Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 237

Jun 03

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “Overall, [Dwight] Howard ranked in the 85th percentile of offensive players in 2008/09, compared to the 90th percentile this season. There is no way to argue that he got worse. None. I guess the commercials he filmed didn’t actually affect his game then, right? But plenty of people, it seems, expect more from Howard. They want him to be a back-to-the-basket nightmare with a zillion and one moves, capable of scoring 25 points a night while still locking down the defensive end. They aren’t crazy. Given his age, it’s reasonable that he’ll one day get there. Where I think they’re off is in their belief that he can only become a truly elite if he does that. As it stands, Howard is the best player at his position and, at worst, the 5th-best player in the league. He could make no improvement whatsoever for the next several seasons, maintain that standing, and still be elite.”
  • Marcin Gortat gets a C+ for the season.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel evaluates J.J. Redick, Jason Williams, and Jameer Nelson.
  • Eric Freeman of The Baseline chimes in on Dwight Howard seeking out Hakeem Olajuwon during the off-season: “Hakeem is actually one of the better players Howard could turn to for advice. As a youngster, Olajuwon relied more on athleticism than skill, in a manner relatively similar to Dwight. Howard is still only 24, but Olajuwon can still help him transition from athletic dynamo to a more refined player. Patrick Ewing has helped Howard’s offensive game considerably, but it too often seems as if Ewing is trying to turn Dwight into a veteran big man rather than a dynamic athletic talent who also happens to have a couple excellent post moves. Olajuwon could understand Howard better. The main question is whether or not he can have much of an impact in only a few sessions.”
  • Spiffy ‘at rim defenses’ data charts, courtesy of Tom Haberstroh of Hardwood Paroxysm.
  • Jordan Schultz of NBA FanHouse … without comment: “[…] what about Jameer Nelson? More specifically, what was Van Gundy doing playing him such a heavy dosage of minutes? After he torched an incumbent Raymond Felton and glacial Mike Bibby in the earlier rounds, Nelson was everyone’s darling entering the conference finals. Rajon Rondo, however, quickly changed this sentiment. In beating him in every way possible, Rondo has made Nelson look like the aging point guard Bibby appeared to be in the Eastern Conference semis. Nelson has never been a burner. He’s a pace-setter, a strong-willed floor general who can score and moderately facilitate, but can also be scored upon. In this series, he looked tired, sluggish and outclassed. Nevermind the poor shooting numbers and sub-par scoring … “guarding” Rondo he was absolutely gobbled up, costing Howard to pick up bail-out fouls and forcing Orlando into the hands of the Celtics. Once again, the player deserves criticism, but the real responsibility falls on the coach.”
  • Nelson’s True Shooting Percentage was .559 percent in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. Rajon Rondo? .465 percent … that stat alone refutes Schultz’s assertion that Nelson was outclassed. I rarely, if ever, criticize another writer because who am I to say who is good or bad? But Schultz’s article today was poorly written. End of story.
  • Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference looks at how team balance affects the outcome of a Finals series.
  • Daniel Marks of Dime Magazine states that Jason Williams is one of 10 free agents that nobody is talking about: “After his one year retirement, Williams has returned to the NBA with the Magic and proven to be a very solid backup point guard for them. Williams shot 38 percent from three this year, and averaged 6.0 points and 3.5 assists in 20 minutes, proving he definitely can be a good backup point guard for the next few years. Plus, he can add much needed depth for a team looking for some.”

Jun 03

Dwight Howard to Work With Hakeem Olajuwon in the Off-Season

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

Some help might come from former Houston Rockets all-star Hakeem Olajuwon, who spoke with [Dwight] Howard during the Eastern Conference finals. Olajuwon has made himself available to NBA players in recent years; he even spent some time last summer working with Kobe Bryant to help Bryant to develop his low-post game.

“In the next couple of weeks, we will see each other,” Howard said of Olajuwon. “I just can’t wait to go up there. He’s a great guy. He had a lot of great things to say. I’m just looking forward to having the chance to work with him.”

[Orlando] Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said Howard made big strides as a leader during the last three games of the Eastern Conference finals. Van Gundy also liked that Howard’s repertoire on offense widened during the regular season.

This bit of news is a few days old, but it’s deserves more attention.

For years, Magic fans have hoped that Dwight Howard would craft his game with the help of Hakeem Olajuwon, at some point in his career.

Wish granted.

Jun 03

Evaluating Dwight Howard’s Offense in the Playoffs

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Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Third in a three-part series, I’m going to analyze this year’s playoff performances of several Orlando Magic players. These posts will be offense-centric, given that I will be writing up player evaluations next week, so I’ll reserve analysis on the defense of Dwight Howard – for example — until then.

Today’s subject?

The aforementioned Howard.

