Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 204

Sep 27

It’s Media Day!

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Media Day is today!

I attended last year’s event for Orlando Pinstriped Post and would have covered it this year, but I’m in graduate school at Northwestern University and scheduling as well as logistics didn’t allow me to trek down to Orlando to cover the proceedings at the Amway Center this year.

All is not lost, however.

As per my recommendation, make sure to follow these writers on Twitter for coverage:

Enjoy.

Sep 27

Magic Basketball Mailbag, 9/27/10

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Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

Here’s another installment of the Magic Basketball Mailbag.

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Will the Magic make an offer for Melo after all?

Most likely, no.

If it hasn’t happened now, then it probably won’t happen.

I just had a debate with some Lakers fans. One of them claims that we have no defense against the Heat. What’s your take?

Dwight Howard thinks otherwise.

Having the two-time Defensive Player of the Year as the anchor of the defense will help the Orlando Magic against the Miami Heat and slow them down a little bit, but it’s not entirely clear if he alone is enough to stop them. Yes, the Magic have a bevy of perimeter defenders but none of them have proven that they can stop either LeBron James or Dwyane Wade, or even slow them down at all.

James, Wade, and Chris Bosh have been Magic-killers for years. This is nothing new and when looking at the matchups defensively, even with Howard in the paint to help discourage James or Wade from attacking the basket at will, it’s doubtful that it will be enough. That’s what’s frightening about this matchup. Orlando has almost no choice but to single-cover James, Wade, and Bosh at times. Who stops them?

Maybe Bosh can be contained, but what about James and Wade?

Let’s put it this way.

In 2009, the Magic led the NBA in defensive efficiency yet were unable to effectively defend James, Wade, and Bosh individually on their respective teams.

James eviscerated Orlando’s defense in the Conference Finals, averaging 39 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists per game. That’s not even including James’ regular season meetings, mind you.

Wade, infamously, scored 50 points in a loss during a regular season game and in four meetings, averaged an obscene 38 points per game on a .579 True Shooting percentage.

As for Bosh, he averaged 24.5 points per game on a .622 True Shooting percentage — including a 40-point outburst in one meeting.

And remember, this was when they were the primary focus of the Magic defensively.

Yes, there’s going to be a redistribution of shots and possessions but if James, Wade, and Bosh were able to accomplish these feats by themselves, it’s scary to figure out what they’ll do as a tandem.

For example, the Heat could employ the Charlotte Bobcats’ strategy of going right at Howard in the paint and draw fouls on him. If Miami were to succeed in that philosophy, have mercy on Marcin Gortat because he’s going to be left on an island.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 27

Fact or Fiction: The Orlando Magic Should Play a More “Traditional” Style of Basketball When the Opportunity Presents Itself

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Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Fact or Fiction presents both sides of key issues the Orlando Magic will face in the upcoming season.

Statement
The Orlando Magic will show that the 4-out/1-in offensive scheme and a more traditional style of basketball can co-exist by using each at the correct time to exploit the other team’s weakness.

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Fact
The centerman in this entire discussion is Rashard Lewis.

When it comes to figuring out whether or not the Orlando Magic are going to play a more traditional style of basketball, Lewis is the player that starts and ends the domino effect because of his ability to play at either forward positions at an All-Star caliber level when he’s at his best.

And in case you haven’t heard, head coach Stan Van Gundy has stated that he is deliberating internally on how much time he’s going to feature Rashard Lewis at the small forward position.

Then the next logical step would be to decipher whether or not Ryan Anderson or Brandon Bass should be primarily paired with Lewis. But rather than open that can of worms, let’s save that discussion for another day once a decision is made by Van Gundy.

Even though a contingent of Magic fans hope that Lewis starts at small forward, it’s unlikely that will occur. That being said, Lewis does need to be featured more at the small forward position when favorable matchups present themselves on the court.

This is something that needs to happen because Lewis is such a talented and versatile player offensively, yet not many people realize it or forgot because he’s been asked to be primarily a spot-up shooter in the Magic’s 4-out/1-in offensive system to maximize the spacing on the floor and provide Dwight Howard with plenty of room to operate on the low block.

Sure, there have been instances where Lewis has seen a considerable amount of time in the low post (see Game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the 2009 NBA Playoffs). But those occurrences have been few and far in between for the last three years since Lewis arrived as a free agent in 2008 from the Seattle SuperSonics.

