Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 5

Aug 13

Magic release 2014-15 regular season schedule

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Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The National Basketball Association released its 2014-15 schedule today and announced the Orlando Magic will open its season on Tuesday, October 28 at New Orleans. The home opener will be on Thursday, October 30 at the Amway Center vs. Washington. Game time is 7 p.m.

Orlando Magic season tickets, partial plans, group and single-game Amway Center suite rental opportunities are on sale now. Ticket highlights for the 2014-15 season in the Amway Center, honored with TheStadiumBusiness Awards’ 2013 Customer Experience Award and 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. Single-game tickets for the first half of the regular season will go on sale in October at a date to be announced. For ticket information, log on to OrlandoMagic.com or call 407-89-MAGIC.

Orlando opens training camp on September 30 at the Amway Center. The Magic’s complete schedule is available through their official website, OrlandoMagic.com, while the entire NBA schedule can be found at NBA.com.

For the third straight season, all Magic games will be televised locally on one channel. All local telecasts will be available in high definition on FOX Sports Florida.

Each NBA team will play an 82-game regular season: 41 home and 41 away. The Magic will play 52 games vs. the Eastern Conference (18 games vs. the Atlantic Division, 18 games vs. the Central Division and 16 games vs. the Southeast Division) and 30 games against the Western Conference (10 games each vs. the Northwest Division, the Southwest Division and the Pacific Division).

Orlando will play a total of 27 home games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this season. The 2014-15 Magic schedule also features 17 back-to-back contests (34 games played on consecutive nights; eight away/away back-to-backs, four home/away back-to-backs, three away/home back-to-backs and two home/home back-to-backs).

The Magic will play two games in October (one home, one away), 17 games in November (six home, 11 away), 16 games in December (seven home, nine away), 15 games in January (eight home, seven away), 10 games in February (six home, four away), 14 games in March (nine home, five away) and eight games in April (four home, four away).

The Magic will enjoy a season-long five-game homestand from March 20-April 1 (five games in 13 days). Orlando faces a season-long six-game road trip from November 28-December 6 (six games in nine days).

Orlando’s home finale is on Saturday, April 11 vs. New York at 7 p.m. The Magic close the regular season on Wednesday, April 15 at Barclays Center at Brooklyn.

Click here for the 2014-15 regular season schedule.

Aug 13

Analyzing how Channing Frye fits with the Magic

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The Orlando Magic are being patient with their rebuild, which is a good sign for Magic fans (even if they are growing restless). It’s going to take time for the Magic to construct a roster that mirrors anything like the one that made them title contenders in the late-2000’s and they know that.

It’s why they traded Dwight Howard for a myriad of young players and draft picks, and it’s why they’re okay with losing a ton of games right now. After all, all those losses bring higher odds of getting better draft picks, as well as the opportunity for those young players to have free reign on the court. The hope is that the combination of all of those factors will pay off in the long run.

For that reason, though, the signing of Channing Frye this summer, an eight-year veteran, to a four-year, $32 million contract (with all four years guaranteed) seemed a little out of character for GM Rob Hennigan.

At 31 years of age, Frye is on the fringe of his prime. After sitting out a season as a result of an enlarged heart that put his career in jeopardy, Frye bounced back in a big way with the Phoenix Suns in 2013-14, averaging 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while sporting a 13.2 PER and .555 True Shooting percentage.

He was one of the better stretch fours in the NBA, thanks to him shooting 37.0 percent from 3-point range last season, and his perimeter-based game shouldn’t change drastically over the next few years — a promising sign given his age. 

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Aug 09

Jameer Week recap

August 4

August 5

August 6

August 7

August 8

Aug 08

Dallas: The next chapter

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Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

With Jameer Nelson having finalized a two-year, $6 million deal with the Mavericks last month, he joins just his second different team of his 10-season tenure in the NBA.

As has been covered comprehensively during “Jameer Week” here at Magic Basketball, Nelson has been a model for consistency (sans his 2008-09 season) and loyalty throughout his career. But he’s not done just yet.

Nelson may be 32 years of age, but he is still a valuable NBA player. In a league littered with fantastic point guards, the fact that Nelson has maintained a starting role into the beginning of his 30s says that he isn’t just hanging around the league to collect a few more paychecks.

Last season — while his 13.9 PER was slightly below the league average — Nelson did maintain solid offensive production. He generated an above-league-average 0.78 points per possession as the ballhandler in pick-and-rolls, per Synergy Sports. That number could possibly improve with him now playing alongside far superior pick-and-roll big men in Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler, as well as Chandler Parsons, who is expected to play some small ball power forward for the Mavs.

