Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 46

Oct 30

Don’t forget about Andrew Nicholson

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Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

While contenders and up-and-comers dominate headlines and highlights, the NBA proletariat can fascinate nonetheless. In sussing through that lower echelon, distinctions become readily apparent. Some teams are rebuilding, some are tanking, and some are just plain bad.

The Orlando Magic might be the league’s only team to which all three labels apply. They’re still constructing from the ground up in the wake of Dwight Howard’s departure, have useful veterans that are undoubtedly available for trade at the right price, but possess an emerging core that will be a major part of this organization’s future, too.

Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, and Maurice Harkless — these are the pieces at the center of the Orlando Magic’s rebuilding efforts. The jury won’t be out on this group of commodities for years to come, though that hasn’t stopped league followers from taking the temperature of the Magic’s long-term outlook.

It’s seasonably warm, the consensus says, especially considering the prospective quality of the trade haul for Howard brought in before last season. The Magic will win less than 30 games this year. They may make trades with a goal — ancillary or otherwise — of getting even worse. But there’s certainly a base of promising talent in that quartet of youngsters mentioned above.

A hyper-athletic two-way guard, a versatile stretch power forward, a rebound-eating center, and a defense-first Swiss Army Knife serve as a solid foundation to rebuilding. Even better, in all the excitement surrounding the Magic’s biggest young names, it’s been easy to overlook the one that was their best player against the Indiana Pacers on opening night.

Andrew Nicholson.

The 23-year-old Canadian scored all of his team-high 18 points in the first half of Orlando’s 97-87 loss to Indiana on Tuesday, and showed off his uniquely varied array of offensive skills in the process. Nicholson feasted on pick-and-pop jumpers, abused Luis Scola in the post, spun past Ian Mahinmi for a slick layup, and even made the first two 3-pointers of his young career.

In a span of 12 minutes and nine seconds of playing time, he not only sent basketball Twitter into a frenzy, but more importantly, he brought the Magic back from an early double-digit deficit. In lieu of his quietly solid rookie season, there were no doubt the best moments of Nicholson’s on-court NBA life.

That it served as just a flash in the first half pan doesn’t matter. Nicholson isn’t the virtuoso scorer he played like for a stretch on Tuesday night, and that fact would have remained had he sustained for the game’s second stanza. We know what Nicholson is — a skilled post-scorer and limited defender that can provide an offensive spark. What’s left to be seen is just how impactful a role he can play. After Tuesday’s outing, more definitely seems possible.

Is Nicholson a starter? Probably not. Just a solid big man off the bench? Maybe not that, either. Certain players fit a valuable niche of starter-level talent and per-minute production with reserve-type minutes. They excel in a few notable areas and underwhelm in some others, but the construction of the lineup around them exacerbates their strengths and limits their weaknesses. Nicholson, if his increased shooting range remains consistent, could be just such a player.

And in that case, Orlando will have yet another valuable asset on its hands. It could mean Nicholson is a fixture of the Magic’s roster or he’s used as sweetener in a trade to land a bigger fish. But regardless, such a development would be a major boon to Orlando’s growth.

Oladipo and the rest will get the most attention, but Nicholson’s improvements definitely deserve monitoring. If he plays again like he did on Tuesday, that won’t prove difficult.

Oct 29

Highlights: Andrew Nicholson makes fire

Oct 29

Grades: Indiana Pacers 97, Orlando Magic 87

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Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images


Indiana Pacers 97 Final
Recap | Box Score
87 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
4-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 10 REB | 3 AST | 8 PTS | -22

Roy Hibbert showed that Vucevic has a ways to go before becoming a complete two-way player. While Hibbert was making his presence felt on both ends of the floor, Vucevic struggled to make any sort of impact. He was minus-22 for the game and he picked up a flagrant 1 in the fourth quarter for throwing an elbow at Orlando Johnson while fighting for a loose ball.

Victor Oladipo
4-11 FG | 3-5 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 12 PTS | -11

It was a warm homecoming for Oladipo, who got a standing ovation from Hoosiers supporters when he checked into the game midway through the first quarter. And it didn’t take long for Oladipo to get his first career NBA basket once he started to break a sweat. The biggest takeaway from Oladipo’s debut was his fearlessness in attacking the rim. He didn’t shy away from challenging the Pacers bigs.

Andrew Nicholson
8-10 FG | 2-2 3P | 1 STL | 4 REB | 18 PTS | 0

In the first half, Nicholson was infallible. He was making midrange jumpers and corner 3s. He even had a nifty spin move and layup finish against Ian Mahinmi. Then he didn’t play until the beginning of the fourth quarter. It was a curious decision by head coach Jacque Vaughn to sit Nicholson for so long — a pattern that reared its ugly head at times last season.

