- J.J. Redick, now a member of the Milwaukee Bucks after being traded at the deadline, reflects on his tenure with the Orlando Magic: “My wife Chelsea and I built a life in Orlando. Listen, there was no anger [over the trade], but there was a little bit of disappointment. Part of me wishes I could’ve been there my whole career and been part of the rebuilding, part of the turnaround, and gotten back to the finals in my 11th or 12th year. That’s the romantic in me, the idealist.”
- Dwight Howard was also reflective on his Magic tenure: “My team in Orlando was a team full of people that nobody wanted and I was their leader.”
- Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie reacts to Howard’s comments: “Awesome thing to say, Dwight Howard. Especially when two members of that team – Earl Clark and Chris Duhon – were sent to Los Angeles with you. To say nothing of all the deals former Magic GM Otis Smith made to appease Howard, including dealing for and retaining Glen Davis and Jason Richardson.”
- So does Matt Moore of CBS Sports: “Maybe Howard will come out later this week before the Lakers face the Magic next Tuesday in his return and say that he meant they were underdogs. But the 2009 team had Hedo Turkoglu, who is awful now, but was very good from 2008 to 2009. It had Rashard Lewis just a smidge past his prime, who was a deadly 3-point and mid-range shooter. Jameer Nelson was an All-Star that year and it wasn’t all lobs to Howard. [...] The Magic were filled with guys who stepped up in those playoff series and made plays, like J.J. Redick.”
- Arron Afflalo has embraced the idea of helping the Magic through their rebuilding process and being a leader for the younger players.
- Zach Lowe of Grantland provides a status report on Orlando: “The next 100 games are about simultaneously semi-tanking and learning what they’ve got in all the youngsters: Andrew Nicholson, who has been productive in limited minutes, but nonetheless struggled to get to the line or grasp the nuances of NBA big-man defense; Tobias Harris, thriving from all over the floor at multiple positions since the Magic rescued him from Milwaukee; and Moe Harkless, a raw slasher with good athleticism and size who has flashed a very smart cutting game on offense.”
- Afflalo led the way in the Magic’s comeback victory against the New Orleans Hornets on Monday.
- Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports: “Former Magic center Dwight Howard returns to Orlando on March 12 for the first time since being traded to the Lakers. According to ticketmaster.com, there are still plenty of tickets available.”
AP Photo/John Raoux
This past weekend, six members of the Orlando Magic’s basketball operations department attended the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at MIT. That group included general manager Rob Hennigan and assistant general manager Matt Lloyd.
The event, founded by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, has been growing consistently in stature since its inception in 2006. What was at first a fringe event that didn’t hold a lot of interest outside of the most forward-thinking executives and analysts has now become a mainstay.
We’re reaching a point where analytics are a staple of basketball writing in one form or another. Whether it’s your more basic advanced stats like PER and True Shooting percentage or the cutting-edge SportVU cameras, analytics are permeating nearly every facet of the sports conversation.
And the fact that the Magic’s basketball-ops department had a half-dozen representatives at this year’s conference is an encouraging sign for the future of the organization.
Since taking over for Otis Smith in June, Hennigan has adopted a team-building philosophy that’s consistent with his roots with the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder organizations. General manager Sam Presti and the Thunder, as well as general manager R.C. Buford and the Spurs, have long been among the trailblazers in basketball analytics and have based their basketball decisions around asset accumulation, smart drafting, and finding value on the free-agent market.
The pieces Hennigan pulled in as part of the trades of Dwight Howard and J.J. Redick bear this out, but we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible with the greater integration of analytics into the game.
With the introduction of STATS LLC’s SportVU cameras, the specificity with which teams can break down data has never been greater. Grantland’s Zach Lowe recently took an in-depth look at this technology:
Fifteen of the league’s 30 teams have purchased a data-tracking camera system from STATS LLC that records every single movement on the court — the ball, the players, the referees, etc. — in three dimensions. The cameras can measure just about anything, and the teams that are using them best have moved far ahead in developing their own algorithms to measure whatever they wish — which team forces pick-and-rolls left most often, where corner 3s typically rebound when they miss, and how often a player accelerates from “jog” to “sprint” during a game.
It should be noted that the Magic are one of the 15 teams which have purchased the cameras, and one can only imagine that Hennigan plans to make use of them when scouting potential free-agent signings and trade targets. For the time being at least, this gives them a significant competitive advantage over half the league.
When you factor in that three of the other franchises that are making use of SportVU are the Thunder, Spurs, and Rockets — consistently three of the smartest, shrewdest, and most forward-thinking franchises in the league — it’s impossible not to think the Magic are in good company.
The cameras are a significant financial investment, especially for a small-market team, but without the resources to spend unlimited dollars on players like the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, or Brooklyn Nets, a team like the Magic needs every edge it can get.
