- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Jason Williams will return to the Orlando Magic. The 34-year-old free-agent point guard has signed a contract with the team, Magic officials announced Tuesday afternoon. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it is believed that Williams agreed to a one-year deal. Magic President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith did not return a phone call from the Sentinel for comment. Williams is now 13th player on the Magic roster with a guaranteed contract. The league-mandated roster minimum is 13, so the Magic almost certainly are done making any more free-agent signings.”
- More from Robbins: “We all know that Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy doesn’t like his team playing on Christmas. Van Gundy has said he’d like to see the league take a five-day break around the holiday. In a few hours, we should learn whether Van Gundy and the Magic will be playing on Christmas for the third consecutive year. At 7 tonight, NBA TV will air a special in which the NBA’s nationally televised games for the opening week of the 2010-11 season, Christmas and Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be released. Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel has already reported that the Miami Heat will host the Magic on Oct. 29.“
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com has more on Jason Williams’ return.
- With 10 seconds remaining in the game, the Orlando Magic are down one and have possession of the basketball in the front court. Who gets the last shot? Vote here!
- Looking back at the Shaquille O’Neal-Hakeem Olajuwon matchup in 1995.
- John Krolik of ProBasketballTalk: “There are plenty of guys who can teach Olajuwon post moves, even the post moves Olajuwon himself used. The trick is finding a way to give Howard the confidence to actually use those moves in a game, which is what a great ex-player like Olajuwon can do for Howard. Howard has unmatched strength and explosiveness for a big man, and he’s extremely comfortable using his left hand around the basket. If he can add some footwork and counter-moves to his arsenal, he could easily win his first MVP award next season.”
- Remember Williams’ alley-oop to Mickael Pietrus in Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Atlanta Hawks? Now you do.
- Eric Freeman of The Baseline continues to think the Magic are too loaded: “Williams seems to understand that he’s the third point guard in Orlando, and John Denton also notes that the Magic “never wavered” in their desire to bring him back. So this seems to be a match where each side understands the relationship. At the same time, Williams was quite solid for the Magic last season and is only a third point guard at this point in his career because his body can’t handle the regular pounding of the full backup role. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how Stan Van Gundy might sometimes opt to play Williams as the backup rather than [Chris] Duhon. If that happens, how will Duhon react? He was brought in to be the backup, and he has almost certainly adjusted his expectations for the season accordingly. So if Williams often plays that role, will Duhon be upset? This has become a regular problem in Orlando. Players like Marcin Gortat and Brandon Bass entered last season with certain expectations given their large contracts and barely saw the floor. Now they want to be traded, and it’s easy to see Duhon in the same place, even if he’s not on the same level as those two.”
- Olajuwon is keeping “The Dream” alive with Dwight Howard and company.
- Orlando has sold more than 14,000 season tickets.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post with the specifics of J.J. Redick‘s contract: ”More details about the Orlando Magic’s salary structure, specifically about J.J. Redick’s front-loaded contract, have emerged thanks once again to the indefatigable Mark Deeks of ShamSports.com. Deeks just updated his NBA salary database again, and his latest addition includes Redick’s previously unknown salary. We now know that Redick is owed $7.25 million this season, $6.75 million in 2011/12, and $6.19 million in 2012/13, for a total of $20.19 million. But there’s a previously unreported wrinkle to consider: the third year of that deal, which he originally received from the Chicago Bulls before the Magic matched the offer, is unguaranteed. It will become guaranteed ‘if not waived on or before July 8, 2012.’ ”
- Pro Basketball Prospectus 2010-11 will be released in late September or early October!
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Hakeem Olajuwon called Dwight Howard a scaredy cat.
His exact term was “afraid,” but still, calling out a big man like that is usually “fightin’ werds.”
Howard didn’t flinch. He listened, took things to heart.
I don’t know if Howard’s mentoring hook-up with Hakeem will be much ado about nothing or a pivotal turning point in his career. It’s certainly has made for some frisky blogosphere chatter about Hakeem’s influence on Howard, the scope of Patrick Ewing‘s ability to make Howard a better player, and whether Howard himself is committed to the cause.
We’ll find out shortly when the invites roll out for a new downtown arena, future home of the Orlando Magic and their championship dreams.
