- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “The Orlando Magic, who have already clinched the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Eastern Conference playoffs, can learn who their first-round playoff opponent will be as early as tonight. Here’s tonight’s scenario: The Magic will face the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round if the Bobcats lose to the New Jersey Nets tonight in New Jersey or if the Miami Heat beat the Philadelphia 76ers tonight in Philadelphia.”
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus: “When I fill out my awards ballot tomorrow, there will be two honors that merit virtually no discussion because they are so obvious. One is MVP and the other is Defensive Player of the Year. [Dwight] Howard is so far beyond his peers defensively it is remarkable. He’s accounted for 13.9 WARP at the defensive end, which would be good enough to place him in the league’s top 10 in total WARP even if Howard was merely average on offense. Howard ranks second in the league in defensive rebound percentage and ninth in block percentage, and he’s also stifled opposing centers. His dMult looks like a typo; opponents have been held an incomprehensible 41.4 percent below their usual production. Orlando is at the moment the league’s best defensive team despite starting a converted small forward at the four, a poor defender at shooting guard and for much of the year either an aging Jason Williams or Jameer Nelson hobbled by knee surgery at the point. That’s a testament to the incredible force that Howard is in the paint.”
- It’s no secret that head coach Stan Van Gundy likes to speak his mind, which makes him a great interviewer but also leaves him open to be critiqued sometimes. So, it comes as no surprise that the blogosphere has reacted (cue the reactions here, here, and here) strongly to Van Gundy’s latest comments about LeBron James and the Most Valuable Player award: ” ‘You know how the vote’s going to go. LeBron (James) will win the MVP every year until he retires,’ Van Gundy said. Van Gundy was likely playing to the Cleveland media. But there’s part of him that feels that the MVP — decided by the media — will be James’ award to lose for a long time. ‘LeBron has to go into the year and basically lose the MVP. You guys have decided he’s the MVP,’ Van Gundy said.”
- Nevertheless, Rob Mahoney of ProBasketballTalk praises Van Gundy’s ability to be candid when he talks, especially when it comes to genuinely praising an opponent like the Cleveland Cavaliers: “There are a few shining beacons of hope. Ron Artest immediately comes to mind, though one of my personal favorites is Stan Van Gundy. SVG is oddly personable and eccentric, obsessed but self-aware, and incredibly knowledgeable but not wholly set on defending his methods like nuclear launch codes. For instance, Van Gundy is apparently very fond of the Cleveland Cavaliers. [...] Now, was it unknown that the Cavs are better than they were a year ago? Of course not, but it means something else entirely to hear it coming from the head coach of the Cavs’ likely opponent in the Eastern Conference Finals. It also means a bit more coming from Van Gundy, who has never been one to offer lip service, especially to the competition. This reads as legitimate praise from an opposing head coach rather than a cursory response to a question from a guy on the other team’s beat.”
- After the unfortunate loss of the president of Poland, who was killed along with 95 others in a plane crash, Polish native Marcin Gortat speaks about the tragedy.
- If you want to see upsets in the playoffs, Henry Abbott of TrueHoop suggests keeping an eye on the Western Conference: “The playoff odds say that it’s 89.3% likely that the Eastern conference champions will be a team that starts the playoffs with homecourt advantage. It’s 73.9% likely to be either the Magic or Cavaliers. In the West? Wow is it ever a totally different story.”
- John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com chimes in on Howard being named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season: “The Orlando Magic had just locked up their fourth consecutive victory and surged ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers in the standings on Sunday, but superstar center Dwight Howard wasn’t pleased at all. He’s been unhappy with how the Magic have defended of late and on Sunday in Cleveland he despised the fact that Orlando had to dig its way out of a 16-point hole. It was a peek inside the perfectionist persona that drives Howard to be great. Howard’s incredible drive was rewarded on Monday when he was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. It is the fourth time this season and the 10th time in his six-year NBA career that Howard has been honored as the East’s Player of the Week.”
Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
With the regular season winding down and the postseason just a mere six days away, I figured I’d do what other writers have been doing lately — reveal my awards ballot. I know that I’m not a member of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, which means I do not have a say in who wins which award but I still wanted to engage in this exercise.
Most Valuable Player
|adj. +/-||net +/-||stat. +/-||PER||WARP||Win Shares/48|
This is what transcendence looks like.
It may be common knowledge to some but it still needs to be stated because it might not be obvious to others, this is LeBron James’ award to lose for the foreseeable future. And like it or not, James is approaching Michael Jordan’s level of dominance when strictly looking at on-court performance. NBA titles notwithstanding, there’s no denying it anymore. What’s scary is that James can still improve, particularly on offense where his shot selection betrays him sometimes. The idea that ‘James’ and ‘improvement’ can be in the same sentence is, somewhat, ridiculous, when you consider the fact that he is already the best player in the world … but it’s true. At this point, the only way James doesn’t win the MVP award every year for the next few years is if voters get bored and choose someone else, he regresses, or he gets hurt. That’s it. It’s possible but highly unlikely that a player, whether it’s Kevin Durant or whoever else, can produce at a similar output to James assuming he maintains his current production. Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade were very close last year but not close enough. All in all, James may not be universally liked but it would be foolish not to appreciate his greatness, at the very least.
