Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Let the countdown begin.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic start the choreographed fun late in warm-ups while the crowd settles in. Players begin with a rhythmic clapping and jumping up and down in a semi-circle. Veteran point guard Anthony Johnson moves into the center as the ringmaster and does a “funky dance” to ignite the pregame ritual. He introduces himself as Tyrone Biggums (a character created by comedian Dave Chappelle) and then introduces Vince Carter, “The DJ,” who pretends to spin records. Johnson will introduce Jameer Nelson as “Baby Yams,”‘ and then Dwight Howard as superhero “Hancock” and Jason Williams as “Bubs.” Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to “The Magic Show.” [...] The show tips off today in a first-round playoff series against the Charlotte Bobcats.”
- Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Prepare yourself, Orlando. I believe we are about to see a Vince Carter we’ve never, ever seen before. A Vince Carter who won’t admit it but knows his entire basketball biography can be rewritten with 16 victories in the next two months. On Friday, before the first practice of the postseason began, Carter swished a miraculous shot from the free-throw line into the basket at the other end of the court. And then in one of the first plays of practice, when the Magic were doing a routine two-on-two pick-and-roll drill, Carter drove forcefully down the lane and dunked so hard it rattled the rim and made the entire team take notice.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “While Howard is undoubtedly the heart of the Magic, I’ve always made the argument that Nelson is this team’s soul. He is the leader in the locker room and the player others respect most on the court to direct the traffic and keep the team under control. And often, Nelson is the barometer for how well the Magic play. Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis are the first, second and third options, but when Nelson is probing the lane and in attack mode that’s when the Orlando offense is at its best. When he gets into the lane, the threes tend to come in bunches, Howard gets lobs and Nelson certainly has the ability to score on his own. And down the stretch, it’s Nelson who will have the ball in his hands in pick-and-roll sets with Carter. Coach Stan Van Gundy has the confidence and trust in Nelson that he will make the right play – whether it’s a drive-and-kick pass or a clutch 3-pointer.”
- Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: “An NBA opponent scout, who wants to remain anonymous, breaks down the Charlotte Bobcats entering the playoffs, in an interview with Observer NBA writer Rick Bonnell: [...] ‘They have been trapping constantly of late, almost like a college team. Everybody knows Larry calls his preferred trap a “42″ – it’s his version of a run-and-jump trap. It fits right in with their high-energy disposition. It’s especially effective against the other team’s second unit. Your second-team point guard had better be able to handle pressure because this team will absolutely test him that way.’ ”
- Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer: “An NBA locker room generally has one alpha male – the player that everyone else defers to both on and off the court. Michael Jordan was the ultimate example, but most teams willingly cede this control to the club’s most talented veteran. That veteran clarifies the team’s emotional tone and schedule daily – from who gets picked on the most to how much attention the head coach should be paid to where to go on an off night in Atlanta. The Bobcats, though, have ended up with two alpha males. Jackson and Wallace not only peacefully co-exist but have built a solid friendship. The transition since Charlotte traded for Jackson in November has been mostly seamless because Jackson and Wallace so respect each other’s work on the basketball court.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic SF Matt Barnes said Thursday that his camp spoke with the franchise about extending his contract or awarding him with a new deal. “Yeah, we talked to them,” Barnes said told the Sentinel. “We’re going to wait until the season’s over.” Barnes’ agent is Aaron Goodwin, who also represents Magic C Dwight Howard. Barnes signed a two-year deal last summer, but he can opt out of his contract at season’s end. He has said he would love to stay with the Magic.”
- Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated lists the Orlando Magic as one of the teams that has a chance to win a championship this year: “Orlando attempted more threes than last year, while Dwight Howard averaged two fewer shots per game; but he is shooting a higher percentage at 61.1 percent and he is likely to win another defensive player of the year award. Put it all together and coach Stan Van Gundy has wrestled an apparently disparate roster back into title contention. They enter the playoffs on a 20-3 tear along with the confidence that they can reprise last year’s upset of Cleveland. They surely look like the biggest obstacle the Cavs will face this spring.”
- Britt Robson of Sports Illustrated previews the first round series between the Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats: “This could be a much tougher test for the Magic than it first appears. Their 3-1 season edge over Charlotte included two victories in the first three weeks of the season, before the Bobcats acquired Stephen Jackson. Since then, Charlotte extended Orlando to overtime before losing and then went into Orlando and beat the Magic in mid-March. Points will be precious, as Larry Brown’s Bobcats led the NBA in defensive efficiency (fewest points allowed per 100 possessions), Orlando was third and both teams play at a slower-than-average pace. If Orlando isn’t hitting its three-pointers, Charlotte could steal a game on the road — and the Bobcats finished (31-10) at home.”