Yet everything could change this season.

Knowing that the road to an Eastern Conference championship and appearance in the NBA Finals is tougher than ever before for Orlando, it’s clear that Van Gundy is going to have to find different ways to maximize the roster’s potential for success this year. A number of people have critically panned the Magic’s off-season because general manager Otis Smith didn’t dramatically improve the team (ie: didn’t dominate the headlines and made splashy moves like last season), but improvements were still made. Chris Duhon is projected to be an upgrade at back-up point guard over Jason Williams, and Quentin Richardson is expected to be a much better fit at the wing position than Matt Barnes. And if there’s one factor that nearly everyone isn’t taking into account, it’s that improvement may also come through continuity and familiarity with Van Gundy’s system.

Vince Carter, Anderson, and maybe Bass, players that will be with Orlando for a second year, may improve because they’ve had a season to get accustomed to different schemes and what not. Plus, the chaos of integrating five new players (like last year) to a 10-man rotation isn’t there either. Instead, only Duhon and Richardson will be the newbies trying to fit in.

That’s much more manageable.

Ultimately though, the utilization of Lewis will be one of the things that will determine how successful the season will be for the Magic.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sep 25

More Chatter About Rashard Lewis at Small Forward

Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

There’s no question that, barring injury, Rashard Lewis will be in the Orlando Magic’s starting lineup when the regular season begins on Oct. 28.

But at what position will the 6-foot-10 sharpshooter play?

That’s up for grabs.

Coach Stan Van Gundy told the Orlando Sentinel today that perhaps his top task over the next month will be to determine whether the Magic are better off with Lewis at his usual position of power forward or at his natural position of small forward. [...]

Indeed, Van Gundy acknowledged Lewis could start the season opener at small forward.

This is … interesting.

There is a contingent of Magic fans that would jump head over heels if Rashard Lewis was the starter at small forward.

The logic is that the Orlando Magic haven’t been able to win a championship with Lewis at power forward in recent years because they’ve lost to teams in the playoffs that have had superior size, so a solution that’s been discussed tirelessly would be to shift Lewis back to his “natural” position at small forward and go from there. Then either Ryan Anderson or Brandon Bass could start at the power forward position and voila, the Magic would be bigger in the frontcourt. Yes, Marcin Gortat might be a possibility but it’s been proven that he can only coexist with Dwight Howard in spurts, given his inability to space the floor offensively at all.

Problem solved. Right?

Not necessarily.

This is a type of move with an eye towards the postseason, when the Magic might invariably face off against the Boston Celtics and/or the Miami Heat.

The question is whether or not shifting Lewis at small forward and playing Anderson or Bass at power forward is enough to make a difference in either series? It may work against the Celtics, given that Lewis — despite concerns that he lacks quickness to stay in front of wing players or chase them around screens — would be guarding someone in Paul Pierce that is more crafty than anything else. And even though there would be concerns that Anderson or Bass might not be able to guard Kevin Garnett, he would have the benefit of having Dwight Howard on the weak-side defensively to help if necessary. An additional problem, though, is that Bass is a defensive sieve when it comes to executing schemes so that needs to be taken into account. It’s not so much an issue with Anderson, given that he’s a capable team defender. So there’s that scenario.

As for the Heat, there’s no way that Lewis can defend LeBron James.

The problem is exacerbated when making note that James would likely be assigned to guard Lewis on the other end of the floor. James, by the way, is one of the best defenders in the NBA and after shutting down Pierce in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals, there’s no question that James could do the same to Lewis and eliminate a weapon for the Magic on offense. Then Anderson or Bass would be forced to fend against Chris Bosh, who is a Magic-killer and probably wouldn’t have too many problems scoring on either player. This is a matchup where Lewis has to play at power forward because he’s had success against Bosh in the past, not so much stopping him on offense but more so making an impact offensively. That’s an important distinction because Lewis wouldn’t have anywhere close to the same luck if he was being defended by James.

Clearly, it’s a tough call to make for Van Gundy.

That being said, it’s doubtful that Lewis starts the season at small forward.

The move doesn’t make much sense, especially when considering that the rotation would be different and players like Mickael Pietrus or Quentin Richardson would see a short end of the stick in terms of playing time.

