- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Gilbert Arenas walked into the Orlando Magic locker room Thursday afternoon and found a handwritten note sitting on his chair. It was from his new coach, Stan Van Gundy. Go out there and play your game. Don’t try to fit in. Push the ball. Arenas heeded that advice hours later, leading the Orlando Magic to a convincing 123-101 win over the team with the NBA’s best record, the San Antonio Spurs. […] Arenas scored 14 points, dished out nine assists and collected six rebounds in easily the best performance of his brief tenure with the Magic. The note helped. […] And, with starting point guard Jameer Nelson feeling sick, it was Arenas who provided the spark. Arenas entered the game late in the first quarter, with the Magic trailing 24-18, and made an almost immediate impact. The Magic cut the Spurs’ lead to 24-23 when Arenas dished to J.J. Redick for a 3-pointer. On Orlando’s next possession, Arenas swished a 20-foot jumper. On the possession after that, he drained a trey from the top of the arc to give Orlando a 28-26 lead. The Magic never trailed again.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “It was only one game, a big game given the circumstances, and maybe too early to draw conclusions. But you can see the writing. Not only on the wall, but on Stan Van Gundy’s clipboard. After six-plus seasons as Magic cornerstone with Dwight Howard, point guard Jameer Nelson probably saw what everyone else did. Gilbert Arenas has arrived (and didn’t set off any metal detectors). The only thing Arenas was packing Thursday night was an all-round game that sparked the Magic’s rout of the San Antonio Spurs. A Magic P.R. person came by in the third quarter to tell some of us media types that Nelson was sick, curious timing, given that Van Gundy had just pulled Nelson and he didn’t look happy. (He later played in the final period and didn’t appear to need Pepto-Bismol later). He might feel queasier today. Nelson could go from a full-time starter to a full-time bench player, all but completing a wholesale change in the Magic’s make-up after two trades.”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “Gilbert Arenas’ 14-point, nine-assist performance against the Spurs Thursday night showed what Arenas can bring to this team — energy, smart passing and the ability to score quickly and in bunches. And it was also the type of performance that made some wonder how long the Magic can keep him out of the starting lineup. When Stan Van Gundy was asked about Arenas potentially starting over Jameer Nelson, he responded, ‘Could it change? Sure.’ Arenas, however, didn’t leave so much wiggle room. ‘I’m coming off the bench,’ Arenas said. ‘Jameer’s starting and Jason [Richardson] … that’s the group. I’m coming off the bench and I do what I do. I don’t want to start. This team is too talented.’ ”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Gilbert Arenas came tearing off a screen and to his right he had Jason Richardson slashing along the baseline, to his left Hedo Turkoglu was positioned for a 3-pointer and down the middle Dwight Howard rolled to the rim. Arenas’ vision, the same one likely shared by Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith when he pulled off two blockbuster trades five days ago, finally came to fruition Thursday night, and a nationally televised audience and a sellout crowd at Amway Center got to witness it in all its glory. With Arenas sparking his new team with his shooting and playmaking, the Magic delivered their finest performance since adding four new players, throttling the red-hot San Antonio Spurs 123-101 in convincing fashion. Out of Washington and on a championship contender in Orlando, Arenas had to feel like a kid getting to open his Christmas presents early considering all of the weapons he had surrounding him.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “The potentially scary thought for the rest of the league is that the Magic have yet to reach their offensive ceiling. With more variety in their playbook and several offensive options, they’ll be among the league’s more difficult covers. But let’s not get carried away with ourselves, either: adding that variety, and becoming comfortable with it, will take a lot of time. Further, and as Van Gundy said, ‘we’re not going to be able to run up and down like that every night,’ so their games could get ugly without improved halfcourt offense. All that considered, tonight’s game demonstrates the frightening, ruthless efficiency with which the Magic can steamroll an opponent with their new roster, when given enough opportunities to push the pace.”
- Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News: “You could almost see a game like the Spurs’ debacle Thusday night in Orlando coming. A 10-game winning streak had masked the truth and caused many in Spurs Nation to gloss over how close some of those Spurs’ recent victories were — or some of the circumstances around them. Like beating Memphis when leading scorer Rudy Gay was out of the lineup. Or catching Phoenix without three new acquisitions were in the lineup. Or when Carmelo Anthony was missing from Denver’s lineup Tuesday night because of a death in his family. It finally caught up with them Thursday night when the new-look Orlando Magic blew the Spurs out with a convincing 123-101 victory that snapped San Antonio’s 10-game winning streak and also ended a four-game losing streak for the Magic.”
- Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News: “All-NBA center Dwight Howard, who remains the centerpiece of a team that was in the NBA Finals just two seasons back, was the most accurate of Orlando’s uncanny shooters. He made 11 of 13 shots and scored 29 points. He also grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked three shots, as well as changing several more that turned into Spurs misses. […] Howard had help from his new friends, especially Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson, the key pieces of the two separate deals Smith negotiated with the Wizards and Suns. Richardson, starting in the big-guard spot held by Vince Carter before the Dec. 18 deal, made 7 of 14 shots and scored 15 points, all in the first three quarters. Coming off the bench, Arenas scored 14 and added nine assists and six rebounds, altering the nature of a tight game with his play in the second and third quarters, when the Magic scored 34 and 35 points — both highs for Spurs opponents this season for those periods — to blow open a tight game.”
Badly needing a win, the Orlando Magic were able to defeat the San Antonio Spurs by the score of 123-101 in front of a nationally televised audience and sellout crowd at the Amway Center. The Spurs entered the game with the best record in the NBA at 25-3 and even though they were playing on a back-to-back, there was no question they were going to provide the Magic with a difficult test. Needless to say, with their reconstructed roster, Orlando passed with flying colors and were able to blowout an elite team. The Magic didn’t just win, they ran the Spurs into the ground — literally — and left no doubt on the scoreboard.
30 fast break points for Orlando.
That’s the number that tells the story.
The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as seven players scored in double-figures. Dwight Howard continued to play like an MVP, finishing with 29 points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks. Gilbert Arenas provided a spark off the bench as the sixth man, chipping in with 14 points, nine assists, and six rebounds. Brandon Bass and J.J. Redick each had 17 points, buoyed by efficient marksmanship from the perimeter. Jason Richardson had 15 points. Hedo Turkoglu had a simple but effective game with 11 points and six assists. And making his return from a sprained right foot, Ryan Anderson contributed with 10 points.
It’s been a while but Orlando has a performance they can be proud of.
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic are averaging 7.9 fastbreak points per game, which is, by far, worst in the NBA. That statistic is mostly with Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter on the wings. With Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson, the Magic have a trio of wing players who can push the tempo and really get out into transition. The new players bring new talents and more offensive power, and they also should significantly change the style in which the team plays. The Magic are ranked 19th in pace at 91.3 possessions per game, but they should move up in the league rankings in that category. […] With Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis on the wings, the Magic played a slow brand of basketball and preferred to size up the defense before creating. Neither of those players are particularly fast, and they did most of their transitional work by shooting trailing three-pointers. Additionally, the only players that would bring the ball up the floor in fast-break situations were Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Chris Duhon and Jason Williams. If Lewis got a rebound, he’d look for one of the guards to pass off to. When Turkoglu gets a rebound, he’s comfortable dribbling the ball and pushing it himself. Same goes for J-Rich and Arenas. And all of those guys can receive an outlet pass from one of the big men if the situation is right.”
- Ryan Anderson is happy to be back from injury.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic will start Jameer Nelson at point guard, Jason Richardson at shooting guard, Hedo Turkoglu at small forward, Brandon Bass at power forward and Dwight Howard at center against the San Antonio Spurs tonight at Amway Center. Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said he’ll likely use that same starting lineup for the ‘foreseeable future.’ ”
- Daniel Orton‘s knee surgery was successful.
- Evan Dunlap of SBNation.com chronicles the Orlando Magic’s sharp decline: “The Magic’s record will worsen before it improves. They host the Spurs tonight and the Celtics on Christmas Day and have only held one practice to go with two walkthroughs since their Saturday trades. The five other elites, as well as the second-tier teams such as Chicago, Atlanta and Utah, figure to keep distancing themselves from Orlando as the season wears on. But if the team manages to make gradual improvements, it’s likely to “peak at the right time,” as analysts and fans love to say, heading into the playoffs. In that regard, the risky deals may prove worthwhile for the Magic, who weren’t headed anywhere fast with the group they had prior to the trades.”
- Dwight Howard is keeping his hopes up: “We play San Antonio tonight and then the Celtics on Christmas Day. It will be tough beating them because they have the best two records in the league, but I feel like we’re going to get our chemistry down pretty quickly with our new guys. I’ve been telling the guys to hang in there and be patient and and that things will turn for the better.”
- Should the Magic tried harder to acquire Andray Blatche in the Rashard Lewis trade? M. Haubs of The Painted Area thinks so: “Acquiring Blatche would have made the Arenas acquisition more palatable to me. I feel like the Magic needed to take a gamble on young guys with potential as part of their bounty.”
- A look back at Gilbert Arenas’ legacy with the Washington Wizards.