How Hennigan makes use of SportVU and other new developments in the field of analytics remains to be seen. But it’s a positive sign that the man in charge of putting together a roster that will hopefully put the Magic back into contention after the fall of the Dwight era is this committed to staying at the forefront of an ever-changing culture of team-building.
Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
3-6 FG | 3-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 9 PTS | -10
It was another quiet game for Vucevic, which has been a recurring theme lately. He didn’t even play in the fourth quarter, as head coach Jacque Vaughn elected to go with Al Harrington at the center position. The problem right now is that Vucevic isn’t getting many touches offensively when he’s on the floor. That lack of involvement has hurt his productivity.
10-20 FG | 5-6 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 26 PTS | -1
Affalo was the player of the game for the Magic. He scored 11 of his game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter and made the go-ahead basket with 38.2 seconds left. Afflalo initiated his offense exclusively in isolation from the right elbow in the final period and Eric Gordon was helpless to stop him. It was a case where hero ball worked.
6-15 FG | 2-5 3P | 4 REB| 7 AST | 15 PTS | -2
After sitting out the last six games with a strained patella tendon in his left knee, Nelson returned to the starting lineup and didn’t miss a beat. When Orlando was trailing by as many as 17 points in the third quarter, Nelson was instrumental in getting the Magic back into the game. During a 22-5 run in the period, Nelson accounted for 11 of those points.
6-9 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 15 PTS | +17
Harris dodged a bullet. He snared an offensive rebound after Afflalo missed the second of two free-throws trying to put the Magic up three with 12 seconds left. But Harris was unable to ice game, splitting the pair. However, the Hornets were unable to capitalize on the ensuing possession, as Greivis Vasquez missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have sent the game into overtime.
|New Orleans Hornets
What a game. At first, it seemed like New Orleans was going to win in a blowout. Their lead ballooned to as many as 17 points, yet they lost. The culprit was their inability to slow Orlando down offensively. After scoring 36 points in the first half, the Magic exploded for 69 points (shooting 62 percent) in the second half and carried that offensive performance to a come-from-behind win.
- Teams: Orlando Magic at New Orleans Hornets
- Date: March 4, 2013
- Time: 8:00 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Florida
- Arena: New Orleans Arena
- Magic: 16-44
- Hornets: 21-39
- Jameer Nelson
- Arron Afflalo
- Maurice Harkless
- Andrew Nicholson
- Nikola Vucevic
- Greivis Vasquez
- Eric Gordon
- Al-Farouq Aminu
- Anthony Davis
- Robin Lopez
- Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 102.1 (26th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 109.0 (26th of 30)
- Pace: 88.8 (29th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 105.4 (14th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 109.3 (27th of 30)
Read about the Hornets
- John Schuhmann of NBA.com: “Last week, we kind of downplayed Tobias Harris’ solid Orlando debut. And then he went and shot 27-for-36 (5-for-9 from 3-point range) in his next three games, averaging 22.0 points and 7.7 rebounds.”
- Al Harrington, fully recovered from a staph infection in his right knee, has emerged as the backup center for the Orlando Magic. Kyle O’Quinn’s playing time has diminished as a result.
- Nikola Vucevic’s production has tailed off as of late. Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post takes a look at a few reasons why that is.
- Vucevic is third in the NBA with 33 double-doubles this season after having just two with the Philadelphia 76ers last season (via Marc Stein of ESPN.com).
- This year’s draft will be Orlando’s most important one since 2004.
- On Sunday, the Memphis Grizzlies jumped out to an 18-6 run in the first quarter against the Magic and never looked back, coming away with an easy 108-82 victory.
The hi-lo is one of the most complex sets in basketball. On the surface, it looks like a simple pass between two big men, but it needs perfect timing and chemistry. Lately, the Orlando Magic have been running an interesting iteration of the hi-lo. Let’s go through it step-by-step.
Things begin with a guard handling the ball at the top and a wing coming off a big man’s down pick. While this initial action may be inconsequential towards the final result of this play, it’s movements like these that make good offense’s great.
The San Antonio Spurs are constantly running Tony Parker around screens, just to use him in a simple pick-and-roll. Constantly having to fight through screens can take a toll on defenders as the game wears on and when the fourth quarter comes, mere inches of space can mean everything.
The wing and big then transition into a side pick-and-roll. Another reason for the down pick is to keep the defense off-balance so that they can’t set up their side pick-and-roll defense. This involves the defending wing taking an extreme angle and not letting the pick-and-roll ball handler use the screen. As the pick-and-roll is being run, a weak-side big man runs along the baseline and ducks into the post.
