Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 209

Oct 07

A Quick Take on Marcin Gortat’s Role With the Orlando Magic

AP Photo/Delcia Lopez

Via Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel:

At the EuroBasket qualifying tournament in August, few big men were more dominant than Poland’s Marcin Gortat.

He led the tournament in field-goal percentage. He played almost every minute. He had 29 points against Belgium. 23 against Bulgaria.

When playing for Poland, Gortat is the man. His teammates look to him almost every trip down the court, feeding him the ball near the hoop and out near the perimeter. Jumpers, post-ups, cuts off the pick and roll; Gortat shows off a versatile offensive repertoire when playing for his home country.

Then Gortat returns to Orlando, where his role is simple: rebound, defend and run the floor. Stuck backing up the league’s best center, few plays are called for Gortat. On offense, he’s little more than a pick-setter and boards-crasher.

When Gortat does try to showcase his offensive game with the [Orlando] Magic, he gets talked to by the coaching staff.

And that adjustment has not been easy for the 26-year-old big man. […]

The Orlando Magic, meanwhile, are not overly concerned about Gortat’s desire to play more offense. During the team’s 3 1/2- hour meeting last Monday, his teammates told him they wanted him to focus on his role of defending, rebounding and running the floor.

They weren’t interested in any offensive flash from Dwight Howard‘s backup.

This is an interesting problem, because Marcin Gortat is the only player for the Orlando Magic that has to deal with this type of issue.

In Poland, Gortat is the man.

In Orlando, Gortat is one of many.

For the rest of the Magic roster, each player has a defined role that doesn’t change dramatically even in international play. Granted, when Dwight Howard is playing for the USA men’s basketball team, his role is a little different. More so on offense than anything else, given that in the past he’s played alongside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and some of the other top players in the NBA. And FIBA basketball, when it comes to trends and patterns with offenses, is not entirely conducive to traditional big men like Howard. As such, Howard’s value comes mostly on defense.

For Gortat, his desire to be more involved on offense is understandable. It’s tough to alter roles on the fly and in the past several years, Gortat has grown accustomed to being the centerpiece (here is an example) offensively when he’s playing for the Polish national team. It explains why Gortat isn’t shy in talking about his desire to play more, whether it’s for the Magic or another team.

Gortat wants “the damn ball.”

Can Gortat post up? Yes.

Should Gortat receive more touches on the low block? No.

That’s not an indictment on Gortat’s skill, per se, but it speaks more to the amount of talent Orlando has at their disposal. When Gortat is playing on the second unit, he’s not the best option on offense. Likewise, if the Magic want to really have a low post presence when Howard is out of the game, they could tab Rashard Lewis to be that guy since head coach Stan Van Gundy is making a concerted effort to play him more at the small forward position to take advantage of those skills.

The lack of a low post option was an issue last year for the second unit, at times.

What does this all mean for Gortat this season?

Nothing. Gortat’s role won’t change and shouldn’t change.

Oct 07

A Weird Commercial Featuring Dwight Howard

Oct 06

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Melissa Muñoz will never forget the time the world’s best center visited this tiny city of 7,322 people near the Mexico border. Wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with Dwight Howard‘s face, the 16-year-old high-school student leaned over the boards behind the Orlando Magic bench during pregame warmups. […] Howard walked over, and when Muñoz raised her pink Samsung digital camera for a picture, Howard leaned in and smiled widely. The Magic visited this non-NBA city Tuesday night to face the Houston Rockets in a preseason game. Though it seems that few people in southern Texas share Muñoz’s love for the Magic — the 6,200-seat State Farm Arena was perhaps 60 percent full at tipoff — the exhibition meant a lot to her. […] If only others in this region shared her enthusiasm for the Magic — or her family’s willingness to pay high prices to see a preseason game. Tickets cost between $49 and $568, not including Ticketmaster fees.”
  • More from Robbins: “Dwight Howard dedicated several days of his summer vacation to working with Hakeem Olajuwon. More than anything else, Olajuwon stressed that Howard needs to be fearless and try new things on the court. Howard apparently learned that lesson well. On Tuesday night, the superstar center confidently unveiled a more diversified offensive attack and, in the process, he tormented the team Olajuwon once carried to greatness. Hardly anyone will care months from now that the Orlando Magic defeated the Houston Rockets 97-88 in the preseason opener for both teams. But maybe, just maybe, the exhibition in this southern Texas border city will be remembered as the night Howard’s repertoire showed true growth.
  • That was a captivating sentence by Robbins.
  • Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “While Dwight Howard certainly opened eyes with his expanded game — get back to me when he fires jumpers in the regular season — it was an old dog’s tricks that impressed me. Vince Carter looked engaged, in shape and showed flashes of the all-star form so critical to the Magic in their preseason opening win over Houston Tuesday night. […] He still has to pace himself and pick his spots, but Vince I think has taken to heart some of the criticism launched at him after the playoffs last season and some of the demands his teammates have made.”
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com analyzes the Orlando Magic’s win last night.
  • Vince Carter has changed, perhaps for the better: “Vince Carter recently stated that this past summer was the most backbreaking and grueling offseason in his entire basketball career. The eight-time All-Star spent considerable time in the gym to improve his conditioning. It definitely showed during the Magic’s first preseason game of the year. Not only did he look more aggressive on both ends of the floor, VC appeared very vivacious and determined. Hoping to return to the level that once credited him as one of the premier wing players in the NBA, Carter finished with 14 points in 25 minutes and delivered a sensational alley-oop feed in the fourth quarter to Marcin Gortat, who flushed home a thunderous two-handed jam.”
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post breaks down Rashard Lewisperformance at small forward against the Houston Rockets: “It’s hard to draw many conclusions from a one-game sample size, let alone a 12-possession one. And the Rockets made four substitutions during that 6:03 stretch, further calling into question its significance in the bigger picture. But it’d appear, at least initially, that the never-before-seen pairing of Lewis and [Brandon] Bass at the forward spots could pay dividends.”
  • Remember when Li’l Penny went to high school with Kevin Garnett?
  • Jorge Azze of Dime Magazine renames the Magic for fun.
  • A detailed look at how Dwight Howard concedes post position when he’s on the low block: “We all know that Dwight Howard doesn’t get good position in the post, and this can be attributed to a lot of different things. The fact that he has tiny legs and relies on using his upper body to get position and the fact that defenses are allowed to be very physical with him are all major reasons why. However, something I have noticed recently is that Dwight actually gets good initial position, but then he gives it up”
  • Howard shares with DimeTV his opinion on the NBA’s best dunker.
  • UPDATE: Jacob Mustafa of Red94 with an eloquent description of Howard’s performance last night against the Rockets: “Dwight Howard may have reached another level, one on which the girth of Yao simply leaves a greater canvas for an array of spin moves and our giant’s towering stature only serves to make Howard’s bank shot jumper look all the more awe-inspiring. This Howard was not the easily frustrated, incorrigible man-child that seemed destined to languish in this league’s second stratosphere of superstar, ably filling David Robinson’s role of boring genius unlikely to win; no, this Howard got his quickly and efficiently, while never appearing to do so much that his “be everywhere” defensive style was impeded (I would like to make sure my opinion of Robinson is not misunderstood; his offensive skill set was lightyears ahead of Howard’s thus far, but I think their reputations are similar). Trying to grade Yao’s attempts at containing this unstoppable force seems not only pointless, but cruel.”

Oct 06

Want to See How Hakeem Olajuwon Helped Dwight Howard?

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Dwight Howard spent a week in Houston to work out with Hakeem Olajuwon. This is their story.

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

Photobucket

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

Photobucket

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.

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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.”
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