Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 77

Jan 02

Preview: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Chicago Bulls at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 2, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Bulls: 16-13
  • Magic: 12-19

Probable starters

Bulls:

  • Kirk Hinrich
  • Richard Hamilton
  • Luol Deng
  • Carlos Boozer
  • Taj Gibson

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Bulls:

  • Pace: 90.2 (25th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.9 (25th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.1 (5th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.2 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.4 (12th of 30)

Read about the Bulls

Bulls by the Horns

Jan 02

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • Jameer Nelson, who sat out the Orlando Magic’s last two games because of a sore left hip, is expected to start in tonight’s game against the Chicago Bulls.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel with this nugget of information on the eve of the Magic’s matchup against the Bulls: “The Magic will try to avoid their first seven-game losing streak since they lost eight consecutive games Feb. 6-22, 2006.”
  • Should Orlando trade for DeMarcus Cousins? Kevin Pelton of ESPN Insider comes up with a trade scenario. However, Robbins reports that the Magic are not interested in Cousins.
  • In a time where the corner three-pointer has emerged as the most important shot for a modern-day NBA offense, the Magic rank in the middle of pack among teams that shoot corner threes. Not coincidentally, Orlando is ranked 29th in Offensive Rating.
  • David Thorpe of NBA Insider ranks Nikola Vucevic sixth among a list of the top 20 second-year players in the league and sees him as a viable rotation player.

Jan 01

Recap: Miami Heat 112, Orlando Magic 110 (OT)

Screen Shot 2013-01-01 at 1.05.54 PM

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

BOX SCORE

When Dwight Howard was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team trade during the offseason, the general consensus among NBA pundits was that the Orlando Magic did not receive equal value for Howard or close to it.

The mainstream media and blogosphere were shouting far and wide that the Magic were the losers of the trade because they didn’t get Andrew Bynum, widely accepted as the second-best center in the league, or even Andre Iguodala, an All-Star caliber player and one of the best defenders in the NBA.
No high draft picks. No nothing.

Instead, Orlando got Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Christian Eyenga (waived by the Magic), Josh McRoberts, a future first round draft pick from the Philadelphia Sixers, a first round draft pick in 2014 from the Denver Nuggets, first round draft pick in 2017 from the Los Angeles Lakers, and two second round picks. An underwhelming haul for Howard.

Or was it?

Fast-forward to today and Bynum has yet to play a game for the Sixers due to his troubled knees and Iguodala has been a disappointment with the Nuggets so far this season. Meanwhile, players like Vucevic and Afflalo have been solid for the Magic.

This isn’t to suggest that Orlando got the last laugh in the Howard trade because it’s still too early to judge, but it’s safe to say — after the latest performances from Vucevic and Afflalo against the Miami Heat on Monday — the Magic are silencing their critics.

Even though Orlando lost 112-110 in overtime to the Heat, the defending champs, in a wildly entertaining game, Vucevic and Afflalo once again proved they can be key parts of the Magic’s rebuilding efforts.

Ironically enough, Vucevic channeled his inner-Howard by posting his first career 20-20 game with 20 points and 29 rebounds. Vucevic made his presence felt the most by dominating the paint with offensive rebounds putbacks. To say Vucevic cleaned the glass would be an understatement, as he nearly outrebounded Miami by himself (33-29).

It’s unlikely Vucevic will ever have this performance like this again in his career, but at the very least Orlando knows they have a double-double machine on their hands.

As for Afflalo, he showed again that he’s more than capable of being an efficient high-usage player for the Magic when he optimizes his shot selection. When Afflalo isn’t relying heavily on midrange jumpers and is aggressive in getting to the free-throw line and shooting three-pointers, scoring 28 points on 19 shots doesn’t seem like a daunting task.

Who knows what the future holds for Orlando. Life after Howard sounds scary for Magic fans, but games like these show that the future doesn’t look so bad.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Vucevic had the game of his life, finishing with 20 points and 29 rebounds (both career-highs) in the first 20-20 game of his career. His 29 rebounds set a Magic franchise record (the previous record-holder was Shaquille O’Neal, who had 28 rebounds in 1993).

Defining Moment

Trailing 108-106 with 17.7 seconds remaining in overtime, Orlando had possession with a chance to tie or take the lead. But J.J. Redick threw an errant pass that was intercepted by Dwyane Wade, which led to a dunk on the other end and effectively ended the game.