Right now, there’s good reason to be pumped up about the prospects. [...]
Howard said he worked with Hakeem for a week this offseason in Houston. They will connect again shortly as part of a team for the Basketball without Borders program in Senegal. Given the comparisons to ninjas and assassinations, it’s obvious that Hakeem is playing head games with Howard, in a very good way.
Another Hakeem Olajuwon update.
Unlike the Chris Paul rumors that are dormant for the time being, Howard teaming up with Olajuwon is a reality and not a dream. Howard has already spent time with Olajuwon in Houston, and it appears that he will continue to work with him as he heads off to Senegal for the NBA’s Basketball without Borders program.
For Magic fans, that’s music to their ears.
It’s no secret that the Eastern Conference has gotten considerably stronger in the off-season. The East is no longer top-heavy, with the emergence of the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls entering the fray as credible threats. The point is, the Orlando Magic will have a tough time trying to return to the NBA Finals.
And this is where Howard comes into play.
Given what’s at stake for the Magic, Howard must take his game 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 get where they want to go. 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 — this is where the ninja analogy enters the discussion. Howard proved a lot in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, averaging 22 points per game against Kendrick Perkins as well as Rasheed Wallace (two players he’s struggled to score against in the past) and having moments of brilliance. The hope for Howard, with the help of Olajuwon, is that he carries that momentum to next season and unleashes his fury on the league.
Howard is so close to reaching his zenith.
Can Howard fully evolve into a devastating two-way player? We’ll find out soon enough.
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic have re-signed free agent guard Jason Williams, General Manager Otis Smith announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal are not disclosed.
“Jason (Williams) played very well for us last season,” said Smith. “He provides veteran leadership to our backcourt and knows what it takes to win. We are happy to have him back on our team.”
Williams (#44, 6’1”, 190, 11/18/75) played in all 82 games last season for the Magic, averaging 6.0 ppg., 3.6 apg. and 1.5 rpg. in 20.8 minpg., while shooting .380 (84-221) from three-point range. He started in 18 outings, averaging 8.6 ppg., 5.1 apg., 2.7 rpg. and 1.11 stlpg. in 29.6 minpg. during that span. Williams ranked seventh in the NBA in assists-to-turnover ratio (3.43, 298/87). He also appeared in all 14 playoff games, averaging 2.6 ppg. and 1.6 apg. in 13.7 minpg.
Originally selected in the first round (seventh overall) of the 1998 NBA Draft, Williams has played in 761 career NBA regular season games with Sacramento, Memphis, Miami and Orlando, averaging 10.8 ppg., 6.0 apg., 2.3 rpg. and 1.21 stlpg. in 30.1 minpg. He has also played in 67 career playoff contests, averaging 8.3 ppg., 3.3 apg. and 1.9 rpg. in 25.9 minpg. Williams was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1998-99, currently stands as Memphis’ all-time leader in assists (2,041) and helped Miami capture the 2005-06 NBA Championship.
The [Orlando] Magic didn’t have to look very far to find their third point guard for this season.
Veteran Jason Williams, who has gone from flashy to steady in an 11-year career, will return for a second season after agreeing to terms on a new contract for the veteran’s minimum of $1.35 million.
Williams served as the backup to starter Jameer Nelson last season, but he is likely to play less with the addition of free agent Chris Duhon earlier this summer.
Williams, who went to the University of Florida and won an NBA title with the Miami Heat, has made Orlando his offseason home for several years.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “[Dwight] Howard’s stopover in Central Florida will be brief. He’ll be traveling to Senegal later this week to participate in a Basketball without Borders camp. He also is planning a trip to India to promote the NBA and a trip later this summer to work for a second time with Hakeem Olajuwon. In June, Howard worked out with Olajuwon in Texas. So, what did Howard get out of those workout sessions? ’Basically, what he was saying was I have to become a person that is not afraid to do anything on the floor,” Howard said. “He said right now there’s only certain parts of my game that I’m not afraid to do, but other parts I am. I have to be able to do all of those things, basically. That’s the biggest thing I took from him. I just think he was watching and seeing me play for a while,’ Howard added later. ”All the things we worked on, he was just wondering why I never used those things in a game. He saw all the things that I could do, and he was very impressed. He said that I cannot be afraid to do all these things.’ ”
- Brendan Suhr, former assistant coach of the Orlando Magic when Chuck Daly roamed the sidelines, joins the UCF’s men’s basketball program.
- Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse: “Just because basketball fans around the world have become enamored with the star-studded Miami Heat doesn’t mean Magic center Dwight Howard will be joining in the fun, too. He is tired of the topic.Much like his team CEO did a few days before, Howard refused to bow down before the Three Kings of Miami Monday, expressing some of the same skepticism that others around the league have shown.”
- No. Really. Dwight Howard doesn’t want to talk about the Miami Heat.
- Howard’s chase-down block of Rajon Rondo in Game 5 of the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals in video. Enjoy.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com catches up with Superman: “Howard has done a lot of stuff to take his mind off basketball after the Magic fell short in their bid to return to the NBA Finals and win a championship. Orlando swept Charlotte and Atlanta in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but fell behind 3-0 to Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals and eventually lost in six games. In the time since the end of the season, Howard traveled to Beijing, Cheng Du and Shenyang, China and Taipei, Taiwan conducting clinics, playing pickup basketball and judging dunk contests as a part of promotional tours for the NBA, Amway and Adidas. Thousands of people mobbed almost every event just to get a peek at the Magic’s 6-foot-11, 270-pound superstar, so much so that one event that 200 security personnel were needed. [...] Up next for Howard is a journey to Senegal as part of the Basketball Without Borders program. It is there that he hopes to meet up with Olajuwon once again. Howard drilled with Olajuwon for five days in June in Houston, working on footwork and low-post drills. Olajuwon, a Hall of Famer and two-time NBA champion, has served as somewhat of a mentor to Howard, giving him advice at times late last season and motivation for the future.”
- Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com talks about rivalries.
Dwight Howard was back in his hometown Friday, thrilling a group of kids from the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Atlanta who had no idea the Orlando Magic star and Atlanta native was coming for lunch. But before he took questions, he had one request.
“Please, no questions about the Miami Heat,” he said. “I was just over in China for two weeks and that’s all I heard: ‘What do you think about LeBron?’”
Nonetheless, Howard granted this corner of the blogosphere a few minutes to discuss a few items of interest to Atlanta fans: The Heat, the Hawks and Shaquille O’Neal. [...]
On fans conceding the Eastern Conference to the Heat, following the free agent signings of James and Chris Bosh and the re-signing of Dwyane Wade: “We don’t think about it like that. They’ve still got to play games. It looks good on paper. It looks good playing a video game. But this is real life. We’re looking forward to playing them. They’re going to be a real good team but that doesn’t mean they’re going to win a championship.”
A little late with this one.
The purpose of this post isn’t to provide commentary on Dwight Howard’s comments, but instead expand upon his thoughts on the Miami Heat and their potential as a team next season. The games won’t start until late October, when the 2010-2011 NBA regular season gets underway, but that hasn’t stopped a number of statisticians from crunching the numbers and coming up with various projections for how the Heat may fare. Despite the inherent differences in the systems, adjusted plus/minus, statistical plus/minus, PER, and WARP come to similar conclusions.
Miami is going to be good.
– Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, using statistical plus/minus:
Like Hollinger, we’ll be conservative with the expected values next season… Let’s give LeBron a +11 (which would be his lowest since 2006-07), Wade a +8 (basically what he did in 2006), and Bosh +3 (a little less than his mark from 2009). Also, we’ll use -3 as our replacement-player value, so we’ve got 3,100 minutes of James at +11, 2,850 minutes of Wade at +8, 2,600 minutes of Bosh at +3, and 11,130 minutes of -3 replacement-level ballers. How many games would that team win?
Doing the math, that allocation of minutes works out to a projected +7.95 efficiency differential. Wanna know which team had at least a +7.95 differential last season? Only one: the Orlando Magic, who were +8.12. Traditionally, a +7.95 differential buys you 61 wins, which is actually exactly what Hollinger came up with. So in the absolute worst case, the Heat win 61 games next season with their Big Three, and are the best team in the East, if not the league. And what if they merely play at last year’s levels?
Expect a +10.6 differential, which equals 68 wins.
