Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 7

Apr 16

A beginning to an end in Orlando

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Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The circle of life that is the 2013-14 Orlando Magic regular season comes to a close tonight in the same way it began. It’s as if the schedule-makers, the Magic, and their opponent, the Indiana Pacers, the team they faced to start the season, conspired with the creative minds over at HBO to capitalize on the momentum of “flat circle” concepts of time.

Sure, the place is different. This final encounter comes in Orlando, not the confines of Bankers Life Fieldhouse, whatever the hell that is. Everything else, though? It’s the same, because such is life for the Magic as they build toward their future selves. This season is only nominally different from the last, a journey through the NBA calendar predicated on patience, development, and a “let’s see what we’ve got here” mentality coupled with an eye on future asset acquisition.

And if one year to the next is the same, how could April be unique to October? Orlando has successfully tanked this year, but been outdone by the Bucks and Sixers in the race for ping pong balls.

For all of their turbulence, internal and external, the Pacers are the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, a result as likely now as it was when the season started.

And even the trials and tribulations Indiana’s faced this year are reflected in the Ouroboros of Orlando’s season. The Magic, you’ll recall, battled the Pacers tooth and nail over the first 30 minutes or so of their season opener, succumbing in the third quarter only to be buried in the last. It was the first data point on a trend for Indiana, as they’d spend far too many games politely deferring to the opposition in the first half only to impose their will after halftime.

Moral victories against superior competition gave way to an actual, honest-to-goodness, it’s-on-the-scoreboard victory for the Magic the last time the Pacers were in Orlando.

And, just like with seemingly every other win this year, a repeat tonight would not be in the Magic’s long-term interests. They currently stand alone with the third-worst record in the league, and all of the lottery chances that come with such a lofty ranking.

A win tonight and a loss by the Jazz, however, would drop Orlando and Utah into a tie for third-worst. The two teams would split the average of the number of ping pong ball combinations for third (156 combinations out of a total 1,000) and fourth (119), with each team receiving 137 combinations and a coin flip determining who gets the extra one.

In practical terms, a win tonight, combined with a Jazz loss, drops Orlando’s chance of getting the first overall pick from 15.6 percent to either 13.7 or 13.8 percent.

Maybe that’s worth it. Maybe fans want to start the summer with one last win, small changes in odds be damned. I don’t think there is a wrong or a right answer. All I know is that we’ll ask the question in the same manner that we first ruminated on another season of tanking — against the Pacers, with nothing and everything on the line.

Apr 15

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “As he’s prepared for games late in the season, Vaughn has often popped in video of the Magic playing a similar opponent early in the season to see the level of improvement. He is satisfied that several of the players have made significant strides – even if it hasn’t necessarily translated into winning a bevy of games.”
  • It’s “Fan Appreciation Night” when the Magic host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday on the final day of the regular season.
  • The Pacers will be resting some of their starters against Orlando.
  • Tyler Lashbrook of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “It’s hard to believe, but the Orlando Magic are one game away from being two full seasons into the rebuilding process. In two years, the roster has transformed from a club full of Otis Smith’s spare parts to Hennigan’s young guns, sans Jameer Nelson. Those shiny, new Corvettes have produced precisely 120 losses, 121 if the Indiana Pacers take care of business like it should on Wednesday.”
  • The Magic are finalizing plans to enter a single-affiliation hybrid relationship with the Erie Bayhawks of the D-League. It’s the same type of partnership that the Houston Rockets have with the Rio Grand Valley Vipers.
  • It’s awards season in the NBA and Zach Lowe of Grantland — who has an actual ballot this year for the first time — reveals his pick for Rookie of the Year.

Apr 15

Highlights: Andrew Nicholson’s resurrection

Apr 15

Grades: Chicago Bulls 108, Orlando Magic 95

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AP Photo/Jeff Haynes

 

Chicago Bulls 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
95 Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo
5-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 13 PTS | +3

Afflalo’s best offensive sequence came when he made a fadeaway jumper along the right baseline, a 3-pointer off the dribble from the right wing, and a catch-and-shoot jumper from the left wing during a four-minute stretch in the third quarter. Outside of that, Afflalo was relatively quiet offensively, as coach Jacque Vaughn again — like he did on Sunday — elected to give the bench some extended minutes.

