizards in the brand new facility on Thursday, October 28. Tip-off is 8:00 p.m. Tickets that go on sale Friday include games through January 19 vs. Philadelphia. Tickets for the second half of the regular season will go on sale at a later date.
Tickets are available for purchase:
- Online at www.orlandomagic.com
- At the Amway Center box office (located on Church St.) (cash, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover)
- At all TicketMaster outlets (cash only)
- By calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover)
Orlando Magic season tickets, partial plans, group and single-game Amway Center suite rental opportunities are on sale now. Ticket highlights in the new Amway Center include: 2,500 seats priced $15 or less and 7,000 seats priced $25 or less. A limited number of season tickets are available through the Orlando Magic box office by calling 407-89-MAGIC or visiting orlandomagic.com.
At the EuroBasket qualifying tournament in August, few big men were more dominant than Poland’s Marcin Gortat.
He led the tournament in field-goal percentage. He played almost every minute. He had 29 points against Belgium. 23 against Bulgaria.
When playing for Poland, Gortat is the man. His teammates look to him almost every trip down the court, feeding him the ball near the hoop and out near the perimeter. Jumpers, post-ups, cuts off the pick and roll; Gortat shows off a versatile offensive repertoire when playing for his home country.
Then Gortat returns to Orlando, where his role is simple: rebound, defend and run the floor. Stuck backing up the league’s best center, few plays are called for Gortat. On offense, he’s little more than a pick-setter and boards-crasher.
When Gortat does try to showcase his offensive game with the [Orlando] Magic, he gets talked to by the coaching staff.
And that adjustment has not been easy for the 26-year-old big man. [...]
The Orlando Magic, meanwhile, are not overly concerned about Gortat’s desire to play more offense. During the team’s 3 1/2- hour meeting last Monday, his teammates told him they wanted him to focus on his role of defending, rebounding and running the floor.
They weren’t interested in any offensive flash from Dwight Howard‘s backup.
This is an interesting problem, because Marcin Gortat is the only player for the Orlando Magic that has to deal with this type of issue.
In Poland, Gortat is the man.
In Orlando, Gortat is one of many.
For the rest of the Magic roster, each player has a defined role that doesn’t change dramatically even in international play. Granted, when Dwight Howard is playing for the USA men’s basketball team, his role is a little different. More so on offense than anything else, given that in the past he’s played alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and some of the other top players in the NBA. And FIBA basketball, when it comes to trends and patterns with offenses, is not entirely conducive to traditional big men like Howard. As such, Howard’s value comes mostly on defense.
For Gortat, his desire to be more involved on offense is understandable. It’s tough to alter roles on the fly and in the past several years, Gortat has grown accustomed to being the centerpiece (here is an example) offensively when he’s playing for the Polish national team. It explains why Gortat isn’t shy in talking about his desire to play more, whether it’s for the Magic or another team.
Gortat wants “the damn ball.”
Can Gortat post up? Yes.
Should Gortat receive more touches on the low block? No.
That’s not an indictment on Gortat’s skill, per se, but it speaks more to the amount of talent Orlando has at their disposal. When Gortat is playing on the second unit, he’s not the best option on offense. Likewise, if the Magic want to really have a low post presence when Howard is out of the game, they could tab Rashard Lewis to be that guy since head coach Stan Van Gundy is making a concerted effort to play him more at the small forward position to take advantage of those skills.
The lack of a low post option was an issue last year for the second unit, at times.
What does this all mean for Gortat this season?
Nothing. Gortat’s role won’t change and shouldn’t change.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Melissa Muñoz will never forget the time the world’s best center visited this tiny city of 7,322 people near the Mexico border. Wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with Dwight Howard‘s face, the 16-year-old high-school student leaned over the boards behind the Orlando Magic bench during pregame warmups. [...] Howard walked over, and when Muñoz raised her pink Samsung digital camera for a picture, Howard leaned in and smiled widely. The Magic visited this non-NBA city Tuesday night to face the Houston Rockets in a preseason game. Though it seems that few people in southern Texas share Muñoz’s love for the Magic — the 6,200-seat State Farm Arena was perhaps 60 percent full at tipoff — the exhibition meant a lot to her. [...] If only others in this region shared her enthusiasm for the Magic — or her family’s willingness to pay high prices to see a preseason game. Tickets cost between $49 and $568, not including Ticketmaster fees.”
- More from Robbins: “Dwight Howard dedicated several days of his summer vacation to working with Hakeem Olajuwon. More than anything else, Olajuwon stressed that Howard needs to be fearless and try new things on the court. Howard apparently learned that lesson well. On Tuesday night, the superstar center confidently unveiled a more diversified offensive attack and, in the process, he tormented the team Olajuwon once carried to greatness. Hardly anyone will care months from now that the Orlando Magic defeated the Houston Rockets 97-88 in the preseason opener for both teams. But maybe, just maybe, the exhibition in this southern Texas border city will be remembered as the night Howard’s repertoire showed true growth.“
- That was a captivating sentence by Robbins.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “While Dwight Howard certainly opened eyes with his expanded game — get back to me when he fires jumpers in the regular season — it was an old dog’s tricks that impressed me. Vince Carter looked engaged, in shape and showed flashes of the all-star form so critical to the Magic in their preseason opening win over Houston Tuesday night. [...] He still has to pace himself and pick his spots, but Vince I think has taken to heart some of the criticism launched at him after the playoffs last season and some of the demands his teammates have made.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com analyzes the Orlando Magic’s win last night.
