Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 78

Jan 27

Preview: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 27, 2013
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Pistons: 15-27
  • Magic: 14-28

Probable starters

Pistons:

  • Brandon Knight
  • Kyle Singler
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Jason Maxiell
  • Greg Monroe

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Pistons:

  • Pace: 89.9 (25th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.2 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.6 (15th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.5 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.2 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.2 (24th of 30)

Read about the Pistons

Piston Powered

Jan 25

Friday’s Magic Word

  • Matt Dollinger of Sports Illustrated suggests the Orlando Magic should unload some of the burden in the second half of the season: “The Magic have been much better than expected this season, but are still unlikely to sneak into the playoffs. This year could be even more successful if new general manager Rob Hennigan can unload one of the team’s hefty long-term contracts. Hedo Turkoglu ($12 million), Jameer Nelson ($8.6M), Al Harrington ($7.1M) and Glen Davis ($6.4M) are all a poor fit on a rebuilding team. Hennigan might be able to clear some cap space by pairing one of the players with J.J. Redick, who has an expiring deal and the ability to help a team in need of a shooter.”
  • Glen Davis got into Aaron Gray’s face in last night’s game between the Magic and Toronto Raptors. Literally.
  • With yesterday’s defeat, Orlando has now lost 15 of their last 17 games. Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie looks at the road ahead.
  • J.J. Redick blames “the basketball gods” for their current losing funk. Trey Kerby of The Basketball Jones compiles of list of things as to why the gods are against the Magic.
  • John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com: “A little more than a month ago, the Magic were a win away from a .500 record and qualifying as one of the NBA’s feel-good stories of the season. […] What followed – an excruciating 10-game losing streak and a stretch now that has swelled to 15 losses in the last 17 games – has caused frustrations to simmer.”
  • The Boston Celtics are rumored to be interested in acquiring J.J. Redick.
  • If rookies Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson are going to develop, they’ll need to play major minutes sooner rather than later.
  • A number of players for Orlando are named to the second annual Hardwood Paroxysm Alternative All-Star Game.

Jan 25

Examining the Magic’s trade deadline outlook

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Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The Magic have traditionally been very active at the trading deadline over the past few years, if not in making deals, then at least in being involved in talks. Their motives this season, however, are very different than in past years.

During the 2010-11 season, Otis Smith swapped Rashard Lewis’ awful contract for Gilbert Arenas’ equally bad one, and traded Mickael Pietrus, Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter, and a 2011 first round pick to the Suns for Earl Clark, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jason Richardson. These moves were made in an attempt to surround Dwight Howard with friends (Arenas and Richardson) and favorite former teammates (Hedo).

Last season, after Howard waived the early termination option in his contract and temporarily killed any trade talks involving him, they heavily pursued Steve Nash and Monta Ellis in a last-ditch effort to bring about a change of heart from their disgruntled superstar.

This year, the Magic are expected to be as active as ever, but for entirely different reasons. Bringing in veteran talent is no longer the goal, especially if said talent comes with a hefty price tag. Any deal Rob Hennigan makes before February 21 will be with an eye on either unloading one of the few remaining bad contracts from the Otis era, or on bringing in cheap young talent or draft picks.

Casting aside DeQuan Jones, Ish Smith, Kyle O’Quinn, and E’Twaun Moore (none of whom have much value around the league other than as salary throw-ins), the rest of Orlando’s roster has a few intriguing pieces that could draw interest around the league, although their value is undefined.

Most of the other basement dwellers around the league have at least one young player they would be very hard-pressed to deal. Anthony Davis is completely untouchable for the Pelicans (and they’re officially the Pelicans now, so mentioning their name just got a lot more fun). The Bobcats won’t part with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Kemba Walker anytime soon. The Wizards seem committed to building around John Wall and Bradley Beal. Even the Kings, for whom seemingly everyone is up for grabs with their ownership in flux, seem determined not to move DeMarcus Cousins.

