- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Marcin Gortat had a big game in Poland’s 75-71 victory over Bulgaria on Monday. Gortat scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting. He also collected nine rebounds, blocked three shots and dished out two assists. With the win, Poland improved its record to 4-3 as it attempts to qualify for next year’s European championships. The Poles are second in their group, trailing Belgium (5-1). The [Orlando] Magic center is averaging 18.0 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.”
- Ben Q Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Five years, one month, and 26 days have elapsed since the Orlando Magic used the 11th overall pick of the 2005 NBA Draft on Fran Vazquez, then a mere 22 years old. And Vazquez has still yet to play for the Magic, instead plying his trade in high-level leagues in his native Spain. Yesterday, in an exhibition match against Team U.S.A., Vazquez tallied 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, and 1 block in 14 minutes off Spain’s bench–yes, he’s good enough to play for Spain’s national team–and looked NBA-ready. Mobile, with good hands, he’d make an excellent pick-and-roll partner for Jameer Nelson in Magic pinstripes.”
- More from Rock: “Watching Team U.S.A. struggle against a decidedly inferior Lithuanian team in an exhibition game yesterday–Chris Sheridan rather memorably wrote, “[t]o say they looked ordinary would be to give them an undeserved compliment”–I learned a few things: the European conversion rate on veteran savvy is steep, if Chauncey Billups’ miserable play is any indication; a number of second-string NBA point guards could start for Lithuania, which could hardly dribble or pass against the U.S.A.’s press; and Team U.S.A.’s size deficit is as bad as advertised. Coach Mike Krzyzewski elected to bring five point guards and just one center across the Atlantic for these exhibitions leading up to the FIBA World Championships. And as much respect as I have for Tyson Chandler, it’s pretty obvious that rotating him and a trio of forwards (Lamar Odom, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Love) in the pivot is going to present problems for the United States; it’s perfectly reasonable to view them as the underdogs, given their deficiencies in inside scoring as well as perimeter jump-shooting. Which is where Dwight Howard fits in. Or would have, anyway.”
- J.J. Redick: “I’ll be politically correct about it because that’s the honest answer: I would like to start on an NBA team. But I’d also like to start on a really good NBA team. And for me, there’s no substitute for winning. So, if I have to play my whole career on playoff teams and be a backup, I’m fully cool with that. You know, I just want to be a part of a great organization and a winning team, and I have it with the Magic. Whether Vince [Carter] sticks around for two more years or one more year or four more years, I’m not going to complain. I’m happy with my situation.”
- Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference takes a look at the players which played for the best defenses in NBA history. Dwight Howard, surprisingly enough, does not make the list.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
In 2009, the 3/5 pick and roll with Hedo Turkoglu and Dwight Howard was one of the centerpieces of the Orlando Magic‘s offense. With Turkoglu’s departure and Vince Carter‘s arrival, the 2/5 pick and roll became the flavor de jure for the Magic.
Carter’s involvement in the pick and roll not only initiated the offense for Orlando but the play was also used for him to score. Carter takes, and is still taking, a lot of heat for his underwhelming performance in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, but there’s no denying that he was an efficient force in pick and rolls. Yes, Carter settled for too many jumpers and didn’t attack the basket as much as he should have offensively, yet he usually got the job done in the 2/5 pick and roll with Howard.
Hopefully the comparisons with Carter and Turkoglu have been put to rest. But if there’s one thing to point out between the two players when they anchored — along with Jameer Nelson — the pick and rolls, Carter took much better care of the basketball than Turkoglu did. And that means something because Carter wasn’t wasting many possessions, even if the end game (a long two-point jumper) wasn’t the result that many Magic fans desired.
With Carter at the helm last season, the Magic were more efficient on offense during the regular season than they were in 2009. This isn’t to state that Carter was the sole reason for this phenomena, though he was one of the reasons.
The Orlando Magic announced today a renewed, multi-year relationship with Budweiser for the new Amway Center. As part of the partnership, Budweiser, a 21-year partner of the Magic, will collaborate with the team to institute the Good Sport program, receive arena signage and naming rights to the Budweiser Baseline Bar – a highly visible and entertaining space accessible to all Amway Center ticket buyers 21 years of age and older.
The Good Sport Program, a comprehensive action plan that promotes a positive atmosphere at the arena by encouraging adult fans to drink responsibly and use a designated driver, represents collaboration between Anheuser-Busch and its wholesalers, the Magic and concessionaires. The Good Sport Program will be promoted at the Amway Center through the use of stadium signage, PSAs and an in-arena designated driver sign-up booth.
Budweiser will have permanent signage throughout both the inner bowl of the inner concourse and at the Budweiser Baseline Bar – one of several premium amenities accessible to every level of ticket buyer at the Amway Center. Located on the south end of the Terrace Level and overlooking the inner bowl, the Budweiser Baseline Bar will have the look of a high-end club, including a terrazzo floor, granite bar tops and flat-screen TVs.