That Was … an Instant Classic

In front of an announced crowd of 19,311 at Amway Center, the largest crowd ever to see a Magic home game, the Magic and Heat engaged in a thrilling duel on New Year’s Eve that went down to the wire.

Dec 31

Preview: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Miami Heat at Orlando Magic
  • Date: December 31, 2012
  • Time: 5:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Heat: 20-8
  • Magic: 12-18

Probable starters

Heat:

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

Magic:

  • Ish Smith
  • Arron Afflalo
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Heat:

  • Pace: 92.3 (11th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 110.9 (4th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.6 (14th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.8 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.7 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.9 (11th of 30)

Read about the Heat

Heat Index

Dec 30

Recap: Toronto Raptors 123, Orlando Magic 88

Screen Shot 2012-12-30 at 3.36.16 PM

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

BOX SCORE

There are two primary reasons why the Orlando Magic, before Saturday’s game against the Toronto Raptors, were a top 10 defensive team. Apart from being one of the best defensive rebounding teams in the NBA, the Magic had done a great job of contesting shots and not fouling.

Digging a little deeper into Orlando’s defense, one thing that stood out the most was that opponents were shooting poorly behind the three-point line. Heading into their game against the Raptors, the Magic had been holding opponents to 32.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc (second-best in the league at the time).

The problem is that studies have shown that three-point percentage is fairly defense-independent. In other words, a defense has little control over an opponent’s three-point percentage. Which is to say that there’s a good chance Orlando’s three-point defense is going to regress to the mean sooner or later.

Toronto got the ball rolling by shooting 15-for-27 from three-point range (55.6 percent) in a 123-88 win over the Magic on Saturday. As a result, Orlando no longer ranks in the top 10 defensively and their opponent three-point percentage has creeped up to 33.7 percent (seventh in the NBA).

Mickael Pietrus, a former three-point gunner for the Magic, kicked things off in the first quarter by making the Raptors’ first three three-pointers. From there, the floodgates opened and Toronto went on a tear in the first half — making nine of their first 10 three-point shots and building a 67-47 halftime lead.

Even though Toronto is a below-average three-point shooting team, with Jose Calderon as the only player shooting above 40 percent from three-point range, that didn’t stop them from making a season-high 15 three-pointers against Orlando and cruising to an easy victory.

If there was one bright spot for the Magic in their 35-point shellacking, it was Andrew Nicholson.

Getting the starting nod after playing just 5 minutes against the Washington Wizards on Friday, Nicholson finished with a career-high 22 points (10-for-14 shooting) and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. Nicholson was making hooks mainly from the right block, as well as midrange jumpers primarily from the elbows, and showing once again that he’s a gifted scorer despite being a rookie.

It’s performances like these from Nicholson that show he’s more than deserving of getting consistent playing time, whether as a starter or reserve. Which is why it’s a bit puzzling that, in recent weeks, head coach Jacque Vaughn hasn’t been playing Nicholson as much, despite Orlando’s obvious need (29th in Offensive Rating) for his scoring ability.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

The honors go to the Raptors as a whole. Toronto received production from nearly everyone on the roster. Once the Raptors started raining three-pointers, there was not much the Magic could do to stop the downpour.

That Was … Embarrassing

With no Jameer Nelson (sore left hip), no E’Twaun Moore (sprained left elbow), and no Glen Davis (sprained left shoulder), Orlando was outmanned and outgunned against the Toronto. The result was an embarrassing loss at home.

Dec 29

Preview: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic
  • Date: December 29, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Raptors: 10-20
  • Magic: 12-17

Probable starters

Raptors:

  • Jose Calderon
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Mickael Pietrus
  • Ed Davis
  • Aaron Gray

Magic:

  • Ish Smith
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Andrew Nicholson
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Raptors:

  • Pace: 90.6 (23rd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.6 (17th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.4 (27th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.0 (14th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.7 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.7 (9th of 30)

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic

Dec 29

Recap: Washington Wizards 105, Orlando Magic 97

Screen Shot 2012-12-29 at 1.57.26 PM

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

BOX SCORE

Even though Christmas is over, that hasn’t stopped the Orlando Magic from getting into the spirit of Christmas giving. On Wednesday, the New Orleans Hornets snapped their 11-game losing streak against the Magic.