It’s more likely that Lewis sees much more minutes at the small forward position on a situational basis, whenever the matchups are favorable so he can do some damage on the low block.

We’ll see what happens, though.

Ultimately, the key is finding the right balance for Lewis at the forward positions.

Equilibrium is the word.

Sep 24

Friday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “[Daniel] Orton has been hampered by a knee injury in recent months — so much so that he hasn’t been able to do much on-court work since the AirTran Airways Pro Summer League ended on July 9. The knee problem, which could be related to a knee injury Orton suffered his senior year of high school about a year and a half ago, will prevent Orton from scrimmaging with the team during training camp next week. [...] This is bad news for Orton, of course, but it should not significantly affect the [Orlando] Magic during the 2010-11 season. President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith has said all along that Orton is a project who didn’t figure to make much of an impact in the year ahead. After all, Orton played only one season at Kentucky and didn’t start a game for the Wildcats.”
  • Henry Abbott of ESPN.com: “NBA referees will have more reasons to issue technical fouls next season. At the referees’ annual meeting in Jersey City, N.J., on Thursday, the league announced the guidelines for technical fouls will expand to include “overt” player reactions to referee calls. [...] In addition, referees have been instructed to consider calling technicals on players who use body language to question or demonstrate displeasure, or say things like, “Come on!” They can also consider technicals for players who “take the long path to the official”, walking across the court to make their case.”
  • TrueHoop has video of Adonal Foyle‘s and Dwight Howard‘s trip to Haiti.

  • What do the stricter technical foul rules mean for Howard?
  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com debuts new power rankings for the 2010-2011 NBA season. At No. 4 are the Orlando Magic: “I’m off the Magic’s bandwagon, true, but I do still like them. The biggest reason why: All the chirpiness that keeps flying between Orlando and Miami is one of the best subplots of this can’t-start-soon-enough season.”
  • Trey Kerby of Ball Don’t Lie: “It’ll be interesting to see how this actually plays out. Two of the NBA’s biggest stars — Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant — were in the top four for technicals last season, and that’s with the more relaxed guidelines. These guys like to complain, and if the NBA is allowing referees to hand out technicals for more and more gestures it’s likely that the league will see some of its best players hitting the showers earlier than they’d expect. That’s part of the reason the old strict rules didn’t stick, and it’ll constantly be a battle for refs to decide if a first quarter “Come on!” is worth giving a technical when it’s likely the same thing could happen later in the fourth quarter of a close game. As much as the NBA wants to clean up its product, they’re also going to want their stars playing at the end of tight games. We’ll see if this lasts.”
  • Howard talks about the Miami Heat.

Sep 24

Disney Parks Join Orlando Magic, Amway Center as a “Champions of the Community” Sponsor

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Photo by Orlando Magic

Via the Orlando Magic:

With blue and silver pixie dust in hand, Mickey Mouse today presented the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard with a “mouse warming” gift in celebration of the team’s new home and a multi-year agreement making Disney Parks a “Champions of the Community” sponsor for the franchise and Amway Center.

“We are honored to have the global brand of Disney, which has been such a fixture of this community for nearly 40 years, join us as a ‘Champions of the Community’ sponsor,” said Orlando Magic President Alex Martins. “As a long-standing member of the Central Florida community, Disney has established a great legacy that we hope to build upon at the Amway Center. We look forward to working together to make continued impact on our Central Florida community for one common purpose… becoming champions both on and off the court.”

Through the new agreement, the Orlando Magic and Disney Parks will seek opportunities to work together on outreach initiatives that benefit the community. The agreement also makes Disney Parks the presenting sponsor of the Amway Center atrium, gives Disney and the Orlando Magic the opportunity to develop and sell co-branded merchandise and provides the foundation for a variety of other marketing and community opportunities.

“As you would expect, Disney believes in Magic,” said Ken Potrock, senior vice president of Disney Sports Enterprises. “This agreement is a natural extension of Disney’s ongoing support for the downtown venues and serves as another example of our company’s efforts to further enhance the quality of life and make dreams come true across our region.”

Disney Parks joins GEICO, PepsiCo, AirTran Airways and Harris Corporation as “Champions of the Community”. Opening October 1, the Amway Center, which will be operated by the City of Orlando and owned by the Central Florida community, will compete to host major national events, concerts and family shows and serve as the new home of the Orlando Magic.