- Charles Barkley chimes in on Orlando.
- Doug Collins recognizes that it’s not all about threes when the Magic play: “Normally teams that take a lot of threes play small. They stretch you out, they run, they quick shoot the ball and they want to get into a shootout. [The Magic have] Dwight Howard back there anchoring that defense blocking or changing shots. One of the things I love about Orlando is they’re a team that can get hot and throw up huge numbers but they can also beat you in a game where defense wins.”
- Want to know why Rashard Lewis has struggled against the Bobcats this season? Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post provides an explanation: “The poor shooting in spot-up situations is absolutely cause for concern, as spotting up is how Lewis gets 42.9% of his offense on the season, according to Synergy. That figure increased to 60.9% against the Bobcats, which makes his decline in effectiveness in those situations so jarring. He scored 7 times in 28 possessions when spotting up, or just 25% of the time for 0.679 points per possession, as the above chart shows. For the season, spotting up? He scores 45.5% of the time and produces 1.218 points per possession. What a dramatic drop-off. Thing is, Lewis can’t stop shooting. Orlando needs him to continue firing away, predominantly from beyond the arc, for its offense to work. He’s going to have to spot-up against the Bobcats, and he’s also going to have to convert those chances at a much higher rate. So the next question is, “how?” Honestly, he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing.”
- Bill Simmons of ESPN.com attempts to prove that Orlando can’t win four straight playoff series with Vince Carter on the team.
- Two of the top 10 five-man units in the playoffs, sorted by efficiency differential, are owned by the Magic. John Schuhmann of NBA.com has more: “The Magic starters are the best starting unit in the East, both offensively and defensively. If you’re willing to look at smaller sample sizes, you’ll discover that replacing Howard with Marcin Gortat gives you even better results, (Def: 85.2, Diff: +33.4), which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because Howard is the prohibitive favorite to win his second straight Defensive Player of the Year award. The starters-plus-Gortat lineup played in just 21 games together, and for just 74 minutes total.”
- With the use of video, Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook breaks down the strengths and weakness, plus the tendencies, of Orlando and Charlotte.
- Bethlehem Shoals and Tom Ziller of NBA FanHouse offer a fun and insightful preview of the matchup between the Magic and the Bobcats.
- Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse: “At the start of practice Friday — in a mundane, two-on-two, pick-and-roll drill he has run a thousand times in his career — veteran Vince Carter surprised everyone by cutting loose with a dunk so emphatic, so focused, that it shook the goal, looking like something he did a decade ago in a nationally-televised game. Even Magic center Dwight Howard was impressed, turning to general manager Otis Smith, who was watching from a distance: “I guess he’s ready for the playoffs,” Howard said with a nod. Carter, 33, never has been more ready to play basketball, knowing through the next eight weeks he can redefine his career, change the perception he has fought the last 12 years, that he is nothing more than a great individual player who can dominate the highlight tapes. He wants to be known as a champion. And he finally has the chance to do it.”
- As Tom Haberstroh of Hoopdata shows, Howard gets a lot of And-1′s.
- Meet Jameer Nelson, Orlando’s championship x-factor, according to Austin Burton of Dime Magazine: “He wasn’t there for most of the ‘09 Finals run, so in a sense he’s still playing catch-up. By the numbers, it’s been a subpar year for Jameer: His scoring is down, his shooting percentages are down, his steals are down, and his turnovers are up. He also missed a solid month of the schedule with injuries. With Vince Carter assigned to create offense and run the pick-and-roll with Dwight Howard in crunch time, Jameer just needs to protect the ball, hit open shots, and defend his position.”
- Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference’s statistical plus/minus projection likes Orlando in 5 against Charlotte.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “If you consider yourself a connoisseur of defense, the matchup between the Charlotte Bobcats and the Orlando Magic is the series to watch. On the final night of the regular season, the Bobcats passed the Magic to finish the season as the NBA’s top defensive team. While the two teams have very different styles–Charlotte thrives thanks to excellent wing defense, forcing turnovers and solid performance in the paint, while the Magic funnels everything toward the league’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard–both have proven very successful. It’s on the offensive end that the two teams differ in results. Orlando’s fleet of excellent shooters around Howard set the NBA record for most three-pointers in a season. Charlotte has been substantially below average on the offensive end this season, which explains why the Bobcats are the seventh seed while the Magic boasted the league’s second-best regular-season record and is a heavy favorite in this series.”
- Will there be a title rematch between the Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers? Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie breaks down the possibility.
Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
And the grand finale.
I gathered writers, the best of the best in the blogosphere, to participate in a roundtable discussion and answer some of the most pertinent questions concerning the Orlando Magic as the 2010 NBA Playoffs are set to begin.
So, without further ado, here are the participants:
Each individual provided his opinion on Vince Carter‘s potential impact in the playoffs, how things may shake out if the Magic and the Cleveland Cavaliers meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, and more.
Who is the x-factor for the Orlando Magic in the playoffs?
Kevin Arnovitz: The x-factor, as he’s long been for Orlando, is Rashard Lewis. If Lewis is accurate from the perimeter, effective at exploiting slower defenders with improved dribble game and able to use his size to post up smaller defenders, then he gives the Magic even more flexibility in the half court.
Tom Haberstroh: Matt Barnes. They’ll need him to do the dirty work. Can he neutralize the opponent’s top scorers?
Kurt Helin: I wanted to go with someone a little more exotic here — Matt Barnes, Rashard Lewis, and those guys will need to have key moments and games — but in the end it’s about Jameer Nelson to me. Dwight is going to be Dwight. But nobody else in the East has a second option as good as a healthy Nelson. Maybe nobody outside the Lakers does (Gasol behind Kobe). And in the playoffs, when things get tight, that second guy comes up huge. Nelson is a shooting guard who can score when the offense breaks down and there are 6 seconds left on the shot clock, and you need that in the playoffs.
If Nelson can come up huge in the playoffs. That’ll be the test. When it comes down to Cleveland in the conference finals — and it will — the Magic will need to pick-and-roll them to death because neither Shaq nor Big Z can defend it well consistently. If Nelson is All-Star Nelson, running the P&R as god intended… well, the Great Cleveland LeBron Freak Out will begin earlier than expected.
Matt Moore: The bench, quite honestly. I could drive it down to Matt Barnes or Brandon Bass or Marcin Gortat or Mickael Pietrus or J.J. Redick or Ryan Anderson but that’s the whole point. It could be any one of them. They’re all capable of producing at an insanely high level, and the 10-15 points they can put in (if SVG gives them time) could be the swing. Mickael Pietrus was the dagger in the ECF last year. In the semis, J.J. Redick’s defense on Ray Allen was the tip of the sword. It could be any one of those guys. That’s the trouble with the Magic. There’s simply no way to stop all of them.
Kevin Pelton: At the risk of copying Kelly Dwyer, this has to be Rashard Lewis. Lewis’ ability to stretch the floor was the difference-maker for the Magic in last year’s postseason, and you can trace Boston’s addition of Rasheed Wallace and Cleveland’s move for Antawn Jamison to wanting to have similar presences. Lewis has had a down regular season and Orlando could really use him to step up at both ends of the floor.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Ben Q. Rock is a man that needs no introduction, at least to Magic fans that frequent the blogosphere, but deserves one. Rock covers the Magic at Orlando Pinstriped Post, my former stomping grounds for over a year, and has done excellent work for the past three years. For instance, Rock has been doing a great job of previewing the first round series between the Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats the last few days. I highly suggest reading what Rock has written, so far, as it’s about informative as it gets.
Rock promised, when I left OPP, that he’d collaborate with me from time to time so here we are.
A few days ago, I was able to ask Rock a few questions concerning some of the major storylines surrounding the Magic with the 2010 NBA Playoffs starting on Saturday.
I’ve always been of the opinion that Jameer Nelson is the x-factor for the Orlando Magic. When he goes, so go the Magic. But certainly the same thing could be said about Vince Carter, given his talents and what he’s proven to be capable of in a Magic uniform. So, between Nelson or Carter, who must produce and take his game to another level for Orlando to win a championship?
Well, I mean, both Vince [Carter] and Jameer [Nelson] are important, and I’m not sure there’s one who’s more key to Orlando’s title chances than any other. I suppose you could say that Vince is going to end more possessions and thus will have more responsibilities, and thus he’ll have more chances to affect the Magic’s playoffs. Thing is, I feel like he’s more consistent. He’s going to get his 15-to-18 points per night, as he’s done for the last few months. Whereas Jameer’s been more up-and-down.
Given the choice, most opponents would rather limit Carter and take their chances with Nelson firing away, so Jameer has to answer the call there. To me, the biggest thing for Jameer is to cut the one-on-one play. Get into the teeth of the defense, kick the ball out. He has to take enough of those 18-footers in pick-and-roll situations, but he can’t keep settling for them. Vince has to avoid that as well, but you and I both know that Carter’s much more likely to put his head down and draw contact than Nelson is.