Not to be outdone, Orlando helped the Washington Wizards — owners of the league’s worst record — snap their eight-game losing streak on Friday. And in the process, the Wizards ended the Magic’s NBA-best 12-game streak of holding opponents under 100 points.

The main reasons Orlando lost was because their defense faltered and they were unable to consistently generate offense.

Somehow, someway, Washington — despite having one of the worst offenses in league history — was able to score 105 points on 93 possessions on the Magic (one of the NBA’s top 10 defensive teams). The main culprit for Orlando’s defensive woes? The Magic were unable to contain dribble penetration and that allowed the Wizards to score in the paint seemingly at will.

It’d be one thing if John Wall was the one wreaking havoc at the rim. It’s another thing when Garrett Temple was the one doing the damage.

On the flipside, Orlando struggled to score, which has been a recurring theme all season long. Even though Washington is a truly awful team, their defense is above-average so they deserve some credit for limiting the Magic offensively.

That being said, this is where Glen Davis’ absence hurts Orlando. Even though Davis is a black hole on offense, his volume shooting has value in the sense that it generates scoring opportunities. Without Davis around to bail out the Magic offensively, players like J.J. Redick, Arron Afflalo, and Jameer Nelson have been forced to pick up the slack. The problem is that it hasn’t been enough.

Nelson got off to a fast start against the Wizards, making five of his first six field goals and scoring 14 points in the first quarter. Just like the Hornets game, Nelson was deadly in pick-and-rolls, pulling up for three-pointers primarily from the right wing and making Washington pay for going under the screens. Unfortunately for Nelson, he only scored two points the rest of the way.

Afflalo and Redick had relatively efficient outings on offense, but with Nelson going cold after the first quarter, points were hard to come by for Orlando. Head coach Jacque Vaughn used every available Magic player in the hopes of finding a spark, but nothing worked.

The Magic can only hope that Hedo Turkoglu’s return to action in Saturday’s game against the Toronto Raptors will serve as the spark they’re searching for offensively.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

You know you’re in for a long night when Jordan Crawford, a proud member of the “All-Chucker Team,” scores 27 points on 16 shots. Crawford and efficient normally don’t go in the same sentence, but they did on Friday.

That Was … Impressive

Orlando went on a 23-4 run in the first quarter against the Wizards and led by as many as 15 points in the period. Nobody would have blamed Washington for packing it in after a slow start, but they fought back and won.

Dec 28

Preview: Orlando Magic at Washington Wizards

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Washington Wizards
  • Date: December 28, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Verizon Center

Records

  • Magic: 12-16
  • Wizards: 3-23

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Gustavo Ayon
  • Nikola Vucevic

Wizards:

  • Shelvin Mack
  • Bradley Beal
  • Martell Webster
  • Emeka Okafor
  • Nene Hilario

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.9 (14th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.6 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.3 (9th of 30)

Wizards:

  • Pace: 91.2 (22nd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 95.2 (30th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.2 (12th of 30)

Read about the Wizards

Truth About It

Dec 28

Friday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • In an era where small-ball is king, the Orlando Magic rely on a traditional lineup right now. Kevin Arnovitz of TrueHoop has the breakdown: “The Magic are another one of those teams just trying to make it through the day, and their lineup combos are statements of necessity, not philosophy, especially with Glen Davis out indefinitely. For now, Orlando has settled on starting a traditional tandem of Gustavo Ayon and Nikola Vucevic.”
  • Hedo Turkoglu, still recovering from a broken left hand, hopes to play on Saturday against his former team — the Toronto Raptors.
  • Turkoglu has had a string of bad luck in 2012 with injuries.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Most college basketball fans love to hate the Duke Blue Devils, and J.J. Redick still is reminded of that every time he plays NBA games in Charlotte, N.C., and here in the nation’s capital. Charlotte is North Carolina Tar Heels territory, and Washington is close to the University of Maryland. Maryland Terrapins fans often taunted Redick viciously during his four-year college career. Redick doesn’t quite understand it, as he showed when he was asked today which fan base boos him louder these days, Bobcats fans or Wizards fans.”