Maurice Harkless
6-13 FG | 2-2 3P | 1 STL | 1 REB | 14 PTS | -3

Harkless had a number of sequences in this game where you could see his offseason work paying off. The added muscle he put on his frame allowed him to finish through contact on a couple of drives to the rim. And he put up several shots from the perimeter that looked good the moment they left his hand, thanks to his reconstructed jump shot.

Indiana Pacers

The man that was the biggest reason for the Pacers’ victory is the aforementioned Hibbert, who was a monster defensively. He devoured Magic forays to the rim like a sarlacc in Star Wars. He blocked seven shots and altered many more of them — Orlando shot 8-for-22 (36.3 percent) in the restricted area when Hibbert was on the floor.

Oct 29

Video: Victor Oladipo’s first NBA basket

Oct 29

Video: Oladipo gets standing ovation in Indiana

Oct 29

Preview: Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic


  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacers
  • Date: October 29, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Bankers Life Fieldhouse


  • Magic: 20-62
  • Pacers: 49-32

Probable starters


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Jason Maxiell
  • Nikola Vuvevic


  • George Hill
  • Lance Stephenson
  • Paul George
  • David West
  • Roy Hibbert

Advanced stats


  • Pace: 92.2 (14th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.6 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.1 (24th of 30)


  • Pace: 90.2 (25th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.3 (20th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 99.8 (1st of 30)

Read about the Pacers

8 Points, 9 Seconds

Oct 28

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “The Magic will take part in another rebuilding season and have their eyes set on the stellar 2014 NBA draft. Guard Victor Oladipo should be a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.”
  • David Aldridge of pegs Victor Oladipo as his favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award: “Someone has to put the ball in the basket on the regular, and Oladipo’s physicality and defense will give him a chance to be effective in transition and not have to settle for jumpers.”
  • Another NBA writer thinks Oladipo is a long shot to win ROY honors.
  • Marc Stein of unveils his first set of Power Rankings for the 2013-14 season: “Yes, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn is still a committee fave just because his brother played at Cal State Fullerton when we were there. And, yes, there are bound to be as many trade musings about Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo in Orlando’s comment space as there are Victor Oladipo ROY updates.”
  • Tom Haberstroh of ESPN Insider joins the masses and selects Oladipo as the player most likely to named the Rookie of the Year this season: “No doubt Oladipo will struggle to score as NBA defenses key against him in the regular season, but he should be able to counteract that some as he gains experience. He averaged 19 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per 36 minutes this preseason (caveats aplenty!) and the Orlando Magic have every reason to put him at the steering wheel, even if he stumbles as a point guard out of the gate. The rookie of the year award requires tons of minutes and production, and Oladipo should have both in spades.”
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk: ” What will be the most interesting part of the Orlando season: Victor Oladipo adjusting to the NBA or the Jameer Nelson/Glen Davis trade watch?”
  • Oladipo, a Hoosiers alum, makes his NBA regular season debut on Tuesday in Indiana against the Pacers.
  • Even though the Orlando Magic aren’t expected to win a lot of games this season, CEO Alex Martins is still happy with the job that GM Rob Hennigan has done in rebuilding the franchise so far.
  • Oladipo is a “potential cornerstone player.”
  • That’s a lot of Oladipos!

Oct 26

Magic exercise contract options on four players


AP Photo/John Raoux

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have exercised their third-year team option on the contracts of forward Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson, while also exercising their fourth-year team option on the contracts of Tobias Harris and Nikola Vučević, General Manager Rob Hennigan announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deals are not disclosed. All four players are now under contract through the 2014-15 season.

Harkless (6-9, 220, 5/11/93) played in 76 games (59 starts) during his rookie campaign (2012-13) with Orlando, averaging 8.2 ppg., 4.4 rpg. and 1.16 spg. in 26.0 mpg. He ranked sixth in the NBA in steals-to-turnover ratio (1.28, 88/69) and 40th in steals. Harkless also ranked among all NBA rookies in scoring (11th), rebounding (9th), field goal percentage (8th, .461), steals (2nd) and blocked shots (8th, 0.82 blkpg.). He was acquired by Orlando as part of a four-team, 12-player trade on Aug. 10, 2012, along with Vučević. Harkless was originally selected in the first round (15th overall) of the 2012 NBA Draft by Philadelphia.