It was an interesting postseason for the one nicknamed “Superman.”

Perhaps this statement is off-based, and it might be, but it’s amazing how much criticism Howard endures as a player of his stature. Howard is, without a doubt, a top five player in the NBA, yet is almost roundly criticized for what he can’t do rather than praised for what he can do. It is what it is.

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Overall:

PER TS% eFG% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG%
22.1 .606 .614 19.4 7.6 1.2 8.1 19.6 25.9

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Jun 02

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Prepped by the [Orlando] Magic PR staff not to react angrily when approached for comment before tipoff Friday, [Dwight] Howard didn’t say a disparaging word. But later in the night, after the Magic were eliminated, he asked a reporter for the whereabouts of Borges. Howard couldn’t locate him, but the unfiltered conversation would have been, um, animated. Given a few days to mull things over and contemplate a season of unfulfilled goals, Howard is taking the road less travelled. Only 24, he has come to understand that life is difficult, and it’s impossible to focus with all the clanging cymbals in his head. On a more simplistic level, Howard is going with the “sticks and stones may hurt my bones but names will never hurt me” approach to the antagonists.”
  • Today, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel continues his player evaluations — Adonal Foyle, Marcin Gortat, Anthony Johnson, and Mickael Pietrus.
  • The Orlando Magic meet the Wu-Tang Clan name generator.
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post looks back at the respective seasons of Brandon Bass and Vince Carter.
  • SLAM ONLINE shares video of the 1995 Roundball Classic, which featured Carter and other then-high schoolers like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Take a look.
  • Dwight Howard: “I want to thank all of the Magic fans out there for the love that they showed us this season. It used to be that we’d go into arenas on the road and we’d never see Magic jerseys on the fans. Jameer [Nelson] and I vowed to one another a few years back that we were going to make Magic basketball more popular. I feel like we’ve done that, but we still need that championship! We’re not bringing that ‘chip home and I’m sure fans are as disappointed right now as I am. I like to think that things happen for a reason, and I think we’ll learn from this. It will take me most of the summer to get over this loss. I know the sun will come up tomorrow and life will be just fine. After some time, hopefully I can get my mind off us not getting back to The Finals and not winning that title. I just need some time right now.”
  • Lang Whitaker of SLAM ONLINE looks back at NBA Finals in years past and shares his notes with everyone. Some of the anecdotes are memorable, like this one: “The Magic then replaced the Lakers at the hastily assembled podiums surrounding the court. Jameer Nelson and Rafer Alston were nearly side by side, though Rafer had a microphone and Jameer didn’t, so Skip was basically talking over Jameer. Meanwhile, supplanted back-up point guard Anthony Johnson was sitting alone on the scorer’s table at halfcourt, methodically working his way through a bag of sunflower seeds, a habit he said was a remnant of his baseball career in high school. […] I sat with AJ for the entire Magic media availability and watched him patiently explain over and over again to a rotating crop of reporters that yes, he’d like to be playing right now, but it was Stan Van Gundy’s decision and AJ was not going to ’cause a ruckus’ at this point in the season. He did a nice job deflecting pretty much every question, though it was kind of amusing to see AJ fish for an inoffensive answer when Marc Berman asked him, ‘Do you believe in the saying, If it ain’t broke don’t fix it?’ ”
  • Zach Harper of Hardwood Paroxysm on Matt Barnes: “He’s a sub-par offensive player and an above average defensive player. He’s an agitator on the court and in there to stir things up a bit. He’s basically the Bam Margera of the NBA. There’s not a lot of discernible talent and it’s hard to figure out how he keeps getting on TV. And yet there he is, breaking stuff for no reason and messing with his fat uncle that has the crazy eyes that don’t point in the same direction. Well, he just opted out of his contract after the Magic were eliminated from the playoffs by the hands of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Perhaps, you remember the Magic’s run in the playoffs this year. It was the same set of post-season games in which J.J. Redick completely outplayed his teammate and damn near made him obsolete. Perhaps you’re asking yourself why a struggling basketball player would try to get himself a pay raise after a bad run of basketball. Isn’t that the anti-Croshere move?”
  • Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm chimes in on Ryan Anderson and the lack of minutes he got in the 2010 NBA Playoffs: “Anderson’s production has been there. He’s a terrific asset, and he looks like the piece New Jersey shouldn’t have surrendered. That he’s now trapped three deep on Orlando is a shame. He’s capable of so much more, and if the Magic don’t want to use him, that’s fine, but let’s go see what he can do elsewhere. Trapping him long term in Orlando is a waste of his potential. If you’re not going to use him anyway, go get a Collins brother or someone else equally useless. Don’t pen up the kid that can shoot.”
  • John Hollinger of ESPN Insider ranks all 66 teams that have played for the Larry O’Brien trophy. The 2009 Magic are ranked ahead of the 1995 Magic, for those that are curious: “Orlando won 59 games and beat two 60-win teams to make the Finals, so the Magic weren’t chopped liver. On the other hand, they tied a record with 11 playoff losses and their playoff scoring margin was in the bottom 15 among Finalists. Magic fans will be pleased to learn, however, that this team ranks ahead of the team’s other Finals entry, which starred the since-departed and now-despised Shaquille O’Neal.”

