Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 66

Mar 06

Video: LeBron’s game-winner against Orlando

Mar 06

Preview: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat


  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Miami Heat
  • Date: March 6, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: American Airlines Arena


  • Magic: 17-44
  • Heat: 44-14

Probable starters


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic


  • Mario Chalmers
  • Dwyane Wade
  • LeBron James
  • Udonis Haslem
  • Chris Bosh

Advanced stats


  • Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.4 (26th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 109.1 (26th of 30)


  • Pace: 88.8 (29th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 112.5 (2nd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.6 (11th of 30)

Read about the Heat

Heat Index

Mar 06

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers compares the Andrew Bynum situation in Philadelphia to the Grant Hill saga when he coached the Orlando Magic (2000-2004): “I had Grant Hill for three years and we made the playoffs every year with that group, but it was hard. [The 76ers] are doing that same thing we did. You go into the year with your offense and defensive schemes for Grant and for Bynum, and then you’re running half of it but you don’t want to change too much because if he comes back, then you’re going to have to change back. You just felt like you were caught in flux the entire season. In our case, Grant would play, like, three games and sit out 30 more. It was really hard.”
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie also looks back at the Hill era: “The pairing of Hill and McGrady, who averaged 32.1 points, 12 combined rebounds/assists, and 2.5 blocks/steals in his third season with Orlando, should have been devastating. It was all shot to hell when Hill, a free agent to-be with a nice guy image to uphold, decided to come back way too early from an ankle injury late in 1999-00. Sound familiar? He then, as Orlando’s new showy centerpiece, came back far too early in 2000-01. In trying to play the nice guy, Hill overreached, and his health and career never recovered.”
  • Jared Wade of TrueHoop: “In 2013, teams use analytics to increase their bottom lines as much as they do to boost their win totals. The Orlando Magic, for example, knew that ticket demand would nose-dive after they traded Dwight Howard. But Orlando’s gate revenue is down just 3.3 percent this season compared to 2010-11, according to team vice president of business strategy Anthony Perez, who spoke on a ticketing panel during the 2013 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston. Compared to the related fall in the secondary resale market for tickets, which Perez said has dropped 28 percent, the sales team seems to be doing well. Although fewer people are coming to games (1,322 fewer fans per game from a franchise-high average of 18,972 two years ago), Orlando has gotten better at squeezing money out of its building.”
  • After snagging a Magic franchise record and career-high 29 rebounds against the Miami Heat on December 31, Nikola Vucevic is on the Heat’s radar this time around as they get ready to face off against Orlando in tonight’s game.
  • Today is Shaquille O’Neal’s birthday (he’s 41). Here are some highlights from his rookie season with the Magic in 1993.
  • Jameer Nelson reacts to Dwight Howard’s comments from his now-infamous interview with Kristine Leahy of KCAL9 and CBS2 in Los Angeles, in which he threw his former Magic teammates under the bus.

Mar 05

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • 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, there are still plenty of tickets available.”

Mar 05

The Magic, analytics, and you


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.

Mar 04

Grades: Orlando Magic 105, New Orleans Hornets 102


Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images


Orlando Magic 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
102 New Orleans Hornets

Nikola Vucevic
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.

Arron Afflalo
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.

Jameer Nelson
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.

Tobias Harris
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.

Mar 04

Preview: Orlando Magic at New Orleans Hornets


  • 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

Probable starters


  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic


  • Greivis Vasquez
  • Eric Gordon
  • Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Anthony Davis
  • Robin Lopez

Advanced stats


  • 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

Hornets 247

Mar 04

Monday’s Magic Word

  • John Schuhmann of “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
  • 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.

Mar 04

Orlando’s effective hi-lo set

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.

Screen-Shot-2013-02-28-at-6.19.57-PM copy

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?

Mar 04

Grades: Memphis Grizzlies 108, Orlando Magic 82

Screen-Shot-2013-03-04-at-1.00.03-AM (1)

Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images


Memphis Grizzlies 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
82 Orlando Magic

Nikola Vucevic
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.

E’Twaun Moore
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.

Arron Afflalo
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.

Maurice Harkless
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.

Memphis Grizzlies

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.

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