- Vince Carter has changed, perhaps for the better: “Vince Carter recently stated that this past summer was the most backbreaking and grueling offseason in his entire basketball career. The eight-time All-Star spent considerable time in the gym to improve his conditioning. It definitely showed during the Magic’s first preseason game of the year. Not only did he look more aggressive on both ends of the floor, VC appeared very vivacious and determined. Hoping to return to the level that once credited him as one of the premier wing players in the NBA, Carter finished with 14 points in 25 minutes and delivered a sensational alley-oop feed in the fourth quarter to Marcin Gortat, who flushed home a thunderous two-handed jam.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post breaks down Rashard Lewis‘ performance at small forward against the Houston Rockets: “It’s hard to draw many conclusions from a one-game sample size, let alone a 12-possession one. And the Rockets made four substitutions during that 6:03 stretch, further calling into question its significance in the bigger picture. But it’d appear, at least initially, that the never-before-seen pairing of Lewis and [Brandon] Bass at the forward spots could pay dividends.”
- Remember when Li’l Penny went to high school with Kevin Garnett?
- Jorge Azze of Dime Magazine renames the Magic for fun.
- A detailed look at how Dwight Howard concedes post position when he’s on the low block: “We all know that Dwight Howard doesn’t get good position in the post, and this can be attributed to a lot of different things. The fact that he has tiny legs and relies on using his upper body to get position and the fact that defenses are allowed to be very physical with him are all major reasons why. However, something I have noticed recently is that Dwight actually gets good initial position, but then he gives it up”
- Howard shares with DimeTV his opinion on the NBA’s best dunker.
- UPDATE: Jacob Mustafa of Red94 with an eloquent description of Howard’s performance last night against the Rockets: “Dwight Howard may have reached another level, one on which the girth of Yao simply leaves a greater canvas for an array of spin moves and our giant’s towering stature only serves to make Howard’s bank shot jumper look all the more awe-inspiring. This Howard was not the easily frustrated, incorrigible man-child that seemed destined to languish in this league’s second stratosphere of superstar, ably filling David Robinson’s role of boring genius unlikely to win; no, this Howard got his quickly and efficiently, while never appearing to do so much that his “be everywhere” defensive style was impeded (I would like to make sure my opinion of Robinson is not misunderstood; his offensive skill set was lightyears ahead of Howard’s thus far, but I think their reputations are similar). Trying to grade Yao’s attempts at containing this unstoppable force seems not only pointless, but cruel.”
Dwight Howard spent a week in Houston to work out with Hakeem Olajuwon. This is their story.
Can you smell it?
Do you feel it?
The NBA is back in business after a full slate of pre-season games, headlined by the SuperFriends, were completed earlier tonight.
And for the Orlando Magic, their quest towards a championship began at a little-known city in Texas named Hidalgo. So far, so good, as the Magic were able to defeat the Houston Rockets by the score of 97-88. Dwight Howard led the way for Orlando with a dominating performance, finishing the game with 19 points, 12 rebounds, and three blocks. Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis chipped in with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Courtney Lee, a former rookie for the Magic, had 12 points for the Rockets in a losing effort.
There’s a few things that stood out from this matchup.
First, even though it was a pre-season game and sometimes he faced off against a Yao Ming that is not in tip-top form, Howard looked awesome. In the first quarter, Orlando ran a lot of 4-out/1-in offensive sets for Howard to establish his presence in the low post. Needless to say, watching Howard go to work on the low block was a beauty to behold. Howard showed no hesitation with his moves and it created fluid, captivating sequences on offense that left Magic fans drooling. On one possession, Howard executed a spin move on Yao and finished with a righty hook shot. On the very next possession, Howard jab-stepped Yao and made a bank shot that would make Tim Duncan proud. A few minutes later, Howard made another jumper.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Former [Orlando] Magic shooting guard Courtney Lee feels right at home with the Houston Rockets. Going from a team that went 12-70 last season to a playoff contender would make anybody feel happy. That’s the case with Lee, who was sent from the New Jersey Nets to the Rockets in August as part of a four-team trade. Lee, 25, likes his role with Houston. He likely will back up starting SG Kevin Martin, but Lee also played some point guard during training camp. The Rockets want him to serve as a defensive stopper on the wing and also attack on the offensive end.”