So now I’ve talked myself into believing Nelson is more crucial. Fair enough, but it’s not a huge margin.
What makes this discussion easier is that J.J. Redick and Jason Williams have been so reliable off the bench. I trust them more than I did, say, last year’s version of J.J., or Anthony Johnson. If Vince and Jameer don’t have it some nights, I’d be comfortable counting on their backups if I were Stan Van Gundy.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
When it comes to reading up on everything you should know about the Charlotte Bobcats, there’s only two people you need to read — Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer and Brett Hainline of Queen City Hoops. Bonnell is one of the best beat writers in the NBA and Hainline is not only an excellent writer in the blogosphere but also a bright mind when it comes to the numbers. For instance, Hainline created a Swap Tool, which uses a player’s Offensive and Defensive Ratings to determine how swapping one player out for another would improve a team’s overall performance. If you haven’t toyed around with the tool at QCH, you’re missing out. I digress.
A few days ago, I was able to ask Hainline a few questions to preview the first round series between the Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats.
One of the major storylines for the Charlotte Bobcats is that this is their first playoff appearance in franchise history. What does that mean, not only for the team but for the city and the fanbase?
It is a degree of validation for the moves made largely by Michael Jordan, in his role as head of basketball operations. 6 years to get to the playoffs would normally be acceptable to a fan base, but because the Hornets were here previously (and were still pretty good when they left), expectations have been different than they are for most new franchises. A winning season and some bonus basketball are a good start to winning the city over, as evidenced by the significant increase in attendance this season.
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “Vince Carter smiled, playfully. Matt Barnes started chuckling. Rashard Lewis called it a “once every blue moon” occurrence. It’s not often Magic coach Stan Van Gundy says nice things about the team he coaches. You know, the one with the second-best record in the NBA, that’s only lost five games since the all-star break and set an NBA record for three-pointers made while still being one of the best defensive teams in the league. At the end of a regular season in which the Magic (59-23) barreled through opponents to the finish, Van Gundy took some time to compliment his players.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “Van Gundy takes seriously the fact that the Magic are hitting the playoffs just as the team is seemingly peaking. The Magic not only beat foes down the stretch, but usually smashed them in resounding fashion. Orlando won a NBA-best 39 games by at least 10 points this season, something that shows the professionalism of the team and willingness to strive for greatness, Van Gundy said. “I appreciate what our team has done,” Van Gundy said. “Sometimes when everybody is just waiting for the playoffs there’s not enough appreciation for the grind of the regular season and how hard you have to work and play to be good every night. I mean, it’s not like our team was screwing around and winning by four or six points against these teams that we’re supposed to beat,” Van Gundy continued. “We pretty much drilled them all. That level of focus every night, I can really appreciate that. And it means a helluva lot to me.” Now, comes a different kind of grind for Van Gundy and the Magic. Whereas the marathon regular season is often a test of wills and energy, the playoffs boils down to which team is better four times in a seven-game window.”
- Click here to get to know more about Shannon Van Gundy, head coach Stan Van Gundy’s daughter. It’s certainly a different but more personable perspective on the ol’ coach.
- Dan Devine, Kelly Dwyer, and Trey Kerby of Ball Don’t Lie preview the first round series between the Orlando Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats. Here’s a snippet from Dwyer: “If you’re a fan of the Magic, you’re right chuffed that the Magic face the Bobcats first. That [Jameer] Nelson and Lewis will have to answer the bell early. That [Dwight] Howard will have to flex his muscles while trying to stay on the court for 35 minutes. This is absolutely what Orlando needs, and while Charlotte is nobody’s prefight sparring partner, I can’t help but think the Magic depth and talent will win out.”
- John Hollinger of ESPN Insider predicts how the 2010 NBA Playoffs will shape up from beginning to end. According to Hollinger, he sees the Magic losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals: “Welcome to the real NBA Finals. These have been the league’s two best teams all season, and the winner of this series will be an overwhelming favorite to claim its first championship. [...] My numbers like Orlando because of its dominance down the stretch of the season, but Cleveland was with the Magic step for step in the Power Rankings until Shaq and Anderson Varejao went out. We still haven’t seen what the Cavs are capable of with Antawn Jamison, Varejao and O’Neal on the court together, but I suspect the answer is ‘awesomeness.’ Most importantly, the Cavs have the best player in the league. A year ago, James’ 38-8-8 series averages weren’t enough because Cleveland couldn’t stop the Magic at the other end. This time around, he has more help, and I think he gets it done in a seven-game slugfest.”