The Magic don’t have anyone like that. Everyone on the roster could be moved for the right offer. Andrew Nicholson has been a revelation in his rookie season and the Magic likely won’t look to move him. But if a young, cheap piece with more potential importance to the franchise (like, say, Eric Bledsoe) came available and he was part of the asking price, Hennigan would probably make that move. Nikola Vucevic is similarly unlikely to be moved, but he isn’t untouchable by any means. Ditto Moe Harkless and Gustavo Ayon. As disappointing as Ayon has been, he’s still cheap and young enough that he’s worth holding onto unless someone offers a pick, which I doubt.

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Jan 24

Recap: Toronto Raptors 97, Orlando Magic 95

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AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

BOX SCORE

The Orlando Magic have made a habit out of losing close games this season. The Magic’s narrow two-point defeat at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, thanks to DeMar DeRozan’s buzzer-beating game-winner, was the latest example. With the loss, Orlando is now 3-7 this season in games decided by five points or less.

Let’s fast-forward to the fourth quarter.

Trailing 93-89 with 1:05 left in the game, things were looking bleak for the Magic, as they appeared headed toward another close loss. But J.J. Redick’s four-point play with 53.1 seconds left tied the score at 93-93 and breathed new life into Orlando.

The sequence began when Glen Davis tried to score on the right block against Amir Johnson, but was unable to create space for himself and get a clean look at the rim. Instead, he kicked the ball out to Jameer Nelson on the right wing. Then Nelson dribble penetrated and kicked it out to Arron Afflalo at the top of the key. With the shot clock winding down, Afflalo drove into the lane and for whatever reason, Terrence Ross decided to leave Redick open on the perimeter to provide help defense.

Ross’ decision to contain Afflalo’s dribble penetration proved costly. Redick, open on the left wing, stepped up to take advantage of Afflalo’s drive-and-kick pass. Redick got the ball, then hoisted up a three-pointer while drawing contact from Ross, who was late recovering on the perimeter. In the process, Ross fouled Redick, who made the shot and converted a game-tying four-point play.

With the score tied at 93 apiece with 53 seconds remaining, the Raptors responded with a basket of their own. Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson executed a 1/4 pick-and-roll. Calderon made a swing pass to DeRozan, who caught the ball, dribble penetrated, then pulled up for a 12-foot jumper near the right elbow over Redick.

On the ensuing possession, Afflalo missed a three-pointer from the right wing that would have given the Magic a one-point lead. However, the Raptors were unable to secure the rebound. As a result, E’Twaun Moore snagged the offensive rebound, then immediately put up a floater, which tied the game at 95.

Then with 4.3 seconds left, after Glen Davis committed a foul (Orlando had one to give), DeRozan struck back by making a game-winning shot at the buzzer.

On the last play of the game, DeRozan curled around a screen set by Johnson on the right elbow. Calderon passed the ball to DeRozan, who darted to the left corner in front of the Magic bench, then hoisted up an incredibly difficult fadeaway jumper over Davis and Afflalo. The shot went in.

It was an impressive fourth quarter for DeRozan. He scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, including a highlight-reel dunk early in the period. His shot selection was questionable at times, including the game-winner, but there’s no denying the end results — the Toronto’s third win of the season against Orlando.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Who else but DeRozan? He scored 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter (7-for-8 shooting in the period) and hit the buzzer-beating game-winner to give the Raptors the win over the Magic.

X-Factor

Even though he didn’t play in the final period as coach Jacque Vaughn opted to go with a small lineup, Nikola Vucevic deserves an honorable mention for his performance (19 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks).

Defining Moment

With the score tied at 95 apiece with 4.3 seconds left, DeRozan nailed a difficult fadeaway jumper over Davis and Afflalo from the left corner in front of Orlando’s bench to win the game for Toronto.