- More from Robbins: “There will be no surprises in the Orlando Magic starting lineup when the team takes the floor for its preseason opener tonight against the Houston Rockets. Rashard Lewis will start at his usual position of power forward, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy told me a short while ago. Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Quentin Richardson and Dwight Howard will join Lewis in the starting lineup. Still, you can expect that Lewis will play some small forward tonight. Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass and possibly Marcin Gortat will man the 4 spot when Lewis plays the 3. [...] Van Gundy said he’ll play at least 11 of his 13 healthy players. The two guys who might not play are rookie Stanley Robinson and veteran Malik Allen.”
- Money is the reason why the Orlando Magic won’t sign a third point guard.
- What does Brandon Bass need to improve on? Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel offers a solution: “Bass struggled to grasp the Magic’s defensive rotations last season, often ending up in the wrong place or defending the wrong players after defensive switches. And being a big man, lapses on help defense lead to open lay-ups and dunks. That kept him out of favor with Stan Van Gundy and on the bench for most of last season. Bass’ shooting range doesn’t extend to the 3-point line, which is limiting for Orlando’s 4-out, 1-in offense. And unless the Magic organization invents some new technology this won’t be improved, but Bass’ 6-foot-7 frame can be limiting.”
- Additional information on Bass’ improvements on defense.
- A few things to look out for in the Magic’s pre-season game against the Houston Rockets.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com answer some questions for Magic fans.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “The issue with either Anderson or Bass sharing the court with Lewis is that it’d force Lewis to cover smaller, faster players at the other end. More broadly, it means Orlando wouldn’t have a plus defender at either perimeter position. Sacrificing defense for offense’s sake doesn’t sound like a Van Gundy tactic, but as John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com explained, there’s a lingering feeling in Magic HQ that playing Lewis at small forward in the Eastern Conference Finals could have put Orlando over the top against the Boston Celtics. The thinking, then, appears to be that Lewis’ ability to score in more ways from the three-spot is more important than putting a “true” power forward in the lineup. Regardless of the reason for the move, it’s clear that it’s something with which the Magic intend to experiment this season, starting with the exhibition schedule. I’m excited to see how it plays out.”
- Make sure to also read Rock’s pre-season primer. It’s a must-read.
- Rob Mahoney of ProBasketballTalk chimes in on Bass’ progress defensively in training camp: “It wasn’t Bass’ blinders-on approach to scoring or his somewhat troubling rebounding rate that led to his diminished role with Orlando. Instead, Stan Van Gundy spoke of Bass’ defensive limitations, and his lack of familiarity with the defensive system that is so vital to the Magic’s success. Bass may have been strong enough and productive enough to thrive as a sixth man for the Dallas Mavericks in the season prior, but he clearly failed to meet SVG’s more specific systemic needs.”
- Tracy McGrady is jealous of the SuperFriends. Remember, McGrady had a chance to play alongside Grant Hill and Tim Duncan (it was a longshot, but a remote possibility) in the summer of 2000 when Orlando was pursuing each of them when they were free agents: “I am envious (of Miami’s Big Three). I’m jealous as s**t. I look at all the teams I’ve been on, and I never had a Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the same team. I’m jealous, but I’m happy for them. I hope they win 10 damn championships. [...] Ten years ago, we could have done it (put a Big Three together) but without all the hype. But that’s just wishful thinking now. It’s what could have happened. It’s only teasing me (to talk about it). So many nights I remember just wishing that Grant was healthy. I would have loved for Duncan to have been there, too, but a healthy Grant Hill would have been good enough (for me).”
- McGrady is right — he didn’t have a Wade alongside him, not even close.
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie with some words of wisdom on McGrady: “McGrady carried the Magic, for years, when Grant Hill was injured. He has never made it out of the first round of the playoffs, but he’s never been on a team that deserved to beat the team it lost to in the first round of the playoffs. You may not like the way he left Toronto, Orlando, or Houston; but his prime years were also decimated by injury. He’ll take in a lot of flak for these comments, but I think it’s time to give the guy a break.”
- Dwight Howard is the starting center of Team “D.”
- Penny Hardaway made a big jump statistically from 1995 to 1996.
Last shameless plug of the day.
For a second year in a row, I was tabbed by Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus to provide brief analysis on the Orlando Magic (alongside Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post) for the latest edition of Pro Basketball Prospectus series.
Here’s what I wrote:
In the state of Florida, all eyes will be on the Miami Heat. But if there’s somebody that is worth keeping tabs on for the Orlando Magic, it’s Dwight Howard. After losing to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, Howard enlisted the help of Hakeem Olajuwon during the summer so that he could continue to expand and improve his low-post game. Given what’s at stake for the Magic, Howard must take his skills to the next level if he wants to lead his team to the promised land. Howard is the best defensive player in the NBA, but there’s no question that he needs to be equally as dominant on offense for Orlando to win a championship. Olajuwon’s wisdom is invaluable, in this case, because he’s been telling Howard not to be afraid to use his full arsenal of moves and not hesitate from doing anything on the floor. Can Howard fully evolve into a devastating two-way player? We’ll find out soon enough.
Make sure to pick up a copy of Pro Basketball Prospectus 2010-11.
It’s worth the investment. You’ll become a smarter NBA fan after reading the book.