… and adjusted plus/minus:
APM paints an even rosier picture for the “Holy Trinity” (or whatever we’re going to call them)… Last year, James had a +18.52 rating, 2nd only to Dwight Howard, and Wade was 4th with +16.09, while Bosh had “only” a +6.97 rating. Mark them down for even +10, +6, and +5, respectively (their 5-year low-water marks when healthy), and with Hollinger’s expected minutes this team would have a +7.0 differential, good for 59 wins. And remember, that’s if they are as bad as they’ve been in 5 years, surrounded by nothing by the cream of the NBDL’s crop.
If they play like they did last year, the Heat’s differential would be a monstrous, Redeem Team-esque +21.2, which I can’t even give a wins estimate for because it breaks the linear equation that relates efficiency differential to winning % (it would have them winning more than 100% of their games). No team has ever had that kind of performance in the history if the NBA, meaning there is a pretty decent chance they’d obliterate the ’96 Bulls’ record for most wins in a season.
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Mark Deeks, who runs the indispensable ShamSports.com, has updated that site with nearly complete salary information on every NBA team, including the Orlando Magic; the only Magic contract figure on which he’s unsure is J.J. Redick‘s. That’s the link you should consult for every salary-related need you have, and not just for the Magic. Not counting Redick’s salary, the Magic are on the hook for over $85 million this season, and that’s before adding the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax payment. Orlando management is indeed shelling out to put a winning team on the floor this season.
There’s no question that it’s a great time to be a Magic fan, now more than ever. The Orlando Magic are set to unveil the Amway Center in October. Dwight Howard is a top five player and one of the more engaging personalities in the NBA. The players for the Magic are a likable group of guys, led by a fiery head coach — Stan Van Gundy – and an excellent coaching staff. But almost none of this would be possible without Orlando’s front office that has shown the commitment to win. And the Magic are chasing the ever-elusive “gold ball” (the Larry O’Brien trophy), as president of basketball operations Otis Smith likes to put it sometimes, by opening up the checkbook with Rich DeVos’ blessing. Five years ago, it would have been unheard of for Orlando to financially support a payroll that is more than $90 million. Yet that is today’s reality. My how things have changed.
Don’t take anything for granted, though.
The golden era of the Magic is going to go away, sooner or later. It’s happened once, and it’ll happen again. Nevertheless, savor the moment.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
This offseason has been all about blood, sweat and tears for Ryan Anderson.
The [Orlando] Magic forward, who’s about to enter into his third NBA season, recently emerged from the RDV Sportsplex training room with blood dripping down his brow. He’d been intensely working out all day and finally fatigue caught up with him. During an early afternoon lifting session, he banged a weight off the top of his nose, splitting the lower part of his brow.
While that incident might force some players to call it quits, Anderson paid it no mind and ventured off to his third workout session of the day, boxing at a local gym.
After all, It’s now become habitual this offseason for Anderson to take part in a vigorous three-a-day training routine that features lifting, shooting and various cardio/core workouts. [...]
The 22 year old has a lot he wants to accomplish before the start of Orlando’s 2010-11 campaign, including physically developing his body to help him battle with some of the stronger players at his position.
There’s no question that Ryan Anderson is doing everything he possibly can to make his summer a productive one from a basketball standpoint. And it’s great to see that Anderson is trying to get stronger with the help of strength and conditioning coach Joe Rogowski — a name Magic fans should become more familiar with. In a recent edition of Magic Basketball Mailbag, a reader asked me what Anderson should work on in the off-season. My answer? Anderson needs to get stronger, more so to aid in his efforts defensively, and that’s what he’s doing. Smart.
People should be excited to see the end result of Anderson’s hard work, especially with Rogowski pushing his body to the limits every day. One of Rogowski’s claim to fame was his ability to chisel out a muscular physique for J.J. Redick, who now has the proper frame to handle the rigors of playing in the NBA.
The potential is there for Anderson to be stronger than ever, too.
If Anderson can put that new-found muscle to good use against opposing power forwards and battle them effectively one-on-one, where he tends to struggle the most defensively (his team defense is fine), then he’s going to see plenty of time on the floor given his tremendous ability to score in a variety of ways on offense.