Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 60

Mar 12

3-on-3: Dwight Howard pays a visit to Orlando


Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The day is finally here. Dwight Howard makes his return to Orlando after getting traded to the Los Angeles Lakers during the offseason. Were the Magic right to send him to the Lakers? Should Magic fans boo or cheer him? Which team is headed for a brighter future?

Our 3-on-3 panel breaks it all down ahead of Tuesday night’s highly anticipated showdown.

1. Fact or Fiction: Trading Howard was the right move.

Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: Fact. It just wasn’t working out and everyone with a pulse knew it. It’s not going to help you in the long run to hang on to an asset who doesn’t want to be there in the first place. Good riddance.

Danny Nowell, Portland Roundball Society: Fact. In a perfect world, many things go differently, and the Magic ride a truly remarkable coaching and talent tandem to a long and fruitful period of contention. But this ain’t that world and the way things soured, moving on was best for everybody.

Noam Schiller, Magic Basketball: Fact. Assuming the alternative was Dwight leaving in free agency. With no apparent chance at keeping him by the time the deal went down, the Magic were facing rebuilding regardless. Jumpstarting the process by one year and some decent assets was the right move.

2. Boo or cheer: What should Magic fans do?

Drexler: I’m not the type of guy who boos. Clever cheer? Sure! Silent treatment? Even better. But booing is a little passe for my taste. It’s the cliche thing to do. That being said, I fully expect Magic fans to boo.

Nowell: Boo. I don’t, to be honest, have much opinion here. Eventually fans ought to cheer Dwight, but booing is within their rights and what I’ll imagine they do so soon after the departure debacle, so let ‘em fly, Orlando.

Schiller: This is a cop out, but I don’t think there’s a right answer. Does an acrimonious exit and a 12 month Dwightmare overshadow a magnificent tenure that included the franchise’s first Finals win? I don’t know. Every fan in Amway Center will have to calculate that for him or herself.

3. Magic or Lakers: Better in three years?

Drexler: Lakers. I’m going to go ahead and assume L.A. will have an easier time acquiring good players in the next three years, and because the draft class next year is so weak at the top, I’m giving the edge to the Lakers.

Nowell: Lakers. Honestly, the Magic are probably better positioned roster-wise right now. But in the history of the league, betting against the Lakers is a sucker’s bet, and with massive money coming off the books in a few years and an extremely lucrative TV deal, I doubt the Lakers fear the tax man as much as we’d assume.

Schiller: Lakers. Barring Dwight becoming the first top NBA player to unprecedentedly leave Los Angeles, and/or the Magic striking gold in the draft, I don’t see how the Magic can build anything to trump the league’s top center and a market to draw any available free agent within three years.

Mar 11

Monday’s Magic Word

  • John Schuhmann of “The Magic clearly should have scheduled more games against the Sixers, who have given them two of their four victories since mid-January. The Amway Center faithful surely hope that No. 5 comes on Tuesday, when that trade-demanding, coach-killing and candy-loving Dwight Howard comes to town for the first (and last?) time as a Laker. The reception he gets should be interesting.”
  • After their rematch with Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, the Orlando Magic wrap up the regular season by playing 11 of their last 17 games on the road.
  • Post-game quotes following the Magic’s win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday.
  • Howard apologizes to the city of Orlando (via Sam Amick of USA Today): “In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way. If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media. I really just got caught up in wanting to please everybody else. I really love that city. That was the hardest thing to do was to leave that city because I basically grew up there. That was my whole life. Orlando was it. I did not want to leave all that behind — the city, just everything about it. The fans. But I wanted a change for my life. I just felt like there was something else out there for me.”
  • Stan Van Gundy believes that Howard deserves an ovation from Magic fans when he returns to Amway Center for the first time since being traded to the Lakers during the offseason.
  • The Magic outplayed the Sixers down the stretch.
  • Jameer Nelson expects a playoff-type atmosphere in Dwight’s return.
  • Kelly DWyer of Ball Don’t Lie gives Howard credit for finally owning up to his mistakes in how he handled his departure from Orlando.
  • Ben Golliver of The Point Forward: “Howard’s apology will fall on mostly deaf ears in Central Florida. While Howard hasn’t quite reached “LeBron James returns to Cleveland after The Decision” levels of hatred, he’s sure to be treated like Public Enemy No. 1 in his return to Orlando, where the Magic are 18-46 this season and staring down the barrel of a lengthy rebuilding effort.”
  • Howard’s indecisiveness last season hurt him in the court of public opinion.