There’s a reason why he’s called “King James.”
AP Photo/John Raoux
The Orlando Magic were able to defeat the New York Knicks by the score of 118-103, a win that seemed like a formality for the Magic. A trio of starters and reserves led the way for Orlando, all scoring in double-figures and accounting for the majority of the Magic’s points. Dwight Howard had 25 points and 13 rebounds and Vince Carter had 25 points, five assists, and two steals, both seemingly scoring at will against the Knicks. But it can be argued that Ryan Anderson stole the show, stuffing the stat sheet with 19 points, six rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks and playing one of his best games of the year. On the flip-side, Danilo Gallinari had 28 points for New York.
- Great post from Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “After signing a No. 12 jersey, Magic center Dwight Howard helped 21-year-old Brandon Young from Apopka put it on, then invited Young to join his daily post-practice (or post-shootaround) drills. Young has cerebral palsy. He’s blind in his left eye. He has a box implanted in his chest through which his father can remotely help calm his epileptic seizures. He loves the Magic and because he does, his whole family does also. This morning Young’s parents, Michael and Nancy, brought him to shootaround to meet some of the players. ‘It’s unbelievable. All the stuff he goes through on a daily basis. I don’t know how I would do it if I was in his position,’ Howard said. ‘It’s great to see the effect, sometimes we don’t even know it, just saying hey to a kid, smiling how big of a difference that makes to their life. Brandon, he was so excited he was really jumping for joy, just to be out here, making a shot. Me and the rest of the guys, that’s something all of us really enjoy.’ ”
- Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated reveals his official ballot and chooses Dwight Howard as the Defensive Player of the Year:” The Magic are tied for first in field-goal defense because Howard dominates the paint in addition to the defensive boards. Orlando’s commitment to team defense — as well as its spread-the-floor offense — is built entirely around Howard’s overwhelming presence inside.”
- Tally two more Defensive Player of the Year votes for Howard from Marc Stein of ESPN.com and Lang Whitaker of SLAM ONLINE.
- Here’s an update on the race for the overall No. 2 seed, courtesy of John Hollinger of ESPN Insider: “There has been some confusion about how a tie would be settled in the event of a Lakers-Magic Finals rematch. The league office confirmed for me this morning that since the two teams split their regular-season series, the tie would be decided by record against the opposite conference. That tiebreaker would favor the Lakers, who are 22-8 against the East, while the Magic are 20-10 versus the West.”
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post takes a look at the Orlando Magic‘s chances of passing the Los Angeles Lakers in the standings in the last four games of the regular season.
- Wondering if Vince Carter deserves to be in the Hall of Fame when it’s all said and done? Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference breaks down Carter’s chances: “I don’t think he gets in, barring some kind of postseason success with Orlando (and even that may not be enough). It’s much easier to make a case for him never stepping foot in the Hall than it is to argue for his induction, and this simple fact is going to weigh heavily on the minds of the voters. David Thompson was inducted despite never reaching his potential, and his fall from grace was actually less defensible than Carter’s Toronto tankfest (drugs and a knee injury — caused by falling down the stairs at Studio 54 — ruined Skywalker’s career), but Thompson was also a winner/statistical monster in college, and his long-run impact was massive: he helped further legitimize the ABA, leading to the merger; he helped pioneer the high-flying, dunking style we see today; he influenced the Greatest Player Ever™ more than anyone else; his career-ending drug addiction was one of the prime incidents that motivated the league to clean up its image… etc. In other words, Thompson gets a pass where Carter doesn’t because Thompson came first, and people view Thompson’s career arc as tragic, while they see Carter’s career arc as self-inflicted. Is this fair? Probably not. But is Carter as talented as Thompson was? Probably not. Thompson was viewed as arguably the best player in basketball during the 1978 season, and we’ve already established that Carter was never viewed as the NBA’s top player, even at his peak.”
- Dime Magazine reveals the top 10 dunks … from 1995. Check it out, if only to see a glimpse of vintage Penny Hardaway.
- Howard explains why he hasn’t gotten any technical fouls lately.
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy talks about rest.
- Tracy McGrady reminisces on his time in Orlando: ” ‘I just want to be now where I can win,’ he said. ‘Honestly, I wish I had never left here. I really miss it. It was unfortunate that we couldn’t put together the pieces that make it how it is today. I guess I was just here at the wrong time. It’s not like I wasn’t producing. I just got tired after four years of grinding it out every night, having to do everything. It was wearing out my body.’ McGrady, who grew up in Central Florida, still holds many of the Magic and Amway Arena scoring records. He scored 62 points at Amway Arena against the Wizards in 2004. He scored 40 points or more 25 times for the Magic. Unfortunately, he often was a one-man show on a bad team. His 32.1 point average during the 2002-03 season is the second-highest NBA scoring average in the last 17 years. ‘I think about it (his days in Orlando) all the time. How can I not? It was a fun place to play. I always had so much family here. It was great to look into the stands and see all my people sitting there,’ he said. ‘But you move on.’ ” Here’s more from T-Mac.