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The moves that the Orlando Magic made which garnered them a grade of “A” last year is in stark contrast to the moves they made this year which earned them such a low mark. Yes, they’re still a team capable of winning it all, but even with Dwight Howard in the paint, this team is still primarily made up of guys who love to shoot from the outside and a squad built that way will never win a championship. Ever. Allowing your best perimeter defender (Matt Barnes) to leave and replacing him with someone (Quentin Richardson) who plays no defense at all was a real head scratcher. This puts even more pressure on Howard to defend the rim leaving him even more susceptible to foul trouble than he already is. Even with the Q deal and the re-signing of JJ Redick, Orlando did nothing to improve their chances of being a contender for the Eastern Conference crown. The Magic are still going to be a tough out in the East, but another appearance in the NBA Finals seems like a stretch at this point and Stan Van Gundy may find himself without a job after this season.
Three quick notes:
— Nearly everyone is enamored with the offensive philosophy of the Orlando Magic while they ignore that Dwight Howard anchors one of the best defensive teams in the NBA. That’s how the Magic got to the 2009 NBA Finals (first in Defensive Rating during the regular season in that year), and that’s ultimately what will determine whether or not they will win a championship before it’s all said and done. The axiom “defense wins championships” is cliched, without a doubt, but it means something in this particular situation.
— Matt Barnes wasn’t the best perimeter defender for Orlando. Mickael Pietrus was, and still is. As for Quentin Richardson, he does play defense and will likely be a superior fit with the Magic opposed to Barnes. However, one of the main elements that is being overlooked about Richardson is that he is a better shooter than Barnes and that means a lot. It was Barnes’ inability to spread the floor and be a threat on offense, among other things, that made him a liability in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics. And given Orlando’s small margin for error in winning a title, those little differences can matter a lot in the grand scheme of things.
— Head coach Stan Van Gundy may see himself without a job after this season? Anything is possible, sure, but it’s highly unlikely that Van Gundy will be unemployed beyond 2011 unless Orlando has a disastrous season. And that is also highly unlikely, even after taking account for the improvements of the Miami Heat and other teams in the Eastern Conference. It’s going to be a tough road ahead for the Magic, but there are still games to be played and nothing is set in stone.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Citing “those who claim to be in the know,” freelance writer Sam Amico says the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Hornets “have expressed an interest in” working out free-agent guard Allen Iverson. In response, ESPN’s Marc Stein debunks the Hornets portion of that rumor, but says there’s “no word” about the Magic. However, a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking told me that Orlando has no interest in the four-time scoring champion, citing the fact that the Magic already have three point guards under contract.”
- Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “The Magic present a stickier alternative. The Magic have Jameer Nelson, with Jason Williams backing him up, and Vince Carter and J.J. Redick locked in at shooting guard. Throw in the fact that the Magic’s system primarily relies on long, athletic shooters and not short, high-usage ball-handlers, and the fit seems like an odd one. Still, if teams are looking for a veteran with some spring in his step that can come off the bench and get buckets, there are worse alternatives than Iverson (and his name is Jannero Pargo). We’ll keep you updated if a team takes the leap of faith on Iverson.”
- More on Allen Iverson, this time from Rob Mahoney of ProBasketballTalk: “With the Magic, the opposite is true. Orlando already has Jameer Nelson, Chris Duhon, and Jason Williams at the point, so Iverson would likely play off the ball. In a matter of speaking, anyway; Iverson would likely still be the same high-usage, ball-dominating player he always has been, just slated as Orlando’s shooting guard rather than a point guard. Not that Orlando’s wings are much more vacant. J.J. Redick, Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, and Quentin Richardson eat, sleep, live, play, and shoot on the perimeter for the Magic, leaving Iverson to scrape up minutes at the bottom of the barrel. [...] the Orlando Magic are one of the league’s truly elite teams, and picking up Iverson just for the hell of it isn’t something Orlando is really in a position to do. The Magic already have to contend with the Heat, so there’s really no reason to play with fire.”
- Mickael Pietrus is the 26th-best small forward in the NBA, according to Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “He adamantly refuses to drive the ball even when his up-fakes from behind the arc send a defender into the front row, but man can this guy defend. Not a lockdown Bruce Bowen-type, but enough of a staunch defender and shooter to earn a starting slot on a great team, and a spot on this list. Pietrus’ shot selection stinks, and he does have the skills to work toward becoming a better all-around player; but for now, this is enough.”
- Rashard Lewis has played on some of the best offenses in his career.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Not a bad photo from Daniel Orton. Yes, I’m a few days late with these photos so bear with me.
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “There is a theory being perpetrated by ESPN’s Skip Bayless that the Van Gundy brothers are simply trying to heap undue pressure on the Heat. If it were any other coach but Stan Van Gundy, I might buy it. StanVan Gundy, at least from my experience, calls them as he sees them, much like his brother Jeff Van Gundy does as an analyst. The fact is, the Heat have put together a virtual Dream Team of talent. Of course, nobody knows how all of these gifted players will mesh together, and the Heat still have to go out and prove they can win a championship. But, on paper, they are the best team ever assembled in the modern-day NBA.”
- Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com cautions fans to be wary of trade rumors.