Mar 11

Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic showing promise

One of the most encouraging parts of this season for the Orlando Magic has been the play of two young big men — namely Andrew Nicholson and Nikola Vucevic. Despite being so inexperienced, both have shown nuanced offensive games that give hope for the future. Each has their own specialty on this side of the ball that we’ll take a closer look at.

Veteran in the post
Nicholson is only a rookie, but you wouldn’t think that if you just watched him go to work in the post. His game on the block is versatile, effective, and, mostly importantly, promising.

Nicholson is averaging 0.86 points per possession in the post while shooting 46.9 percent, per Synergy. Pretty impressive for a rookie. Nicholson’s go-to move is probably his reliable hook shot. He can shoot it with either hand, spinning baseline, or towards the middle.

Here are some examples of his steady hook:

Will he roll, pop, or pass? 
As only a second-year player, Vucevic has shown a versatile and savvy pick-and-roll game. He can read the floor well and use his physical gifts to execute the right play at the right time.

He can roll, and use his size to seal off weak-side defenders and utilize his soft touch to finish. He averages 1.07 points per possession, per Synergy. He can pop — he’s one of the better midrange shooters in the NBA, shooting 42 percent from 16-23 feet, per Hoopdata. Lastly, his ability to see rotations on the fly and hit the open man has improved as the season has gone on.

The first two clips are fairly self-explanatory: Vucevic scoring in different ways out of the pick-and-roll. The third clip is probably the most impressive. He gets the ball out of the pick-and-roll and is swarmed by Miami Heat defenders. He calmly sees how Tobias Harris has cut (side note: very intuitive cut by Harris), pulling Jameer Nelson’s defender away. Vucevic then hits Nelson for the open three.

As the season, and for that matter, rebuilding process as a whole go on, the offensive development of these two players is something to keep an eye on. There’s no debate that these two players will play a prominent role in the future of Orlando.

Mar 11

Grades: Orlando Magic 99, Philadelphia 76ers 91


Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images


Orlando Magic 99 Final
Recap | Box Score
91 Philadelphia 76ers

Nikola Vucevic
7-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 BLK | 17 REB | 14 PTS | -1

Just another day in the office for Vucevic. You can’t help but wonder what Sixers head coach Doug Collins was thinking as he watched Vucevic post his second double-double against Philadelphia this season (out of three regular season meetings) and his 35th double-double overall. The same player that Collins benched in the playoffs last season in favor of Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes.

Jameer Nelson
9-17 FG | 5-9 3P | 5 REB | 10 AST | 24 PTS | +7

Jameerkat emerged from his burrow to play an excellent ballgame. He played distributor early on, with seven of his 10 assists coming in the first quarter. But as the night wore on, Jameer became much more aggressive offensively — particularly in the pick-and-roll. And it was his baseline jumper with the shot clock winding down and the Magic up 96-91 with 32.8 seconds left that iced the game.

Arron Afflalo
7-14 FG | 2-3 3P | 0 REB| 4 AST | 17 PTS | +5

Not a bad week for Afflalo. He was clutch in Orlando’s win against the New Orleans Hornets and he came up big again against the Sixers. Afflalo made back-to-back buckets in crunch time that allowed the Magic to pull away from Philadelphia, including a corner three with 59.8 seconds left that served as the dagger. Needless to say, Afflalo isn’t afraid to take a big shot.

Tobias Harris
7-16 FG | 1-4 3P | 7 REB | 3 AST | 15 PTS | +11

Harris had the highlight of the night when he threw a nifty behind-the-back pass to Vucevic for a dunk in the second quarter. Even though it’s admirable that Harris isn’t shy about trying to score, it’s nice to see that he’s capable of setting up his teammates every now and then. That sort of playmaking will go a long way in helping Harris become a more complete player offensively.

Philadelphia 76ers

What a strange game for the Sixers. Thaddeus Young went bonkers, Damien Wilkins somehow hurt Orlando as a scorer, and Jrue Holiday — Philadelphia’s lone All-Star this season — looked downright terrible at times. Then you had Hawes having one of his random good games. The Sixers, as a team, were all over the map en route to another loss.

