- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “True to their nature, Orlando Magic players looked relaxed as they left RDV Sportsplex following their shootaround Tuesday. If you didn’t know that their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks was starting tonight, you wouldn’t have been able to tell by the players’ expressions. ‘I’m happy and ready to go, and I’m looking forward to this series,’ Dwight Howard said a few minutes ago. ‘It’ll be a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to having a great series. We’ve had six, seven days of great practices. So, I’m ready to go. The team’s ready.’ ”
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson stayed mum on his plans for Dwight Howard, claiming he still doesn’t know exactly how the Hawks will approach the Magic big man. Woodson cautioned against focusing too much on Howard. “It ain’t just about Howard,” he said. “It’s about Vince [Carter], [Jameer] Nelson, [Ryan] Anderson, I mean they got so many weapons. [Jason] Williams. [Rashard] Lewis. I mean, we just gotta key on anybody that plays. They’re so talented. Howard is kind of the head of the snake.” The Hawks are just two days removed from finishing a Game 7 against the Milwaukee Bucks and will face the Magic tonight. Over-focusing on Howard was a problem for the Charlotte Bobcats, but it wasn’t one they ever recovered from. Despite Howard playing fewer than 28 minutes per game, the Magic still swept Charlotte.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic com notes that the Orlando Magic are more than prepared to face off against the Atlanta Hawks in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals: “The Orlando Magic have gone over scenarios where point guard Jameer Nelson is covered by Joe Johnson and they have drilled on what to do when center Dwight Howard is double- and single-covered. They have talked about attacking Atlanta’s zone defense and how to defend the Hawks many isolation plays in halfcourt sets with Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith and Johnson. Yep, the second-seeded Magic have basically been over almost every scenario possible they could face in tonight’s Game 1 against the third seeded Hawks in the eight days since they last played. “We’ve had a long time to prepare for just about everything,” Magic superstar center Dwight Howard said with an exaggerated sigh.”
- The NBA All-Star Game returns to Orlando.
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie votes Dwight Howard second in his MVP ballot.
- Shaun Powell of Sekou Smith’s Hangtime Blog, however, doesn’t think Howard should be in the top three of MVP voting: “Let’s start with the obvious. Dwight Howard is the best center in the game, the best defensive player in the game and the top player on a team that might win an NBA championship this season. He is not, however, more deserving of the MVP award than LeBron James, or Kobe Bryant or even Dwyane Wade and Kevin Durant. They have very little if any flaws. Howard, however, has flaws. He’s a notoriously poor free throw shooter, below 60 percent. His offensive game is fairly limited because he lacks a polished, go-to move. And he often gets into silly foul trouble. Very good player? Yes, absolutely. Best at his position? Not even close, really. Top 3? Not so close.”
- One thing is for sure, Howard is ready to play some basketball.
- Nada Taha Moslehy of SLAM ONLINE previews the matchup between the Magic and the Hawks.
- Head coach Mike Woodson talks about Orlando and Atlanta.
- Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated: “Logic points to an Orlando rout. At point guard, Jameer Nelson is playing like vintage Mike Bibby, circa 2004 or so, while the Hawks are stuck with the slower, less consistent 2010 Bibby. Atlanta may have the Sixth Man Award winner in combo guard Jamal Crawford, but the Magic possess a much deeper and more versatile bench overall. The first few times you watch Orlando, you wonder why it chooses to live and die with so many three-pointers, taken regardless of the shot clock and how many teammates are beneath the hoop. But after a while, you see that it isn’t really that risky: The Magic finished second (behind the Suns) in effective field-goal percentage (which factors in the added value of three-pointers) because their seven most-frequent long-range shooters convert between 36.7 (Carter’s seventh-best accuracy) and 40.5 percent (by team leader J.J. Redick) of their threes. [Stan] Van Gundy will find the two or three who are hot that game, and if defenses flood the perimeter, Howard gets single coverage at the rim.”