- Austin Burton of Dime Magazine lists the top 10 players he thinks will get rich from the NBA postseason. J.J. Redick makes the cut for Orlando: “It wasn’t that long ago when J.J. looked like he’d be joining Trajan Langdon in Russia before he’d ever be an impact player in the NBA. It took four years, but now he’s finally getting enough minutes and shots to show what he can do. Granted, 9.6 points in 22 minutes a night doesn’t make J.J. the next Dan Majerle, but he’s proven he can be a valuable bench guy on a contender or even a starter on some teams.”
- As Emperor Palpatine once said to Luke Skywalker in the Return of the Jedi, “let the hate flow through you.” With that, J.A. Adande of ESPN.com thinks the Magic are the angriest team out of the 16 teams in the playoffs: “In 2010 you won’t find an angrier team than the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard leads the league in technical fouls. He leads the league in rebounds and blocked shots — again — and can’t get any serious run for MVP. He had to watch the Lakers celebrate their championship last year in his house.”
- John Krolik of ProBasketballTalk explains why Orlando is capable of winning a championship this year.
- Howard is well represented on M. Haubs’ ballot at The Painted Area.
- Want to know what the offensive tendencies are for the Magic and the Bobcats head-to-head? Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post has got you covered: “Indeed, three-pointers comprise a shade more than 40% of the Magic’s shot attempts against the Bobcats this season. Put another way, they averaged 32 three-point attempts per game against the Bobcats, compared to a season-long average of 27.4 per game, which led the league. Shooting the three plays into Charlotte’s strategy; it yields a league-high 20.7 triple-tries per game, while limiting teams to the second-lowest percentage in the league. Larry Brown has his team playing smart on D, as it forces its opponents to take shots that it defends well. There’s a trap here, though. The three-pointer is, historically, the league’s most efficient shot that isn’t a layup or dunk. The Bobcats tend to get away with letting people shoot it because they’re confident in their ability to guard that shot. But against Orlando? With guys with hair-trigger releases like Jason Williams, J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, and Mickael Pietrus? That’s what one might call playing with fire.”
- Check out The Basketball Jones’ preview of the matchup between Orlando and Charlotte.
- Lang Whitaker of SLAM ONLINE picks Howard as his Defensive Player of the Year.
- Which player is on the spot to perform in the playoffs? According to Sean Deveney of The Baseline, it’s Vince Carter: “The Magic traded for Carter last year—letting Hedo Turkoglu go shortly thereafter—in hopes that Carter’s ability to slash to the basket and create his own shot would help the Magic keep the offense going on nights when their 3-point shots weren’t falling. At times, it has worked. At times, it’s been a disaster. Carter averaged 16.6 points but frequently had to be prodded to attack the basket throughout the year. Ultimately, though, Orlando was hoping that Carter could be a difference-maker in the playoffs, though Turkoglu did a very good job in playoff situations last year.”
Via the Orlando Magic:
Sun Sports and FOX Sports Florida have announced its local television coverage of the Orlando Magic’s first round, best-of-seven series vs. Charlotte. Sun Sports will air Games 1, 3 and 4 of the series, while FOX Sports Florida will broadcast Game 2. “Magic LIVE” will air 30 minutes before each game, while the Magic’s television partner will also have a live post-game show following each contest.
Orlando Magic’s first round, best-of-seven playoff series vs. the Charlotte Bobcats
- Game 1 – Sunday, April 18, 5:30 p.m., Sun Sports (Orlando)
- Game 2 – Wednesday, April 21, 7:00 p.m., FOX Sports Florida (Orlando)
- Game 3 – Saturday, April 24, 2:00 p.m., Sun Sports (Charlotte)
- Game 4 – Monday, April 26, Time TBD, Sun Sports (Charlotte)
- Game 5 – Wednesday, April 28, Time/TV TBD, (Orlando), If necessary
- Game 6 – Friday, April 30, Time/TV TBD (Charlotte), If necessary
- Game 7 – Sunday, May 2, Time/TV TBD (Orlando), If necessary
*All Times Eastern
*All games on Magic Radio Network (Flagship: AM 580 WDBO) and in Spanish (AM 1030 WONQ).
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic’s Stan Van Gundy [was] named the NBA Eastern [Conference Coach] of the Month, respectively, for games played in April.
Van Gundy led Orlando to an NBA-best 7-1 (.875) record in April, including wins over Cleveland and Dallas. Orlando outscored its opponents by over 12 ppg in April, while shooting .517 from the field. Orlando secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and finished the season with the NBA’s second-best overall record – the Magic’s 59 wins trailed only the Cavaliers’ 61.