Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 4

Oct 08

Grades: Orlando Magic 108, Miami Heat 101 (OT)

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Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Orlando Magic 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
101 Miami Heat

Nikola Vucevic
7-12 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 16 PTS | -1

Some things change. Some things stay the same. Despite facing a new-look Heat with no LeBron James, Vucevic had his way against a frontcourt (Chris Bosh and Chris Andersen) that he’s become familiar with and has dominated in recent years. Vucevic scored primarily on baby hooks and offensive rebound putbacks, and even sprinkled in a midrange jump shot for good measure.

Tobias Harris
6-9 FG | 2-2 3P | 7 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | -3

Every Magic player that was healthy and made the trip to Miami (excluding the team’s training camp invites) got playing time. Out of all of them, Harris stood out the most. His jumper was borderline automatic and, with reports that he changed his diet during the offseason in an effort to raise his energy level on both ends of the floor, he looked quicker.

Devyn Marble
4-5 FG | 3-4 3P | 1 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | +2

With all the hype surrounding Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton’s first preseason game, it was an unheralded rookie that stole the spotlight. Marble was the last rookie (and player) to come off the bench for the Magic, yet he was the one that made the biggest impact. He scored 13 points in 13 minutes and displayed the kind of sharpshooting Orlando desperately needs.

Evan Fournier
4-10 FG | 2-5 3P | 3 REB | 2 AST | 13 PTS | -4

With Victor Oladipo nursing a sprained MCL, which he injured in practice on Friday, Fournier started at shooting guard and did some good things. He made two corner 3s and was aggressive in attacking the rim, drawing fouls in the process and getting to the free throw line. He also got some minutes at point guard, which is something Magic fans should expect to see this season.

Miami Heat

One thing is for sure. With LBJ in Cleveland, the Heat will be a dramatically different team. The expectation is for the team to center around Bosh, something he hasn’t done since his Toronto days, and for Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, and Josh McRoberts to lead the supporting cast. Look for coach Erik Spoelstra to relish the challenge in building Miami’s new identity.

Oct 07

Preview: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat
  • Date: October 7, 2014
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Sun Sports
  • Arena: AmericanAirlines Arena

Records

  • Magic: 23-59
  • Heat: 54-28

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Luke Ridnour
  • Evan Fournier
  • Aaron Gordon
  • Tobias Harris
  • Nikola Vucevic

Heat:

  • Norris Cole
  • Dwyane Wade
  • Luol Deng
  • Shawne Williams
  • Chris Bosh

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.6 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.7 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.4 (17th of 30)

Heat:

  • Pace: 91.2 (27th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 110.9 (5th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.8 (11th of 30)

Read about the Heat

Heat Index

Oct 07

Player Profile: Ben Gordon

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Photo by Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
12.1 3.7 2.7 .421 6.2 -4.8

It wasn’t long ago that Ben Gordon was one of the NBA’s elite sixth men. But now, at age 31, he’s looking for one more chance to keep his professional basketball career going. And that’s an opportunity the Orlando Magic have given him.

Since signing a five-year deal with the Detroit Pistons worth $55 million back in 2009, Gordon’s career has been on a downwards spiral. In three seasons in the Motor City, Gordon averaged what were then career-lows across the board. He failed to shoot over 40 percent from beyond the arc for the first time in his career in 2009-10, and never lived up to the scoring reputation that earned him such a lucrative deal.

In the third year of his contract, Gordon was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats as, essentially, a shoo-in. Instead of being viewed as a key addition to the Bobcats’ bench (for a team that won just 21 games that year), matters only got worse for Gordon there, culminating in a dismal outing in his contract year, where he dealt with a number of injuries and averaged only 5.2 points on 27.6 percent shooting from 3-point range in 19 games. With the playoffs just around the corner, the team waived Gordon at the buyout deadline, thereby casting a heavy cloud over his future in the NBA.

Now, though, 11 years after being drafted into the NBA, Gordon has one final chance to keep his career going.

With the additions the Magic made this offseason, they were in desperate need of players who could space the floor, which is where Gordon fits into the picture. In his first five seasons in the league, Gordon made, on average, 1.9 3-pointers per game at a 41.5 percent clip with the Chicago Bulls. Although he failed to showcase his shooting ability last season with the Bobcats, the Magic are hoping it’s simply an anomaly. They’re also hoping that putting him alongside the two cornerstones of the team’s backcourt, Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo, who thrive off of breaking a defense down and getting into the paint, should give Gordon the looks he grew accustomed to at the early stages of his career. (That’s where the rejuvenation part comes into play.)

All in all, the pressure is on Gordon. His career has fallen off the deep end recently, and he’s been given one more shot at finding his feet in Orlando.

For the Magic, it’s a low-risk, high-reward signing, seeing as the second year on his contract is a team option. If he fails to deliver, they’ll show him the door before the extra $4.5 million kicks in. But if he regains his old form in any sort of way, he could be a nice spark plug off the bench for the Magic. More importantly, he could make life easier for Oladipo, Payton, and Aaron Gordon, all of whom are slowly developing an outside jumpshot. With Gordon’s floor spacing by their side, life could be much easier for all of them.