Harris (6-9, 235, 7/15/92) was acquired by Orlando in a six-player trade with Milwaukee on Feb. 21, 2013. He appeared in 55 games (34 starts) with both the Magic and the Bucks in 2012-13, averaging 11.0 ppg., 5.2 rpg. and 1.3 apg. in 23.6 mpg. In 27 games with Orlando, Harris averaged 17.3 ppg., 8.5 rpg., 2.1 apg. and 1.37 bpg. in 36.1 mpg. On Mar. 29 at Charlotte, he poured in a career-high 30 points, becoming the second-youngest player in Magic history to score 30+ points in a game (20 years, 257 days old). Harris was originally selected in the first round (19th overall) of the 2011 NBA Draft by Charlotte.

Nicholson (6-9, 250, 12/8/89) played in 75 games (28 starts) during his rookie season (2012-13) with Orlando, averaging 7.8 ppg. and 3.4 rpg. in 16.7 mpg., while shooting .527 (256-486) from the field. He ranked among all NBA rookies in scoring (14th), rebounding (16th), field goal percentage (4th) and free throw percentage (5th, .798). Nicholson participated in the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge at NBA All-Star Weekend, tallying six points and three rebounds in 10 minutes.

Vučević (7-0, 250, 10/24/90) appeared and started in 77 games in 2012-13 for Orlando, averaging 13.1 ppg., a team-high 11.9 rpg., 1.9 apg. and a team-best 1.03 bpg. in 33.2 mpg., while shooting .519 (461-889) from the floor. He ranked second in the NBA in rebounding, third in double-doubles (team-high 46), tied for 21st in field goal percentage and tied for 33rd in blocked shots. Vučević finished fourth in voting for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award. On Dec. 31 vs. Miami, he broke the franchise record for most rebounds in a single game, pulling down 29 boards and breaking the mark previously held by Shaquille O’Neal (28, Nov. 20, 1993 @ New Jersey).

Oct 25

Magic waive four players

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have waived center Mickell Gladness, guard Manny Harris, forward Kris Joseph and forward Romero Osby, General Manager Rob Hennigan announced today. The roster now stands at 15 players (see below).

Gladness (6-11, 220, 7/26/86) was signed as a free agent on Sep. 27. He played in three preseason games, averaging 1.3 ppg., 3.0 rpg. and 3.00 blkpg. in 12.3 mpg.

Harris (6-5, 185, 9/21/89) appeared in six preseason games, averaging 4.3 ppg. and 1.3 rpg. in 9.0 mpg. He was signed as a free agent on Sep. 27.

Joseph (6-7, 210, 12/17/88) was also signed as a free agent on Sep. 27. He played in five preseason games, averaging 5.6 ppg. and 1.8 rpg. in 11.0 mpg.

Osby (6-8, 230, 5/7/90) was selected by Orlando in the second round (51st overall) of the 2013 NBA Draft. He played in seven preseason games, averaging 5.7 ppg. and 4.0 rpg. in 15.4 mpg.

Oct 25

Grades: New Orleans Pelicans 101, Orlando Magic 82

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AP Photo/John Raoux


New Orleans Pelicans 101 Final
Recap | Box Score
82 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
5-7 FG | 1-3 FT | 1 BLK | 7 REB | 10 PTS | 0

He gobbled up boards, played solid defense, and hit three high-arcing jumpers. One area he’ll need to improve in is screening. He didn’t have the ball in his hands a lot, but he was the focal point of the Magic offense. Almost every possession began with a few different perimeter players coming off Vucevic screens, but those screens didn’t do much to create space.

Victor Oladipo
2-9 FG | 6-6 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 10 PTS | 0

Oladipo struggled with Jrue Holiday’s pressing defense all night long, and his left hand was exposed as being much weaker than his right. He still had great burst getting to the basket, although he wasn’t the most consistent finisher there. He was a bit eager to split the trap on the pick-and-roll, which didn’t allow the play to fully develop and make the screener an option.

Manny Harris
5-11 FG | 1-4 3P | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 12 PTS | -9

Manny Harris did everything he could to try to earn a roster spot in what may be his last chance at impressing the coaches and front office. He showcased a nice burst and individual scoring ability, but wasn’t the most organized when it came to running the team offense. He was solid on defense because of his size, and somehow recorded two blocks.

Romero Osby
2-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -2

Osby seemed like the leader for Orlando’s 15th roster spot, but he got waived after the game. Against the Pelicans, he was physical underneath, collecting seven boards (including four on the offensive end). He didn’t have the best shooting night, but managed to get more points than shots because of his foul-drawing ability. His position is still a question mark, but that versatility could be a good thing.

New Orleans Pelicans

This game was about as ugly as it gets in preseason, and the Pelicans were the slightly less sloppy of the two teams. They won on the strength of their 3-point shooting (11-for-18), despite their 20 turnovers. Brian Roberts led the way for New Orleans, coming off the bench and scoring a game-high, and efficient, 21 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

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