Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 6

Feb 02

3-on-3: Biggest snub among All-Star reserves

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Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

In honor of the All-Star rosters being released, me and two other TrueHoop Network writers give their opinions on the players involved. This 3-on-3 originally appeared on Salt City Hoops. Enjoy!

1. Who is the biggest snub from this year’s All-Star rosters?

Rahut Huq, Red94: Damian Lillard with Kyle Korver being a close second. Lillard playing at a near MVP level and not being able to make the midseason classic is both confounding, but also reflective of the talent glut out west. There’s a star point guard on just about every playoff team and someone was going to get left off.

Matthew Tynan, 48 Minutes of Hell: Damian Lillard has to be No. 1 on the snub list, but I’m going to throw in my support for Kyle Korver. We don’t consider guys like Korver to be “stars,” so to speak, but he bends defenses in ways only a handful of players in the league do. And while his stats aren’t necessarily mind-blowing in volume, his efficiency is freaky. You can’t even go 50-50-90 in NBA 2K (FG%-3P%-FT%).

Eddy Rivera, Magic Basketball: Damian Lillard. The problem is who do you take off the West roster? Every single player is deserving of his spot. Fans were outraged that commissioner Adam Silver selected DeMarcus Cousins over Lillard as the injury replacement for Kobe Bryant, but Cousins has had a better season. Unfortunately for Lillard, he plays in a conference where there’s more deserving players than available spots.

2. Who is the most undeserving All-Star?

Huq: Probably Carmelo. I’m not one of those people who thinks you should reward the best teams at the detriment of guys on average teams who are having better years, but I do think being on a team that’s been absolutely dreadful should be disqualifying. We’re talking about a guy here who might even be shutting it down soon.

Tynan: I want to preface this with “I’m glad he’s in because the game will be more fun,” but it’s Kevin Durant. The guy had played only 21 games at the time of the selection, and while he’s one of the best two or three players on the planet, this season’s performance has been one of his least All-Star worthy, relatively speaking. I wish Cousins had been selected over Duncan and Lillard had replaced Kobe for the sake of entertainment, but I believe Durant was least deserving.

Rivera: I can’t remember the last time where I was completely satisfied with both All-Star rosters. In my opinion, there’s not one undeserving All-Star. If there’s one player that’s debatable, it’s Carmelo Anthony. I don’t think he should be penalized for being on a bad team (it’s not his fault), but if you wanted to replace him with someone like Kyle Korver (on pace for the first 50-50-90 season in league history), I wouldn’t argue.

3. If you were commissioner, of every player in the NBA, who would you like to have in the All-Star game?

Huq: Patrick Beverley. He’s actually been pretty bad defensively of late, but it would be nice seeing someone pick guys up 94 feet in the All-Star game. It could actually edge some edge. Maybe while we’re at it, bring Draymond Green and Tony Allen along with him and run that unit for a five minute stretch. .

Tynan: Just name your favorite gunner. I think it’d be hilarious to assemble an entire team of Dion Waiters- and J.R. Smith-types and watch them test the limits of quality shot-taking. If you’re looking for an example or a visual of what that could be like, just go back to the Waiters-Tim Hardaway, Jr., battle in the Rising Stars Challenge last season.

Rivera: Dion Waiters. Just to watch Waiters throw his hands up in the air and ask for the ball, despite being on the same court with players like Anthony Davis, James Harden, and Stephen Curry. How crazy would that be? The crazier part is that he did this in Cleveland with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving, and continues to do it in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

Feb 01

Grades: Dallas Mavericks 108, Orlando Magic 93

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AP Photo/John Raoux

 

Dallas Mavericks 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
93 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
8-13 FG | 1-1 FT | 16 REB | 2 AST | 17 PTS | -13

Another double-double for Vucevic in another blowout loss at home for the Magic. This is becoming the norm now. It’s all well and good that Vucevic can get those double-doubles, but it doesn’t mean much when he can’t stop anybody on defense. It also doesn’t help that he doesn’t get much help from his teammates defensively, either.

Evan Fournier
6-10 FG | 1-2 3P | 2 STL | 3 REB | 15 PTS | -21

Fournier started in place of Victor Oladipo (sore achilles), and took advantage of the opportunity by rekindling the chemistry he and Vucevic displayed early on in the season. Orlando ran a beautiful set early in the first quarter where Fournier passed to Vucevic on the left elbow, who then threw a backdoor pass to a cutting Fournier for a dunk.