Kyle O’Quinn
9-11 FG | 3-5 FT | 1 BLK | 7 REB | 20 PTS | +9

You’re looking at the best second round draft pick in Magic franchise history. Anderson Varejao doesn’t count, given that he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers (in the Tony Battie trade) a month after he was drafted in 2004. On a day where it snowed in Chicago, O’Quinn brought a little rain with him, as he was raining midrange jumpers all over the court.

Andrew Nicholson
8-9 FG | 3-3 3P | 1 BLK | 4 REB | 19 PTS | -9

After having his best game in months in Sunday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, Nicholson followed that up with one of his best games of the season. This is the player that Magic fans expected to see on a regular basis before he regressed after the first month of the regular season. Hook shots, midrange jumpers, corner 3s — everything was clicking for Nicholson.

Victor Oladipo
3-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 10 PTS | +3

With Orlando’s season winding down, Vaughn has said that he was going to cut Oladipo’s playing time since he’s already amassed nearly 2,500 minutes in his rookie year. To put that number in comparison, Oladipo played just 1,021 minutes in his final college season at Indiana. What’s amazing is that Oladipo never visibly showed he hit the rookie wall.

Chicago Bulls

No Derrick Rose, no Luol Deng, and yet the Bulls are now 48-33 and in line for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, as long as they beat the Charlotte Bobcats in their final regular season game on Wednesday. All hail Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah. This is a team that no one in the East wants to face in the playoffs.

Apr 14

Preview: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls
  • Date: April 13, 2014
  • Time: 8:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: United Center

Records

  • Magic: 23-57
  • Bulls: 47-33

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Victor Oladipo
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Kyle O’Quinn
  • Dewayne Dedmon

Bulls:

  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Jimmy Butler
  • Mike Dunleavy
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Joakim Noah

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.7 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.7 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.2 (16th of 30)

Bulls:

  • Pace: 90.2 (28th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.5 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 100.5 (2nd of 30)

Read about the Bulls

Blog a Bull

Apr 14

Grades: Brooklyn Nets 97, Orlando Magic 88

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Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

 

Brooklyn Nets 97 Final
Recap | Box Score
88 Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo
2-7 FG | 1-2 3P | 0 REB | 5 AST | 5 PTS | +2

Another game, another single-digit scoring performance from Afflalo, who’s been piling those up in the past two weeks. Passivity on offense, which has been a recurring trend from Afflalo in these last two weeks, was partly to blame. Another factor was coach Jacque Vaughn’s decision to give extended playing time to the Magic’s second unit, which meant not as many minutes and not as many touches for Afflalo.

Tobias Harris
7-11 FG | 3-5 FT | 3 STL | 7 REB | 18 PTS | -2

People like to call Harris a poor man’s Carmelo Anthony and it’s easy to see why. They love to shoot midrange jumpers. They use their strength to bully their way to the rim. They have a quick first step when snaring offensive rebounds for putbacks. All of those attributes were on display from Harris against the Nets and it was tantalizing to watch.

Victor Oladipo
5-8 FG | 3-3 3P | 2 STL | 2 REB | 14 PTS | -13

It’s no secret that Oladipo needs to improve as a jump shooter during the offseason if he wants to continue to get better as a player. If Sunday’s game in Brooklyn was any indication, the ability is there for Oladipo to have a consistent jumper. It was looking pure. Deron Williams dared Oladipo to beat him with his jump shot and the rookie obliged.

Andrew Nicholson
5-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 STL | 7 REB | 12 PTS | -13

Before Sunday, the last time Nicholson finished in double figures was on January 2 versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was a span of 42 games. Needless to say, Nicholson’s 12-point, 7-rebound game against the Nets was his best performance in months. The right hook was falling. So was his midrange jumper. Nicholson even threw down some sledgehammer dunks for good measure.

Brooklyn Nets

It was a sloppy performance from Brooklyn, as exhibited by the 23 turnovers. The Nets really didn’t take this game seriously until the third quarter. That’s when they went on a 15-0 run midway through the period to open up a double-digit lead on the Magic before cruising to an easy victory. Mason Plumlee (17 points, 11 rebounds) was the star of the game.