- Mickael Pietrus is ready to go for Game 1.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post chimes in on the MVP voting process: “Overall, the internal politics of NBA balloting put the voters in rough spots, which is why I agree with SBNation’s Mike Prada when he calls for more national, independent voters and a transparent ballot. Howard Beck, whose employer, the New York Times, does not allow its writers to cast award ballots, also made the case for accountability and transparency here. Yahoo! Sports’ Kelly Dwyer, a credentialed media member who’s covered the NBA for various internet publications over the last 10-plus years, only received awards votes this season. Why aren’t more people like him given votes? Wouldn’t taking some votes away from team employees make the results a bit more palatable? Kevin Pelton offers another suggestion: keeping the current electorate, but preventing its members from voting for players on the teams they represent.”
- John Hollinger of ESPN Insider and Dan Devine of Ball Don’t Lie shed light on the next generation of point guards that are flooding the NBA with their talents. Jameer Nelson, the “graybeard” of the group, gets some pub.
- Jordan Schultz of NBA FanHouse ranks Howard in his own tier among all big men in the league: “A rare combination of size, power and agility, Howard has it all — on the defensive end. He’s led the league in rebounding the last three years, and he’s blocked the most shots the last two. His defensive ability shuts down the entire painted area. He’s won the last two Defensive Player of the Year awards and should stay in contention for the award his entire career. Howard’s challenge, though, is to become a consistent go-to scoring option. He has such quick feet that he can rely on his overwhelming explosion, but with his back to the basket, he’s still very much in the early stages of his growth. He needs to develop more finesse, because right now he’s all power, and when things aren’t going his way, he can literally be taken out of the game by foul trouble.”
- Bethlehem Shoals of NBA FanHouse sets the table for the series between the Magic and the Hawks.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Via the Orlando Magic:
“The most magical week in sports is returning to Orlando for the second time, as the city has been selected to host NBA All-Star 2012, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced at a press conference today at the Amway Center. Orlando Magic President Bob Vander Weide, Magic Chief Operating Officer Alex Martins and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer joined Stern at the announcement. Orlando also hosted the 1992 All-Star Game.
The 61st NBA All-Star Game will be played on Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Amway Center, which will also host the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam and NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm. NBA All-Star Jam Session presented by adidas, the hugely successful interactive basketball celebration, will be held at the Orange County Convention Center. [...]
NBA All-Star competitions will get underway on Friday, Feb. 24, as the league’s top rookies and second-year players square off in the T-Mobile Rookie Challenge & Youth Jam. The following day’s festivities will feature NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm, an all-inclusive skills showcase comprised of Haier Shooting Stars, a competition featuring NBA and WNBA players, and NBA legends; Taco Bell Skills Challenge, a contest of top guards working against the clock to complete a series of passes, free throws, layups and agility drills; the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, a long-standing staple of the evening; and the ever-entertaining Sprite Slam Dunk contest.”
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Last night, LeBron James was presented with the MVP trophy by commissioner David Stern before the Cleveland Cavaliers faced off against the Boston Celtics in Game 2 of the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. It was a deserving moment for James, capping off a community celebration, of sorts, that began on Sunday when he received the award (open to the public) in his hometown at the University of Akron in front of family, friends, and the media.
Of course, the media has caused quite a stir in the blogosphere the past day or so, when it was revealed that several Orlando-based voters placed Dwight Howard ahead of James on their respective ballots. Even though James received 116 of a possible 123 first-place votes and won the award in a landslide, issues like local bias have been conjured up to explain why Howard (who finished fourth on the ballot) received three first-place votes.
Although Howard is a magnificent talent, a rare breed of player in today’s perimeter-oriented NBA, and more than worthy of being named the Defensive Player of the Year for a second consecutive season, there’s no way to justify choosing him over James at the MVP. Mind you, this is not an indictment on Howard. Not at all. This is a recognition of an individual that has transcended the sport of basketball. Someone that, according to Larry Bird, will “probably be better than all of us when it’s all said and done.”
