Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 52

Sep 06

The dunk heard ’round the world

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Photo by Getty Images

Before his dunk on Shawn Bradley, before 13 in 35, before 62, and before 2003, Tracy McGrady wowed everyone with his self alley-oop dunk in the 2002 NBA All-Star Game in Philadelphia. It was an iconic play that will forever be remembered every All-Star weekend as one of the defining moments of the McGrady lore.

The irony is that T-Mac showcased the dunk in a game against the Boston Celtics in the 2000-01 season — his first with the Orlando Magic after leaving the Toronto Raptors in the summer of 2000. It drew the “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd. His teammates were awed. But it occurred in front of a half-empty Fleet Center on local television in a preseason game. In other words, it didn’t really happen.

It was equivalent to McGrady conducting a soft opening before unveiling a store to the public for real. He was working out all the kinks. What was the path of least resistance to attempt the dunk? Where on the backboard did he have to throw the ball to? Where on the court did he have to throw the ball from? Once T-Mac ironed the creases of the dunk just so, he was ready to debut it on a bigger platform.

Fast-forward to 2002. Coming off a breakout year in 2000-01, where he was voted in as a starter as a first-time All-Star and was named the league’s Most Improved Player, McGrady was selected to his second-consecutive All-Star team but this time as a reserve. Michael Jordan coming out of retirement had something to do with that.

But unlike the 2001 All-Star Game, where he had a quiet performance (two points in 21 minutes), T-Mac made his presence felt the moment he stepped on the floor at the All-Star Game in 2002.

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Sep 04

2003: A magical odyssey

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Photo by Fernando Medina/Orlando Magic

Tracy McGrady’s career contains a plethora of “what ifs.” What if he just stayed in Toronto? What if Grant Hill’s ankle wasn’t mangled? What if Tim Duncan came to Orlando instead of Hill? What if Yao Ming stayed healthy? And, of course, what if McGrady made it past the first round?

In the swirl of those persistent questions, while simultaneously fighting the constant pressures of creating an instant evaluation of a player’s entire career the split second he retires, it’s easy to forget just how special a player McGrady was at his peak.

Especially during the 2002-2003 campaign, when McGrady was at the height of his powers and playing at a transcendent level commensurate to a prime Michael Jordan.

And the way he took his game to that plane of existence was wholly unique. He wasn’t an uber-efficient big man like Shaquille O’Neal, and he wasn’t an inefficient gunner like Allen Iverson. McGrady was somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, posting the league’s highest usage rate yet remaining very efficient in the process.

To show how unique of a player he was, I compared McGrady’s statistics to every other player that participated in 2002-03 and calculated similarity scores for those players. I won’t go into the specifics of the calculation, but the metric spits out a number out of 1,000. Above 950 is great, 930 is good, and below 920 it starts getting iffy. McGrady’s two most similar players that season were Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce, who both scored in the 800s. Other than those two, no other players even sniffed matching his statistical profile.

Looking back now, we can see how utterly historic McGrady’s season was offensively. He’s one of only six players in NBA history to put up a season with a usage rate above 35 percent (35.2) and a True Shooting percentage above 56 percent (.564). And he’s one of only four players in NBA history to have a usage rate above 35 percent and turnover percentage below 9 percent (8.4).

And overall, he’s only the eighth player in NBA history to post a PER above 30.0 for a season (30.3). He was in rarified air that year, where only players like Jordan and Shaq were his statistical equal (this is before LeBron James came crashing to the party).

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Sep 03

Tracy McGrady and unaccountable greatness

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Photo by Fernando Medina/Orlando Magic

I don’t particularly like baseball. It’s a step-up from college football, but I can’t remember ever watching an entire MLB game after turning 10 years old. Instead, I watched basketball and then went out to my hoop out back and tried to duplicate Michael Jordan’s tongue wag, or the left-handed dunk Starks threw down over Jordan’s Bulls (I had an adjustable rim, obviously). Baseball reminded me — and still does — of a long-running argument my grandparents used to have over a Euchre hand while drinking lemonade on their porch.