Oct 06

Monday’s Magic Word

  • With Victor Oladipo suffering a sprained MCL, the door has opened for Elfrid Payton to get plenty of playing time in the Magic’s preseason opener against the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
  • Aaron Gordon has spent most of his time at small forward during training camp.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Guard Willie Green, whom the Magic claimed off waivers over the summer, will not play against the Heat because he recently hyper-extended his left knee.”
  • How long is Oladipo’s recovering time? Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk provides an educated guess: “As discovered when researching Frye’s injury, four to six weeks is a rough guess for how much time Oladipo will miss.”
  • Gordon said he has “butterflies” when asked if he was excited for his first preseason game.
  • All three of the Magic’s rookies (Payton, Gordon, and Devyn Marble) are eager to play in their first NBA game.

Oct 06

Player Profile: Evan Fournier

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
16.1 4.8 2.9 .561 12.4 -2.5

After being drafted at the tail end of the first round in the 2012 NBA Draft, Evan Fournier showed some signs of life as a rookie with the Denver Nuggets. However, in his second year, when he was expected to emerge as a key contributor off the bench, he took a step back.

It was a learning lesson for everyone involved with the Nuggets. Following a number of injuries, players were forced into a bigger role than they expected to at the start of the 2013-14 NBA season and it led to varying results. Fournier was just one of those players.

With an uptick of minutes, Fournier was scoring at the same rate as his rookie year but his shooting numbers from the field took a turn for the worse, from 49.3 percent in 2012-13 down to 41.9 percent in 2013-14. He also saw his Player Efficiency Rating (13.8 as a rookie and 10.3 as a sophomore) and True Shooting percentage (.597 percent to .533 percent) on the season fall dramatically.

In his first 10 games, Fournier was given the opportunity he was yearning for, playing 15.6 minutes per game. Yet he was churning out only 6.4 points on 41.1 percent shooting from the floor. Soon after, he saw his minutes disappear, and it wasn’t until the start of January — almost two months after being relegated to the end of the bench — that he started to look like the confident guard the Nuggets saw the year before.

Although he was still up-and-down in the final 50 games of the season, Fournier stepped up to the plate when he logged starter’s minutes. In the 12 games in which he played between 30-39 minutes, he averaged 18.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game, sporting a .571 True Shooting percentage on a 22.4 usage rate. Fournier was a good spot-up shooter for the Nuggets, too, which accounted for 22.9 percent of his total offense to the tune of 1.13 points per possession, per Synergy Sports.

Now, after being traded for the Magic’s leading scorer (Arron Afflalo) during the offseason, Fournier will be looking to build on those spurts of brilliance in a new setting. But where he fits into the immediate picture is hazy. Fournier will, more than likely, come off the bench to start the season, and he will be up to fill a variety of roles. Although he’s a shooting guard by nature, he spent 37 percent of his minutes last season playing the three, per Basketball-Reference. And as a rookie, Fournier logged 32 percent of his minutes playing the point.

It’s unlikely that Fournier has learnt all his lessons from last season and there will still likely be a big learning curve before his taps into his potential, but that’s a risk the Magic are willing to take. In a reduced role, Fournier will be looked on to space the floor, something he proved he could do efficiently with the Nuggets. However, he will also be given an opportunity to shoulder a bigger load, and unlike last season, the Magic are hoping he can find his feet and prove to be more consistent.

Oct 06

Victor Oladipo sprains MCL in practice

Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:

Injuries continue to pile up for the Orlando Magic in training camp with second-year guard Victor Oladipo suffering a sprained MCL in his right knee and Willie Green hyperextending his left knee.

Oladipo, who finished second in the NBA’s Rookie of the Year voting last season, suffered his injury when he landed awkwardly following a play at the rim in Friday night’s scrimmage. Oladipo was able to finish the scrimmage, but said that he woke up to pain and swelling on Saturday morning. A MRI on Saturday revealed the sprain. His return will be dependent on how his knee responds to treatment.

Oct 03

Player Profile: Victor Oladipo

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Frankel’s 2014-15 per 36 projections

PPG RPG APG TS% PER ASPM
17.4 5.1 4.9 .535 15.2 +0.0

Coming out of the worst draft class in recent memory, Victor Oladipo’s rookie campaign was relatively impressive. Expectations weren’t very high for a once-shooting guard being slotted into the point guard position for his first season in the league (and first time in his career), and Oladipo didn’t let the team down by any means. While his 42/33/78 shooting split was understandably tough to swallow, the flashes of ridiculous athleticism and strength gave Magic fans solid insight into the potential he possesses.

Nonetheless, the shooting was definitely an issue. It’s not uncommon for a rookie to put up poor shooting numbers, but a few aspects of Oladipo’s shot chart do stand out for the wrong reasons. Most notably, he shot just 54 percent at the rim, an area which accounted for almost half of his shots in 2013-14. With his size and speed, this is a percentage certainly expected to increase, and one which will be interesting to track this season. He also loved the midrange jump shot from the right elbow, particularly out of the pick-and-roll. Defenders would routinely go under the screen and dare him to shoot, and he would frequently oblige, despite making a sub-par 31 percent of his shots from the area.