Sep 23

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Let’s face it, the Nuggets, if they trade Anthony, are essentially starting over and would almost certainly want to go younger. So here’s the deal: The Nuggets trade Anthony, aging point guard Chauncey Billups and a couple of throw-ins to the Magic for Jameer Nelson, Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter’s expiring contract and a combination of players that might include J.J. Redick (or Mickael Pietrus), Brandon Bass, etc. This scenario gives the Magic another superstar in Anthony and a championship point guard in Billups, who probably has one or two good years left in his 35-year-old legs. The consummation of this deal would give the Magic a roster that at least comes close to matching the star power of the Miami Heat. The deal would also give the Nuggets a couple of good building blocks for their reclamation project. NBA personnel people always say that the two hardest pieces to acquire are a good point guard and decent big man. This trade would give the Nuggets a really good point guard in Nelson (a veteran leader who is only 28 years old) and a good, young center — a true center — in Gortat. They also get a great shooter and potential starter in Redick, and some frontcourt depth in Bass. The danger of this deal for the Magic is that it changes the entire chemistry and camaraderie of the team.”
  • The trade that Bianchi proposes is nothing more than a lateral move, at best.
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post asserts that Dwight Howard needs to continue to be the focal point of the offense for the Orlando Magic: “Again, Howard is already a solid low-post player, if not always a joy to watch. Even if he never develops a “signature move,” or whatever, that jump hook from the left block is a fairly reliable option so long as he remembers to go up straight rather than fading. There aren’t many defenders who can keep up with him when he drives baseline, nor many schemes that can contain him without yielding open looks to his teammates. I also believe the most important addition to his arsenal would be a series of fakes and hesitation moves to make his attempts more difficult to time. While turnovers are a concern, he’s a better passer than their totals would indicate. Perhaps this skill is entirely too esoteric to be useful in evaluating a player, but I don’t think there’s a more effective off-the-dribble passer, at Howard’s position, in the entire league. His ability to make an on-target, one-handed pass to the weak side as he comes across the lane is too often overlooked, and is particularly key in Orlando’s offense, which often stations a knockdown shooter on the weakside wing just to be there in case opponents send a delayed double at Howard from that direction.”
  • Daniel Orton may need knee surgery.
  • The ratings of the Magic’s starting lineup for NBA 2K11 are revealed.
  • How does Orlando make a return trip to the NBA Finals? Howard provides an answer: “Just being consistent. Being physical, tough. I don’t think there’s a team that’s forgotten about us. Every team is looking forward to playing the Magic and they know we’re a tough team. Other people may have forgotten about our team, which is cool, because we’ve always been underdogs, underestimated. That doesn’t really matter. We don’t play to prove ourselves to people, we play to win a championship.”
  • Howard also makes an appearance on ESPN Radio.
  • Could Josh Smith usurp Howard as Defensive Player of the Year this season? Andrew Macaluso of Dime Magazine takes a look (warning: some of the WARP numbers are being misrepresented): “Going into his seventh season, Smith is ready to challenge for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Smith placed second in the DPOY voting last season behind Dwight Howard in a landslide, Howard’s second straight honor. And while Dwight could easily put together a string of 4-5 trophies in a row recognizing him as the game’s top defender, Smith is improving at such a high rate that he can very well snatch the award from right under Howard’s nose.”
  • More Howard quotes! This is funny: “Actually, I had one of those dreams this season. It wasn’t the Clippers, it was just some team in Cincinnati. I’m like, ‘How did they get an NBA team?’ It was so scary. I woke up and I went to the gym and I was talking to everybody like, ‘Thank you for having me on the team.’ They were like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I was like, ‘Oh, it was a dream.’ It was so real. They was like, ‘Dwight, we know you’re averaging 20 points and 13 rebounds, but we’re going a different way?’ I’m like, ‘What way do you want to go?’ They’re like, ‘Well, we’re going to trade you to the Cincinnati team. We’re looking to go younger.’ I’m like, ‘I’m only 24.’ They’re like, ‘Well, we wanna go younger.’ And they got rid of me and the nightmare was so scary.”

