Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 252

Mar 31

Interview with Keith Boyarsky and Alex Rucker of the Toronto Raptors, Part II

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

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.

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Mar 30

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • 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.

Mar 30

Interview with Keith Boyarsky and Alex Rucker of the Toronto Raptors, Part I


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.

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Mar 29

Monday’s Magic Word

  • 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.”

Mar 29

Orlando Magic Black Tie and Tennies Charity Gala Raises Over $400,000 for Central Florida Youth

Fernando Medina, Orlando Magic

Via the Orlando Magic:

On Saturday, March 20, the Orlando Magic held their 20th annual Black Tie and Tennies Charity Gala at the JW Marriott-Orlando Grande Lakes. Through the Orlando Magic and the McCormick Foundation match, the event raised over $400,000 for the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation (OMYF).  Magic players, coaches, talent and fans participated in an evening of games, silent and live auctions, dinner and awards.

OMYF is committed to helping children throughout Central Florida, especially those most at-risk, reach their full potential by supporting non-profit agencies with programs that empower families and change lives.

OMYF, founded in 1988, became a fund of the McCormick Foundation in 1994. OMYF is supported through a team effort by Magic players, coaches, staff and the DeVos Family, in partnership with season ticket holders, corporate partners, fans, the community and the matching funds provided by the McCormick Foundation.  Through the Orlando Magic Youth Fund, a fund of the McCormick Foundation, nearly $15 million has been granted to local non-profit organizations.

Mar 18

Recap: Orlando Magic 110, San Antonio Spurs 84

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images


When you’re a team that holds Tim Duncan to his worst shooting percentage game of his career, odds are you’re going to win the game. And that’s what happened last night, as the Orlando Magic defeated the San Antonio Spurs by the score of 110-84 in front of a nationally-televised audience and a sellout crowd at Amway Arena. With Tony Parker sidelined with a broken hand and the Spurs playing on a back-to-back against a well-rested Magic squad, the last thing San Antonio needed was a career-worst performance from their future Hall of Famer. Needless to say, Orlando took advantage of the circumstance. The Magic were led by Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, two players that played extremely well on an evening when Dwight Howard had a pedestrian game for his standards. Carter had 24 points and eight assists, while Lewis had 20 points.

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Mar 18

Media Log: Orlando Magic 110, San Antonio Spurs 84

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

I was able to speak with head coach Stan Van Gundy amongst the media, as well as talk with Jameer Nelson, Marcin Gortat, Rashard Lewis, Matt Barnes, and Dwight Howard after the Orlando Magic defeated the San Antonio Spurs by the score of 110-84.

Stan Van Gundy

Rashard Lewis got things going in the first quarter and it seemed like you ran a few plays for him to get him going. Could you talk about his performance tonight?

Well, I thought … certainly the first play … I wanted to get the ball in his hands on a play where I thought he had a chance to get a shot. I just wanted to get him into the flow right away but yeah, he played well tonight and shot the ball well. Everybody is going to have ups and downs but he’s always been a guy that’s bounced back and I thought he had a good night tonight.

Jameer Nelson

With Tony Parker absent from the game, how do you think that changed things for the San Antonio Spurs?

Well, he’s a big part of what they do. He’s a one-man machine on the fast break and they need that. They need easy buckets and we didn’t allow that tonight. We all got back, for the most part. We shut down the paint and made them shoot jumpshots.

Could you talk about your relationship with Anthony Johnson? What has he taught you?

Well, he just … each game we warm-up, he stays on me about practicing certain shots. We [are] out there practicing certain shots before the game in the layup line. Every timeout, he’s in my ear about certain things that he see and he could be not playing, he could be one of the guys that’s just … ‘aw, I’m not playing, I’m not going to say anything’ but he’s not like that and he’s the ultimate professional. I’ve been very fortunate to have him, guys like Grant Hill, and other guys around me that are great professionals.

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