That person is LeBron James.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic SF Mickael Pietrus — to no one’s surprise — said after Monday’s practice that he would play tonight in the playoff opener against the Atlanta Hawks. “Yes, I’m playing,” he said. Pietrus sprained his left ankle during Sunday’s practice, walked out of the trainer’s room in a protective boot and said afterward that he “didn’t know” if he could play. He left RDV Sportsplex on Monday, walking to his car in bare feet. Pietrus has misled the media before about the severity of injuries. “I’m like a snake,” Pietrus said, apparently meaning that a snake can still wiggle after its head is cut off.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “[Dwight] Howard averaged 21.0 points, 16.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots per game against the Hawks during the regular season. He also recorded double-doubles in points and rebounds in 11 of the teams’ last 12 regular-season games; the lone exception came this past January in a blowout Orlando victory in which Howard played less than half the game. Hawks coach Mike Woodson insisted that he won’t make up his mind whether to defend Howard one-on-one or double-team Howard until gameday. Atlanta tried both approaches during the regular season. Woodson likes to double-team Howard when his all-star center Al Horford is in the game, because that tactic helps Horford stay out of foul trouble. Woodson sometimes elects to defend Howard one-on-one, especially when Atlanta backup center Zaza Pachulia is on the floor.”
- Mark Bradley of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The local consensus has long been that Orlando is the one team the Hawks cannot handle, and on the record that has been true. The [Orlando] Magic won six consecutive meetings over the past two seasons; indeed, the Hawks went more than a calendar year — from Oct. 28, 2008 to March 24, 2010 — without beating their Southeast Division cousin. But Orlando is tough on everybody (Cleveland most notably), and if you look hard you’ll see the Hawks have a puncher’s chance. [...] My first inclination was to take Magic in six, but something about this matchup leads me to think it’ll go the distance. And where would the weight of expectation in such a Game 7 fall? Not on the Hawks. The Milwaukee series was strange: The Hawks went from too loose to too tight to almost gone. But they made it through, and they see real opportunity in Round 2. So do I. Hawks in seven.”
- Michael Cunningham of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “The video and statistical evidence, accumulated by Synergy Sports Technology, seems to support a varied approach. In the four games against the Hawks, Howard attempted to score 34 times on post-ups against Horford. The Hawks sent a second defender before Howard made his move on 10 of those possessions. When Howard was alone vs. Horford, the Magic center scored 16 points on 24 possessions (five field goals and six free throws). Howard turned the ball over four times. That’s excellent defense by Horford, but it’s even better when he gets help. The Hawks forced nine turnovers on those 10 possessions (Howard scored the one time he got off a shot). This goes to explain why Woodson said that, while he’s tempted to let Horford handle Howard on his own, the success of the double team makes him hesitant to try. But sending a second defender can leave the Hawks vulnerable on the perimeter against one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the league. That’s a worry for the Hawks, who’ve been inconsistent all season with closing out on shooters.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Center Jason Collins played a total of only 3 minutes, 39 seconds in the Atlanta Hawks’ first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks. But to hear Hawks coach Mike Woodson tell it, that could change when the Hawks face the Orlando Magic in the teams’ upcoming Eastern Conference semifinal series. In fact, the Hawks could take a page from the Charlotte Bobcats’ game plan. In the first round, the Bobcats employed three different centers — and those centers’ 18 available personal fouls – and forced Howard to the bench because of foul trouble in each game. Woodson said Collins will see some playing time backing up Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia.”
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel shares the news that Mickael Pietrus will suit up and play in Game 1.
- ESPN’s Jalen Rose calls the Orlando Magic the best team in the playoffs but with a caveat.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said that nothing that the Hawks do in the series will surprise Orlando, but he fully expects Atlanta to use 6-foot-7 guard Joe Johnson on Jameer Nelson at times in the series. Nelson was Orlando’s most consistent player against Charlotte, averaging 23.8 points and 4.5 assists while carving up Raymond Felton and the Bobcats. The Magic expect that Atlanta will use point guards Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford on Matt Barnes and [Mickael] Pietrus, while small forward Marvin Williams will check Carter. The matchup that favors Orlando the most is the one that involves Howard against Atlanta big men Al Horford and Zaza Pachulia. [Dwight] Howard averaged 21 points, 16.8 rebounds and 3.5 blocks in four games this season against the Hawks this season while shooting 55.1 percent.”