But after growing up a bit, I can’t fault those who love the game of baseball. It’s unwise to treat anything you’re passionate about as sacrosanct above all else, so I adjusted and conceded that other sports might be as inspiring to others as basketball was, and is, to me. Maybe that’s why when Tracy McGrady announced his retirement from the NBA, long after anyone really cared about him, I thought about Joe DiMaggio. It’s hard to explain why because I lack the requisite diction, but I’ll try.

If you look at DiMaggio’s nine World series titles, 10 American League pennants, 13 All-Star nods and so on and so forth, the differences with McGrady’s career — one without a ring or even a simple playoff series win — are acute. That’s what makes this such a hard comparison to make.

No matter what we do, some people do it better. These other people can seemingly perform some task, play some sport, or instrument, or occupation, or manipulate a paintbrush better than you, or me, or really anyone. These people are often called “naturals,” “savants,” or a “genius.” That which comes hard to the majority comes to them with ease. As John Keats once said, “If poetry comes not as naturally as leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.”

Keats was a genius, and he couldn’t understand why poetry was so hard for others. Keats was also sort of stuck-up.

But Keats knew poetry, and for him it was as innate as painting was to Picasso or the guitar to Jimi Hendrix. Some people just fall into their perfect complement. Basketball came naturally to Tracy McGrady. So much so, he was drafted right out of high school, a 6-foot-8 savant who could jump out of the gym. When the Raptors selected him with the No. 9 pick in the 1997 draft, they had no way of knowing of what they were getting, of course. Even basketball naturals take time to acculturate from high school to the NBA.

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Sep 02

T-Mac and 62

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Photo by Fernando Medina/Orlando Magic

Disclaimer: I’m about to poke a few holes in Tracy McGrady’s 62-point game against the Washington Wizards. No doubt it was one of the most impressive individual outings of his career, but this was a volume shooting session. A Nick Young lucid dream. T-Mac had the green light and he fired away every time he was in range. My only beef is that when you’re going to shoot the ball every time you touch it, maybe we should expect you to score closer to, say, 81?

We’re actually going to touch on the hot hand theory here in a bit, but first, let’s take a brisk walk through this legendary game from nine years ago.

Pretend you’re a coach for a minute. Your team is playing in Orlando and, by far and away, the biggest offensive threat is a 6-foot-8 maestro with a silky smooth jumper. Objective A is to do what? Yes, make sure he doesn’t get into the paint. Objective B? Don’t give him any open jump shots.

You’ve heard the coach speak before. “If they’re going to beat us with difficult, contested jump shots, then they’re just going to beat us.”

In the case of Washington vs. Orlando on March 10, 2004, we need to slightly adjust the aforementioned jargon. “When Tracy McGrady shoots the ball 37 times, and more than 30 of those shots are contested but he still makes 20 of them, we’re probably going to lose.”

We can’t take anything away from T-Mac in this outing, because even upon reviewing the game nine years later, it was an outstanding effort. But let’s take a look at some context. Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in a game in 2006. If you had to guess, how many shots do you think he took? The answer is 46, just nine more attempts than McGrady in his 62-point game. That’s comparing apples and oranges, but the way that the two players got their buckets in these respective games were similar.

Take a handoff pass, drill a 3. Back down, fadeaway, buckets. Hand in the face? Don’t care. Still shooting. Net. Take it to the rack? Why? I’ll just shoot from the perimeter. Money.

T-Mac’s 62-point game was a classic case of a guy who was “feeling it,” a concept that we know isn’t entirely sound. When you sit around with your buddies talking about that game, you can’t help but think about how amazing it was. I’m sure phrases have been thrown around like, “he couldn’t miss!” Sure, that’s how we remember it.

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Aug 26

Tracy McGrady retires from the NBA

This is a close up of guard Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady.

Photo by Paul Chapman/NBAE/Getty Images

Via ESPN.com:

Leaving open the door to play overseas, seven-time All-Star Tracy McGrady retired from the NBA on Monday.

