Via Fox Sports Florida:
Friday night’s (3/25) Orlando Magic game telecast vs. the Nets on FOX Sports Florida will be our final theme night of the season and will give viewers an inside look into how the Orlando Magic Dancers are selected, their game night activities and their outreach into the community on behalf of the team. The Magic Dancers are not only talented entertainers, but many are mothers, wives and have full-time careers outside their role with the team. Former Magic dancer, now one of our Magic TV reporters, Megan Clementi, will give viewers the inside scoop.
Also, our all-new, half-hour “Inside the Magic: The Magic Dancers” television special premieres Friday at 10:00pm ET immediately following the game on FOX Sports Florida.
The Magic Dancers have been a part of the team since the franchise was founded in 1989 and becoming a dancer is a prestigious honor that requires hard work and dedication. FOX Sports Florida’s sixth episode of “Inside the Magic” profiles the Orlando Magic Dancers and gives viewers behind-the-scene access of the road from auditions to game days.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Just as March Madness means a three-week period of sofa bound bliss every year, so too does it mean a rash of annoying by-products. Endless tournament-themed promotions from stupid businesses, harsh bleating from people who watch three basketball games a year–I mean, it is a joyful time, and I welcome the festivities, but they do not come without some price. Potentially the most irksome thing that happens this time of year, though, are the endless comparisons between the NBA and the college game. I don’t mean to tar any discussion of how the two sports are related; I mean that I cannot abide one more person who does not watch the NBA bloviating about the passion of the college game–those kids just play so much harder– or one more person who does not really watch college basketball talk about how much poorer the execution is.
Over the course of college, despite being at the perennial basketball mecca of UNC (I was in a coma for all of ’09-’10), I have found myself drifting away from college ball. I had gotten older than the athletes, by and large, which was a pretty unsettling transition. I had taken a shine to the pro-game, and had sort of become one of those zealots who talk about how inferior the basketball is to the pro level. I was beginning to think that I had left college basketball behind a little bit. It was a good run, and me and the Heels had some fond memories, but it had sort of stopped making sense to me why I would follow the team too hard. And then this year’s UNC team happened, and I got sucked back in.
Last season–which I have only heard about, because I was in that aforementioned coma which started on exactly the first day of UNC’s season and ended shortly after the NIT, thus preventing me from having any memories of any game we lost–was a tough one here in Chapel Hill. We had some highly touted prospects brought in, same as always, but something about the team, be it shaky guard play or a lack of chemistry, prevented the talented parts from ever looking like a substantial whole. Even worse, the players seemed to be having a pretty angsty, miserable time with each loss. It got to the point where the Tar Heels were sort of painful to watch.
Photo by Flickr/mcdonaldsallamericangames
Part III will explore two different one-and-done scenarios, and the NCAA Tournament history of players on top NBA teams. We will also see the “good ol’ days” are aptly named.
One-and-done and one-and-done
Before the NBA outlawed entering the draft right after high school, many players made the leap from prep-to-pro. The only March Madness footage you’ll see of Dwight Howard and LeBron James is during their McDonald’s commercial. We won’t hear highlights of Gus Johnson screaming “rise and fire!” before Kobe Bryant nailed a game winner. It’s sad these players were never part of March Madness. Fortunately, the restrictions on draft eligibility have led some NBA stars to the Big Dance.
The NBA’s leading scorer, Kevin Durant, steered Texas to the tournament in 2007, but that was about it. The Longhorns beat New Mexico State in round one, and lost their next game. In the 2008 Final Four, Derrick Rose and Memphis toppled the UCLA Bruins, who featured Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook. Rose came close to a title, but his team lost a late lead two days later in the championship game. Highlight machine Blake Griffin reached the Elite Eight in his final collegiate season before falling to North Carolina.
Other NBA greats went to college before the restrictions were in place, but they didn’t cut down the nets either. Dwyane Wade led the Marquette Golden Eagles to the 2003 Final Four, but was knocked out by Kansas. Tim Duncan reached the Elite Eight at Wake Forest, but Chris Paul never made it past the Sweet 16 as a Demon Deacon. Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most intimidating players of all time, met kryptonite in three straight NCAA Tournaments and never advanced past the second round.
Failing to stand on stage with Jim Nantz wasn’t the end of the world for these guys. Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal both boast four NBA rings and will be remembered as two of the best players ever. Dwyane Wade won a ring with Miami, and Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose are positioning themselves for some jewelry.
The basic structure of the tournament is the simplest explanation for these all-time greats never winning an NCAA championship. The one-and-done format essentially caters to underdogs, as the randomness of single elimination allows many inferior teams to advance. Sustaining tremendous performance throughout a series is much more difficult and is a major reason the best NBA teams usually meet in June.