Willie Green
6-12 FG | 1-4 3P | 2 STL | 4 REB | 16 PTS | +6

Even though Green is an objectively bad player, you have to admire him giving it his all when he’s on the floor. For a second straight game, Green scored 15-plus points off the bench and played his heart out. He helped spark a 25-7 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters, and cut Orlando’s deficit to five before the Mavs ended the game on a 14-4 run.

Aaron Gordon
3-8 FG | 2-3 3P | 5 REB | 0 AST | 11 PTS | -5

Given that he’s still working his way back from a foot injury, Gordon has been on a minutes restriction. He was supposed to only play 20 minutes against the Mavericks, but he ended up playing 30 minutes. Perhaps the most encouraging takeaway is that Gordon made two right corner 3s in the third quarter and looked good shooting them.

Dallas Mavericks

This one was over in the first quarter. Dallas outscored the Magic 34-17 in the opening period and coasted to an easy victory. The biggest concern for the Mavericks was Rajon Rondo, who suffered a scary injury in the game’s first two minutes. He got kneed in the face by his teammate Richard Jefferson, which left him bloodied and forced him to miss the remainder of the game.

Jan 31

Preview: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Dallas Mavericks at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 31, 2015
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Mavericks: 31-17
  • Magic: 15-34

Probable starters

Mavericks:

  • Rajon Rondo
  • Monta Ellis
  • Richard Jefferson
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • Tyson Chandler

Magic:

  • Elfrid Payton
  • Evan Fournier
  • Aaron Gordon
  • Tobias Harris
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Mavericks:

  • Pace: 94.3 (13th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 112.1 (3rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 106.3 (17th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 94.3 (11th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.4 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.9 (25th of 30)

Read about the Mavericks

Mavs Outsider Report

Jan 30

Magic are close to firing coach Jacque Vaughn

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AP Photo/Brandon Dill

Via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

The Orlando Magic are close to firing coach Jacque Vaughn and a change could come soon, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

As embarrassing losses accumulate, Vaughn is rapidly running out of time to show the progress needed to make it through the next several days – never mind the fourth and final year of his contract in 2015-16, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

“It isn’t a matter of ‘if,’ anymore, but ‘when,’ ” a source close to the decision-making process told Yahoo Sports about Vaughn’s fading job security.

Vaughn will not be replaced before Orlando meets Dallas on Saturday at Amway Center, but his job security beyond the start of the two-game trip to Oklahoma City and San Antonio beginning on Monday is uncertain, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Jan 29

Grades: Milwaukee Bucks 115, Orlando Magic 100

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Milwaukee Bucks 115 Final
Recap | Box Score
100 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
8-19 FG | 1-1 FT | 14 REB | 1 AST | 17 PTS | -26

How’s this for an eye-opening stat? Vucevic shot 8-for-16 at the rim. His misses primarily came on layups, tip-ins, and hook shots. There was one sequence midway through the first quarter when Vucevic went up for a layup and got blocked from the weak-side by Brandon Knight, who is a 6-foot-3 point guard. Vucevic is a 7-foot center.

Victor Oladipo
6-17 FG | 9-11 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 21 PTS | -24

Even though Oladipo has improved this season as a jump shooter, he’ll still have games where he struggles with his jumper. Tonight was one of those games. Oladipo missed all of his shots from the perimeter, but he compensated by attacking the rim (6-for-10) and getting to the free-throw line (9-for-11). That’s how he was able to salvage his night and end up with an efficient 21 points.

Willie Green
6-8 FG | 3-5 FT | 2 STL | 1 REB | 16 PTS | +13

It’s downright bizarre that head coach Jacque Vaughn has been playing Willie Green at backup point in Orlando’s last three games, given that he’s not a point guard and also having one of the worst seasons in NBA history. But, of course, Green ends up having his best game of the season against Milwaukee. Go figure.