“It’s been 16 years playing the game I love. I’ve had a great run, but it’s time for it to come to an end,” McGrady said on ESPN’s “First Take.”

McGrady averaged 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game in a career that started in 1997, when he was drafted out of high school.

Aug 06

Orlando’s 2013-14 regular season schedule released

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The National Basketball Association today released its 2013-14 schedule and announced the Orlando Magic will open its 25th “Silver Season” on Tuesday, October 29 at Indiana. The home opener will be on Friday, November 1 at the Amway Center against New Orleans. Tip-off 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 2013-14 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 www.orlandomagic.com or call 407-89-MAGIC.

Beginning its 25th season, the Magic will celebrate their “Silver Season” with the entire Orlando community by remembering their success, the rich history of legendary moments, players, people and fans, while building on an exciting future.

Orlando opens training camp on October 1 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 second 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 23 home games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this season. The 2013-14 Magic schedule also features 18 back-to-back contests (36 games played on consecutive nights).

The Magic will play two games in October (both away), 14 games in November (10 home, 4 away), 15 games in December (7 home, 8 away), including a day game on New Year’s Eve at home against Golden State (5 p.m.), 17 games in January (7 home, 10 away), 12 games in February (5 home, 7 away), 14 games in March (7 home, 7 away) and eight games in April (5 home, 3 away).

The Magic will enjoy a season-long six-game homestand from December 18-31 (six games in 14 days). Orlando faces a season-long six-game road trip which takes place December 2-11 (six games in 10 days).

Orlando closes the regular season on Wednesday, April 16 at Amway Center vs. Indiana.

Click here for the 2013-14 schedule.

Aug 02

Magic waive Al Harrington

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

In a move designed to save money and free up playing time for their young players, the Orlando Magic waived veteran forward Al Harrington on Friday afternoon.

If no team claims Harrington within 48 hours, he will become a free agent. [...]

Harrington, 33, didn’t fit into the Magic’s long-range plans.

About $3.57 million of his salary of $7.15 million for the upcoming season is guaranteed, while $3.8 million of his salary of $7.6 million for the 2014-15 season is guaranteed.

Jul 25

Magic sign guard Ronnie Price

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Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have signed free agent guard Ronnie Price, General Manager Rob Hennigan announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal are not disclosed.

Last season, Price (6’2”, 190, 6/21/83) played in 39 games with Portland, averaging 2.7 ppg., 1.9 apg. and 1.1 rpg. in 13.1 mpg. He led the Blazers in assists once and scored a season-high 10 points on Nov. 18 vs. Chicago. Price was waived by Portland on Feb. 21, 2013.

“We’re excited to welcome Ronnie (Price) and his family to the Magic organization,” said Hennigan. “We believe Ronnie’s toughness and competitive spirit, along with the varied experiences he’s gained throughout his career, will impact the development of our team in a positive way.”

Jul 18

Magic sign forward Jason Maxiell

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Photo by Allen Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have signed free agent forward-center Jason Maxiell, General Manager Rob Hennigan announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal are not disclosed.

“We’re excited to welcome Jason (Maxiell) and his family to the Magic organization,” said Hennigan. “Jason brings an element of experience, toughness and resolve to our roster that we feel will benefit our team.”

Maxiell (6’7”, 260, 2/18/83) played in 72 games last season with Detroit, averaging 6.9 ppg., 5.7 rpg. and 1.32 bpg. in 24.8 mpg. He has also appeared in 35 career playoff outings.

Jul 15

Magic have a new D-League affiliate

Via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

The Orlando Magic’s NBA Development League affiliate for the upcoming season will be the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the NBA announced this afternoon.

The Magic will share the Mad Ants with the Charlotte Bobcats, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies and the Milwaukee Bucks.

That sharing arrangement, along with Fort Wayne’s location, make the Mad Ants a less-than-ideal affiliate for the Magic.

Still, it’s better than the situation last season, when the Magic’s affiliate was the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Sioux Falls’ remote location made it counterproductive for the Magic to send any of their young players there.

Fort Wayne, Ind., at least, is closer than South Dakota.

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