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: “Can you consistently knock down free throws? If so, you stand a good chance of beating Dwight Howard in H-O-R-S-E. And if you have the money, you can get to play him. Howard is auctioning off the chance to play H-O-R-S-E against him to raise money for Usher’s New Look Foundation. That organization trains youth to be the leaders of tomorrow, and in doing so increases their chances of graduating from high school and going on to college. It’s a good cause, a good place to put your money.”
- Want to know a team that does an excellent job of defending pick and rolls? Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook says it’s the Orlando Magic: “Orlando is one of the best teams against the pick and roll, and in my opinion they are the best at hedging screens. This is because they have bigs in Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis who can show and get back to their man quickly. The goal of hedging is to force the defender to either pick up his dribble or turn towards the middle of the court. Doing this prevents the ball handler to get the rim and makes a pass harder.”
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie ranks Vince Carter as the 23rd-best shooting guard in the NBA right now: “Yes, I had him sixth last season. Why? Ask any Nets fan who watched him in 2008-09: Carter was a borderline All-Star that season. Not last season, where he floated and occasionally helped and absolutely disappeared in the playoffs. Carter has an all-around game, he can still rebound and make the pass while working a screen-and-roll, and he’s still a threat to shoot his way toward 37 points every so often. But he just never applied himself when the going got tough. Pity.”
- In the same rankings, J.J. Redick is pegged at 17th. Go figure.
- Trey Kerby of Ball Don’t Lie: “I don’t know what’s gotten in to the Van Gundy family, but they seem to be suffering from an acute case of Heat stroke. Miami Heat pun zing, for sure. First, Jeff spouted off about Miami breaking every conceivable team record in the history of the NBA, which is to be expected because he’s paid to have opinions. Now, his brother Stan, the Orlando Magic coach — is refusing to take sides against the family and echoing Jeff’s sentiments. Those crazy Van Gundys and their outlandish predictions. [...] In actuality, Stan isn’t totally crazy. I’m not entirely convinced that Dwyane Wade is better than Scottie Pippen. Offensively Wade tops Scottie, no doubt. But when it comes to the other half of the game — defense — there was no better or more disruptive perimeter defender, ever, than Pippen. That’s a big deal, and I’d be willing to offer a tie on that comparison. Furthermore, I will concede Toni Kukoc is not the equal of Chris Bosh, but Bosh’s corollary should probably be Dennis Rodman who is better at rebounding and defense than Bosh, just as much as Bosh is a better offensive player. We can call that one a wash as well, or give a slight nod to the Heat if you’re feeling generous.”
Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images
The 4-out/1-in offensive scheme that the Orlando Magic employ is the foundation of an offense that features Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, and others. But there are also other plays that the Magic run with frequent regularity.
Like the 1/5 pick and roll.
The pick and roll is like a common household appliance — every team in the NBA runs it to varying degrees of success. The analogy is probably not the best one, but the point is that pick and rolls are the bread-and-butter of many offenses in the league. Head coach Stan Van Gundy has made it his job to utilize the pick and roll as much as possible. And its worked for Orlando.
Up to this point, the Magic of this era are best-known for riding the 3/5 pick and roll with Hedo Turkoglu and Howard all the way to the NBA Finals in 2009. The zenith of the play’s effectiveness was displayed against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, where Turkoglu had a field day initiating Orlando’s offense from the pick and roll. The Cavaliers were helpless to stop it.
However, a lot of people forget the devastation caused by the 1/5 pick and roll with Nelson and Howard in the first half of the 2008-2009 regular season. Before Nelson suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder, he was the proprietor of the pick and roll and it fueled his All-Star campaign. After Nelson got hurt, it took a while for him to get back to that same level but he reached it in the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
That’s where the 1/5 pick and roll will be examined.
After seeing what transpired in Miami this summer, of course anything can happen in the NBA. But acquiring superstars isn’t easy and to get one you usually must pay a heavy price.
For example, for the [Orlando] Magic to pull off a blockbuster and acquire Anthony it would also mean they likely would have to assume other undesirable contracts. Losing Melo would mean Denver would be starting over, so the Nuggets might also be looking to unload Chauncey Billups ($27.3 million still owed), Nene ($22.9 million still owed) or Kenyon Martin ($16.5 million still owed).
The Magic could trade Vince Carter ($17.3 million) straight up for Anthony ($17.1 million), but it assuredly wouldn’t be that easy. While Orlando holds the team option on the final year of Carter’s contract, few know that there is a $4 million penalty that Carter will get if a team buys him out. Orlando would likely have to throw $3 million (the most allowed by NBA rules) into any trade to make the transaction work.
And for all of his flash, Anthony does have his flaws. He’s an incredible scorer, but he would be taking more shots away from Dwight Howard. And defense and rebounding are but rumors with Anthony. If the Magic could land him without sacrificing too much it would be a no-brainer. But trades of this magnitude are rarely that easy.
It bears repeating that the odds of the Orlando Magic acquiring Carmelo Anthony are slim to none. Even though Anthony, indeed, has leverage in terms of where he wants to go, the Denver Nuggets are still the team that has the pull the trigger. And with the dismissal of Mark Warkentien, vice president of basketball operations, who knows how long it’ll take for the Nuggets to find a suitable replacement. Time will tell.
Oh, but there’s more.