Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 78

Nov 01

Rebuilding with Jameer Nelson

Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

I’ve been asked about a dozen times why the Magic made an offer to Jameer Nelson during what everyone considers “a rebuilding time.” My answer has simplified every time the question has been asked and now consists of just five words: because he is a leader. Okay, also because Orlando needs to sell tickets, but let’s look at leadership first.

The more you run those words through your mind, the more it makes sense. Jameer is the most tenured player on the roster, has been to the playoffs, has been to a Finals, quarterbacks the offense, etc. I could go on.

If you’re going to keep a few guys around while you build from the bottom up and take on packs of rookies, you have to have a guy who can lead by example, and you have to have smart and patient guys in those leadership positions. We’re talking about J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, and yes, Jameer Nelson, even if that meant signing him with money that perhaps could have been spent to further rebuild. Because otherwise what do you have? A bunch of rookies running around, making mistakes, and watching SportsCenter for guidance.

Think of it this way. Before Andrew Luck, if the Indianapolis Colts decided to take a middle linebacker for their first round pick in the draft and this was long before decided and agreed upon by owners and coaches, you might have still said that they were rebuilding. At that point, you have to ask yourself if you want a Peyton Manning who is like a 60 percent version of himself or a new, untested quarterback who has no grasp of the system in place in Indianapolis. Orlando was not in a position to go out and sign a young stud or higher-echelon point guard. So you have to sit back and say, “Yeah, Jameer looks pretty good right now, given our circumstances.”

So leadership is a huge part of this rebuilding process (if you are going to call it that). There’s no more Stan Van Gundy, for goodness sake, and with a rookie coach in place, it further emphasizes the need for proven veterans (player-coach) to be in leadership positions.

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Nov 01

Five questions for the Magic in 2012-13

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The aftermath of the Dwightmare means that whatever happens on the court for the Magic this season is pretty much inconsequential. Wins and losses have been tossed aside in favor of gunning for draft picks and developing talent. While this is an understandable process that is directly derived from the league’s collective bargaining agreement, it also means that the next six months will be full of mostly meaningless basketball, which is quite a depressing realization.

That being said, even though new general manager Rob Hennigan and his “Presti Plan” dictate that the Magic will be built mostly on their next few drafts going forward, there are still things to glean from the upcoming season. Here are five questions heading into the 2012-13 season that bear watching for the Magic’s future.

What happens at shooting guard?

One can very easily make the claim that Orlando’s two best players fit into the same roster slot. Both Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick had high-profile college careers, entered the league as afterthoughts, and put in extensive work to improve their games. The result is two efficient shooters, solid if unspectacular defenders (Afflalo more than Redick until last season, when he showed diminished interest on that end), and improved playmakers who are entering their respective primes.

The problem, of course, is that it’s unclear how they fit together. It seems unlikely they can share both wing spots defensively, especially if Afflalo, the bigger of the two, continues to exert more and more of his energy on the offensive end. The better bet is Redick sliding into the back-up point guard role, as he’s improved his ballhandling a great deal over the course of his career, but that’s still quite a dramatic leap of faith in his skills.

Furthermore, it’s unclear if the two are in Orlando for the long haul. Redick will be a free agent this summer, when he will presumably get more money and more competitive basketball from a non-rebuilding team. And while Afflalo is locked up for four more years, he might prove more valuable as a trade asset for a team that isn’t looking to do a lot of winning in the near future.

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Oct 27

Magic exercise third-year option on Nikola Vucevic

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have exercised their third-year team option on the contract of center Nikola Vucevic, general manager Rob Hennigan announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal are not disclosed. Vucevic is now under contract through the 2013-14 season.

Vucevic (7’0”, 240, 10/24/90) was acquired by Orlando from Philadelphia as part of a four-team, 12-player deal on Aug. 10, 2012. He played in 51 games (15 starts) during his rookie campaign last season with the Sixers, averaging 5.5 ppg. and 4.8 rpg. in 15.9 mpg. Vucevic ranked among all NBA rookies in rebounding (t-sixth), blocked shots (t-sixth) and field goal percentage (.450, eighth). He led (or tied) the Sixers in scoring four times and in rebounding nine times. Vucevic also played in one playoff outing.

Oct 27

Magic waive Justin Harper, Chris Johnson, and Quentin Richardson

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have waived forward Justin Harper, forward Chris Johnson and guard-forward Quentin Richardson, general manager Rob Hennigan announced today. Orlando’s roster now stands at 15 players.

