Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 202

Oct 19

The 1995 Houston Rockets: A Template For a Championship

Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

The blogosphere is a fascinating place. It really is. When people read something so profound, so enlightening, they want to share this newfound treasure they’ve found to the rest of the world. Or at least try. This is one of those cases.

At FreeDarko, some of the best writers in the NBA universe have been trying to “crack the mystery of Hakeem Olajuwon and his Rockets” for the past few weeks — the articles that have been written are all must-reads.

En lieu of the ongoing storyline regarding Dwight Howard‘s relationship with Olajuwon, today, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook and Nate Parham of SBN Seattle teamed up to compare the 1995 Houston Rockets and the 2010 Orlando Magic.

It’s a comparison that’s apt, but not perfect, because the Rockets executed a 4-out/1-in offensive scheme on their way to a seemingly improbable championship in 1995.

It’s not a perfect comparison because there are many subtle differences when comparing the Magic to their contemporaries. Houston had Olajuwon, one of the best centers in league history and a magician on offense. Clyde Drexler was a dynamic scorer and an underrated passer throughout his career. Robert Horry was, at that time, at his athletic peak and a versatile player on both ends of the floor. The differences between the two teams can be further broken down, but Pruiti and Parham explain things in much greater detail.

The one thing that stood out in the article, however, was this breakdown:

This begins to bring some clarity to what the Magic lost in Hedo Turkoglu, if that wasn’t already obvious. Although comparing [Vince] Carter, Howard, and [Rashard] Lewis to Drexler, Horry, and Olajuwon appears to make more sense on the surface, the playmaking ability of Turkoglu – and even that of Courtney Lee – made that Magic team far more comparable as a unit in terms of being able to knock down perimeter shots and creating scoring opportunities with ball movement.

An argument is made that the 2009 Magic, not last year’s team, compare more favorably to the ’95 Rockets primarily because of Turkoglu’s playmaking ability at the small forward position. This isn’t to say that Vince Carter isn’t a playmaker because he is, but his playmaking consists of scoring rather than passing. Of course, Carter’s role is determined largely by head coach Stan Van Gundy‘s needs and wants on the roster. More can be said, but make sure to read the analysis.

When critics argue that Orlando can’t win a title with an offensive philosophy that asks for four shooters to surround one low post presence, they seemingly forget the Rockets of yesteryear. It’s true that Howard is no Olajuwon and Houston relied less on three-point shooting, but many of the strategies are the same and that’s what matters when trying to make sense of the current Magic era. Of course, at the end of the day, it’s Howard continued development on offense that will determine if the comparison becomes a reality.

Oct 18

Recap: Orlando Magic 102, Atlanta Hawks 73

AP Photo/John Bazemore


The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Atlanta Hawks have a new head coach and a new philosophy on offense, but none it mattered.

Despite those subtle changes, the Orlando Magic were able to extend their pre-season winning streak to 20 games after defeating the Hawks by the score of 102-73. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, as five players scored in double-figures. The two individuals that stood out for Orlando were Dwight Howard and Brandon Bass. No, that is not a typo. Howard finished the game with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and one block while Bass had 17 points and eight rebounds. Perhaps one of the more interesting things to take away from the game was the attendance at Philips Arena. Atlanta drew a crowd of 7,571 people. To put that number in perspective, a crowd of 8,516 watched the Magic’s open practice on Sunday at the Amway Center.

I guess there’s better things to do in Hotlanta on a Monday night. In a sense, can’t blame the fans.

Moving on.

Let’s start things off with Howard.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 18

