- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “J.J. Redick and Gilbert Arenas will not play when the Orlando Magic face the Indiana Pacers at Amway Center in their regular-season finale tonight. Dwight Howard and everybody else will not have the night off. Redick, one of the key cogs on Orlando’s bench, has missed the Magic’s last 16 games because of a lower abdominal strain, but he is inching closer to a potential return. [Stan] Van Gundy said Redick took part in the team’s offensive drills during this morning’s shootaround. That’s the first time he’s did any work with teammates since he sustained his injury on March 11. Redick will get more work tonight and probably play some one-on-one. [...] He hopes to be available to play when the Magic begin their first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night. Arenas had an MRI Monday on his sore right knee, and Van Gundy and Arenas said the results of the exam showed no damage. Van Gundy said he has no doubt that Arenas will be ready to play in the playoffs, and Arenas added that he’s sitting out to rest the knee and also his left knee.”
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy talks about Dwight Howard’s leadership qualities.
- Should Howard sit out of tonight’s game against the Indiana Pacers?
- The Orlando Magic may surprise in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
- Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reveals his awards ballot.
- Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “Howard’s MVP case starts of course at the defensive end. Watching defense isn’t just unpopular, it’s difficult. To really get a sense of what Howard does, you have to not watch the ball move. You have to focus on Howard, how he keeps his spacing, reacts to not just the ball’s movement, but how the offense shifts to try and create opportunities with the extra pass. How many times has an offense drawn help against the Magic, rotated the ball the corner where the offensive player attempts a pump-and-go baseline drive, only to find Howard have rotated from the far side over and completely cut off the lane? To put Howard into the simple context of just blocks is to ignore the real work of a defender, dissuading field goal attempts, disrupting passing lanes, and suffocating possessions. No one does it better than Howard.”
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “At this point, the notion of any other player winning Defensive Player of the Year while Howard is in his prime seems almost laughable. Howard no longer blocks shots at an exceptional rate (his 4.9 percent block rate ranked 12th in the league), but the tradeoff is that he’s improved his foul rate and can stay on the floor for almost 38 minutes a night. The strength of Howard’s game is his glass cleaning; he’s almost single-handedly responsible for Orlando leading the league in defensive rebound percentage. Overall, Howard is the biggest reason a Magic team that did not put any other players in consideration for my All-Defensive Teams ranked third in the league in Defensive Rating.”
- Jason Richardson screws up on a possession against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.
Via the Orlando Magic:
The National Basketball Association has announced that the Orlando Magic will begin its 2011 first round, best-of-seven NBA playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, April 16th at 7 p.m. at the Amway Center. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN and locally by either Sun Sports or FOX Sports Florida. Orlando will host Games 1 and 2, and if necessary Games 5 and 7.
The remainder of the first round series schedule will be announced at a later time.
All games will be broadcast on the Magic Radio Network (Flagship: AM 580 WDBO) and in Spanish (AM 1270 WRLZ).
While supplies last, single game tickets for the 2011 Orlando Magic playoffs are available for purchase:
- Online at www.orlandomagic.com
- At the Amway Center box office (cash, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover)
- At all TicketMaster outlets (cash only)
- By calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover)
Playoff tickets start at $12.
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
With the regular season winding down and the postseason just a mere six days away, I figured I’d do what other writers have been doing lately — reveal my awards ballot. I know that I’m not a member of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, which means I do not have a say in who wins which award but I still wanted to engage in this exercise.
Most Valuable Player
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With LeBron James teaming up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, coupled with ‘The Decision’ becoming a PR disaster, it’s no surprise that the race for the MVP award was wide-open this season. Voter fatigue was already going to be an issue for James in his quest for a third consecutive MVP, given that not even Michael Jordan accomplished the feat in his career. As such, it was going to take a historical year from James to overcome the many obstacles in his way for him to win the MVP but it didn’t happen. James’ numbers took a small hit across the board, with Wade’s presence being a corollary reason. That allowed a player like Dwight Howard to be his near equal statistically. When looking at their resumes and complete bodies of work, it’s hard not to choose between James or Howard for MVP — there’s no wrong answer between the two them.
Howard gets the nod because of many factors.
The improvements that everyone was waiting for from Howard were fulfilled, as he was able to maintain his efficiency on offense even with a career-high usage rate of 27.2 percent. The sign of a great scorer in the NBA is his ability to be efficient while shouldering a heavy load offensively, and Howard was able to do that this season. And it can’t be understated the type of impact Howard has when he’s not scoring, given that his presence in the low post allows the shooters for the Orlando Magic to enjoy plenty of open looks from the perimeter that wouldn’t come otherwise. Also known as the Shaquille O’Neal effect — with Damon Jones as a prime example.
Likewise, Howard is vital to the Magic’s vaunted pick and roll attack that’s anchored by Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu, with the threat of him being the roll man making it extremely difficult for opposing defenses to aggressively contain the pick and rolls. With a refined post game and a reliable mid-range jumper from 10-15 feet that he’s making at a rate (40.2 percent) better than the league average (39.4 percent), coupled with an underrated ability to pass out of double-teams effectively, Howard has all the tools offensively. It’s only at the free-throw line where Howard continues to struggle.