Jun 02

Evaluating Jameer Nelson’s Offense in the Playoffs

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Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Second in a three-part series, I’m going to analyze this year’s playoff performances of several Orlando Magic players. These posts will be offense-centric, given that I will be writing up player evaluations next week, so I’ll reserve analysis on the defense of Dwight Howard – for example — until then.

Today’s subject?

Jameer Nelson.

Amidst all the hoopla after the Boston Celtics ended the Magic’s season in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals on Friday, Nelson’s performance in the playoffs turned out to be one of the bright spots for the men in blue.

There were some question marks surrounding Nelson as the 2010 NBA Playoffs got underway, though. But it was clear that Nelson was going to do everything in his power to exorcise his demons from the 2009 NBA Finals, in one way or the other, and play with a chip on his shoulder.

And that’s exactly what Nelson did.

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Overall:

PER TS% eFG% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG%
20.7 .612 .566 10.3 28.7 1.6 0.0 13.9 26.1

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Jun 01

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “[J.J.] Redick just enjoyed the best season of his four-year NBA career and proved himself in the playoffs to be a clutch, gritty competitor. He torched the Celtics for 12- and 14-point games in the [Orlando] Magic’s two wins in the East Finals, showing off his growth as a player and guts as a closer. Redick also showed his value to other teams, and with shooting in the NBA being at a premium, he likely enhanced his value on the free-0agent market. He is a restricted free agent, meaning the Magic can match any offer he gets from another team. And all indications are that the Magic will do just that on any reasonable offer because they value Redick’s toughness, shooting and growth as a player. He knows he could assuredly have a greater role elsewhere, likely even be a starter on most teams, but Redick said he hopes more than anything that his future continues to be in Orlando. The guard who will turn 26 years old wants the structure of knowing where his future will be. He decided to get married before free agency in case he had to uproot himself, but he hopes he’s still here come next season.”
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel evaluates Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass.
  • Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post grades Anderson and Matt Barnesperformance during the 2009-2010 season.
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie takes a looks back at the Orlando Magic’s season: “I was wrong, obviously. The Magic leaned too hard on people, not players, who shouldn’t be leaned upon. People who cannot be trusted. Respect the hell out of Jameer Nelson as a person, I implore you, but at times he’s too unaware of his own talent. His own gifts. The same can be said for Vince Carter, who could be an absolute demon in the triple threat position in a playoff game. The exact same for Rashard Lewis. All three failed Orlando, in May. Carter and Lewis, badly, need to pull up some tapes of Reggie Miller’s play in the 2000 postseason. How he used those old bones to drive the Eastern Conference mad. You receive the ball in the pinch post, 19 feet from the hoop. Either side of the court. You fake a drive, you fake a pass, you fake a shot. You fake every option – all three of them, that’s why they call it a “triple-threat” – and you see what the defender lunges at. You respond accordingly. You’d prefer to shoot, it’s the easiest move, but you could also drive. Even for just one or two hard dribbles before the pull-up. You use all those skills, that size, that touch. You make yourself dangerous. You help your team win.”
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk chimes in on Adonal Foyle‘s possible retirement.
  • It’s no secret that Shaquille O’Neal had an impact on the Magic … after he left Orlando.
  • Daniel Marks of Dime Magazine lists Dwight Howard on the All-Southeast Division team.

Jun 01

The Future of J.J. Redick and Company is Up in the Air

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Via Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:

Smith told the Sentinel that he “anticipates” Vince Carter remaining with the team, wants to re-sign J.J. Redick and doesn’t expect to package little-used, but expensive players (such as Marcin Gortat and Brandon Bass) in a sign-and-trade deal for a star free agent.

As for starting small forward Matt Barnes, Smith was more non-committal, considering it was Barnes who took the unusual step Monday to formally announce he would opt out of his two-year contract and go exploring as a free agent.

Smith doesn’t plan on making major changes to the 59-win team and instead said he’ll “make some tweaks.”

There’s only one month left until the fun begins — free agency — for teams such as the New York Knicks, who will be looking to lure and sign big-name free agents like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and others. The Orlando Magic have been in that position before, most notably in 2000, when they did the song and dance routine with Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, and Tracy McGrady. The Magic know better than almost every team in the NBA … at first, free agency can be a dream but it can end up being a nightmare before it’s all said and done.