Mar 11

Video: Tobias Harris with a nifty pass

Mar 10

Preview: Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic


  • Teams: Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: March 10, 2013
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center


  • Sixers: 23-38
  • Magic: 17-46

Probable starters


  • Jrue Holiday
  • Evan Turner
  • Charles Jenkins
  • Thaddeus Young
  • Spencer Hawes


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Tobias Harris
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats


  • Pace: 90.9 (21st of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.9 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.3 (12th of 30)


  • Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.2 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.2 (26th of 30)

Read about the Sixers


Mar 09

Grades: Indiana Pacers 115, Orlando Magic 86

Screen Shot 2013-03-09 at 5.32.05 PM

AP Photo/John Raoux


Indiana Pacers 115 Final
Recap | Box Score
86 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
6-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 BLK | 6 REB | 12 PTS | -23

During his 25-point, 21-rebound performance against the Miami Heat on Wednesday, at times it seemed like Vucevic was that one big kid playing against a bunch of little kids at a local rec league, using his height to score and rebound at will. Against the 7-foot-2 Roy Hibbert and the Pacers, a team known for their length, that size advantage went out the window quickly.

Arron Afflalo
6-13 FG | 2-5 3P | 1 REB | 1 AST | 18 PTS | -20

The highlight of the night for Afflalo was his little fracas with Paul George early in the first quarter. The altercation began after Afflalo drove to the basket against Roy Hibbert and George, and drew a non-shooting foul on Hibbert. Afflalo and George got entangled under the basket after the play was over, then threw an elbow at each other, which triggered a double-technical.

Jameer Nelson
3-10 FG | 2-5 3P | 3 REB| 6 AST | 10 PTS | -22

After picking apart the Heat’s defense two days ago, Nelson had a much harder time breaking down Indiana defensively. And Hibbert, an elite defender that deserves consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, was the main reason for that. He lorded over the paint and that made it tough for Nelson to wreak havoc with dribble penetration.

Beno Udrih
5-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 0 REB | 7 AST | 12 PTS | -7

There isn’t much to say about Udrih’s performance, given that most of his stats came in garbage time when the Pacers had already put the game to bed. If there’s anything to note, it’s that Udrih scored all of his points in the fourth quarter. He did much of his damage running pick-and-rolls and pulling up for midrange jumpers, which is what he does best.

Indiana Pacers

After getting embarrassed by the Magic in a 97-86 loss on January 16, Indiana exacted a bit of revenge this time around. D.J. Augustin and Tyler Hansbrough provided a nice boost coming off the bench, helping the Pacers build a double-digit lead in the second quarter. Then George put the nail in the coffin by scoring 18 third quarter points and helping to blow the game wide open.

Mar 09

Video: DeQuan Jones with a tomahawk jam

Mar 08

Preview: Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic


  • Teams: Indiana Pacers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: March 8, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center


  • Pacers: 38-23
  • Magic: 17-45

Probable starters


  • George Hill
  • Lance Stephenson
  • Paul George
  • David West
  • Roy Hibbert


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Tobias Harris
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats


  • Pace: 89.7 (26th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.4 (20th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 98.7 (1st of 30)


  • Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.4 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.0 (26th of 30)

Read about the Pacers

8 Points, 9 Seconds

Mar 07

Nikola Vucevic: the Magic’s big bargain


Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

When Bill Simmons wrote at Grantland last week that Nikola Vucevic has the 11th-best bargain contract in the NBA, he was not just whistling Dixie. Not only is Vucevic averaging a double-double (12.3 ppg and 11.4 rpg), he’s also shown the capacity to put up huge numbers (just ask the Miami Heat). And the kicker is that he’s doing it all for $1.7 million this season.

Simmons breaks down his bargains, but I tend to think there are only two real types of value contracts in the landscape of the new CBA: 1.) a superstar on a max contract like LeBron James or Kevin Durant and 2.) a player on a rookie-scale contract that’s already a stud — guys like Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis come to mind immediately.

Vucevic definitely belongs in the second category. I think the best way to realize his ridiculous value is to compare his production with those around him and then find out what his contemporaries are getting paid.

For instance, right now Vucevic has a Player Efficiency Rating (17.4) that’s on par with Emeka Okafor (16.3) and DeAndre Jordan (16.8), who make $13.5 million and $10.5 million respectively. Vucevic, I repeat, makes $1.7 million this season and is putting up comparable numbers when examining all three players side-by-side. That alone shows that Vucevic is a bargain for the Orlando Magic.

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