Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 201

Oct 05

Recap: Orlando Magic 97, Houston Rockets 88

AP Photo/Delcia Lopez

BOX SCORE

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.

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Oct 05

Preview: Orlando Magic at Houston Rockets

8:30 EDT | Sun Sports
59-23 @ 42-40
Pythagorean Record: 61-21 Pythagorean Record: 40-42
Pace: 92.0 (18th) Pace: 94.0 (6th)
Offensive Rating: 111.4 (4th) Offensive Rating: 107.6 (16th)
Defensive Rating: 103.3 (3rd) Defensive Rating: 108.0 (17th)
State Farm Arena | 2010-2011 NBA Preseason Opener

Oct 05

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • 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.

Oct 05

Magic Basketball Featured in Pro Basketball Prospectus 2010-11

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Fernando Medina/NBA/Orlandomagic.com

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.

Oct 05

Interview With Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference

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Kristy Cannon/Orlandomagic.com

The statistical revolution in the NBA continues to evolve, but one person that’s been at the forefront of the new wave of numbers and deserves more limelight is Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference.

Paine is one of the brightest minds in the APBRmetrics community, with some of his most notable contributions including the introduction of statistical plus/minus — which was a regression invented by Dan Rosenbaum — to a widespread audience and daily upkeep of the BBR Blog that includes a lot of insightful analysis of the NBA (including some articles that have sparked intense debate).

I’m also proud to say that I’ve collaborated with Paine in the past, conducting some quick-and-dirty research on Grant Hill and the ‘what if’ scenario involving the Orlando Magic. Click here for more information if that description is either interesting, vague, or both.

I’ve interviewed Paine in the past, but this is the first time I’ve conducted a Q/A with him since Magic Basketball was born nearly seven months ago. As always, it’s a pleasure to chat with Paine and gather his musings whenever possible.

A few days ago, I was able to ask Paine a few questions about the Magic, how they stack up against the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference, and more.

_______

A lot of people have said that the Orlando Magic matchup favorably with the Miami Heat because Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard are superior to their counterparts on the other side of the coin, assuming that either Carlos Arroyo or Mario Chalmers is the starter at point guard. What’s your take on that? Is that advantage enough to overcome the enormous advantages the Heat have at the other three positions?

The Magic definitely have certain areas where they are stronger than the Heat, and Dwight Howard in particular creates an interesting matchup for a Miami team that (I’m assuming) is going to be one of the most aggressive rim-attacking squads of all-time. One major question is whether Howard has improved his ability to make a defensive impact without fouling; if so, his presence inside could alter Miami’s game plan and take them away from some of their strengths. As for point guard, I’m not entirely sure [Jameer] Nelson‘s advantage matters so much as long as Miami finds somebody who can defend the position, because on offense LeBron is basically going to be their de facto PG.

The biggest advantage Orlando has is that they have a strong defense — led by a truly great defensive coach — which could possibly serve as the antidote to Miami’s #1 strength, their all-world offense. And at the other end of the court, the Magic have a solid offense that could take advantage of Miami’s biggest unknown quantity, their D.

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Oct 04

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Have the Orlando Magic improved? Did Dwight Howard diversify his offensive game over the summer? Will free-agent signees Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon make a positive impact? We’ll begin to find out at 8:30 Tuesday night. The Magic will open their preseason schedule against the Houston Rockets in Hidalgo, Texas, a city just a few outlet passes from the Mexico border. [...] Much has been made about Howard’s summertime workout sessions with Hakeem Olajuwon. Tonight, Howard might unveil some nuances to his offensive game. Howard will face a formidable obstacle when he matches up against 7-foot-6 Rockets skyscraper Yao Ming. Olajuwon told Howard not to be afraid to try new things on the court, so don’t be surprised if Howard attempts a few midrange jumpers and perhaps a few turnaround jumpers.”
  • More from Robbins: “J.J. Redick played extended minutes during the 2009 playoffs, and the momentum from that experience carried over into the 2009-10 regular season. The shooting guard now hopes for a repeat of sorts. He played well during the 2010 playoffs, and he feels confident as a new season approaches. Still, Redick did not ease up this offseason, despite his new three-year, $19 million contract. He was back in the gym the day after he and his wife returned from their honeymoon in Europe. Redick focused on his ball-handling and on in-between shots like floaters and runners. He also did Pilates twice a week, and he said he feels stronger.”
  • Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel keeps track of Brandon Bass‘ progress on defense in training camp. This is a storyline to keep an eye on.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Everybody and their uncle has been asking Dwight Howard to expand his game. Well, Dwight says he will be adding something new to it: Silence. Howard had clearly expanded his game the past few seasons to include more barking at the referees. At times, his complaining has been dominating, impressive in its sheer volume and startling accumulation of technical fouls. It has become as much a part of his arsenal as his mighty array of dunks, blocks and Twitter followers, for crying out loud. With the NBA police vowing to crack down on the players’ behavior with the refs, Howard said Sunday that he’ll try harder to bite his tongue and downsize his demonstrative debates. This is a good thing.”
  • Head coach Stan Van Gundy on Ryan Anderson: “He’s physically just an entirely different player than he was a year ago. I think that Ryan’s got a chance to be a guy in this league that can get 15 [points] and eight [rebounds] on a nightly basis. He’s a hell of a rebounder. He’s got great offensive instincts. The offensive end of the court comes pretty easily to him.”
  • For Rashard Lewis, pre-season basketball is important for him to build momentum.

