- Marc Berman of the New York Post: “Tracy McGrady said he would love to sign next season with Orlando, where he hails from, and ripped the former Magic president who traded him. ‘Of course because it’s home, that’s home,’ McGrady said yesterday before the Knicks’ 118-90 loss to the Blazers at Rose Garden. ‘I hated it that I left. I hated I left because I established myself there and made a name for myself. It was a situation where the GM [John Weisbrod] that was there made a huge mistake.’ ”
- Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk chimes in on the possibility of McGrady joining the Orlando Magic next year.
- The phrase ‘peaking at the right time’ seems cliche but there’s no doubt that the Magic are playing their basketball right now, as Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post explains: “Yup, the defense has improved, little by little, each month this season. And the offense had never been better than it was last month, which is remarkable because in January it was pretty hideous, posting a pedestrian offensive rating of 109.4. But since then, both Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter have played more to their ability–and Carter, who shot 28.4% in January, could hardly have gotten worse–and Dwight Howard has asserted himself on offense. Matt Barnes seems to have found his three-point stroke as well, connecting on 46.2% of his treys since the calendar turned to February. As a result of those gradual improvements, Orlando cruised through March, with an average margin of +13.1 points per game and an efficiency differential of +14.8.”
- OrlandoMagic.com presents Dwight4MVP.com, in hopes of helping Dwight Howard garner MVP votes. Let the campaigning begin.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Even with the season winding down into a playoff push, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said after Thursday’s shootaround in Dallas that he might be increasing the playing time for some of his players instead of cutting back. Van Gundy said there will be “some games where we play them big minutes.” Van Gundy said that none of the Magic players rank in the top 40 in minutes played.”
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com places Howard on his All-Defensive First Team: “For the second straight season, Howard is the anchor of the No. 1 defense in the NBA. The Magic lead the league by allowing just 99.7 points per 100 possessions. They’re also the best team at defending low-post bigs, allowing just a .492 true shooting percentage from the other five big men on the list. With Howard patrolling the middle, the Magic allow the fewest points in the paint in the league. They also rank sixth in keeping their opponents off the free-throw line. Howard is a center who has learned how best to apply his size and athleticism, making it much easier for the rest of the team to defend the perimeter. Simply, Howard is the most important defensive presence in the league.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “During last June’s NBA Finals, ESPN analyst Jon Barry noted that [Dwight] Howard often looked ‘mechanical’ on offense and lacked a go-to move. But Barry feels differently now. He thinks that Howard has made ‘tremendous strides.’ ‘It’s reactionary game,’ Barry explained. ‘So you have to make moves according to what your defense does. I just think he’s got a better feel for that. With his repertoire, he seems to have everything. I’ve seen right-hand hooks, left-hand hooks. I’ve even seen a face-up jump shot for the first time, although it’s used sparingly. Ask Tim Duncan how that’s worked for him over the last 15 years. As a post player, especially with the athleticism that he presents, it can open up so many doors for him. He will be absolutely unstoppable if he can make a face-up jump shot to force guys to come out on him.’ “
- Tim McMahon of ESPNDallas.com: “The Mavs’ MVP has taught us that lesson many times over the years, snapping out of a shooting funk to dominate down the stretch of a Dallas win. His performance in the final few minutes of regulation in Wednesday’s win over the Grizzlies ranks as one of his most impressive performances in that category. Midway through the fourth quarter, Nowitzki had clanked his way to a 3-of-16 shooting performance. Then he hit five in a row to fuel the Mavs’ double-digit rally. [...] Four of those buckets came during a 10-point flurry in the final 3:08, almost singlehandedly forcing overtime in a game Dallas seemed destined to lose. Dirk displayed an array of weapons during that scoring spree, starting it with a strong dropstep after catching the ball on the block, following that with a couple of catch-and-shoot 3s and capping it with one of those wild, contested fadeaways he knocks down at a ridiculously high rate.”
- Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News: “The Mavericks pulled out their 50th victory of the season Wednesday night, and if it wasn’t the definition of stealing a game, it wasn’t far from it. Dirk Nowitzki, whose era is defined by 50-win seasons, fittingly knocked in a 15-foot jumper and four free throws late in overtime that secured a 106-102 stress test over the Memphis Grizzlies at FedEx Forum. It pushed the Mavericks’ record to 50-25, their 10th consecutive season with at least 50 wins. Only three other NBA franchises have had such a run of regular-season success: the Lakers (1980-91), the Celtics (1959-68) and the Spurs (2000-2009).”
- Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game: “When Jason Terry missed five games while recovering from surgery to repair his orbital bone, plenty of his offensive opportunities went to Rodrigue Beaubois (who was plugged into the rotation using Terry’s suddenly available minutes) and Shawn Marion. Both performed brilliantly on offense given the extra shot attempts, but when JET returned to the lineup, I naturally assumed that the offense would revert to its usual balance. That would theoretically include Marion sliding back into his usual role as a primary defender and purely supplemental scorer, relying almost entirely on transition opportunities and backdoor cuts for his scoring possessions. Not quite so. While Marion’s FGAs have dipped since his notably high 16.2 in the five games without Terry, he’s settled in at 12.6 attempts for the 14 games in March. He’s also shooting his highest percentage from the field (56.8%) and averaging his highest monthly scoring average (15.6 PPG) excluding his three-game October.”
- Mike Fisher of DallasBasketball.com: “10X50. How rare is this? You’ve got to be Magic’s Lakers or Russell’s Celtics or Duncan’s Spurs to be in this class. Immodestly I note that I understood it two years ago. Understanding it all along and especially at this moment? Two of the architects, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson. […] ‘It’s rare air,’ Mavs GM Donnie Nelson told DallasBasketball.com at the DB.com Watching Party at Star Power in Addison. ‘It’s not the ultimate goal. But it’s an important step to the ultimate goal – and we’ve stepped in that right direction 10 straight times.’ ”
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Magic are hosting a contest for one fan to create the official ‘Blue and White Ignite’ theme song for the upcoming 2010 NBA Playoffs. Magic forward Ryan Anderson is using his musical talents and providing the Magic with one of his instrumental beats to post on www.orlandomagic.com for fans to download, and then contestants will have the option of using Anderson’s beat or creating their own beat to write their playoff theme song. The contest will run from Monday, March 29 through Wednesday, April 14 (date of last regular season game).
The melodic winner will take home a pair of upper bowl playoff tickets for the entire 2010 Playoffs at Amway Arena and win an autographed Ryan Anderson jersey. In addition, they will earn one (1) complimentary parking pass per game and will be recognized on the court during one of the 2010 Magic home playoff games. The winner will be chosen by a panel of five (5) judges made up of Magic representatives and will have their song posted on the Magic Web site and YouTube channel after the final announcement on April 16, 2010.
For more information, click here.
- Adonal Foyle gives the Magic State of the Union address: “I’m here to report that with respect to the Orlando Magic team, the state of our union is strong. The team has been performing at an absolutely wonderful pace – obviously demonstrated by our victories. And the emergence of Vince [Carter] as the force we knew him to be has definitely started to pay dividends – he’s obviously much more aggressive going to the basket. These games gave him an opportunity to demonstrate why he is here and emerge as one of the best players these last few months.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Barring any unforeseen setbacks, the Orlando Magic should have their full roster available to play Thursday night against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said Vince Carter (sprained right big toe), Mickael Pietrus (sprained left ankle) and (sprained right thumb) and everybody else on the roster practiced today at RDV Sportsplex.”
- Want to see video of Dwight Howard‘s impersonation of Charles Barkley? Click here.
- Trey Kerby of Ball Don’t Lie conducts an interview with Howard, asking him a variety of questions that range from serious to silly. When asked if the team finally being healthy for an extended period of time has been the main reason why the Orlando Magic have been playing well lately, Howard answers: “I think that’s one thing that’s gotten us to the level that we’re at today, but another thing is that all the work we’ve put in in the offseason, and all the things we do every day in practice to get better finally started to show up. We’re big believers in hard work, and how hard work can overshadow anything. We understand that. We work extremely hard in practice to get better, and I think that’s why we’re playing at the level we’ve been playing at as of late. We understood that early in the season we were going to have a lot of ups and downs because we have a new team and we all have to get used to playing with each other, and just playing with guys like Vince Carter, Brandon Bass, and Matt Barnes. It’s a new situation for our whole team, so we really just have to learn how to play together, and we’re gelling at the right time. And I’m happy. I don’t think we’ve reached our peak yet, but I think we’re on our way to being that team we’ve all hoped for.”
- Mark Milner of Hardwood Paroxysm thinks that Howard deserves a few votes for MVP, even though LeBron James will undoubtedly win the award for a second consecutive year.
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy stated yesterday that the MVP “is just an offensive award.” Pat McManamon of NBA FanHouse disagrees.
- Jonathan Abrams of Off the Dribble looks back at general manager Otis Smith‘s decision not to re-sign Hedo Turkoglu during the off-season.
- By the way, Turkoglu is now coming off the bench for the Toronto Raptors.
- A little over a week ago, Foyle told George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel that he’d like to be a general manager in the NBA after he retires from playing basketball. Eric Freeman of The Baseline is surprised.
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com writes about Howard’s day on the job at Champs Sports at The Florida Mall.