Dec 28

#ORLrank 2: Shaquille O’Neal

shaq_magic_gal_640

AP Photo/Steve Simoneau

 

G MP PER VORP WARP WS/82
1993-1994 81 3224 28.5 7.56 24.0 17.1
Shaquille O’Neal’s best season with the Magic

 
Talking about Shaquille O’Neal’s four seasons with the Magic, now that he’s retired after a 19-year career and generally considered one of the five greatest centers of all time, is like talking about The Beatles’ pre-Revolver output. It’s mostly completely brilliant on its own terms, and worthy of every bit of consideration and every accolade it gets, but it’s generally overshadowed by the even greater heights of what he did with the Lakers.

Like the other big man who tops him on this list (more on that next week), his departure from Orlando was decidedly ugly. But two decades after his entrance into the NBA, with time separating us from those feelings, what Shaq accomplished in his short time in Orlando is pretty undeniable.

The traditional big man is an increasingly optional facet of a good basketball team in today’s game, but when Shaq debuted for the Magic in 1992, having one was everything. And he was that guy right away. He ran away with Rookie of the Year honors, averaging 23.4 points, 13.2 rebounds, and an astounding 3.5 blocks per game in 1992-93, and immediately established himself as one of the premiere inside talents on both ends of the floor.

His rookie season was outstanding, but Shaq was only getting started. The following year saw the arrival of Penny Hardaway, whom I wrote about a few weeks ago. Shaq and Penny formed one of the most formidable duos in the game — Penny’s diverse offensive skillset and Shaq’s commanding physical presence in the paint were near-perfect compliments.

Shaq only got better and more refined as a player during his first two seasons with Penny. Consequently, his numbers continued to impress: he posted a PER above 28 in each of his second and third seasons and led the league in scoring in 1994-95.

From the outset of his NBA career, Shaq embraced the superstar role, for better and for worse. His outsized personality made him a natural fit for the spotlight of being a professional athlete and he parlayed his charisma into various film and music projects. His eventual departure for the Lakers seems inevitable in hindsight because there is arguably no athlete in the modern era better suited for Hollywood.

But while Shaq was in large part responsible for increasing the Magic’s popularity as they were still aiming for respectability as a recent expansion team, his diva personality was often a detriment. Following his rookie season, his displeasure with Magic head coach Matt Goukas was a strong factor in his exit. The team was coached for the next three years by Brian Hill, who also fell out of favor with the Big Diesel shortly before he signed with the Lakers.

When he signed a seven-year, $121 million contract with the Lakers shortly before playing with Team USA in the 1996 Summer Olympics, Shaq lashed out at the Orlando media. He loved the spotlight, but hated the privacy violations. And while some of his criticisms were warranted (an Orlando Sentinel readers’ poll famously highlighted the fanbase’s less-than-favorable opinion of him), he did himself no favors by speaking out so strongly against the team and the city he had just one year previously led to the franchise’s first Finals appearance.

Still, it’s difficult to argue with the on-court results. Shaq and Penny gave the Magic their first taste of relevance. In the mid-90s, they proved themselves capable of hanging with anybody in the East. Until Michael Jordan’s comeback and subsequent resuming of his dominance over the league, the Shaq-Penny Magic had as good a shot as anyone of picking up where Jordan and Pippen left off.

The Magic were swept by the Rockets in the 1995 Finals but, even with Shaq having been hurt for a large chunk of the following season, they were still a power. They won 60 games in 1996 and seemed poised for a repeat Finals appearance before running into the newly reconstituted Bulls, one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

It’s weird to focus so much on such a small section of Shaq’s career, particularly when he went on two have one of the greatest stretches of play of the modern era as a Laker and win four championships between L.A. and Miami. He’s on the shortlist of greatest centers in NBA history, alongside Wilt, Russell, Kareem, and Hakeem. He wouldn’t be there if he hadn’t done all that he did in Los Angeles.

But Shaq also wouldn’t have reached that point had he not been so spectacular in his early career in Orlando.

Voter breakdown for Shaquille O’Neal

Drexler Highkin Rivera Schiller Scribbins
Scale (1-to-10) 2 2 2 1 3
Average rank: 2.0

What is #ORLrank?

Magic Basketball ranks the top 10 players in Magic franchise history. #ORLrank is the Twitter hashtag to use if you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along.

You can also follow along here: @erivera7

How did we rank the players?

Five MBN writers ranked each player 1-to-10, in terms of the quality of each player.

Thanks to Daniel Myers, Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus for contributing to the project.

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