Scrolling down the Orlando Magic’s upcoming schedule recently, a revelation hit point guard Jameer Nelson like a ton of bricks. With games dead ahead against Steve Nash, Darren Collison, Tony Parker, John Wall and Derrick Rose, Nelson realized there’s an all-star point guard awaiting him at almost every turn.
“Every night you know you are going to get a good guy at point guard and you have to bring it,’’ said Nelson, an NBA All-Star himself two seasons ago. “But the way I look at it, they have to bring it against me, too. You can never let up against these guys and you just really have to play your game. Especially, defensively you don’t want to let those great guards get going and you to contain them as much as you can.’’ […]
Nelson said his mentality has to change from night to night depending on whether he is facing a pass-first point guard or one with a scorer’s mentality. For example, he might go under a screen on the pick-and-roll against Parker, Kidd and Rondo because he knows those guards aren’t great shooters, but instead are some of the game’s best drivers. But against Billups, Williams and others, Nelson has to focus more on going over screens to try and take away jump shots.
And some nights – like recently with Williams — in pick-and-roll sets, those guards can be unstoppable.
Brandon Bass‘ second year in head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s system has seen a dramatic improvement in almost all phases of his game. However, the one aspect of Bass’ skill-set that’s seen a noticeable change has been his defense.
Team defense, that is.
In the video, keep a careful eye on Bass the entire time. It’s easy to overlook what Bass is doing on the defensive side of the ball because, let’s be frank, it’s harder to notice or quantify a player’s impact on defense. It’s Bass’ attention to detail that stands out the most when examining his improvements defensively.
For example, on the first possession, Bass does an excellent job of rotating on Amir Johnson as Dwight Howard provides a double-team on Jose Calderon along the baseline. When Howard is done double-teaming Calderon, he shifts back to Johnson and Bass sticks with his assignment — Andrea Bargnani. Or how about the fourth possession when Bass correctly shows on the Toronto Raptors’ pick and roll? Later in the sequence, Bass does get beat by Bargnani along the baseline but he lets Howard provide weak-side help to stop the play. That’s proper awareness.
Again, these are things that people won’t notice but someone does and that’s Van Gundy. That’s why Bass is getting more playing time.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Word is that teams have inquired about point guard Chauncey Billups, and nobody on the planet can be surprised. If, or when, Carmelo Anthony goes in a trade, why keep Billups around? The Nuggets will be in official rebuilding mode once Melo walks. The [Orlando] Magic have pieces to land them both. Before the Heat land them by, oh, dealing Chris Bosh. I tweeted this weeks ago. Melo is making $17 million, Billups $13 mil this season. The Magic have a veteran package they can hand over to Denver: shooting guard Vince Carter ($17 mill), center Marcin Gortat ($6 mill) and point guard Jameer Nelson ($7 mill). Is it better than the proposed package New Jersey apparently is offering of draft picks and Derrek Favors? I’d say the Magic’s would-be deal is more proven, no question.”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “On the Orlando Magic injury front, there’s good news and there’s bad news. We’ll start with the bad news: Jason Williams (foot) and Quentin Richardson (sickness) didn’t practice today. Both are day-to-day, but Q is expected to play Thursday night against Phoenix. J.J. Redick was still sidelined with back spasms, marking the fourth consecutive day he’s been out. He didn’t play in Monday’s game against Memphis because of the injury. The good news? Jameer Nelson (ankle) and Mickael Pietrus (leg) returned to practice. Both players will play Thursday night, barring something unforeseen.”
- Nationally televised games are not kind to the Orlando Magic.
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post reveals that the Magic’s use of a traditional lineup has produced some surprisingly good results, so far, in the regular season: “So playing [Brandon] Bass or Gortat at power forward replaces atypically inefficient players with incredibly efficient ones. Bass’ raw shooting percentage of 47.5 doesn’t do him justice, because he’s a volume free-throw shooter with great accuracy. His True Shooting mark of 60.7 percent places him fourth on the team. Gortat, on the other hand, hardly misses from the floor. He leads the team with 65 percent shooting from the field thanks to his soft touch around the rim and the little attention defenses afford him. Add it all up […] and the Magic’s offense has been 4.85 points per 100 possessions more effective with a traditional power forward in the lineup. But the bigger difference has come at the defensive end.”
- Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “You’d have thought the Rashard Lewis contract would have bitten them sooner than this, but hey, worse late than never, I suppose. The Magic have one win against a team above .500 and two losses to Miami to and Utah. It’s early yet so they haven’t had many cracks at it, but throw in a loss to the Raptors, and yeesh, not a great start for SVG’s crew. The defense is still excelling, but the offense has fallen off a cliff, thanks in part to Rashard Lewis not being able to hit the broad side of a barn. And yet still, Ryan Anderson gets no minutes. Crying shame, really.”
- Do you believe in Magic? NBA.com writers try to answer that question.
- Dwight Howard is still a flawed player, according to some.
Photo by Fernando Medina
Via the Orlando Magic:
Thanks to AirTran Airways’ partnerships with the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard, a life-sized likeness of Superman himself is now flying through the terrace level of the dazzling, new Amway Center.
AirTran, a “Champions of the Community” partner with the Magic, unveiled a suspended, 6-foot-11 likeness of the Orlando’s consensus All-NBA center on Tuesday, November 16. The image is a replica of Howard in full-flight from his famous “Superman” dunk from the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. The display also incorporates AirTran Business Class seats, allowing fans to take their pictures with the image of Howard flying overhead.
“It’s amazing, it really is,” Howard gushed upon getting his first look at the life-sized image seemingly hanging in the air. “I’ve only seen myself in pictures, but now this is like being up close to Dwight. Wow!”
The AirTran Flight Deck, which is just steps away from the Howard display, is a specially-designed 1,325-square-foot lounge created to give guests a unique experience during Magic home games and other Amway Center events. The Flight Deck resembles the interior of an AirTran Airways’ aircraft complete with Business Class seats, overhead bins above the bar and a digital display scoreboard with the look of an arrivals/departures screen.
“Over the years AirTran has taken an increased role in the community, and being involved with the new Amway Center is ideal,” said Bob Fornaro, the Chairman, President and CEO of AirTran Airways. “We wanted to be associated with one of the best brands in Orlando and that’s the Orlando Magic. And with Dwight, he’s wonderful, he’s great in the community and he’s a star already.”
Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic at New York Knicks game that was postponed November 2, has been rescheduled for Monday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m. ET at Madison Square Garden, the National Basketball Association announced yesterday.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “To paraphrase Brent Musburger, you are looking live at Richie Adubato‘s closet. It’s the biggest one in the roomy house in Heathrow, and it contains more bright, wild colors than a kid’s crayon box. You could probably see the purple smoking jacket and pink tie collection from outer space — without Google Earth. Richie’s doting wife, Carol, is his fashion consultant. She obviously has a flair for the dramatic, given her background as an off-Broadway actress and budding stand-up comedian. A youthful-looking 72, Adubato will tell you he started donning his neon wardrobe to impress players and gain their acceptance at three NBA stops as a head coach (including an interim gig with the [Orlando] Magic) and two jobs with the WNBA. These days, Richie’s on the radio, you see. Or you don’t see. He could wear an entire line from Sears men’s outdoor department and no listeners would be the wiser, even if that plum jacket is louder than a bullhorn. But then Adubato’s very nature is to put technicolor into his job as the Magic’s color analyst, flavored by bold splashes of humor.
- Give Schmitz’s feature on Richie Adubato a read. It’s fantastic.
- J.J. Redick is day-to-day with back spasms.
- Matt Barnes on the Orlando Magic: “When they played [the] Heat, I saw them get blown out because they couldn’t handle the wings. I feel for the guys on the team but it’s definitely a business.”
- Let the record state that the Magic rank second in Defensive Rating this season and even though it’s early, they’re giving up less points per 100 possessions than last year.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Thanks to AirTran Airways’ partnerships with the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard, a life-sized likeness of Superman himself is now flying through the terrace level of the dazzling, new Amway Center. AirTran, a ‘Champions of the Community’ partner with the Magic, unveiled a suspended, 6-foot-11 likeness of the Orlando’s consensus All-NBA center on Tuesday. The image is a replica of Howard in full-flight from his famous ‘Superman’ dunk from the 2008 NBA Slam Dunk Contest. The display also incorporates AirTran Business Class seats, allowing fans to take their pictures with the image of Howard flying overhead.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “[Redick] has struggled mightily with his shot this season, at 27.1 percent from the field and 12 percent from three-point range. As a result, he owns the worst True Shooting mark (37.5 percent) of any perimeter player with at least 150 minutes this season; league-wide, only stone-handed bigs Reggie Evans (27.1 percent), Darko Milicic (33.8 percent), and Greg Monroe (35.2 percent) are worse.