Sep 23

The Orlando Magic Go Green

Via the Orlando Magic:

In an effort to fully integrate into the world of “green,” for the third straight year the 2010-11 Magic Media Guide has gone digital and is now available to fans via orlandomagic.com at [this link here].

The Orlando Magic is undergoing a company-wide green initiative, which will be punctuated by having the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certified originally designed and constructed professional basketball arena – the new Amway Center. The Orlando Magic’s media guide is part of other Magic “green” activities, including other efforts such as:

  • An in-game recycling program and an Orlando Magic front office recycling program.
  • A partnership with “Rock and Wrap it Up” to take leftover food after Magic games to shelters and food banks.
  • The development of a Magic staff incentive program to “go green” in the Magic front office.
  • A variety of community programs that are in the works to spread the “green” message.

Sep 23

Recapping Dwight Howard’s Trip to China

Sep 23

Dwight Howard Looks to Avenge Last Season

Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images

Via Ken Berger of CBSSports.com:

It all started out innocently enough, with Dwight Howard doing what he does best. Not dunking or blocking shots or searching far and wide for his killer instinct. Instead, Howard was holding court at the NBA Store Wednesday, bringing the house down with his smile and his personality.

But after he was done modeling the NBA’s new, lighter, sweat-proof, revolutionary adidas uniforms — available for only $350 at your local retailer — Howard spoke with the kind of edge and tenacity you long to see him play with on a nightly basis. After he was finished delighting the crowd with Frank Caliendo-like impressions of Stan Van Gundy and Charles Barkley, Howard turned his attention toward the two enormous challenges in his path with training camp about to open: Avenging the [Orlando] Magic‘s embarrassing loss to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, and proving that the Heat didn’t win the NBA title with a few free-agent signings in July. [...]

And so there you have it — but only part of it. Is Howard, trying to shake the label of being the guy who puts the gentle in giant, aggravated by all the attention being showered upon division rival Miami? Damn right he is. Is that all? Nope.

What has stung Howard all summer — from the weight room to the practice court, where he’s been known to shoot 1,000 jumpers a day — is the humiliation he experienced at the hands of the Celtics at the end of May. That, more than anything, had Howard vowing Wednesday that his days of playing Mr. Nice Guy are over. [...]

Listening to Howard Wednesday convinced me that’s about to change. Even if Miami signs free-agent center Erick Dampier, Howard is the one player in the league capable of exploiting the Heat inside and making their flashy free agents wish they’d never united. If he can play every game, every quarter, every minute with the memory of the Boston loss and all this premature celebration in Miami on his mind, no one will be able to stop him.

“They have good players,” Howard said of the Heat. “Every team has good players. I think what that did for a lot of guys on my team is, it kind of motivated our guys: ‘Hey, we’re going to show people what we’re made of.’ And it’s good. It’s good for guys who needed that extra motivation to get them where they want to get to.”

Such as, you know, Howard himself. He didn’t say it, but he understood that he was part of the problem. That’s why this summer, Howard sought out some of the greatest ever to play — Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, and a mystery mentor he refused to name — to get advice on how to get past this hurdle.

The hurdle of failure.

That’s what Dwight Howard is trying to overcome this season.

After the Orlando Magic lost to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals and the Miami Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh in free agency, there’s been a lot of chatter about the shift of hierarchy in the East.

The Heat, by virtue of signing James — the best player in the league — and teaming him up with Wade and Bosh, have emerged as the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. And even though not many people expect the Celtics to finish better than No. 3 in the conference, there’s no question that they can’t be counted out in the title mix after their renaissance in the playoffs last year.

Where does that leave the Magic?

Well, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see Orlando finish with one of the best records in the NBA and flirt with the top seed in the East. But in the end, it comes down to matchups in the postseason and there is some skepticism as to whether or not the Magic are capable of beating the Heat and the Celtics in a seven game series.

Yet there is one player for Orlando that has the power to dictate the outcome in either scenario.

That man is Howard.

If Howard is able to make a similar leap on offense as he did on defense a few years ago, then the Magic will be in good shape against the other elite teams in the league. It’s very clear that Howard understands that, given that he’s sought out the help of Hakeem Olajuwon in the off-season, and seems motivated to prove some of the critics that are not giving Orlando much of a chance against Miami and Boston. Ultimately, it’s up to Howard to make a difference for the Magic.

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