Ten years later, though, Orlando is in a position to make a tweak here and there. Not a facelift.

Barring something unforeseen and given what’s been reported, it appears that J.J. Redick will probably re-sign with the Magic. Redick loves the organization and the organization loves Redick. And since Redick stated on Monday that he wouldn’t mind maintaining his role with the Magic and winning than becoming a starter on another team, unless something crazy happens between now and July 1, it seems like a deal will be worked out sooner or later. Redick has proven to be a valuable player time and again for Orlando, especially in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics, so it’s most likely a sure bet that general manager Otis Smith will do his due diligence and try to keep Redick.

On the other side of the spectrum, Matt Barnes seems like the player most likely to leave the Magic and go elsewhere but it’s hard to predict where he’ll end up. Barnes opted out and is clearly looking for a raise, whether it’s with Orlando or somewhere else, but he could be replaced if push came to shove. Yes, Barnes brings the cliche “intangibles” that everyone enjoys and praises about a player, like his toughness and what not, and there’s no denying that he can always be counted on to give a consistent effort on the floor night in and night out, but he’s replaceable. That doesn’t mean Barnes shouldn’t be welcomed back with open arms if he returned to the Magic, though.

As for Brandon Bass, Vince Carter, and Marcin Gortat, who knows what will happen with them. The respective futures of each of them will probably hinge on whether or not Orlando sticks with their current 4-out/1-in philosophy.

Jun 01

Evaluating Rashard Lewis’ Offense in the Playoffs

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Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

First in a three-part series, I’m going to analyze this year’s playoff performances of several Orlando Magic players. These posts will be offense-centric, given that I will be writing up player evaluations next week, so I’ll reserve analysis on the defense of Dwight Howard – for example — until then.

Today’s subject?

Rashard Lewis.

_______

Overall:

PER TS% eFG% TRB% AST% STL% BLK% TOV% USG%
14.1 .584 .559 9.6 11.4 1.6 1.6 14.0 17.3

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May 31

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Matt Barnes will test the free-agent market this summer. Barnes said minutes ago that he will not exercise his player option for the 2010-11 season, but he added that he hopes to return to the Orlando Magic. ‘As for me and my contract situation, I’m going to opt out,’ Barnes told reporters gathered at RDV Sportsplex this morning. ‘Always worrying about the team and stuff like that is something you have to do during the season, and I’m 100 percent with that. But now it’s about me and my family and what’s best for us. I’ve expressed throughout the season that I’ve loved my time here and would love to return. But I think I know more than anybody that this is a business. The organization has to do what’s best for the team. Hopefully, I impressed them enough to bring me back and give me something decent, but we’ll have to wait and see about that.’ ”
  • More from Robbins: “Dwight Howard acknowledged Monday that he might not play for Team USA in the FIBA World Championship late this summer in Turkey.”
  • George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel states that general manager Otis Smith will need to make a decision about Vince Carter‘s future with the Orlando Magic sooner rather than later: “Will Carter be one of those 13 guys in 2010-11? It would be a neat thing if Carter stuck around. This is home for him. He’s a good guy with his teammates and a stand-up guy with the media. He does worthy charitable work, including a drug and alcohol rehab center in Flagler County. But all of that stuff often has very little to do with the business of basketball. Carter has an expiring contract, always a valuable asset for teams looking to unload big money. At some point soon, the Magic will need to decide whether Carter is worth keeping for another run, or look into the possibility of trading him. It would be disappointing to see him go. But admitting failure is the less painful than sticking with a plan that isn’t working. Carter needs to be the guy who had a strong latter half of the season, including the 48-point bomb he dropped on New Orleans.”
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com sits down with Smith for a Q/A session and asks him a variety of questions concerning the Magic. Some answers from Smith were somewhat revealing, like this one: “I think that we can [win a championship with Rashard Lewis at power forward]. I don’t think that is the issue. I think we have enough bodies to play the way that we want to play and win. I’m not one of those guys who subscribe to the theory that we need another power forward. I’ll put that right next to the idea that we need another center. That’s not what I subscribe to at all. We have the right collection of people to get the job done but collectively we didn’t get it done.”
  • Rob Mahoney of ProBasketballTalk: “Orlando will likely make an effort to keep him, but from the sound of things it seems like Barnes’ decision will come down to the money. Tough to blame him, as he’s hardly locked in for huge, mega-deals for the rest of his career and his biggest payday yet was a $3 million, one-year deal from the Warriors in ’07-’08. We’ll have to wait and see whether or not the Magic will give Barnes the most lucrative offer, but they could definitely use his services next season.”
  • Mickael Pietrus‘ hairdo netted him $17,000 this year.

May 31

Vince Carter’s Top 10 Plays from the 2009-2010 Regular Season

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