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Stan Van Gundy has conducted countless practices during his coaching career, but he rarely has held a team workout quite like the one that unfolded Sunday afternoon inside Amway Center. An announced crowd of 8,516 people streamed into the new building and watch the Orlando Magic run a 5-on-4 transition drill and scrimmage for about 50 minutes. The scene resembled a Midnight Madness event that major college basketball programs put on this time of year. Music blared over the arena loudspeakers as Van Gundy and his players stepped onto the main court. Orlando Magic Dancers waved pompoms. Fans cheered when a player unleashed a dunk or blocked a shot. […] Van Gundy wore a portable microphone, and even people who sat in the upper deck of the cavernous new building could hear his every word.”
  • Marcin Gortat likes when the Orlando Magic play tall ball: “I believe we can be really dangerous. Physically, I think we are one of the best in the league. I think the most important thing right now is just I’ve got to work on my game and just be consistent with everything I do.”
  • Maybe Vince Carter should pace himself during the regular season.
  • The Atlanta Hawks know that the Magic are their kryptonite.
  • More from Robbins: “Van Gundy said he’ll employ a starting lineup tonight of Jameer Nelson at point guard, Vince Carter at shooting guard, Quentin Richardson at small forward, Rashard Lewis at power forward and Dwight Howard at center. Lewis will also play some at the three, while both Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass will play at the four. Marcin Gortat will play primarily at center, especially during the first half. Point guard Chris Duhon and shooting guard J.J. Redick also are expected to receive playing time.”
  • Matt Moore of ProBasketballTalk wonders how long Brandon Bass will last in Orlando: “Bass has produced well. His defense is lacking but his real problem is that he’s in a system which doesn’t speak to his talents at all. He’s not a stretch-the-floor guy, he’s a post-player with a slight midrange. Another spot and he could wind up with the minutes he’s been chasing for years. The question is exactly when Orlando will call it quits on the Bass experiment and get some assets that they can use.”
  • A scout breaks down the Magic roster for ESPN Insider: “They could use a flat-out scorer off the bench, a Jamal Crawford-type to give them 16-18 points a night. They miss that punch. Vince Carter is not in the killer category. He gives you numbers but won’t buy into really being a good defender. And while he’s not a selfish guy, he’s a selfish scorer, a guy who dominates the ball when he gets it going. Because of Vince, I thought Rashard Lewis didn’t get enough touches last year. In the playoffs, Jameer Nelson’s lack of height and inability to bother opponents defensively hurts them. And then I’ve been told by players in that locker room that Stan Van Gundy’s act has worn thin. He’s a blatant yeller and screamer who’ll throw you under the bus in the press conference after a game. They’ve got too much pride to take the key out of the ignition, but there comes a time when a team completely stops listening to a coach, and I don’t think he’s far from that.”
  • Take that quote for whatever it’s worth.
  • John Schuhmann of attempts to figure out if Orlando is capable of making even more threes this season: “The Magic set a record for 3-pointers made in a season last year, connecting on 841 (10.3 per game). They then went and signed 3-point specialist Quentin Richardson to replace Matt Barnes. […] Still, the addition of Richardson, who was only outdone by James Posey (70.1 percent) and Keith Bogans (65.8 percent) when it comes to taking shots from beyond the arc, should have the Magic challenging their own record. In the preseason, the Magic have attempted 29.3 and made 11.3 threes per game, both increases over last season.”
  • According to one NBA scribe, the Magic are projected to finish second in the Southeast Division.
  • Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus recaps the Northern California Symposium on Statistics and Operations Research in Sports (NCSSORS for short): “To me, the more practical takeaway is the reminder that individual player ratings are a reflection of many things beside talent. Roles, coaching, motivation and noise all complicate the relationship between ability and performance. As a result, we have to assume a degree of variability in player ratings. Basically, player A has to rate a fair amount better than player B for us to be confident he is truly the superior player–to the extent such a judgment really exists.”
  • Is Bass increasing his trade value?
  • Ken Berger of “Howard has to back up his preseason promises and be more assertive and dominant. Basically, if Miami loading up in free agency doesn’t put Howard on a mission of total destruction, then nothing ever will. But the Magic have issues other than the Heat. First, they have to prove that they’ve recovered from — and have learned from — the thorough beating inflicted on them by the Celtics in the playoffs last spring. They can’t even begin to worry about Wade and LeBron until they put that disappointment behind them. If the Magic are going to take the next step and get back to the NBA Finals, they’re going to need more toughness on the floor. That has to start with Howard.”