- George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Nothing against [Gilbert] Arenas personally, but he is damaged goods. He’s been trying to play on creaky damaged knees for three years, and there obviously appears to be no miracle cure short of Santeria to make Gilbert all better. But enough shots at Arenas. I am here to defend Nelson. The much-maligned Jameer Nelson. The guy who is as much a team leader as Dwight Howard. Dwight Howard is the imposing, great superstar. Jameer Nelson is the heart and soul of this team. Has been for years. Yet fans, media, and even his GM don’t seem to appreciate Jameer all that much. Everybody went gaga when rumors of a trade for Chris Paul surfaced during last year’s NBA Draft. Everybody like to rip Jameer because he is too short and vulnerable on defense and isn’t a ‘true point guard.’ But he’s also the guy who is most clutch at crunch time. He killed the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day when he scored 10 of his 12 points in the game’s final three minutes and recently took out the Denver Nuggets with a buzzer-beating 3-point shot. What more do you want from this guy?”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Here’s Magic General Manager Otis Smith‘s dream, which initially sounds like a nightmare: Smith hopes Gilbert Arenas causes a major controversy. That’s right. Gilbert’s no stranger to dark headlines, of course, but Smith is talking about him stirring things up on the court, not the gun range. Smith wants to see Arenas create waves in Orlando by challenging Jameer Nelson for the starting point-guard job next season — or even seizing it from Nelson. This scenario sounds far-fetched now, given Gilbert’s struggles since arriving in a mid-December trade. [...] Smith’s response came when I asked him about the clouds hovering over Arenas’ future with the Magic. He hasn’t been healthy, bothered by a troublesome left leg. And — as a career starter — Arenas is not happy as Nelson’s back-up, even though he’s showed little progress with his downsized minutes. [...] Smith feels Arenas needs more time, especially with [Stan] Van Gundy. But at some point, as his mentor/father figure since their Golden State days 10 years ago, Smith needs Arenas to justify why he risked making the deal.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Stan Van Gundy originally tried to solve the Orlando Magic’s turnover problem by talking about the issue and showing pertinent video clips to his players. Didn’t work. His team still committed 20 turnovers in its win Monday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers — the sixth time in their last eight games that the Magic had at least 18 turnovers. So, Van Gundy tried something novel during practice Tuesday at Baruch College in Manhattan. He didn’t use the word ‘turnover.’ The closest he came to discussing it? He urged his players to be sharp in one drill. [...] Before every game, he writes down the keys to that game on a dry-erase board in the Magic locker room. But Van Gundy said he won’t even mention the word ‘turnover’ on the board prior to tonight’s matchup against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.”
- Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times: “The Knicks are on the wrong side of a list of worrisome numbers. They blew a 15-point lead and lost to the Boston Celtics on Monday, their sixth defeat in seven games, and fell to .500 for the first time in more than a month. And who could predict the team’s scoring famine with the acquisition of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups? Coach Mike D’Antoni pinpointed the team’s most glaring issues at Tuesday’s practice, especially in the fourth quarter. Against the Celtics, Anthony did not score a basket in the second half, during which he was bloodied by a Rajon Rondo elbow near his left eye and left in the final seconds of the 96-86 loss. Amar’e Stoudemire did not score in the fourth quarter as Boston raced away from the Knicks, finishing on a 23-5 run, including the last 10 points of the game. The Knicks have not scored 100 points since Toney Douglas poured in nine 3-pointers last week against Memphis.”
- Howard Beck of the New York Times: “After one loss, Carmelo Anthony blamed a lack of defensive strategy. The next day, he blamed an overabundance of defensive schemes. In Indiana, Anthony upbraided Jared Jeffries for failing to get him the ball on a last-second play. In Detroit, he badgered Toney Douglas for failing to get him the ball in the second half. After his worst game of the season, he walked straight to the team bus, leaving others to explain the loss. Anthony is probably not as petulant, moody or selfish as he projected. But the hand-wringing over his demeanor obscured the Knicks’ broader deficiencies — most of which stem from the trade that brought him here. Their defense is worse. Their ball movement has suffered. And their roster is in shambles.”
- Ian Begley of ESPN New York: “The Knicks are 7-9 since Anthony’s arrival. They fell to 35-35 after Monday night’s loss to the Boston Celtics. The last time New York was .500 was Feb. 11, 11 days before the Knicks finalized the three-team, 13-player deal to acquire Anthony. They enter play on Tuesday in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a game behind the Philadelphia 76ers. According to some associated with the team, the Knicks players may be pressing. Coach Mike D’Antoni said on Monday night that the team panicked late in the fourth quarter of its loss to the Celtics. He said on Tuesday that the offense was stagnant at times in the final stanza, a common theme in its recent struggles. D’Antoni has observed that the new-look Knicks are ‘not quite sure’ of what they want to do on offense late in games. The Celtics outscored the Knicks 23-4 in the final 7:26 on Monday.”
- Stephen A. Smith of ESPN New York: “Monday night started with the New York Knicks introducing the Boston Celtics to a team we hadn’t seen since the days of Pat Riley, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason. It continued with blood splattered on the Madison Square Garden floor, punctuated with near fisticuffs from Amar’e Stoudemire — and teammates surprisingly eager to come to his aid. But once the final buzzer sounded and it was time to exhale, seconds removed from evident demoralization of a 96-86 defeat, it was clear these latest representatives of Gotham City didn’t warrant any comparisons at all. Just pity! There are no Oakleys or Masons, just Ronny Turiaf and Jared Jeffries. There isn’t a Riley on the bench, just Mike D’Antoni, who appears to detest everything Riley represented when he was with the Knicks — meaning rigidity and toughness. By now we’ve also learned, excruciatingly, that there is no defense, very little toughness or offensive efficiency, no team in any sense that really matters. Just a collection of NBA-caliber talent paid to wear blue-and-orange uniforms. [...] A season is not made in a week or two any more than a stellar game epitomizes greatness. But if what we’ve witnessed in the past nine days symbolizes anything, it is that the Knicks are falling apart before our very eyes. They’ve lost to sub-.500 teams. They’ve made marginal opposing players look like All-Stars. They’ve appeared disoriented in running plays, at getting to key spots on the floor and forcing misses, transforming themselves into laughingstocks. Privately, as a result, they have lost faith in one another. But especially in their coach.”