Elfrid Payton
6-10 FG | 3-4 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 15 PTS | -18

It’s no secret that Payton can’t shoot. He knows it. Opposing teams know it and they guard him accordingly, with defenders drifting into the paint when Payton has the ball at the top of the key. And yet, Payton is still able to drive to the basket and score, using all sorts of tricks — usually ball fakes and head fakes — to create space.

Milwaukee Bucks

Not only did the Magic get booed out of their own building, but they made the Bucks — a good, but not great team — look like world-beaters. Seven different players scored in double-figures for Milwaukee, with Jerryd Bayless leading the way with 19 points off the bench (13 of them came in the second quarter when he went into god mode offensively).

Jan 29

Preview: Milwaukee Bucks at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Milwaukee Bucks at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 29, 2015
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Bucks: 23-22
  • Magic: 15-33

Probable starters

Bucks:

  • Brandon Knight
  • Khris Middleton
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo
  • Ersan Ilyasova
  • Zaza Pachulia

Magic:

  • Elfrid Payton
  • Victor Oladipo
  • Aaron Gordon
  • Channing Frye
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Bucks:

  • Pace: 93.8 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.8 (22nd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.4 (6th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 94.2 (13th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.4 (27th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.8 (23rd of 30)

Read about the Bucks

Bucksketball

Jan 28

Oladipo, Payton to play in Rising Stars Challenge

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Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Via NBA press release:

The Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins, who has won two straight Kia NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards, and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Michael Carter-Williams, last season’s Kia NBA Rookie of the Year, highlight the list of 20 players selected to play in the new-look BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge during NBA All-Star 2015.

The league’s annual showcase of premier young talent will debut a format that pits 10 first- and second-year NBA players from the United States against 10 first- and second-year NBA players from around the world. The game, set for Friday, Feb. 13, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, will be televised live by TNT at 9 p.m. ET, part of Turner Sports’ 30th year of All-Star coverage. BBVA Compass is the official bank of the NBA in the U.S. and maintains its role as title partner for the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge.

This year’s edition showcases 10 of the top 15 picks from the 2013 NBA Draft presented by State Farm, and all four participants in the 2015 Sprite Slam Dunk, which will be held during State Farm All-Star Saturday Night at Barclays Center.

The World Team is anchored by Wiggins, who leads all rookies in scoring (15.2 ppg). Wiggins is one of two Canadians on the roster, along with the Boston Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk, who is part of a frontcourt that includes the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert, the third-leading shot-blocker in the NBA (2.18 bpg), and the Chicago Bulls’ Nikola Mirotic, the Kia NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for December. The other World Team players are Sprite Slam Dunk entrant Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder, Bojan Bogdanovic of the Brooklyn Nets, Gorgui Dieng of the Timberwolves, Dante Exum of the Jazz and Dennis Schroder of the Atlanta Hawks.

Carter-Williams, one of two NBA players averaging at least 15.0 points, 7.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds, is joined on the U.S. Team by Sprite Slam Dunk competitors Zach LaVine of the Timberwolves, Victor Oladipo of the Magic and Mason Plumlee of the Nets. The rookie leader in assists (the Magic’s Elfrid Payton) and the rookie leader in rebounds, blocked shots and steals (the 76ers’ Nerlens Noel) were also selected for the U.S. Team, which is rounded out by Trey Burke of the Jazz, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope of the Detroit Pistons, Shabazz Muhammad of the Timberwolves and Cody Zeller of the Charlotte Hornets.

Both BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge rosters, chosen by the NBA’s assistant coaches, had to include four guards, four frontcourt players and two players at any position. The coaches also picked a minimum of three first-year players and three second-year players for each team.

The head coaches for the 21st BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge will be assistants from the 2015 NBA All-Star Game coaching staffs. Hawks assistant coach Kenny Atkinson will guide the World Team, and Golden State Warriors assistant coach Alvin Gentry will lead the U.S. Team.

Jan 28

Victor Oladipo a darkhorse to win dunk contest

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s official.

Victor Oladipo will compete in this year’s dunk contest. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports – who else? – first reported on January 21 that Oladipo committed to participate in the contest alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks), Zach LaVine (Timberwolves), and Mason Plumlee (Nets). The contest will be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The NBA officially announced the news yesterday.