Oct 18

Preview: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks

7:00 EDT | NBA TV
59-23 @ 53-29
Pythagorean Record: 61-21 Pythagorean Record: 54-28
Pace: 92.0 (18th) Pace: 90.1 (27th)
Offensive Rating: 111.4 (4th) Offensive Rating: 111.9 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: 103.3 (3rd) Defensive Rating: 106.7 (13th)
Philips Arena | 2010-2011 NBA Preseason

Oct 18

For Vince Carter, the Rim Looked Like an Ocean On Friday

Oct 18

Patrick Ewing Doesn’t Mind Hakeem Olajuwon’s Help

Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Via Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:

“We were fierce competitors,” [Patrick] Ewing said Saturday. “When Hakeem and I faced up, we wanted to kill each other.”

Ewing was only half-laughing.

Their careers have been intertwined, from college to the NBA. There is more respect between them than reverence, however.

Dwight Howard, innocently enough, has stepped right into the Ewing-Olajuwon rivalry to learn the game from two of the game’s best big men.

Ewing has had Howard under his considerable wing-span for the last three seasons as a Magic assistant coach.

Olajuwon cut in, so to speak. He contacted Howard during the playoffs and a relationship blossomed, leading to Dwight training five three-hour days with Olajuwon this summer.

If Ewing is bothered by either Howard seeking another big-man guru or by Olajuwon’s unsolicited advice, he doesn’t show it. […]

Ewing said all that matters is growing Howard’s game and keeping him on the hall-of-fame path already traveled by Pat and Hakeem.

This article was going to come, sooner or later. Once it became know that Dwight Howard worked out with Hakeem Olajuwon in Houston during the off-season for a week, one of the first questions asked was ‘what does Patrick Ewing think about this?’

Ewing, of course, is the assistant coach of the Orlando Magic and has been Howard’s mentor, of sorts, for the past three years. And any hardcore NBA fan knows that Ewing and Olajuwon have a history with each other — most notably in the 1994 NBA Finals, when Ewing’s New York Knicks faced off against Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets. The Rockets won the series in seven games and for Ewing, it would be the closest he’d get to winning a championship. So, in a way, it makes sense for someone to think that Ewing would disapprove of Howard working with Olajuwon. The rationale being that Ewing’s competitive edge would blind him to the idea of a competitor, a rival in the ’90s, helping one of his players. It’s encroachment. Yet at the same time, that line of thinking doesn’t make much sense. It’s Howard’s choice. Ewing is irrelevant in this conversation.

To be frank, Dan Savage of said it best about Ewing:

He wants Dwight Howard to improve his game as much as any other coach on the Magic and he’s encouraged Dwight, he’s helped Dwight reach out to these people, so I don’t think there’s any sort of controversy there between Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon. Patrick Ewing wants what’s best for Dwight Howard, he wants what’s best for this team and ultimately, I think Patrick wants to be a head coach in this league and the best way for Patrick to become a head coach in this league is for the Magic to win a championship and the best way for the Magic to win a championship is for Dwight Howard to become the best player he can be.

Which is why, for Magic fans, it’s reassuring to see that Ewing doesn’t mind that Howard sought out to learn from another teacher. In the end, it makes all too much sense in the world.

Oct 16

2010-2011 NBA Blog Previews: Southeast Division


Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images


Bobcats: Rufus on FireHoops AddictSBN Recap

Hawks: Peachtree Hoops

Heat: Peninsula Is

Magic: Orlando Pinstriped PostMagic BasketballOrlando Magic DailyOrlando Sports Central