- Dwight Howard wants to get more friendly with NBA referees.
- Howard gives Brandon Bass a shout-out on his official blog: “Today, I want to give a shout out to my main man, Brandon ‘Black’ Bass. He’s finally getting to play this season and he’s doing a lot of good things off the bench to help us. The thing about Black is that he plays so hard and that’s what we need out of him. When he does that we play really well. We’re really good friends and we hang out a lot together off the court. I know he was frustrated last season when he wasn’t playing, but he’s doing a better job of focusing on his defense and rebounding now.”
- Howard visits the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and there’s video of it.
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy is thoroughly impressed with Mickael Pietrus‘ defense — for now.
- Zach Lowe of The Point Forward on the Magic’s slow start on offense: “The Magic rank just 18th in points per possession after finishing in the top five last season. Your initial instinct might be to dismiss the early drop as the product of a temporary cold-shooting streak. J.J. Redick and Quentin Richardson are both shooting under 30 percent, and Rashard Lewis is barely trumping them at 37 percent. Those numbers will correct themselves soon. Lewis, though, bears watching. He’s 31, and he is coming off the worst season of his career save for his rookie year. His field-goal percentage has declined every year since 2005-06, and his defense this season has looked shakier than ever, regardless of whether Stan Van Gundy has played at him small forward or power forward. About that positional tinkering: I at first chalked it up as a smart move by Van Gundy to make Orlando’s offense less predictable by occasionally shifting Lewis to the 3-spot and integrating both Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson. But I’m wondering now if it might be Van Gundy’s way of acknowledging that Lewis is not the same player he was two seasons ago. If that’s the case, the foundation of Orlando’s offense might be in jeopardy. This is a team that succeeds in part by surrounding Dwight Howard with long-range shooters, and Lewis’ ability to provide prolific three-point shooting at power forward has been critical to that philosophy. If he can no longer do that reliably, Orlando has more tinkering to do than we thought — unless Anderson can secure consistent playing time and do the job.”
- Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider breaks down Orlando’s poor three-point shooting.
Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images
There’s been a lot of talk about Dwight Howard‘s improvements on offense and the praise is well-deserved, but there’s another player for the Orlando Magic that has improved this year as well. So far, at least.
His name is Brandon Bass.
Bass received a lot of criticism last season for several reasons.
First, Bass was not a natural fit in the Magic’s 4-out/1-in offensive scheme, given that his game on offense centered around the mid-range jumper. And as efficient as Bass was with his jumpshot, he wasn’t a more potent option offensively than Rashard Lewis or Ryan Anderson because he wasn’t, and still isn’t, a three-point shooter. As such, Bass had to make up for his stunted level of production on offense in another way. Second, and this segues to the next point, Bass’ defense wasn’t very good. Bass made it tough for Van Gundy to utilize him on the floor because Bass would routinely miss rotations, display a lack of awareness with his positioning on the court, and blow pick and roll coverages. There’s more, but that’s a start. Another problem was that Bass was barely above the league-average in total rebound rate. Although Bass had a knack for crashing the offensive glass, that veracity didn’t translate to the other side of the ball. Because of all these factors, Bass didn’t play a lot and that irked a lot of Magic fans that wanted to see him play.
Thing is, the only way that could happen was for Bass to improve on his defending and rebounding responsibilities. Then, and only then, would Bass merit the playing time that he desired. It’s the same thing that J.J. Redick had to deal with a few years ago when he was trying to get off the bench and make an impact.
Van Gundy gave Bass a simple task — improve on defense, rebound the basketball better, and he’ll play more.
Needless to say, Bass has answered the call. Certainly it’s helped, also, that Van Gundy is utilizing Lewis more at the small forward position, which has allowed Bass to get more minutes than he may have gotten last season.
But still, Bass’ improvement defensively is borderline astounding.
That’s not hyperbole.
Photo by Gary Bassing
Via the Orlando Magic:
Magic guard Chris Duhon, Magic players, STUFF The Magic Mascot, Magic Dancers, Magic staff
Chris Duhon Stand Tall Against Hunger Food Delivery
Orlando Magic guard Chris Duhon will deliver the food collected at the Stand Tall Against Hunger food drive. The delivery will include Duhon, STUFF the Magic mascot, Magic Dancers and closes out a 12-day food drive that took place at Magic home games and all Central Florida FAIRWINDS Credit Union locations from November 4-15.