Via the Orlando Magic:
The Orlando Magic have re-launched their team Web site, OrlandoMagic.com. The new site features a homepage that is aligned with the fan-embraced “Be Magic” campaign and is focused on providing a legendary user experience with added features to engage fans and an improved interface that is clean and easy to navigate. This re-launch marks the first site redesign since 2007.
The look and functionality of the new site was a collaboration with the Orlando Magic’s web team and the NBA’s internet services team. [...]
“This redesign is just one of many steps that we are taking to ensure that OrlandoMagic.com is the premier destination for any fan interested in the Orlando Magic,” explained Web Services Manager Dan Savage. “We’re confident that the new OrlandoMagic.com will be the best team site in the entire NBA.”
OrlandoMagic.com serves as the official source for original content and coverage of the Magic, including in-depth game coverage, breaking news, features, video clips, photo galleries, podcasts and more. Users can also sign up for INSIDER, the official e-newsletter of the Magic, which delivers breaking news, special offers and more.
Here’s Part II of my interview (click here to read Part I) with Keith Boyarsky and Alex Rucker, statistical consultants for the Toronto Raptors. In this segment, I go one-on-one with Alex about Hedo Turkoglu.
As Hedo Turkoglu gets older, do you anticipate that his role will change with the Toronto Raptors? Do you see an evolution in his responsibilities over time?
Honestly, I think a lot of the reasons that we were okay with the contract length that we gave him was the fact that his game isn’t really predicated on athleticism. It relies, kind of, heavily on the fact that he’s successful in a lot of things. He plays very intelligently, at least on the offensive end, especially. So, will his role change? I’m sure it will. I don’t think it will erode, if you will, like normal players that rely more on athleticism because the fact is that he’s a long 6’10” small forward who is pretty much always in a [favorable] matchup situation at that position. So, the things that he’s able to do I don’t think depend on quickness, speed, and, kind of, inherited abilities as much as they do with his basketball talent. I think that his decline … obviously everybody declines at some point in their 30′s and I’m sure he will, but I would guess that his decline will be slower in ways that we care about.
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: Vince Carter sat out Tuesday’s Orlando Magic practice with a sprained right big toe. He remains listed as day-to-day and Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said he doesn’t know whether Carter will be available to play on Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks. [...] Carter is aiming to be back by Thursday. He was shooting after practice at RDV Sportsplex, but couldn’t wear his normal basketball shoes. Carter had on some low-tops and said those shoes and sandals are about all he can wear without causing his toe additional pain.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post chimes in on Hedo Turkoglu’s malaise with the Toronto Raptors: “As someone whose email box occasionally contains tips about Turk’s party habits, I can’t say that his nightlife surprises me. But the poor attitude? The mailing-in of a season? Doesn’t seem like Turk to me. I’m happy that he had a productive career with Orlando, and utterly disappointed that he seems content to play out the string on a bloated contract for a middling team that can’t do much to improve due to, in part, Turk’s monster deal. I’m not faulting the guy for cashing in–that’d be hypocritical, frankly–but dude really ought to try harder.”
- Dikembe Mutombo thinks that Dwight Howard can be the Defensive Player of the Year, every year, until he gets old. Lofty praise from one of the best defenders in NBA history.
- For championship contenders, it’s good to be balanced. Bradford Doolittle of Basketball Prospectus explains: “How do we define balanced? Since this is a jumping-off point for a navel-gazing exercise, let’s keep it simple. Using my post-ABA/NBA merger database of 870 teams through the end of last season, let’s divide teams whose league ranks in offense and defense are less than seven places apart. Why seven? Making that the dividing line gives us 425 balanced teams and 445 unbalanced. That’s as close to an even split as we’re going to get. Let’s look at some characteristics of these two groups. As a general rule, teams that are less balanced have won more in the regular season, but the balanced squads have done better in the playoffs. In the regular season, if a team has that big of a gap between its offense and defense, it means that they probably were competent at least one or the other. However, a good number of the teams we’re defining as “balanced” may simply have sucked at both ends of the court. With more regular season success, the unbalanced teams have accounted for more playoff spots. But with the “suck at both” teams filtered out, the balanced teams have won more titles.”
- It appears that Mickael Pietrus, who has been recovering from an ankle injury, will be ready to play on Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks.
- Rashard Lewis, a former SuperSonics player, wants to participate in Ray Allen’s charity game in Seattle that’s currently in the works and would take place in the summer.
- There’s a lot of things that Howard excels in, like his ability to impersonate Charles Barkley. Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse transcribes some of Howard’s “rants” as Barkley. Lost in the shuffle, though, is head coach Stan Van Gundy’s thoughts on the MVP award: “It is just an offensive award. People who vote just don’t factor in defense, rebounding and how effective Dwight is defensively. I think it’s unfortunate. If the criteria was how many possessions are you affecting at both ends, if that’s what people thought about, then Dwight would be at the top of the league.”