Jan 24

Preview: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Toronto Raptors at Orlando Magic
  • Date: January 24, 2013
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Raptors: 15-27
  • Magic: 14-27

Probable starters

Raptors:

  • Jose Calderon
  • DeMar DeRozan
  • Landry Fields
  • Ed Davis
  • Amir Johnson

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Raptors:

  • Pace: 89.9 (25th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 106.5 (11th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.7 (26th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.2 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.2 (24th of 30)

Read about the Raptors

Raptors Republic

Jan 23

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • “Big Baby wants a PB&J sandwich.”
  • Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “No, the Rising Stars Challenge isn’t glamorous, and the level of defensive intensity makes the All-Star Game itself look like an old Detroit Pistons/Boston Celtics slobberknocker. However, it’s still an honor for a player to earn a spot on either of the rosters for the event, and Vucevic is as deserving as nearly any second-year player.”
  • Led be Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, the Detroit Pistons used a big third quarter to put the Orlando Magic away.
  • Zach Harper of CBSSports.com gives the Magic a “B” for their midseason grade: “Not sure you could ask for much more from this Orlando team. Jacque Vaughn’s coaching looks bright for the future, they’ve competed on many nights, Nikola Vucevic is averaging a double-double while getting fans all in a tizzy and the team is only three games worse than Dwight Howard’s new team.”
  • Davis talks about his role with Orlando.

Jan 23

Recap: Detroit Pistons 105, Orlando Magic 90

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Photo by J. Dennis/Einstein/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

After a back-and-forth first half, the Detroit Pistons busted the game open in the third quarter and cruised to a 105-90 victory over the Orlando Magic. The Magic have now lost 14 of their last 16 games and, after a surprising 12-13 start, finish the first half of the regular season with a 14-27 record.

Against the Pistons, Orlando jumped out to a 22-11 lead in the first quarter thanks in large part due to J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson. Redick and Nelson got off to hot starts offensively — both players accounted for 18 of the Magic’s first 22 points in the period. Redick and Nelson did their damage exclusively at the rim and behind the three-point line.

Unfortunately for Orlando, Detroit responded by finishing the quarter on a 15-3 run to take a one-point lead heading into the second quarter. You can excuse the Magic for feeling a sense of dejavu when they coughed up a double-digit lead in the first quarter, given that the same thing happened in their loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

After blowing an 11-point lead, there were several lead changes in the second quarter between Orlando and the Pistons, as neither team was able to build more than a five-point cushion in the period. A late scoring surge by Detroit allowed them to take a 54-52 halftime lead.

Everything changed in the third quarter. After struggling to slow down the Magic offensively in the first half, the Pistons’ defense dug in and held Orlando to just 14 points in the period.

Meanwhile, Detroit’s offense carried over their success from the first half. Greg Monroe scored 10 of his 16 points in the third quarter, scoring primarily in the paint with little resistance as the Magic were unable to defend anything inside. When Monroe wasn’t bringing the lightning, Andre Drummond was bringing the thunder as he overwhelmed Orlando’s frontline with his freakish athleticism.

When the third quarter was all said and done, the Pistons had built a 16-point lead and would go on cruise to a double-digit victory.

If there’s anything else worth noting, it would be Arron Afflalo’s peculiar performance offensively against Detroit. Normally not gun shy, his first shot didn’t come until late in the third quarter when the game was essentially decided. He deferred quite a bit and finished the game without scoring a single point (0-for-4 shooting from the floor).

In a game where Redick was excellent and Davis was awful, Afflalo’s scoreless night stuck out like a sore thumb.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Despite being on the wrong side of a blowout loss, Redick had an outstanding game (26 points on 9-for-10 shooting). He was judicious with his shot selection and it translated into an efficient outing.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. With each missed shot, Glen Davis looked more and more like an insane player on offense. He shot 4-for-16 from the floor.

Defining Moment

The Pistons outscored the Magic 28-14 in the third quarter to blow the game wide open and cruise to a double-digit victory. After a porous first half, Detroit’s defense clamped down and Orlando was unable to recover.