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Aug 07

2009: The year of Jameer Nelson

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Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Looking back at Jameer Nelson’s 10-year tenure in Orlando, the 2008-09 season will forever remain his finest year in a Magic uniform. For 42 magical games, Nelson was a pick-and-roll assassin that shot the ball with deadly efficiency.

Nelson’s brief transformation in becoming a basketball savant actually began in the playoffs the prior season. After alternating between being a starter and a backup during the 2007-08 regular season, Nelson had a breakout of sorts in the 2008 playoffs.

In the first round against the Toronto Raptors, many prognosticators expected the point guard tandem of T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon to outplay Nelson. Who could blame them? During the regular season, the collective production of Ford and Calderon dwarfed Nelson’s output. Instead, it was Nelson that badly outplayed T. Jose Caldeford, as the Magic won the series in five games.

Nelson followed up his standout performance against the Raptors by holding his own against an at-his-peak Chauncey Billups and the once-dreaded Pistons in the semifinals (albeit for two games, as Billups missed the rest of the series with a strained right hamstring).

Even though the Magic lost to the Pistons in five games, the biggest takeaway from Nelson’s exploits in the postseason was that he showed confidence in Van Gundy’s pick-and-roll-heavy attack. The indecisiveness he displayed during the regular season, in which he was unsure of his role offensively (it got so bad that Van Gundy benched Nelson for Carlos Arroyo at one point), was minimized. And he became much more aggressive on offense by actively looking for his own shot rather than strictly be a pass-first point guard, which allowed him to be more of a playmaker since teams had to respect his scoring ability.

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Aug 06

The measuring stick of NBA starting point guards

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Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Despite my disdain for the first-person POV that dominates NBA writing these days, it’s the only way for me to talk about Jameer Nelson with any sort of individuation. “I” must recount specific memories or encounters “I” had. These would be lost under a third-person objective, or the editorial “we” encompassing other Magic Basketball writers, both of which are a lot more comfortable narrative modes of expression.

It should be noted I was tempted to sing a paean to Nelson in the second-person, but I’ll just stick with my own thoughts to avoid any mockery or judgements in the comments when my tone is exposed as off-key.

Speaking of judgements and mockery, it’s hard for some basketball fan to remember the players that we see on an NBA court have already been whittled down to the very finest, not just in the United States, but the world at large. That’s what makes Jameer Nelson such a fascinating case. He is, for me, the mean for starting point guards in the NBA, which isn’t a bad thing.

While average can often be a pejorative term, in Nelson’s case it always seemed like a good way to understand what actually sets him apart. The 6-foot 193-pound native of Chester, Pennsylvania stayed in school not just for his sophomore season, but his junior and senior seasons as well — this despite being named a unanimous National Freshman of the Year.

And who can forget his undefeated senior season with Delonte West as his running mate in that incredible St. Joe’s backcourt? They combined to go undefeated during the regular season, then dragged St. Joes to the Elite Eight. Both of them went on to productive careers in the NBA (I’ll avoid the quirks in the West narrative for this piece).

If you look at Nelson’s 15.5 career PER, it’s nuzzled up right above the overall average for the league (15.0). Now look at the trajectory of his player efficiency rating — reaching its apogee during the 2008-09 season, his fifth in the league, with a 20.6 PER that later proved to be an outlier in his career — and you’ll notice he’s a good barometer for other players, too.

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Aug 05

Jameer Nelson, the Magic’s unsung hero

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Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images

In January of 2012, I flew to Orlando to cover a couple Magic games. This was my first chance to get inside an NBA locker room and momentarily morph from an analytical blogger to a journalist. It was jarring, to say the least, but a couple of memories will stick with me forever.

Among those is my interaction with Jameer Nelson about two hours before a game, getting shots up, quietly walking to and from the locker room, and going through his routine. This probably wouldn’t have turned the heads of a regular Magic beat writer, but to me it spoke volumes. I, of course, made the mistake of approaching Nelson when he was in the locker room with a plate of food off the buffet.

“I don’t do interviews before games, man,” he said.

It was nice to get that first greenhorn moment out of the way. He carried on, comfortably biding his time as tipoff approached. He said very little to anyone as I remember, but carried with him a respect that could only be garnered by those who played with him, watched him on a nightly basis, and were of the few people in the world that knew how vital he was to the Magic’s roster.

Nelson’s career has been overshadowed by several things, not the least of which was the Dwight Howard era. Throw in a lack of rings, a handful of awful contracts playing around him, the firing of Stan Van Gundy, and it became pretty easy to overlook Nelson.

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Aug 04

The end of an era

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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

From 2007 to 2012, the Orlando Magic were a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference. Over those five seasons, they won 65.7 percent of their regular season games, represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals once, raised three Southeast Division banners, and posted a playoff record of 31-28 (.525 winning percentage) — all of which was the culmination of Stan Van Gundy’s revolutionizing 3-heavy attack.