Fans were encouraged to donate non-perishable food items for Central Florida families in need at all Orlando Magic home games at Fan Fest and Central Florida FAIRWINDS locations.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida
1918 W. Princeton Street, Orlando, 32804
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic would do themselves a favor if they take mental pictures of what happened Monday night and carry those snapshots the rest of this season. They’d see Mickael Pietrus diving to the floor to bust up an opponent’s fastbreak. They’d envision Marcin Gortat rolling around on the parquet to grab a loose ball. They’d visualize Jameer Nelson taking a charge in garbage time. The Magic will be onto something if they reproduce the intensity they used to smother the Memphis Grizzlies 89-72 at Amway Center. After playing horrid defense for parts of five straight games, Orlando finally overwhelmed another team. […] Memphis shot just 36 percent from the field, a performance so abysmal that Grizzlies players held a players-only meeting in the visitors’ locker room after the final buzzer. Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph, the team’s top scorers, finished with just nine points apiece. Orlando’s suffocating defensive effort covered up plenty of miscues.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Magic have been doing things differently to begin a regular season, and even coach Stan Van Gundy concedes it could cause them to “take a step back.” Stan obviously is talking temporarily, maybe a game here or there where experimenting with lineups or rotations costs them a win, unwittingly. The Magic have been lacking in the player-development department. But that doesn’t mean Van Gundy isn’t interested in winning every game. It’s in his DNA. Van Gundy says securing home-court advantage in the playoffs is still huge, maybe not critical, but you’d still rather play more times at Amway Center. […] Sounds like we’re getting about six months ahead of ourselves. But I bring this up because the Memphis Grizzlies were in town on Monday night, and the Magic couldn’t afford to have a Toronto Raptors flashback. They need to win games like this because they should, for one. And because they all add up at the end of the year to home-court in the playoffs, perhaps.”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “This morning, Vince Carter said the Orlando Magic had a noticeable focus on defense. It was certainly noticeable in Monday night’s 89-72 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. The Magic held the Grizzlies to 72 points on 94 possessions, forced 18 turnovers and kept the Grizzlies’ shooting percentage at just 36.3 percent. It was a dominant defensive performance for Orlando, made especially sweet because they’ve struggled so much on defense over the past week-and-a-half. Orlando’s perimeter players were more active with their hands, pressing Memphis’ guards, slapping at the ball and contesting every jumper. That was no accident. That was Orlando’s focus entering the game. The end result: a 76.6 offensive rating for the Grizzlies — almost 30 points lower than their season average of 104.9 — and a dominating victory for the Magic.”
- Dan Savage of OrlandoMagic.com: “Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy challenged his team this week to bring an increased effort on the defensive end and live up to their billing as a shutdown squad. On Monday, the Magic gave their coach the performance he was looking for. The Magic stifled the offensive-minded Grizzlies, limiting them to just 36.3 percent shooting from the field in a hard-nosed 89-72 home victory. […] Despite continued offensive struggles, the Magic battled against human nature and brought a high level of intensity on the defensive end right from the start. They pressured the ball, forcing Memphis to commit 10 first-quarter turnovers and limiting them to just 12 points in the period, a season-low for a Magic opponent. It was a rude awakening for Grizzlies team that came in to the contest averaging 104.6 points per game, seventh-best in the NBA.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “To stymie an offense as potent as Memphis’ is quite an achievement, especially considering the rather complex defensive rotations the Magic made. Orlando doubled Randolph from the weak side on each of his post touches, thus putting pressure on Randolph to give the ball up, but also pressuring the remaining defenders on the weak side to make the right reads. And Orlando, which rarely double teams, executed this help-and-recover scheme to near perfection throughout the night. To be fair, Memphis did its part by missing shots. But the point is the Magic disrupted its offense, time and again, and the young team struggled to get quality looks as a result. Defense keyed the Magic’s win tonight, just the way coach Stan Van Gundy prefers, I believe.”
- Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal: “The Memphis Grizzlies arrived here as if they were construction workers contracted to complete Amway Center, the new home of the Orlando Magic. Laying brick after brick after brick, the Griz put on one of the worst displays in the opening quarter and continued their offensive malaise Monday until the clock mercifully ran out on an 89-72 loss to the Magic. From there, they turned into armchair psychologists. The Griz (4-7) tried to connect on what’s ailing them in the form of a players-only meeting that immediately followed their third straight loss. If it seems a bit soon for a meeting of the minds, then the Griz at least made clear that the talk was constructive.”