Critics are quick to point out Howard’s lack of involvement in crunch-time situations but that’s partly due to his teammates not getting him the basketball enough, plus head coach Stan Van Gundy not calling plays for him at times. Sometimes it’s as simple as Orlando needing a three-point shot in the closing seconds of a game. Even then, Howard’s ability to rebound and defend gets overlooked way too many times in discussions of players performing in the clutch.
And when it comes down to it, there’s not another player in the league that can impact a game defensively like Howard. Despite general manager Otis Smith acquiring acquiring Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, and Gilbert Arenas, thus becoming far weaker on defense in theory, the Magic are ranked 3rd in defensive efficiency — better than teams like the Miami Heat — thanks in large part to Howard’s ability to coerce opposing players into shooting jumpshots while limiting their chances at the free-throw line and devouring rebounds. Van Gundy’s schemes are a factor too, but Howard is the player putting those strategies into practice on countless possessions, which is the primary reason that Orlando defends post players better than any other team. Or that Howard is able to slow down a pick and roll, recover to the paint, and provide weak-side defense in one felt swoop. Was it mentioned that the Magic do the best job of limiting field goal attempts at the rim because of Howard’s intimidating presence in the lane? Indeed, Howard is an omnipresent defensive force.
- Josh Cohen of OrlandoMagic.com: “Ignore the regular season series between the [Orlando] Magic and Hawks because every game they played was inconsequential evidence of what to expect in this rematch of last year’s conference semifinals. The first meeting was before Orlando’s blockbuster trades; the second collision was during the Magic’s stomach virus epidemic, the third was the first game following the deals and the final contest was injury-plagued for the blue and white. While Jason Collins was credited for his willingness to body up on Dwight Howard in the regular season, I expect Superman to flourish and dominate against his counterpart in a seven-game series. I also anticipate Jameer Nelson to thrive against Kirk Hinrich, who the Hawks acquired at the trade deadline from the Wizards. One of the more intriguing matchups will be at the shooting guard spot with Joe Johnson and Jason Richardson – two explosive scorers and primetime players. Some of the most glaring curiosities will be injury related as Atlanta’s Josh Smith recently returned from a sprained knee and it remains unspecified whether Orlando’s J.J. Redick will be back after missing more than a dozen games with a lower abdominal strain.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com looks back at the top 10 moments for the Orlando Magic in the 2010-2011 NBA regular season. Here’s number one: “A sluggish Magic team given up for dead when it trailed the rival Heat by 18 points at halftime and by as much as 24 points in the second half awoke from its slumber and pulled off a comeback win for the ages. Once down 73-49 early in the third quarter, the Magic used runs of 22-7 (to end the third period) and 18-2 (to start the fourth quarter) – a shocking 40-9 spurt in all – for what very well could be the biggest regular-season victory in franchise history. The 24-point rally just missed equaling the all-time Magic record. Orlando’s comeback from 25 points down on Nov. 8, 1989 in Cleveland is the all-time franchise record. Orlando held LeBron James and Dwyane Wade to just 10 points combined in the second half after the Heat duo had 47 points in the first half. Wade did not have a field goal in the second half and James did not score in the fourth quarter.”
- Dwight Howard likes being the underdog.
- Tas Melas of The Basketball Jones makes his case for Howard and the MVP award.
- Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “Orlando poneyed up for the new arena critics of small-markets allege the non-top cities never approve. Ownership elected to go above and beyond the cap, deep into the luxury tax. They were smart enough to draft, and develop, a franchise player, acquire a competitive and arguably brilliant head coach, surround the team with competent role players. When the 2009 team failed to get past the last challenge, management did not get complacent, and instead opted for the home-run move you’re supposed to make, according to many. Vince Carter, for all his Vince-Carter-ness, was still a legit star in the summer of 2009. They went for the big move. When that didn’t work out, they once again swung for the fences. You can’t say Otis Smith didn’t try. But here they are. Entering the playoffs as the worst seed they’ve been since 2008, with little to no momentum, and considered nothing more than after-thought in the playoffs. They are a speedbump in the road to the Finals for teams from Miami, Chicago, Boston. They gambled. They lost. And the worst part of all is this season may turn out to be the one that gives Dwight Howard an excuse to leave Orlando; it may be the one reflected on as what turns Howard away; it may be the year Orlando lost their franchise center, again.”
- Offensive rebounds aided the Orlando Magic’s victory against the Philadelphia 76ers.
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk is skeptical that Jason Collins will make a difference for the Atlanta Hawks in their first round matchup against the Magic in the 2011 NBA Playoffs: “Orlando has dominated this matchup in recent years, but Atlanta is counting on Jason Collins to change that. Sure, that will work.”
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus reveals his awards ballot.
- Atlanta and Orlando are two teams searching for respect in different ways.
- Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated: “Based on this regular-season performance, Orlando has to hope Howard remains loyal when he’s eligible to become a free agent after next season. That would enable the Magic — whose salary-cap situation doesn’t look pretty — to go back to square two in rebuilding around the 25-year-old center.”