The opposite big man receives the ball and immediately hits the roller on a bounce pass. The roller’s defender is behind — his responsibility is to hedge so that the ball handler doesn’t have a direct lane to the basket. If the weak-side defender rotates over and leaves his man in the corner, Nikola Vucevic can hit him for a wide open corner three.
Here are two examples of it being run:
The two most likely outcomes are a dunk and corner three, which correlates perfectly with the two best shots in basketball. What more could you want?
Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -19
In early January, there was an article on Grantland suggesting that Vucevic could become the next Marc Gasol: a player, perceived to be nothing more than flotsam in a blockbuster trade, that emerges to become a star for a rebuilding franchise. Needless to say, Gasol showed on Sunday night that Vucevic has a lot of work to do if he ever wants to be that good.
4-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 12 PTS | -14
It was a decent game for Moore. He wasn’t connecting on his jump shot, but he made a few layups in transition and converted on some of those patented floaters of his. He also made a couple of nice passes as well, like his alley-oop pass to DeQuan Jones, from just inside half-court on a fast break, during garbage time.
2-6 FG | 8-8 FT | 2 REB| 3 AST | 12 PTS | -17
In the first quarter, Afflalo found himself with the ball at the top of the key and the shot clock winding down while being defended by Tony Allen and Gasol. Trapped along the sideline as he dribbled towards the left wing, Afflalo put up a 3-pointer that was blocked by Gasol. That sequence epitomized the difficulty in which the Magic had in trying to score on the Grizzlies defense.
5-6 FG | 1-1 3P | 6 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | -24
Harkless scoring in double figures is becoming a trend. Since February 19, he’s scored in double figures in each of Orlando’s last eight games and is averaging 14.1 points per game. Many of Harkless’ points against the Grizzlies came in spectacular fashion, like his dunk off an offensive rebound in the second quarter, where he seemingly swooped in from the ceiling after Tobias Harris’ missed corner three.
Despite missing Zach Randolph, who was out with a sprained left ankle, an injury he suffered in their game against the Miami Heat on Friday, Memphis dominated an outmatched Magic team and Gasol was the primary reason why. Gasol piled up a career-high 11 assists, picking apart Orlando’s defense from the high post. Gasol’s passing was exquisite and the Grizzlies flourished offensively because of it.
- Teams: Memphis Grizzlies at Orlando Magic
- Date: March 3, 2013
- Time: 6:00 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Florida
- Arena: Amway Center
- Grizlies: 38-19
- Magic: 16-43
- Mike Conley
- Tony Allen
- Tayshaun Prince
- Darrell Arthur
- Marc Gasol
- E’Twaun Moore
- Arron Afflalo
- Maurice Harkless
- Andrew Nicholson
- Nikola Vucevic
- Pace: 89.0 (28th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 104.1 (19th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 100.0 (2nd of 30)
- Pace: 91.7 (15th of 30)
- Offensive Rating: 102.3 (26th of 30)
- Defensive Rating: 108.7 (26th of 30)
Read about the Grizzlies
AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack
8-13 FG | 2-2 FT | 10 REB | 1 AST | 18 PTS | -8
After a lackluster performance against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, Vucevic bounced back nicely with a double-double against the Rockets. Vucevic did his usual dirty work on the glass, but what stood out the most was the ease in which he scored on Omer Asik (one of the better defensive big men in the NBA).
11-15 FG | 3-5 3P | 10 REB | 2 AST | 27 PTS | 0
Did anyone see this coming? After scoring a career-high 23 points versus the Kings, Harris’ encore performance against Houston was even better. He set new career-highs in points (27) and 3-pointers made (three). No one on the Rockets could contain Harris, who was able to score at will, especially off the dribble. It was a dominant offensive display that was executed in a smooth McGrady-like manner. Pardon the hyperbole.
6-14 FG | 3-3 FT | 3 REB| 4 AST | 19 PTS | -3
Afflalo drew the primary assignment of defending James Harden, one of the elite scorers in the league, and did an adequate job of slowing him down as best he could. Harden got his points, but he definitely had to earn them. Given Afflalo’s competitive nature, it made for a fun matchup to watch. Especially in the fourth quarter of a close game.
7-8 FG | 3-3 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 17 PTS | -8
Nicholson missed one shot and made a point per minute. He absolutely destroyed Donatas Motiejunas, riddling him with an array of post moves. The gut reaction is to say that head coach Jacque Vaughn was foolish to not play Nicholson more, something that Magic fans have complained about before. But in this case, Harris was so good, there just wasn’t enough minutes to go around for Nicholson.
If you’ve never watched Houston play this season, you were in for a treat. The Rockets are always a fun team to watch because of their fast-paced, high-scoring nature and laissez-faire attitude about defense. So it should come as no surprise that Houston and Orlando engaged in a thrilling shootout that went down to the wire. Unfortunately for the Magic, they came up short.