- The Magic’s #1 target on defense is going to be Joe Johnson.
- Dwight Howard and head coach Stan Van Gundy chime in on the MVP voting.
- Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference likes Orlando to win their series against the Atlanta Hawks in 5 games.
- George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel thinks that the Magic will make quick work of the Hawks in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. The stat geeks agree.
- John Hollinger of ESPN Insider: “I’m trying to come up with a statistical indicator to favor Atlanta, and I’m drawing a blank. Orlando has home-court advantage, led the NBA in point differential and crushed Charlotte in four games in the first round despite having “Foul On You” nailed to the bench for all but 26.5 minutes a game. Meanwhile, the Hawks did little to encourage supporters by struggling past an injury-depleted Milwaukee squad in Round 1. Moreover, the head-to-head history over the past two years is pretty one-sided. Atlanta won at Orlando on opening day of the 2008-09 season by 14 points, but since then it has been all Orlando. The Magic have won six of the past seven games, including wins by 17, 18, 32 and 34. Atlanta’s only win in that span was by two points at the buzzer.”
- Vince Carter reminisces on his dunk on 7’2” Frederic Weis in the 2000 Summer Olympics: “That was probably one of the proudest moments of my life when I did that. It’s something that you just can’t duplicate. I tell you once it happened, like a month after the Olympics, having a conversation with my buddies, I tried to jump over a guy who is 6′5″. Now Frederic Weis is 7′1″, or something like that – who’s counting? He’ might of been 7′2″, but whatever. My buddy is 6′5″. I tried to jump over him. I almost hurt him and myself at the same time. So the moon and stars must have been aligned correctly at the same time for me to do that. But, hey, whatever.”
- Zach Lowe of Off the Dribble tackles the adjusted plus/minus issue in the NBA: “The Massachusetts Institute of Technology IT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is regarded as a gathering of like-minded sports dorks pushing basketball statistics away from traditional measures, such as points and assists, and toward more advanced measures, including hockey-style plus/minus. But at this year’s conference in March a debate continued over whether plus/minus is relevant when evaluating individual players in basketball. Some critics contend it might work better in measuring the effectiveness of five-man lineups.”
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
No introduction necessary.
A few days ago, I was able to ask Rock a few questions to preview the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks.
Do you foresee Jameer Nelson having his way on offense in his matchup with Mike Bibby as he did against Raymond Felton?
I’ll put it this way: [Jameer] Nelson might not stay as hot as he was against Charlotte, but if there’s any defender who can help keep him hot, it’s Mike Bibby. The Hawks switch every screen, and have for years under coach Mike Woodson, which helps hide Bibby’s poor D somewhat. But Nelson likely won’t need any screens to get to where he wants on the floor against Bibby. I expect him to do more driving and less three-point bombing against the Hawks.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images
Hoopinion is known by many around the blogosphere for the past few years as an excellent site that covers the Atlanta Hawks, authored by Bret LaGree. But what people may not know is that LaGree has produced a playwright before, titled “Guyworld” … talk about writing versatility! In any case, if you’re ever in need an educated take or the latest scoop on the Hawks, Hoopinion is the place to go. LaGree drops knowledge, without a doubt.
A few days ago, I was able to ask LaGree a few questions to preview the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Orlando Magic and the Atlanta Hawks.
Some people have stated that the Atlanta Hawks’ performance in the first round revealed more questions than answers, most notably concerning the team’s inconsistency, head coach Mike Woodson’s coaching acumen, etc. Do you agree or disagree with that statement and why?
Perimeter defense, defensive rebounding, predictability in the half-court (both offensively and defensively) which can be exploited down the stretch of close games, an inability to get to the free throw line, and a lack of depth have all been problems for the Hawks for years but little of that has really taken root in the national consciousness. I suspect that it’s rare that the team who averages the fourth-fewest possessions per game in the league is commonly perceived and frequently described as a devastating transition team.