Jan 22

Preview: Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Detroit Pistons
  • Date: January 22, 2013
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills

Records

  • Magic: 14-26
  • Pistons: 15-25

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Pistons:

  • Brandon Knight
  • Kyle Singler
  • Tayshaun Prince
  • Jason Maxiell
  • Greg Monroe

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 91.6 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 103.3 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.0 (23rd of 30)

Pistons:

  • Pace: 90.1 (24th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 104.1 (16th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.3 (14th of 30)

Read about the Pistons

Piston Powered

Jan 22

Tuesday’s Mini-Magic Word

  • Tom Haberstroh of ESPN Insider revisits the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade and provides an updated view on the Orlando Magic’s haul: “Largely overlooked in the trade, Vucevic, 22, has been a revelation at center for the Magic, and is averaging 11.7 points and 11.1 rebounds this season. Here’s the list of active players who have averaged 11-and-11 by age 22: Howard, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love, Carlos Boozer, Elton Brand and Tim Duncan. […] We just don’t see that level of production at this age. Whether the Magic knew exactly what they were getting in Vucevic, this is the kind of shrewd move that can turn a franchise around.”
  • The Magic face off against the Detroit Pistons in tonight’s game.
  • Limiting Greg Monroe is one of the keys to the game for Orlando against the Pistons.
  • With the Magic reaching the midway point of the regular season, John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com looks back at what’s transpired so far: “The Magic notched two of their biggest wins of the season in Los Angeles, beating the Lakers and Howard in early December and toppling the Clippers in early January to end a 10-game losing streak.”

Jan 22

Maurice Harkless: basketball Play-Doh

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Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

As the Magic’s impressive start to the season is left further in the past, this year becomes more and more of a trial run. There are a lot of different pieces on Orlando’s roster, many not a part of any reasonable long-term plan, but the only way to find out which ones are part of the future is baptism by fire. By letting the youngsters feel their way out, the braintrust atop the organization can figure out how they compute into the team’s long-term plans.

No one represents this philosophy as much as Moe Harkless. As fellow youngsters such as Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson show sustainable skills (rebounding and midrange shooting, respectively) that will, at the very least, make them viable NBA players for years to come, Harkless is like basketball Play-Doh. Stretchy, bouncy, and inherently fun, he’s completely lacking in shape and definition.

But while Play-Doh isn’t very effective in its initial, lumpy form, it can be molded into a variety of different shapes. The same can be said about Harkless — the Magic have been getting blown out with him on the court, mostly because the offense tanks when he’s playing. Though it’s worth noting that Orlando has been 3.8 points per 100 possessions better defensively with him on the floor, per NBA.com.

But all of that is basically irrelevant in comparison to what he can be a few years down the road. What is that exactly? Here are a few ideas.

Stay the course – Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Harkless has a lot in common with Mbah a Moute. Both men are a slender, lengthy 6-foot-8 and are quick enough to guard much smaller players. Mbah a Moute has solidified his standing as a four-position defender in this league and the hope is that Harkless can be the same — already, his steals percentage of 2 percent ranks just a sliver under Mbah a Moute’s career-best 2.1 percent mark and he’s blocking more than twice as many shots per 36 minutes as Mbah a Moute ever had.

But though this version of Harkless would make his bread on the defensive end, I like the Mbah a Moute comparison the most offensively. This is where Harkless has shown his youth the most, making only six shots more than 5 feet away from the basket all season. Harkless’ main offensive value is his jaw-dropping athleticism, which leads to plays like this or this.

Harkless can do well to study Mbah a Moute here. The Cameroonian forward has similarly never developed a trustworthy outside shot, but he’s made a living from cutting off the ball and finishing at the rim. Mbah a Moute has averaged more than 1.2 points per possession off cuts since 2009-10, per Synergy. That makes him, if not an offensive asset, workable enough to keep him on the floor for his defense. If Harkless can be as effective as a one man, off-the-ball wrecking crew, he could have a long career.

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