Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 54

Nov 01

Preview: New Orleans Pelicans at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: New Orleans Pelicans at Orlando Magic
  • Date: November 1, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Pelicans: 0-1
  • Magic: 0-2

Probable starters

Pelicans:

  • Jrue Holiday
  • Eric Gordon
  • Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Anthony Davis
  • Jason Smith

Magic:

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

Advanced stats

Pelicans:

  • Pace: 91.5 (28th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 98.3 (20th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.8 (15th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 98.5 (11th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 97.5 (23rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.7 (18th of 30)

Read about the Pelicans

Bourbon Street Shots

Nov 01

Solomon Jones suffers torn meniscus

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Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

Orlando Magic forward/center Solomon Jones has suffered a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, General Manager Rob Hennigan announced today. Jones will undergo surgery and will be out indefinitely. He suffered the injury during Orlando’s overtime loss on Oct. 30 @ Minnesota.

Jones (6-10, 235, 7/16/84) was signed as a free agent on Sep. 27. He has played in two games this season, averaging 2.0 ppg. and 5.0 rpg. in 13.7 mpg. Jones also appeared in seven preseason outings, averaging 4.6 ppg., 4.3 rpg. and 1.29 spg. in 16.0 mpg.

A graduate of nearby Mount Dora High School, Jones was originally selected in the second round (33rd overall) of the 2006 NBA Draft by Atlanta. He has appeared in 272 career NBA games with Atlanta, Indiana, New Orleans, the Los Angeles Clippers, New York and Orlando, averaging 3.1 ppg. and 2.4 rpg. in 11.1 mpg. Collegiately, Jones played two years at Daytona Beach Community College, then two years at the University of South Florida

Nov 01

Orlando Magic announces Hall of Fame

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Photo taken by Fernando Medina

Via John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:

Eager to honor and celebrate the great players, coaches and executives who have been a part of their illustrious 25-year history, the Orlando Magic are planning to create a Magic Hall of Fame that will be on display at the Amway Center.

Magic CEO Alex Martins made the announcement on Friday morning – just hours before the Magic’s home-opener to begin the 25th anniversary season – that the Hall of Fame will be a way to help bridge the past with the future of Magic basketball. Initial plans are for it to be designed so that Magic fans can enjoy the exhibits on game nights at the Amway Center.

“We’ve been trying to find a way to recognize the great players who have played for us that in some way memorializes them within the building for our fans,” Martins said. “We feel like this is the perfect way to do it. It will be a nice recognition for players, coaches and executives who have been a part of our history.’’

Nov 01

Appreciating T-Mac

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Photo by Fernando Medina-NBAE via Getty Images

There really isn’t a fresh angle to take when writing about the impact that Tracy McGrady had in Orlando that hasn’t already been covered.

He’s being honored tonight at Amway Center, and the Magic faithful will likely roar like a pack of lions for one of the most unbelievable talents to ever suit up in an NBA uniform. And if you’re attending the game but not planning on roaring, I suggest you read this piece as I cover the broad strokes of T-Mac’s career. Who knows? Maybe you’ll change your mind and let out a roar yourself.

McGrady was LeBron
When I was first learning about advanced statistics, Eddy Rivera had a pretty simple way of explaining PER to me: 15 is the league average, 20-24 is All-Star level, 25-29 is MVP level, and anything over 30 is LeBron territory. For the most part, he’s been right in that basic assessment.

So let’s compare apples-to-apples. In his transcendant 2002-03 season, the third year that T-Mac was with Orlando, he averaged 32.1 points to go along with 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. By comparison, LeBron James averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.3 assists per game in 2012-13 — regarded almost unanimously as the finest statistical season of his career.

Oh, and McGrady’s 30.3 PER in 2003 was a hair behind LeBron’s 31.6 PER in 2013. But perhaps the most ironic comparison is that T-Mac was LeBron before LeBron. McGrady was a 6-foot-8 maestro that bent the game to his will on the court with incredible ease. Sound familiar?

And in case there is any question about this, allow me to put it to rest. At his zenith in 2003, Tracy McGrady was the absolute best player in the league — better than Shaquille O’Neal, better than Tim Duncan, and better than Kevin Garnett. McGrady was a king among giants.

Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 31

Grades: Minnesota Timberwolves 120, Orlando Magic 115 (OT)

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Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

 

Minnesota Timberwolves 120 Final
Recap | Box Score
115 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
9-15 FG | 4-6 FT | 16 REB | 3 AST | 22 PTS | +8

Vucevic played out of character against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, but he looked more like himself versus the Minnesota Timberwolves, notching his first double-double of the season — with the added bonus that it came against fellow countrymen Nikola Pekovic. Vucevic returned to form by sticking with what he does best: scoring off of midrange jumpers and offensive rebound putbacks, and sucking up rebounds like a vacuum.

Victor Oladipo
5-14 FG | 1-5 3P | 6 REB | 4 AST | 14 PTS | -5

In the Magic’s first close game of the season, Oladipo was on the court in crunch time. And for literally a split-second, it looked as though he was going to be the hero after he made two clutch free-throws with 12.5 seconds left to give Orlando a 103-100 lead. But Kevin Love proved to be even more heroic with his game-tying 3-pointer, which came seconds later.

Arron Afflalo
11-22 FG | 3-5 3P | 9 REB | 5 AST | 28 PTS | +4

What’s worse? The fact that Afflalo was caught in no man’s land and defending nobody on Love’s game-tying 3-pointer? Or the fact that, on the ensuing possession, Afflalo held the ball in isolation for several seconds before clanking a fadeaway jumper to try to win the game? Bonus question: why did head coach Jacque Vaughn draw up an isolation play for Afflalo in the first place?

Jameer Nelson
7-17 FG | 3-11 3P | 4 REB | 8 AST | 18 PTS | -3

The Timberwolves’ strategy in defending Nelson in the pick-and-roll was by going under the pick and forcing him to shoot jumpers. And Nelson did that, making several 3-pointers off the dribble in pick-and-roll sets. But what was more surprising was that he was still able to get to the rim for layups, thanks to his foot speed. Father Time hasn’t caught up to Nelson yet.

Minnesota Timberwolves

With the Magic leading by the score of 103-100 in the closing seconds of regulation, it seemed like the obvious decision would have been to foul Minnesota before they attempted a 3-point shot. But that didn’t happen. Instead, Love made a wide-open 3-pointer to tie the game and send it into overtime, and the Timberwolves ultimately came away with a victory.

Oct 30

Video: Kevin Love’s game-tying shot

Oct 30

Preview: Orlando Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Date: October 30, 2013
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Target Center

Records

  • Magic: 20-62
  • Timberwolves: 31-51

Probable starters

Magic:

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

Timberwolves:

  • Ricky Rubio
  • Kevin Martin
  • Corey Brewer
  • Kevin Love
  • Nikola Pekovic

Advanced stats

Magic:

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

Timberwolves:

  • Pace: 92.8 (11th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.9 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.4 (13th of 30)

Read about the Timberwolves

A Wolf Among Wolves

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.

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