Before Van Gundy’s arrival, the Magic were stuck in mediocrity, but the pieces were in place to build something special and that is exactly what he did. Their offense and defense was centered around Dwight Howard, and the front office played to his strengths and weaknesses by surrounding him with players who could space the floor. Van Gundy then utilized those pieces in the best way possible, making Rashard Lewis a stretch four — one of the first the NBA had ever seen — and giving Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu free reigns as playmakers, which helped them develop into the most potent pick-and-roll team in the Association.

Sadly, all good things eventually come to an end and the honeymoon period came to a close quickly for the Magic. First, a loss in the Eastern Conference Finals the season following their triumphant run to the Finals, and then back-to-back first round exits in the seasons after. As a result, the franchise parted ways with Stan Van Gundy and his 3-point happy system in the summer of 2012 when their disgruntled star wanted a change, and soon after the dominos started to fall.

Rashard Lewis had already parted ways with the team at that point — they replaced him with another stretch four in Ryan Anderson — but in the months leading up to Van Gundy’s dismissal, rumors swirled around about teammates butting heads in the locker room. It didn’t take long for the rest of the roster to shake out.

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Jul 31

Reviewing the Magic’s free agent signings

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The Magic have presumably wrapped up their offseason acquisitions. There may be further preseason tinkering, but for the most part, we know who to expect on the roster next season. What’s left, then? To judge. And judge we shall.

If we strictly look at the free agency portion of the team’s activity, we see three signed players, all remarkably around the same age: Channing Frye (31), Ben Gordon (31), and Luke Ridnour (33). That’s not including Willie Green (33), who was claimed off waivers.

Frye warrants his own category, because he doesn’t follow the same pattern as the other three players that declined sharply last season from previous seasons.

In an article I wrote in April, I offered a grading tool to assess the Magic’s free agency. I said that we could look for the team to make a value free agent signing of a “relatively young player who is used to winning games.” This would not include another Jason Maxiell- or Ronnie Price-type signing. Green, Gordon, and Ridnour might fall perfectly into the Maxiell tier, but of course, none of them were the Magic’s most important free agent signing. That title would belong to Frye.

At 31, I’m not going to say that his age fits into the relatively young category. But you don’t have to reach for ways he fulfills the rest of the test. He’s used to winning games, particularly on a young team such as Orlando’s. Phoenix was the most surprisingly successful team last season, and Frye was a key contributor to that.

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Jul 25

Magic sign free agent Luke Ridnour

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Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have signed free agent guard Luke Ridnour, general manager Rob Hennigan announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal are not disclosed.

“We’re extremely excited to welcome Luke (Ridnour) and his family to Orlando,” said Hennigan. “Luke is a proven player in this league who is well-respected as a teammate and competitor. The depth and veteran experience he will provide to our backcourt will help our team continue to grow.”

Ridnour (6’2”, 175, 2/13/81) played in 61 total regular season games (14 starts) last season with both Milwaukee and Charlotte, averaging 5.0 ppg., 2.9 apg. and 1.6 rpg. in 18.7 mpg. He appeared in 36 games (12 starts) with Milwaukee, averaging 5.7 ppg., 3.4 apg. and 1.7 rpg. in 21.2 mpg. Ridnour was traded to Charlotte, along with Gary Neal, in exchange for Jeff Adrien and Ramon Sessions on Feb. 20. With Charlotte, he played in 25 games (two starts), averaging 4.0 ppg., 2.2 apg. and 1.4 rpg in 15.1 mpg. Ridnour led (or tied) the Bucks in scoring twice and in assists 12 times. He led (or tied) the Bobcats (now Hornets) in assists once. Ridnour scored in double figures a total of ten times, including a season-high 16 points on Jan. 11 at Oklahoma City. He also appeared in four playoff outings, averaging 2.5 ppg., 3.0 apg. and 1.0 rpg. in 9.0 mpg.

Originally selected by Seattle in the first round (14th overall) of the 2003 NBA Draft, Ridnour has appeared in 783 career NBA regular season games (493 starts) during his 11-year career with Seattle, Minnesota, Milwaukee and Charlotte, averaging 9.6 ppg., 4.6 apg., 2.3 rpg. and 1.01 spg. in 26.7 mpg., while shooting .862 (1,272-1,475) from the free throw line. He also played in 22 career playoff games (11 starts), averaging 7.9 ppg., 3.3 apg. and 2.4 rpg. in 24.3 mpg. Ridnour ranks eighth among active players and 28th in NBA history in career free throw percentage. He finished seventh in the NBA in total assists (550) in 2005-06.

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