Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 261

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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