  • Van Gundy hasn’t set the rotation for tomorrow’s game against the Houston Rockets.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk provides commentary on Howard’s vow to complain less.
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post with a must-read article about his tour of the Amway Center on Friday: “The Magic and the City of Orlando didn’t waver in their vision for this facility. Small touches inextricably link the building to the Central Florida area, including artwork based on the orange-crate labels of local citrus growers, as well as the aforementioned Church Street Station decorations in Jernigan’s, which itself owes its name to the city. Further, 120 local companies participated in the project, including thirteen from the Parramore community. The point here, in this post, is that Amway Center is truly a special facility whose ties to the area go beyond the superficial.”
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider forecasts the upcoming season for each player on the Orlando Magic roster. Hollinger is particularly bullish on Anderson, and for good reason: “Keep an eye on this guy — I’ve always thought of him as a poor man’s Troy Murphy, but he was better than Murphy last season on a per-minute basis. In fact, Anderson nearly led the team in points per 40 minutes, finishing 0.1 behind [Vince] Carter and ahead of Howard. While Anderson got lost in the Magic’s deep frontcourt in the second half of the season, his acquisition was an underrated heist by Orlando as a sidebar to the VC trade. As a matter of fact, both Anderson’s shooting and per-40-minute rebounding were dramatically better than those of the man starting ahead of him, Rashard Lewis. Only his defensive shortcomings kept him on the bench. Anderson shot 37 percent on 3s while taking more than half his shots from distance, and he shot a respectable 50.3 percent on 2s as well — something he had struggled with as a rookie. If he continues scoring and plays even remotely acceptable defense, the Magic need to seriously upgrade his playing time.”

Oct 04

Amway Center Community Open House Draws Approximately 45,000 Residents

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Gary Bassing/Orlando Magic

Via the Orlando Magic:

Approximately 45,000 Central Floridians attend the Amway Center community open house on Saturday, October 2, 2010.  The event was free and open to the public and gave Orlando residents a first-hand look at the multiple fan amenities and state-of-the-art technology at the new Amway Center.

Central Floridians peruse the Orlando Magic Team Shop presented by adidas during the Amway Center community open house on Saturday, October 2, 2010.  The event was free and open to the public and gave Orlando residents a first-hand look at the multiple amenities and state-of-the-art technology at the new Amway Center.

Oct 04

Watch Out for Mickael Pietrus This Season

Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:

When Mickael Pietrus got word this summer that Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was flying to Paris to chat with him, the good-natured, but sometimes quirky Magic swingman got somewhat worried. After all, it was Pietrus who vowed that he would be “sleeping with one eye open,” this summer because he feared an offseason trade that would have him playing elsewhere.

But much to Pietrus’ delight, he and Van Gundy spent much of their time in the City of Lights munching on French pastries. They met with Pietrus’ family, they joked and made small talk and even took a brief tour of some of the tourist sights in Paris. And in the midst of the get-to-know-you-better session, they even talked some basketball.

For Pietrus, a thoughtful type who deeply values friendship and family, the visit from Van Gundy meant everything to him. And it’s the Magic who are now reaping the benefits with Pietrus feeling fully welcomed to the Magic and playing as well as any wing player in training camp. His eyes light up when up the topic turns to his meeting with Van Gundy and the effect it had on his mindset.

“It meant so much to me. I’m not going to lie to you, I was very surprised that he came,’’ said Pietrus, a native of the French-speaking Caribbean island of Guadeloupe and a Paris resident in the offseason. “What I liked about it was that when coach came to Paris it wasn’t like we were talking about why I wasn’t playing more or why I was only getting a few shots. It was about coach coming to see me like a member of my family. I showed him how people love me in France. I took him on a tour of France. We ate a little French cake.”