Wizards: Bullets ForeverSparty and FriendsTruth About ItSBN Recap

Recaps: All Previews

Oct 15

Friday’s Magic Word

  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: Magic forward Malik Allen said he hadn’t thought about what happened to him in Orlando three years ago. And that, folks, is a good thing. A great thing, actually. It means Malik’s ticker is ticking like it should. Allen was with the Chicago Bulls in 2007 when he suddenly left the bench during the second quarter of a game against the [Orlando] Magic. He had developed an irregular heartbeat — heart arrhythmia — and had to be taken to an Orlando hospital for an eventual two-day stay after being evaluated by Magic team doctors. Cardiologists in Chicago later diagnosed his condition as atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia, affecting about 2.2 million Americans. Obviously, Allen passed all the tests and is fine today. He did reveal to me that he has only had to use medication once to blunt a mini-episode since that scary night in Orlando.”
  • Daniel Orton‘s knee is fine. Now he needs to lose weight.
  • Want to know why there was a lighting malfunction at the Amway Center last night? Here’s the answer: “Magic spokesman Joel Glass said that the arena’s main lights typically are shielded to darken the arena when the home starters are introduced. But Glass said someone on Thursday actually turned off the lights instead of covering them. The lights then had to cool off before they would illuminate again.”
  • More from Schmitz: “It’s no secret that Magic power forward Brandon Bass wants to find a place to play, whether it’s in Orlando or somewhere else. And the way he’s played lately, he might get his wish — and my guess is the Magic are only waiting for the right deal to come along. Bass is showcasing his talents for other teams, such as the Indiana Pacers, who need power-forward help. Trouble is, the Pacers want to give up Dahntay Jones or Solomon Jones. I can’t imagine the Magic being interested, unless the Pacers give up a first-round pick. Bass put together his second consecutive solid game Thursday night, and you know what was odd about it? Coach Stan Van Gundy started his second team and the rainy-day lineup didn’t include Bass. So he wasn’t even in the top 10.”
  • Interesting.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel assesses the Magic’s pre-season up to this point.
  • Get to know more about Jason Williams.
  • Brandon Bass has been improving, especially on defense.
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post chimes in on the impact Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon have been able to make for Orlando. Needless to say, Richardson and Duhon are glad they’re not with the Knicks anymore.
  • Some locker room observations from the Magic’s win against the Charlotte Bobcats last night: “Bobcats forward Darius Miles visited Richardson in the Magic’s locker room immediately following the game. Miles was already decked out in designer jeans, a collared shirt, a baseball cap, and top-of-the-line headphones, while Richardson had only just emerged from the shower. The former Clippers teammates chatted privately in front of Richardson’s locker for a few minutes before Miles departed.”
  • According to Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones, head coach Stan Van Gundy is a “screaming, mustachioed class act.”
  • Ben Golliver of thinks Van Gundy set a dangerous precedent with his apology.
  • Want to gain NBA knowledge? Listen to this podcast.
  • Dwight Howard thinks he’ll get accustomed to the new technical foul rule, thanks to prep school. Here’s what Howard had to say: “I went to a private school growing up. They had a lot of crazy rules, rules you didn’t agree with, rules you didn’t necessarily think were right, but you just had to (live by them). They want us to cut down on talking to the refs, as hard as that may be. We’ve adjusted to everything else that’s put out there. So we’ll adjust.”
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “Van Gundy had every right to see his backups play and see how they would do — it’s preseason. But credit the coach for seeing the big picture and feeling bad about it.”

Oct 15

MBN Roundtable Discussion: Orlando Magic 2010-2011 Season Preview, Part II

Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Here’s Part II of my roundtable discussion (click here for Part I). In this segment, different Orlando Magic writers talk about Dwight Howard‘s evolution on offense with the help of Hakeem Olajuwon, and more.


What will it take for opposing players to respect Howard’s jumpshot just enough and as such, alter the way they defend him?

Melnick: Howard has to have more confidence in his shot and just shoot his jumper more often. Anyone who has been to a Magic practice has seen Howard make the shot fairly consistently. Up until now, Howard hasn’t had the confidence to consistently take the shot. If Howard begins to shoot more and more, his confidence is going to grow. Defenders will have to respect that shot and that will allow Howard to use his superior athleticism to blow by his opponents like he does when he faces slower defenders. We saw a glimpse of this in Orlando’s first preseason game when Howard utilized a spin move to get easy looks against Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets.

Robbins: I’m not sure. I think Howard is so effective on the inside, that it would take a lot for opposing teams to significantly alter the way they defend him because if he gets the least bit of space down there, he’s unstoppable. He’s already next to unstoppable and the only way to really stop him when he’s close to the basket is to foul him. He’s got to show that he can hit that 12-15 foot jumper with regularity, with a very solid regularity, for them to leave the hoop. Certainly we saw Yao Ming respect that jumper in the first pre-season game. If you recall, Dwight hit a pair of those mid-range jumpers in the game’s first six minute and then Dwight used a pump-fake to get Yao to commit for a great drive to the hoop. I don’t know if other centers will play Dwight that way. I think Yao is rather immobile, so we’ll see what happens. Time will tell with that.