The experience gained on the offensive end was terrific for Oladipo, but it was defensively where — as expected — he showed the most promise. Rookies tend to struggle mightily on defense, and to look passable is usually a good sign. For Oladipo, this was certainly the case. His rare blend of size and speed allows him useful versatility in defending both guard positions, and he displayed a knack for knowing the right times to jump into passing lanes. He also showed good tendencies with his effort in guarding shooters off the ball.

With the Magic having added two point guards this offseason by drafting Elfrid Payton and signing Luke Ridnour, Oladipo seems set to spend far more time back at shooting guard, his more natural position, in the 2014-15 season. The experience he was able to gain last season in running the floor at the point will likely prove valuable in coming seasons, but for now, it will be especially interesting to see if there is a noticeable rise in numbers and percentages with the increased time playing off the ball, and having the defense less focused on him.

The two-way potential is there, and a core involving himself, Payton, and Aaron Gordon is set to wreak havoc on defense for years. It’s the offense which needs work, particularly on a team which has been struggling to score points in recent years. Oladipo has always been said to have a terrific work ethic. Improvements are expected to come, and once they begin to, the rest of his game should take care of itself.

Oct 03

Channing Frye sprains MCL in practice

Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:

Having never suffered a major knee injury in his basketball career, Channing Frye initially feared for the worst when his leg collided with Ben Gordon’s on Thursday and his knee was bent back awkwardly.

When a MRI showed no structural damage and the Orlando Magic training staff was able to aggressively treat the knee to limit the swelling, Frye was able to breathe a big sigh of relief on Friday.

Frye, Orlando’s prized free-agent acquisition in the offseason, suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee in Thursday’s practice. He was up and walking on the leg on Friday and wearing on a light sleeve over the knee.

Frye felt so good that he was planning to get in a weight-lifting session while his Magic teammates practiced. His return will be based largely on the knee’s response to treatment, but Frye said he is encouraged by there is no major damage to his knee.

Oct 02

Thursday’s Magic Word

  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Asked to provide a list of things he worked on, Harkless responded with a long list. He said he focused on his shooting, ball-handling, agility and his finishing around the rim. He also said he emphasized being more consistent on the court.”
  • During the summer, Tobias Harris altered his eating habits — cutting out breads, pastas, and sweets while eating more fruits and vegetables — so that he could he become leaner, quicker, and more explosive.
  • Ben Gordon is looking to revitalize his career with the Magic.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com on Evan Fournier adjusting to his new team: “Fournier feels as if he’s ended up in a perfect storm of sorts in Orlando. With a young and athletic roster in Orlando, the 21-year-old and 6-foot-6 Fournier should blend in perfectly. He’s in a spot where the franchise covets his versatility and creativity – something that wasn’t always the case with the Nuggets. And he’s on a team where he’ll be given the ball and asked to make plays out of pick-and-roll sets – as he’s already done time and again in training camp with the 7-foot Vucevic.”
  • Coach Jacque Vaughn came away impressed with his players after the team’s first scrimmage in training camp, which took place on Wednesday night.
  • ProBasketballTalk’s 2014-15 preview of the Orlando Magic.

Oct 02

Magic single-game tickets on sale October 10

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

Single-game tickets for games through January 3, 2015 of the 2014-15 Orlando Magic season will go on sale October 10 to the general public. The Magic will open the regular season in the Amway Center when they host the Washington Wizards on Thursday, October 30. Tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.

Tickets will be available for purchase:

- Online at www.orlandomagic.com

- At the Amway Center box office (located on Church St.)

- At all TicketMaster outlets

- By calling 1-800-4NBA-TIX

- MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover accepted at all purchase points

The Magic also announce the return of the Sunday, Wednesday, Friday ticket packages for Florida residents: Sunday Family Magic, Mid-Week Magic and Friday Night Magic.

Sunday Family Magic presented by Papa John’s is offered for every Sunday home game and includes four tickets, four Papa John’s pizzas and four Pepsi soft drinks (or two Pepsi soft drinks and two beers) and front-of-the-line access to layups on the court after the game, starting at $99 for four. Mid-Week Magic is offered for every Wednesday home game and includes one ticket plus choice of hot dog or pretzel and one Pepsi or beer, or two Coronaritas along with Happy Hour at ‘Rona & ‘Ritas, starting at $20. Friday Night Magic is offered for every Friday home game and includes two options: option one – one ticket plus the choice of food and soda or beer at Amway Center concessions starting at $25 or option two – one ticket plus a Magic Grill menu item and one Pepsi or beer, starting at $70.

All three ticket packages are only available for purchase through OrlandoMagic.com. Ticket highlights for the Magic’s 2014-15 season in the Amway Center, named SportsBusiness Journal’s 2012 Sports Facility of the Year, include: 2,500 seats priced $20 or less, 8,000 seats priced $40 or less and 9,000 seats priced $50 or under.

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