Harper (6’9”, 225, 8/30/89) played in six preseason games, averaging 3.7 ppg. and 2.5 rpg. in 13.8 mpg. He was originally acquired by Orlando on June 23, 2011 from Cleveland in exchange for two future second round picks. Harper appeared in 14 games last season during his rookie campaign, averaging 1.4 ppg. in 6.0 mpg.

Johnson (6’6”, 201, 4/29/90) was signed as a free agent by Orlando on October 9. He appeared in four preseason games, averaging 1.8 ppg. in 8.5 mpg. Johnson played in 138 career games during four years at the University of Dayton, averaging 10.6 ppg., 6.1 rpg. and 1.1 apg. in 24.9 mpg.

Richardson (6’6”, 228, 4/13/80) played in three preseason outings, averaging 2.3 ppg. and 1.3 rpg. in 8.7 mpg. He was originally signed as a free agent by Orlando on July 13, 2010 and appeared in 105 regular season games with the Magic (22 starts), averaging 4.4 ppg. and 2.9 rpg. in 17.3 mpg. A 12-year veteran, Richardson has appeared in 782 career regular season games with the L.A. Clippers, Phoenix, New York, Miami and Orlando, averaging 10.3 ppg., 4.7 rpg. and 1.5 apg. in 26.5 mpg.

Oct 23

Magic waive Christian Eyenga and Armon Johnson

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have waived guard-forward Christian Eyenga and guard Armon Johnson, general manager Rob Hennigan announced today.

Eyenga (6’5”, 210, 6/22/89) did not play in any of Orlando’s six preseason outings. He was acquired by the Magic from the L.A. Lakers as part of a four-team, 12-player deal on Aug. 10. Johnson (6’3”, 195, 2/23/89) played in five preseason games with Orlando, averaging 3.2 ppg., 1.6 rpg. and 1.2 apg. in 13.0 mpg. He was signed as a free agent on Sep. 28.

Oct 21

Recap: Orlando Magic 104, San Antonio Spurs 100

AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Sunday night is how legitimate Andrew Nicholson looked. The kid has all the tools. His footwork is sound, his court vision is above-average, and he is as deliberate as he is patient. The guy flat out executes and he’s not scared.

As is the case with most teams, when Orlando can attack and keep the pace up, they find success. Attacking options are few and far between, but Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick carried much of that load on Sunday. When those two put the ball on the floor and went towards the basket, things happened. The other thing that Nelson and Redick gave to the lineup was a sense of calmness. The Magic, at times, get a little carried away with ball movement and “happy feet.” Those two veterans have the ability to slow things down.

It’s horrifying to think what this Magic team looks like when both Redick and Nelson are on the bench. Not only are they the veteran leaders, but they are the only guys on the court who can slow things down for Orlando and seemingly the only guys who can attack with any confidence. For the most part, Redick and Nelson platooned and things worked out well for them. There were a few moments when E’Twaun Moore became the primary ballhandler. Yikes.

Regardless of who is doing it, however, back-cutting and off-ball movement were the keys to the Magic’s win. Since Orlando lacks star power and big-time post players, they require a five-man effort in moving without the ball, rotating the ball with pace, and running the floor well. When they can do that, they will find some success this year. The back-cutting, high-velocity offense is a lot of fun to watch when it’s clicking, but it appears as if it’s going to require this team to be pretty consistently deep rotation-wise, which is still a concern.

Sunday was a great look at a new breed of Magic basketball, no longer relying on the three-ball as heavily as it once did. The first 28 points were scored inside the three-point line and it wasn’t until the second quarter until Moore opened things up with a triple.

Similarly, Orlando’s defense will remain a key to finding success on the basketball court. They were strong on their rotations and had active hands (especially in the post) against the Spurs. Those situations create transition opportunities and allow guys like Moore, Redick, and Nelson to really push the ball. Luckily for them, they have guys like Gustavo Ayon and Andrew Nicholson, who really run the floor well for big men.

E’Twaun Moore had a strong first half and for a few moments looked like a legitimate perimeter threat, especially as he caught the ball on a kickout started by a Redick or Nelson drive. Moore regressed, though, in the second half.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Andrew Nicholson. The rookie shined once again (18 points on 7-for-8 shooting from the floor). More importantly, the young kid looked like he belonged on the floor at all times. He rebounded well, picked his spots, and executed within the offense.

X-Factor

Glen Davis. Davis is an often unmentioned spark in so many places and it’s often forgotten that he is capable of creating his own shot, finding mismatches, and stepping confidently into open looks.