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel conducts a light-hearted interview with Van Gundy, asking him a variety of questions that don’t pertain to basketball.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Hedo Turkoglu has been dominating the headlines the past few days around the blogosphere and not for the right reasons. Whether it’s been his inability to produce at a satisfactory rate vis-à-vis his hefty contract, his indifference to show up and do his best on the job, and a myriad of other things, Turkoglu has gone from being a darling with the Orlando Magic to being a vagabond with the Toronto Raptors in less than a span of 12 months. Ouch.
Rather than try to decipher what makes Turkoglu tick from a psychological standpoint, I wanted to check up on him and see how he’s been performing for the Raptors on the court, not off it. To do that, I interviewed Keith Boyarsky and Alex Rucker, two individuals that work as consultants for Toronto and perform quantitative data analysis. They’re the guys that operate behind the scenes and crunch the numbers for, most notably, Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo and head coach Jay Triano.
Keith and Alex dish the goods on Turkoglu for me, providing a unique perspective on a player that has impacted two franchises in different ways.
It’s ironic that, a few weeks after the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference took place, I’m conducting an interview with you and Keith. The casual NBA fan may not be aware of this but more statistical analysts — the diverse representation at the Sloan Conference, which included front office personnel from a bevy of NBA teams confirmed this — are being hired to serve a role with their respective franchises. Usually it’s a consulting gig but it differs from team to team, of course. Could you briefly explain how both of you joined the Toronto Raptors as consultants?
Alex: I’ve known Jay Triano for many years, having worked with him briefly at Simon Fraser University. When he became the head coach of the Toronto Raptors, he was eager to take advantage of the quantitative analysis that was becoming increasingly prevalent at the pro level. He talked to more than one analyst last summer to see what was out there and get a sense of how it could help him and his coaching staff. He asked me to put together a presentation for his coaching staff and I was thrilled to be in a position to help him out. I’d been working closely with a colleague, Keith Boyarsky, doing what I felt was some really useful and actionable basketball analysis. We took a close look at what Toronto did last year. The Raptors brought us up to Toronto for a series of meetings with coaches and management and it took off from there.
Keith: As a big NBA fan with a background in engineering and computer science, I had been working for 4 or 5 years on the side, developing a suite of software tools to take advantage of new data sources. I met Alex through a friend of a friend at Summer League a few years ago, and we started discussing the various things we had worked on, or were working on, in terms of NBA analysis. It was clear that, while we were approaching things from different angles, we had a similar overall view of the game. When Alex talked with Jay last summer, we learned that the Raptors were interested in the sort of stuff we were doing, and our relationship with the team developed from there.
- Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said after Sunday’s game that he didn’t expect Mickael Pietrus or Vince Carter to be out too long with injuries. The Magic’s next game is Thursday in Dallas, and Carter might be able to return from a sprained right toe he sustained in Sunday’s win against Denver. The team said that x-rays revealed no serious damage. Joel Glass, the Magic’s vice president of communications, said Monday that Carter is day-to-day.”
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel states that the Orlando Magic played some of their best basketball in the month of March: “The Magic displayed the feisty swagger of a contender in March. Van Gundy was relentless as usual. [Matt] Barnes agitated Kobe Bryant in a nationally televised win. Carter howled after hitting some big shots. [Dwight] Howard floored Derrick Rose again. He kept collecting technical fouls and wondering out loud why the Magic are overlooked. Confidence has spread through a team that carries a sizeable chip on their shoulders.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post wonders how much J.J. Redick is worth?
- Looks like things have soured with Hedo Turkoglu in Toronto. Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie doesn’t mince words when he explains why the Raptors made a mistake by signing Turkoglu to a long-term contract that doesn’t expire until 2014. Yikes.
- News flash. Redick can still shoot.
- Are divisions in the NBA relevant anymore? Henry Abbott of TrueHoop attempts to answer the question: “[...] through it all — do you care? How much bragging can you do if your team wins its division? Are Denver and Utah locked in a contest for a better playoff spot, or a division crown? I could be wrong, but I put it to you that division crown means almost nothing, and if you ignore it entirely, you miss almost nothing.”
- Tom Haberstroh of Hoopdata explains how the Magic excel on defense: “[...] As opposed to the steal-centric Celtics who own the second highest opponent turnover rate, the Magic alter shots (lowest opp. eFG%), don’t allow offensive rebounds (lowest opp. rebound rate), and keep their opponents away from the charity stripe (seventh lowest free throw rate). While it helps to have Dwight Howard on the floor, this is a collective effort.”