“We talked about basketball and the upcoming season,’’ Pietrus said. “I’ve never had a problem with coach, to me he’s a great coach and he’s a part of my family. We’ve always had a great relationship, but we needed a deeper relationship.’’

That relationship has seemed to spark Pietrus and bring out the best in him so far. Van Gundy has talked openly to Pietrus about the need for him to shoot for becoming an All-Defense selection this season. He wants him to solve the mystery that has made him an erratic enigma at times in Orlando and become a consistent rock that the Magic can count on nightly.

It’s safe to say that Mickael Pietrus is going to be a very important player for the Orlando Magic this season, now more than ever. The argument behind whether or not Pietrus should start at small forward for the Magic is somewhat irrelevant. What matters is that Pietrus plays to the best of his abilities when he’s on the court.

Pietrus’ calling card, when he performs at his peak, is three-point shooting and defense. Pietrus, like the Bruce Bowen’s of the world, is a prototypical “three-and-D” player that is on the floor to provide the requisite perimeter defense required to slow down the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and other elite scorers in the NBA. And with the extremely harsh reality that the Miami Heat have the aforementioned James and Wade on their roster, while Paul Pierce and Kobe Bryant handle the main scoring duties for the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers respectively, it becomes clear that Pietrus’ defense will need to be at its best if the Magic want to beat these teams.

What’s fascinating is that head coach Stan Van Gundy, by making a visit to Paris during the off-season, may finally coerce all the latent potential that has resided in Pietrus since he arrived in the league in 2003.

Pietrus is a player with enormous physical gifts and athleticism, yet his worst enemy has been himself. Consistency, as well as the random injury here and there, has always been an issue for Pietrus, which is why it’s a pleasure to watch him play when he’s locked in on both sides of the ball (just watch the 2009 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers).

That’s the player the Magic need this season — a lights-out shooter and a rugged defender that makes the likes of James work hard for their points.

It’s early, but it’ll be interesting to see if Pietrus can transfer his “unbelievable” effort in training camp to the regular season when the time comes.

Pietrus is unequovically Orlando’s best perimeter defender and since last year, one of his goals has been to be named to the All-Defensive team.

Can Pietrus do it this year? Time will tell.

Oct 04

Orlando Magic Launch ElOrlandoMagic.com

Via the Orlando Magic:

The Orlando Magic have announced the launch of ElOrlandoMagic.com, the new and improved Spanish website which serves as the official source for the Hispanic community to obtain original content and coverage of the Magic, including in-depth game coverage, breaking news, features, video clips, photo galleries, podcasts and more.

In an effort to further connect to the growing Hispanic fan base in Central Florida, the new site features up-to-the-minute news articles, press releases and team information in Spanish.

The new site features a design and a homepage similar to OrlandoMagic.com. The look and functionality of the new site was a collaboration between the Orlando Magic’s web team and the NBA’s internet services team.

The new site will feature:

  • A clean design that makes the page easy to navigate.
  • An expedient and eye-catching navigation field that will include information about tickets, team, and community events.
  • A well-located news board that includes news articles, features and the latest press releases.
  • An area where fans can find information about upcoming contests, the latest photo galleries, Spanish podcasts by Magic radio broadcasters Joey Colón and Ramón Rivas and videos created for our Spanish community.
  • The homepage will feature a top story media player with in-depth coverage of all news related to the Orlando Magic, including feature articles, community events and blog postings.
  • Up-to-the-minute scores on recent games and information on upcoming Magic contests through our social media outlets including Twitter (@El_OrlandoMagic) and Facebook (Orlando Magic en Español), both updated in Spanish.
  • The most recent Twitter messages generated by ElOrlandoMagic.com poured directly onto a section on the homepage for quick and easy viewing.
  • A section that will showcase video analysis after each home game by Joey Colón.
  • A direct link to the Orlando Magic Team Store, presented by adidas, where visitors can purchase the latest Orlando Magic merchandise.
  • A direct link to the Spanish site for AmwayCenter.com

Oct 04

2010-2011 NBA Blog Previews: Central Division

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Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Enjoy.

Bucks: Brew HoopNBAMateSBNation Recap

Bulls: Blog-A-BullSBNation Recap

Cavs: Fear The SwordWaitingForNextYear

Pacers: Indy Cornrows

Pistons: DetroitBadBoysDetroit BasketballNeed4Sheed.comSB Nation Detroit

Recaps: All Previews

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