Photo by Gary Bassing
Via the Orlando Magic:
On Wednesday, December 22, Orlando Magic players Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass “decked the halls” of Central Florida providing youth and families with gift cards for shopping sprees, coats, toys and holiday cheer. The day began with Howard distributing gift cards to 100 kids from Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida for a holiday shopping spree with the All-Star center at Toys “R” Us. Howard then provided 100 children from Community Concept Services, Inc. (CCSI) with the opportunity to select a new coat, courtesy of Burlington Coat Factory. Following that, Nelson distributed gifts to two local families. Nelson, along with the help of his family, went shopping for the gifts on December 15 from wish lists the children provided. To close out the day, Redick, Anderson and Bass took 75 youth from Boys Town to Target for a personal holiday shopping excursion with the three teammates.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The person who now wears No. 15 for the Orlando Magic looks and sounds just like the guy who wore No. 15 during the team’s run to the 2009 NBA Finals. Same goatee. Same smile. Same accent. But which Hedo Turkoglu did the Magic receive in their recent blockbuster trade with the Phoenix Suns? Is he the same playmaker, deft ball-handler and clutch shooter who helped spark Orlando to the Eastern Conference title a year-and-a-half ago? Or is he the guy who has struggled since then with the Toronto Raptors and the Suns? […] So far, though, the jury’s out. On one hand, he reeled off eight assists in the Magic’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks the other night. On the other hand, in that same game, he also botched a fastbreak dunk attempt when he didn’t elevate high enough and he jammed the ball on the front of the rim. Turkoglu is 31 years old now, an age when many players’ physical skills begin a steady decline. But his game has never been predicated on jumping ability, quickness or sheer strength. Instead, he flourished under coach Stan Van Gundy because Van Gundy utilized Turkoglu’s height advantage and Turkoglu’s ability to make smart decisions on the fly. Magic officials hope that the 6-foot-10 Turkoglu can recapture that old form.”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “On Wednesday, for the first time in the Stan Van Gundy era, the Orlando Magic practiced on the day after a back-to-back. Usually when the Magic play games on consecutive days, they take the next day off to allow the players to rest their bodies. Not with the team’s current situation, though. As the Magic continue to integrate newcomers Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark into the system, Van Gundy felt his team needed the practice. It was the first practice the new guys participated in — they played games against Atlanta on Monday and Dallas on Tuesday without even going through as much as a three-man weave together.The new guys were grateful for the practice time.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic power forward Brandon Bass would love to receive a phone call on Christmas Day. The past, though, tells him not to count on hearing a ring. If Brandon has to pick up his cell and dial the number and be the one to say, “Merry Christmas,” then he will. He’ll do what it takes to reach out and connect with his dad. He’ll stay at it. He’ll work on it. It’s who Brandon is. It’s how he has survived sorrow and mean streets and long odds to make it to the NBA. He can power his way toward the basket, taking two, sometimes three, defenders with him for a dunk and earn the nickname, ‘Little Darryl Dawkins, Dark Chocolate Thunder,’ from teammate Dwight Howard. But when it comes to establishing a relationship with his father, Charles Joseph, he is powerless. A bond with his dad would complete an improbable life’s journey. He’s the missing piece. Bass has gone from living with eight kids in his aunt’s small house in a high-crime Louisiana neighborhood to becoming a multi-millionaire. He finally has found his footing with the Magic after stints in New Orleans and Dallas.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Hedo Turkoglu rested in his own bed Tuesday, met up later with old friends, hung out at his favorite lunch spot and then played before the fans who revered him once upon a time, booed him for a brief period and then showered him again with cheers. Back in Orlando a year-and-a-half after leaving to sign a $50 million free-agent contract with the Toronto Raptors, Turkoglu found out an important life lesson: Change isn’t always a good thing. He hopes that’s something the Magic, his former team and his new team again, believes as well. Turkoglu, who went through his first practice with the Magic on Wednesday following Saturday’s blockbuster trade and games against the Hawks and Mavericks, stressed that he never really wanted to leave Orlando in the first place. Now that he’s back, he couldn’t be happier.”
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “In his first game with the Washington Wizards since the Orlando Magic traded him for Gilbert Arenas, forward Rashard Lewis struggled. The two-time All-Star shot 4-of-10 from the field, including 0-of-5 on three-pointers, for 8 points in 22 minutes off Washington’s bench. He also added 3 rebounds, an assist, and a blocked shot. Lewis asked to be excused from the Wizards’ first game with him available, a 108-75 win over the Charlotte Bobcats, because he was not mentally prepared to play. Thus, he debuted tonight against the Chicago Bulls instead. As Michael Lee of the Washington Post writes, Wizards coach Flip Saunders says he intends to use Lewis at both forward positions, depending on matchups–something the Magic tried this season to mixed results.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Remember all those lofty goals the [Orlando] Magic always had high on their wish list to start a season? Best regular-season record, playoff seeding, home-court advantage. Well, the mission statement has changed dramatically. It’s not that the Magic won’t want to win every game, but there’s truly a bigger picture to evaluate now in the [Stan] Van Gundy era. Right now, after making two blockbuster trades, they are basically in a training-camp mode, just trying to find some cohesion with four new players. And more could be on the way as Orlando desperately needs another big man. The Magic might not have this thing totally squared away until, oh, the February all-star break.”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “Between the gun incident, the injuries, the injury faking and everything else that happened in Washington, Gilbert Arenas makes it no secret that he’s happy to no longer be with the Wizards. But it’s not just the off-the-court incidents that make him happy to be part of the Orlando Magic. It’s basketball, too. He’s surrounded by a collection of talent he’s never played with before in the NBA, but it’s even more than that. It’s the way the Magic play.”