- Art Garcia of NBA.com examines J.J. Redick‘s emergence this season.
Via the Orlando Magic:
Single game tickets for the first round of the 2010 Orlando Magic playoffs, presented by Bright House Networks, will go on sale to the general public Saturday, April 10 at 10 a.m. Orlando’s playoff schedule will be announced following the conclusion of the regular season.
Tickets are available for purchase:
- Online at www.orlandomagic.com
- At the Amway Arena box office (cash, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover)
- At the Orlando Magic ticket office (Monday – Friday and on Saturday, April 10; cash, MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover)
- At all TicketMaster outlets (cash only)
- By calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover)
Playoff tickets start at $12.
- Tania Ganguli of the Orlando Sentinel: “Magic General Manager Otis Smith can see both sides of the discussion about whether or not NBA players should dedicate so much of their summers to playing for their countries. He understands the struggle of players with limited free time. Mostly, he supports it because playing for your country is an honor. His star, Magic center Dwight Howard, re-affirmed his commitment to play in the World Championships with Team USA this summer. But Smith acknowledges his might be a situational perspective. ‘I guarantee you’ll get a different answer from a general manager that has an abundance of European players,’ Smith said.”
- Good news. Dwight Howard’s AAU team is doing well. The DH Warriors are 7-1 and won their last game on a buzzer-beating half-court shot by Matt Clark.
- Sean Deveney of The Baseline chooses Josh Smith over Howard on his ballot for Defensive Player of the Year and explains why: “Howard is a dominant defender and fearsome in the lane, and it’s likely he will win this award. But the reason Smith edges him on my ballot is that his athleticism allows him to get out and defend the perimeter, and is one of the chief reasons the Hawks are able to use their switch-everything approach to pick-and-rolls.”
- Jason Williams is a player that doesn’t get his shot blocked very much.
- Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus chimes in on a team’s ability to win close games: “There are, generally speaking, two schools of thought on close games: That they reveal a team’s true ability and that they are decided by luck. My research on the subject last year for Basketball Prospectus offered a middle ground, suggesting that good teams win close games more often than bad teams, but that the element of randomness mitigates the talent gap.” In the Magic’s case, they perform worse than expected in close games. Red flag?
- Vince Carter, according to Dime Magazine, is one of the most hated players in the NBA: “Hated by the entire city of Toronto and possibly all of Canada. Critics get on him for settling for jump shots, even though every other high-flyer before or after Vince has been encouraged to adjust their game eventually and take more jumpers. Call him soft, call him lazy, but then he drops 40 or gives you a game-winner and your point becomes moot.”
- Tracy McGrady wants to be back in Orlando. Ditto with Mike Miller.
- Ben Q. Rock of Orlando Pinstriped Post talks about the possibility of either McGrady or Miller re-joining the Magic during the off-season: “Obviously, there are downsides. Miller’s had trouble staying healthy, and though he’s still a deadeye shooter–he’s posted a True Shooting percentage of better than 58.8 in each of the last 6 seasons, and he’s second among swingmen (minimum: 30 minutes per game) at 60.8% this season–he’s spent each of the last 3 years trying to re-invent himself as a point forward, and has thus passed up numerous open shot attempts. Also, his lateral mobility is more-or-less gone, which makes him a defensive liability. McGrady has his own set of red flags, as he’s recovering from microfracture knee surgery and still trying to figure out how to play without the benefit of the all-world athleticism that helped him win back-to-back scoring titles in 2002/03 and 2003/04. Oh, and the way he sulked his way out of Orlando after that disastrous 21-61 season has made him Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of most Magic fans. Owner Rich DeVos, who’d be footing the luxury-tax bill once again next year, might be loathe to pay the man who publicly trashed his franchise after demanding–and being granted–a trade. So they’re likely not going to be the Magic’s top options this summer [...]”
- Paul Forrester of Sports Illustrated isn’t impressed with Matt Barnes‘ poise.
Things started out slow for the Orlando Magic against the Washington Wizards in last night’s game. The Magic were up only six against the Wizards at halftime but the action picked up in the second half, as J.J. Redick, Jason Williams, and the rest of the bench for Orlando put on a show for the hometown fans in one of the last games at Amway Arena.
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
There isn’t much the Orlando Magic have to play for after winning the Southeast Division title for a third consecutive season and locking up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference … aside from having the chance to catch the Los Angeles Lakers in the standings, of course, in hopes of earning home-court advantage if the two teams meet in the NBA Finals once again. So, it’s no surprise that the Magic mucked around here and there in tonight’s game. Against the Washington Wizards, Orlando got away with it and won by the score of 121-94. The Magic were led by a balanced attack, with seven players scoring in double-figures. Dwight Howard finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks, while Mickael Pietrus and J.J. Redick each pitched in with 16 of Orlando’s season-high 65 points off the bench. Mike Miller, a former Magic player, had 16 points, nine rebounds, and five assists for the Wizards.