Apr 14

Video: Ronnie Price with the alley-oop dunk

Apr 13

Preview: Orlando Magic at Brooklyn Nets

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Brooklyn Nets
  • Date: April 13, 2014
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: NBA TV
  • Arena: Barclays Center

Records

  • Magic: 23-56
  • Nets: 43-36

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Victor Oladipo
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Kyle O’Quinn
  • Dewayne Dedmon

Nets:

  • Deron Williams
  • Joe Johnson
  • Andrei Kirilenko
  • Paul Pierce
  • Kevin Garnett

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 93.8 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.7 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.2 (16th of 30)

Nets:

  • Pace: 91.4 (25th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 106.9 (14th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.6 (19th of 30)

Read about the Nets

Brooklyn’s Finest

Apr 13

All eyes on Rob Hennigan

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Photo by Fernando Medina/Getty Images

If there is a rock star for the Magic, it’s not Jacque Vaughn, Jameer Nelson, or even Victor Oladipo. It’s GM Rob Hennigan.

The Mark Cuban’s and Jim Irsay’s of the world have taught us that a higher-up can often get more coverage than the actual players on the team. But we’re not watching Hennigan because of his antics. We’re watching him because he is the architect holding the blueprints. Until you actually build a house, you can’t install air conditioning or organize furniture or fill the room with pine-scented candles. We can’t assess the players or coaches until Hennigan whips up a roster that is expected to win.

His background has been documented. He shot up the positional ladders in San Antonio and Oklahoma City for eight years, two cities who have had winning filtered into their drinking water for quite some time. He’s shares a hauntingly similar background with the Thunder’s Sam Presti. And he’s the youngest GM in the league at 32.

Funny how age 30 for a GM is equivalent to about 18 for a player, and 30 for a player is somewhat at or beyond his prime.

Regardless, there wasn’t a lot of questioning about the hire when it happened. Magic fans seemed to want a fresh start in every way, so a young, vibrant triggerman appeared to be much needed.

But this is neither a defense nor an attack on the man. With the end of the season finally here and our eyes glazed over with the prospects of the future, we must make a logical assessment of the Magic’s rock star. And always keep in mind the question, “Could anyone else have made more out of the same variables?”

Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 12

Grades: Washington Wizards 96, Orlando Magic 86

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AP Photo/Reinhold Matay

 

Washington Wizards 96 Final
Recap | Box Score
86 Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo
6-14 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 19 PTS | -1

At halftime, it seemed like Afflalo was well on his way to another big scoring night. He had 14 points in the first half, mostly on midrange jumpers and layups. Then the Wizards — a top 10 defensive team — clamped down defensively on Afflalo, who finished with “only” 19 points, and the rest of the Magic players in the second half.

Jameer Nelson
5-16 FG | 0-5 3P | 7 REB | 11 AST | 12 PTS | +1

He struggled to finish at the rim and his jump shot was off, but Nelson had an excellent game regardless. Excellent because he nearly had a triple-double — a feat he’s never accomplished in his NBA career. Nelson’s passing is what stood out the most. He did a beautiful job of distributing the basketball in pick-and-pops and pick-and-rolls, and making it easy on his teammates to score.

Kyle O’Quinn
6-9 FG | 1-4 FT | 3 BLK | 9 REB | 13 PTS | +6

If O’Quinn played more than 25 minutes a night, you could probably pencil him in for a double-double. Case in point: O’Quinn was a rebound shy of a double-double against Washington in nearly 25 minutes of playing time. That’s how good he’s been since becoming a full-time starter. It’ll be interesting to see how coach Jacque Vaughn juggles O’Quinn’s PT next season.

Doron Lamb
4-5 FG | 3-4 3P | 1 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | -6

When Lamb is making his 3-pointers, as he did against the Wizards, he can be a useful player. Orlando doesn’t have enough 3-point shooting on the roster and that’s a skill that Lamb can provide (he’s a career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter). The problem is that it’s Lamb’s only NBA skill. And even then, Lamb is a spot-up shooter. He needs to be more than that.

Washington Wizards

After losing to the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday, Washington fell to the No. 7 seed in the East. But the Wizards didn’t stay there long. With a win over the Magic on Friday, combined with a Bobcats’ loss (to the Boston Celtics), Washington is the No. 6 seed again. That’s where the Wizards have been in the standings for most of the second half of the season.

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