- For the most part, Magic fans are energized with the trades that occurred on Saturday.
- Kevin McHale and Chris Webber, analysts on NBA TV, like the new-look Orlando Magic.
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post has locker room notes and commentary after the Magic’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks in last night’s game. Check it out.
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “The Orlando Magic clearly need time, space, maybe fewer back-to-backs, and a chance at not playing two pretty good teams before they can get things right again.”
- Hedo Turkoglu gets blocked by the rim on a dunk attempt.
- Eric Freeman and Bethlehem Shoals at NBA FanHouse debate the merits of whether or not it makes sense for Gilbert Arenas to pay tribute to Penny Hardaway by wearing No. 1 on his uniform. An excerpt from Shoals: “I don’t think there’s any risk here of Arenas becoming so great in Orlando that he’s the No. 1 retired — and at one point, that seemed the risk with McGrady. But I agree that this doesn’t really do much to keep Penny’s memory out there in public. When players wear No. 23 because of Jordan, they’re referencing a player who everyone still recalls vividly. There are players entering the league now who don’t know how ridiculous pre-surgery Penny was.”
- Will Arenas honor Hardaway’s number?
- NBA.com writers debate the Magic’s trades. John Schuhmann chimes in: “As someone who picked them to win the championship, I hope they’re better! There’s no clear explanation for why a team that was so good last season was playing so mediocre this year. If the trade invigorates Gilbert and Hedo, the Magic should be improved offensively, and that’s the area where they’ve really fallen off. The defense will likely suffer, but with Dwight [Howard] in the middle and Stan on the bench, they’re still going to be good on that end. So as long as the new guys play well, they will be better overall.”
Via the Orlando Magic
Photo by Fernando Medina
Two games since the Orlando Magic acquired Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu. Two losses.
Losing to the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks is nothing the Magic should be ashamed of, considering head coach Stan Van Gundy is trying to integrate three players on the fly in the middle of the regular season. In fact, Van Gundy is referring to the timeframe right now as training camp. But it’s easy to see why the frustration level is rising for Orlando — losses are piling up. After a 15-4 start to the year, a stomach virus, injuries, and trades have contributed to the Magic losing eight of their last nine games. Now Orlando is 16-12 and tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with the New York Knicks.
Needless to say, no one saw this coming.
And with the Magic still having to face off against the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics in the next four days, it’s safe to say that things are going to get worse before they get better.
Orlando is dealing with a murderer’s row schedule at a bad time. It’s not the worst time because the playoffs aren’t here yet. The Magic do have 54 games to right the ship and rest assured, they’re going to need each and every one of them to figure things out.
What once was a stout defense with Dwight Howard as the anchor is in shambles right now as Orlando waits for reinforcements to arrive and rebuild a frontline that is depleted at the moment. Not only that but the Magic are lacking for great, let alone elite, perimeter defenders with the departure of Mickael Pietrus.
General manager Otis Smith is gambling that Van Gundy and Howard are enough to rebuild a top five defense with Arenas, Richardson, and Turkoglu, along with any other newcomers that may be on their way before the trade deadline. If Turkoglu’s stifling defense on Dirk Nowitzki in last night’s game against the Mavericks is any indication, the gamble may pay off but it remains to be seen what happens in that department.
It’s a work in progress, but it’s clear that Orlando is going to be a handful offensively when things are clicking on all cylinders. Turkoglu’s synergy with Howard in the pick and roll remains intact, Richardson — as he gets acclimated in the Magic’s offense — poses a dynamic threat on the perimeter, and then there’s Arenas.
Well, Arenas is the wild card. Let’s put it that way. Arenas’ spirits are high, as he seems to be enjoying his new surroundings. But Smith traded for Arenas to produce, and that’s something he expects from him sooner than later. It’ll take some time, though, for Arenas to not only know the right moments to be aggressive on the offensive side of the ball but also how to effectively play with Howard, the type of dominant center he’s never played with before in his career.
That being said, the playmaking is there, the scoring is there, but the defense has some catching up to do. A lot of catching up to do, actually.
With the upcoming schedule, things aren’t going to be easy.