So, yes, making adjustments isn’t Mike Woodson’s strength (nor does his roster give him a lot of options; granted, some of that is his own doing), and, yes, you’d think that by being a former Larry Brown assistant Woodson would be a good defensive coach but the Hawks have never been a good defensive team under him, and, yes, the Hawks look great when they get out and run but they can’t do that consistently because they don’t rebound enough of the misses they force and, when that happens, they become over-reliant on jump shots created within a half-court system that prizes dribbling over ball and player movement. I don’t think anything that was revealed in the Milwaukee series was news to Hawks fans but the some common misconceptions casual or infrequent viewers of the team were dispelled.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “The Orlando Magic will be facing yet another Southeast Division rival in the playoffs after the Atlanta Hawks emerged from their first-round series on Sunday. The second-seeded Magic will face the third-seeded Hawks in second-round play beginning Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Amway Arena. The Hawks defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 95-74 on Sunday in a Game 7 for the right to face Orlando. The Magic beat the Charlotte Bobcats 4-0 in the first round for the first four-game sweep in franchise history. By virtue of that sweep and Atlanta being pushed to seven games by the Bucks, the Magic will have had eight days off by Tuesday, while the Hawks will be forced to board a plane to Orlando on Monday afternoon.”
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel notes that there are still tickets available for Games 1 and 2.
- Dwight Howard finished fourth in the MVP voting: “Looks like the Magic’s campaign to get Howard some MVP consideration worked on a few voters at least. Out of 123 possible votes, 122 from the media and one from a collective fan vote, Howard was in the top five of 111 ballots. He received three first-place votes, 27 second-place, 30 third-place, 29 fourth-place and 22 fifth-place votes for a total of 478 points. James won the award in a landslide for the second consecutive year. He received 116 first-place votes, five second-place votes and two third-place votes for 1,205 points.”
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie questions the Atlanta Hawks: “The biggest question, beyond Atlanta’s consistent inconsistent, remains only partially answered. Will Mike Woodson realize that he has admirable depth on his team? Depth not named “Maurice Evans,” mind you, because Mike loves him some Mo Evans. Beyond Crawford, Atlanta’s bench usually doesn’t get much time to make an impact. But starting in Game 6, Zaza Pachulia came off the bench to make Ersan Ilyasova’s (the Game 5 hero) life a living hell on the glass. Joe Smith can still play, Jeff Teague could at least help in defending in transition or getting teams into sets when Mike Bibby isn’t hitting, and Mario West should be more than a bit player when Marvin Williams isn’t helping.”
- UPDATE: Mickael Pietrus sprained his left ankle during practice and it is unsure if he’ll be able to play on Tuesday.
Via the Orlando Magic:
The National Basketball Association has announced the schedule for the Orlando Magic’s Eastern Conference Semifinals best-of-seven playoff series vs. Atlanta.
Orlando vs. Atlanta Eastern Conference Semifinals Series Schedule
- Game 1 – Tuesday, May 4, 8 p.m., at Orlando (Amway Arena), TNT TV
- Game 2 – Thursday, May 6, 8 p.m., at Orlando (Amway Arena), ESPN TV
- Game 3 – Saturday, May 8, 5 p.m., at Atlanta, ESPN TV
- Game 4 – Monday, May 10, 8 p.m., at Atlanta, TNT TV
- Game 5 – Wednesday, May 12, Time TBD, at Orlando (Amway Arena), TNT TV, if necessary
- Game 6 – Friday, May 14, Time TBD, at Atlanta, ESPN TV, if necessary
- Game 7 – Sunday, May 16, Time TBD, at Orlando (Amway Arena), TV TBD, if necessary
*All Times Eastern
*All games on Magic Radio Network (Flagship: AM 580 WDBO) and in Spanish (AM 1030 WONQ).
*All conference semifinal games are exclusive national telecasts.