Oct 21

Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: San Antonio Spurs at Orlando Magic
  • Date: October 21, 2012
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: NBA TV
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Spurs: 50-16
  • Magic: 37-29

Probable starters

Spurs:

  • Tony Parker
  • Danny Green
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Tim Duncan
  • Boris Diaw

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • DeQuan Jones
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Spurs:

  • Pace: 92.9 (7th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 110.9 (1st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.2 (10th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.0 (29th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.0 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.1 (12th of 30)

Read about the Spurs

48 Minutes of Hell

Oct 09

Magic sign Chris Johnson

Via Orlando Magic press release:

The Orlando Magic have signed free agent forward Chris Johnson, general manager Rob Hennigan announced today. Per team policy, terms of the deal are not disclosed.

Johnson (6’6”, 201, 4/29/90) played in 138 career games during four years at the University of Dayton, averaging 10.6 ppg., 6.1 rpg. and 1.1 apg. in 24.9 mpg. He was named the 2010 NIT Most Valuable Player and was a four-time Atlantic 10 Conference honoree during his collegiate career. Johnson was waived by the Los Angeles Clippers on Oct. 7.

Oct 08

Recap: New Orleans Hornets 85, Orlando Magic 80 (Mexico City)

AP Photo/Christian Palma

BOX SCORE

If you’re a Magic fan and you didn’t watch the game, it’s easy to look at the final score, see that the Orlando Magic lost, and shrug your shoulders in a display of indifference.

With Stan Van Gundy sipping Diet Pepsi somewhere without an NBA head coaching gig, Dwight Howard taking his flatulent talents to the City of Angels, and Ryan Anderson playing small forward for the New Orleans Hornets (wait, what?), it’s no secret that the Magic are projected to have one of the worst records in the league this season. Without the presence of one of the best coaches in the NBA, a top five player, and a premiere stretch four, wins are going to be hard to come by for Orlando. That much is certain.

But the Magic’s loss against the Hornets wasn’t because of a lack of talent (it should be noted that guys like Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington did not play). It was a matter of circumstance.

After three quarters, Orlando was up 66-54 and in total control of the game. That’s because the Magic’s starters severely outplayed New Orleans’ starting lineup. And Orlando did it primarily by playing a hybrid brand of basketball offensively.

Head coach Jacque Vaughn wants to play an up-tempo style while allowing the players to be creative on offense (i.e. not call plays every single possession, which is a direct contrast from the Van Gundy days). And that was reflected on the court, as the Magic played with a bit more pace and flow than what is usually seen from them. But remnants of Van Gundy’s philosophy still remain offensively (such as Vaughn’s desire for player and ball movement), as Orlando ran pick-and-roll sets and initiated plays from the elbows (“Horns” set). It was interesting to watch the game unfold and see two different philosophies play out on the floor in unison with each other.

Aside from the fact that Orlando’s second unit coughed up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter to lose the game, not much else can be taken away from the Magic’s first preseason tilt. Apart from Gustavo Ayon’s performance.

Ayon, playing in his home country of Mexico, impressed in his Magic debut. Starting at center, Ayon played to his strengths. He did a good job of scoring in pick-and-rolls, running the middle of the floor in transition, and passing out of the high post. His defense was generally solid but then again, his primary assignment was dreadful (Robin Lopez was -22 in roughly 22 minutes of playing time) so take that observation with a grain of salt.

Ayon is no Dwight. He’s not a once-in-a-generation type of center built like a Greek god. He’s merely a fundamentally-sound center and a good player. And that’s okay.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Before Orlando let the game slip away in the fourth quarter (getting outscored by 17 in the period), Ayon set the tone early with his energy and effort. He finished with 12 points and six rebounds.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

It’s one thing to be underwhelming (Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers), it’s another thing to struggle (Anderson), but to look like you don’t belong in an NBA uniform? Like Lopez did? That’s bad.

Oct 07

Preview: Orlando Magic at New Orleans Hornets (Mexico City)

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at New Orleans Hornets
  • Date: October 7, 2012
  • Time: 2:30 p.m.
  • Television: NBA TV
  • Arena: Mexico City Arena

Records

  • Magic: 37-29
  • Hornets: 21-45

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • J.J. Redick
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Glen Davis
  • Gustavo Ayon

Hornets:

  • Greivis Vasquez
  • Anthony Rivers
  • Al-Farouq Aminu
  • Anthony Davis
  • Robin Lopez

Advanced stats

Magic:

  • Pace: 89.0 (29th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.0 (15th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 104.1 (12th of 30)

Hornets:

  • Pace: 88.3 (30th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 100.9 (28th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 105.1 (15th of 30)

Read about the Hornets

Hornets247

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