LaVine is widely regarded as the prohibitive favorite to win the contest. He generated a lot of buzz in the offseason with his 46-inch vertical (which set a Lakers pre-draft workout record), and his dunks at the Seattle Pro-Am and rookie photo shoot went viral. “Jumping out of the gym” can be an overused basketball term, but it’s an apt description for Lavine.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Oladipo, who is a darkhorse candidate. His signature dunk is the 360 (which he has executed against the Nets last season and against the Rockets this season), but that’s all he’s known for. He isn’t regarded as a creative dunker like LaVine.

But you better believe that Oladipo is ready to show everyone what he can do. He wanted to participate in the dunk contest in his rookie year, but didn’t get invited — though he did compete in the Rising Stars Challenge and Skills Challenge at All-Star weekend in New Orleans.

Now that he’s gotten a dunk contest invite, it’ll be interesting to see if Oladipo has any tricks in his bag and can beat not only LaVine, but Antetokounmpo, and Plumlee as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Jan 27

Oladipo to compete in 2015 Sprite Slam Dunk

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via NBA press release:

The 2015 Sprite Slam Dunk at NBA All-Star 2015 in New York City will feature four exciting, up-and-coming players and a format change that adds an old-school feel to the 30th edition of the contest.

A first-time champion will be crowned as three surging second-year players and a leading rookie will all make their debuts in the league’s signature above-the-rim showcase: Orlando Magic guard Victor Oladipo, Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Zach LaVine and Brooklyn Nets center Mason Plumlee.

TNT will televise the Sprite Slam Dunk live on Saturday, Feb. 14, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn during State Farm All-Star Saturday Night, part of Turner Sports’ 30th year of All-Star coverage.

Returning to a classic format, the Sprite Slam Dunk will be a two-round event in which the four participants can perform any dunk they choose without time limits. The players will have a maximum of three attempts to complete each dunk in both the first round and the final round. Five judges will score every dunk on a scale of 6 to 10, resulting in a high score of 50 and a low score of 30. All four competitors will get two dunks in the first round. The two dunkers with the highest combined score for their two dunks will advance to the head-to-head final round. The player with the highest combined score for his two dunks in the final round will be the champion.

Jan 27

Grades: Memphis Grizzlies 103, Orlando Magic 94

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AP Photo/Brandon Dill

 

Memphis Grizzlies 103 Final
Recap | Box Score
94 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
6-13 FG | 6-7 FT | 2 STL | 12 REB | 18 PTS | -7

Normally, Vucevic is a player that gets off to fast starts in games. For the season, he averages 6.5 points per game in the first quarter, which is his highest scoring average of all four quarters. However, against the Grizzlies, Vucevic didn’t make his first field goal until the 7:38 mark of the second quarter.

Victor Oladipo
6-11 FG | 5-6 FT | 2 STL | 7 REB | 18 PTS | +3

No Tony Allen (sprained left ankle) for Memphis meant that Oladipo didn’t have to deal with being hounded by a defensive bulldog. Instead, Courtney Lee had the assignment, but he offered little resistance. The Magic ran pick-and-rolls for Oladipo and he was able to attack the rim (5-for-7) with ease, as Lee struggled to navigate through the screens and keep up.

Elfrid Payton
5-14 FG | 2-4 FT | 2 STL | 6 AST | 12 PTS | -5

I doubt that Payton read my assessment of him in my report card following Orlando’s loss to the Pacers on Sunday. I wrote that “it would benefit the Magic more if Payton was more aggressive in looking for his own shot earlier in games” and he did just that against Memphis. He raced up and down the court in the first quarter (6 points, 3 assists, 2 steals).

Dewayne Dedmon
4-5 FG | 2-6 FT | 1 BLK| 10 AST | 10 PTS | +14

In a city known for its barbecue, Channing Frye got smoked defensively by Zach Randolph (18 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) in the first half like a slab of baby back ribs. It got so bad that Frye was benched in the second half in favor for Dedmon, who did his job in holding Randolph in check. Not only that, but Dedmon picked up his first career double-double.

Memphis Grizzlies

Orlando’s defense was so bad in the first half that the Grizzlies scored a season-high 67 points in a fast-paced game and were up by 19 at halftime. The tempo slowed considerably in the third quarter when Memphis committed a number of fouls early and put the Magic in the penalty for a majority of the period. But by then, the game was already over.

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