Rock: He has to start hitting them, which can’t happen unless he takes them, which can’t happen until he feels comfortable taking them, which can’t happen until he takes a few hundred per day. He’s accomplished the last two parts. Let’s see if he can continue progressing. Until then, we have the memory of his sinking two jumpers over Yao Ming, and then driving by him for a score when Yao honored his shot, this preseason to hold onto.

Rossman-Reich: They may never fully respect Howard’s jump shot. After all, what would you rather give up? A 12-foot jumper from Howard or a dunk or a 5-foot hook shot that leaves Howard in good position for the offensive rebound. But to get teams to really respect it, he has got to come out with it early in the season and early in games and make two, maybe three per game. It sounds extreme, but, again, what kind of shot would you have Howard rather shoot? He has got to really be killing teams with his jumper before teams start to defend it the way Howard can take advantage of it.

Savage: To me, it’s simple. He’s got to make them. It’s as simple as that. I think the key for Howard is take a few early on in the game, be confident with them, knock them down. If he takes them early on in the game and establishes that, it’s going to carry over to the later periods. As we saw when the Magic played the Rockets against Yao Ming, Dwight Howard took a few early shots early in the game, knocked them down, Yao Ming stepped up, and then he started blowing past him. I think that’s the key. If he can knock a few of those down in the first quarter, opposing defenses are going to start playing up on him and then he can use the advantage of switching back-and-forth and exploding past people and using his biggest asset, which is scoring within the circle.

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Oct 15

MBN Roundtable Discussion: Orlando Magic 2010-2011 Season Preview, Part I


Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

To continue Magic Basketball’s preview of the 2010-2011 season for the Orlando Magic, I gathered writers that cover them on a day-to-day basis. Each writer, except for one, has media access with the Magic and offers an authoritative voice concerning the team.

So, without further ado, here are the participants:

Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel
Dan Savage,
Ben Q. Rock, Orlando Pinstriped Post
Andrew Melnick, Howard the Dunk
Philip Rossman-Reich, Orlando Magic Daily

Each individual provided his opinion on which team in the Eastern Conference — between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat — is a bigger obstacle for the Magic, Ryan Anderson‘s role on the team, and more


Which team concerns you more — the Boston Celtics or the Miami Heat?

Andrew Melnick: This is tough because both teams will present a lot of problems. The Celtics have added a few nice pieces and look very deep but I think this year’s Magic team is better equipped to handle them. Before media day, the Magic had a lengthy meeting (somewhere around three to three-and-a-half hours) and based on the comments from several players, toughness — both mental and physical — is being stressed this season. I think the Magic, through losing to the Celtics last year, are better equipped to deal with them this year. Dwight Howard’s performance in the second half of the series also backs up that statement. He is learning to play differently against different big men (i.e. using finesse against the powerful Kendrick Perkins).

The Miami Heat offer a completely different challenge. Not only do they have three All-Stars and arguably the two best players in basketball but all of three of them have absolutely torched the Magic throughout their careers. In fact, Dwyane Wade averages more points against the Magic (29.9 ppg) than he does against any other team. Chris Bosh (23.2 ppg, 10.0 rpg) and LeBron James (28.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 6.4 apg) have put up huge numbers as well.

I don’t see how the Magic can consistently deal with all three of these players on the defensive end (well, I don’t see how anyone can) and with Wade and James defending the perimeter, it’s going to make life very difficult for Orlando’s shooters and drivers.

The Heat also put pretty good talent around their big three, including sharpshooter and former Rookie of the Year (while with the Magic) Mike Miller.

Dwight Howard should be able to handle all of the Miami’s big men but with James and Wade constantly penetrating, it’s going to be quite difficult for Howard to stay out of trouble – he’s going to have to be extremely careful and pick his battles.

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