Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 89

Nov 26

Monday’s Magic Word

  • Paul Pierce got shook by Jameer Nelson in Sunday’s game between the Orlando Magic and Boston Celtics.
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “Quite a few pundits, myself included, predicted the Magic to end the season with one of the lowest win totals in the NBA during 2012-13. We thought that the roster was still full of passable NBA players, the team wasn’t rebuilding with total scrubs, but only a coach that could secure a game-to-game output that was bigger than the sum of its parts could hope to stay competitive. And this is exactly what Magic coach Jacque Vaughn is doing as he leads his team toward competency, if not a winning record.”
  • Marc Stein of ESPN.com: “Any relief the Magic feel about refusing to take back Andrew Bynum in the Dwight Howard deal has to be classified as conditional. What happens if Brook Lopez, whom they also could have snagged, keeps progressing from his current groove?”
  • Should head coach Jacque Vaughn be playing to win or playing to develop the Magic’s young players?
  • Orlando put up a fight against the Celtics in an overtime loss on Sunday.
  • Glen Davis compares Vaughn to Gandhi.
  • It’s clear that the Magic dodged a bullet with Andrew Bynum (out indefinitely). But will Orlando regret passing up on acquiring Brook Lopez when deciding to trade Dwight Howard? He’s currently on pace to have the best season of his career this year.
  • See Big Baby hustle. Or as Rob Mahoney of The Point Foward aptly puts it: “There’s good effort, there’s reckless hustle and then there’s Glen Davis.”
  • “The Magic continue to be surprisingly not that awful.”
  • Josh McRobert’s new nickname is “Mr. Versatile.”

Nov 26

The return of Josh McRoberts

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Josh McRoberts was due for a bounce-back season. After a solid campaign on the upstart 2010-11 Pacers, the Duke product signed a two-year deal with the Lakers and was expected to help offset the loss of Lamar Odom as the team’s third big man.

Yes, the idea of McRoberts replacing the Odom coming off a career year in L.A. (in which he won the Sixth Man of the Year award) may draw the ire of quite a few pro-Lamar readers, but while there’s a vast difference between the two in quality, the idea is similar. McRoberts is an excellent passer for a big and can capably stretch the floor. While he lacks Odom’s creativity and versatility, his athleticism was projected to be a huge boon for the aging Lakers and optimists everywhere could reasonably envision him being a good fit in a system built around ball movement.

Well, optimists everywhere were disappointed. McRoberts’ playmaking abilities were more than offset by his propensity for infuriating turnovers — the Pacers-Bulls first round series in the 2011 NBA Playoffs still conjures up ghastly images of Josh giving away crunch time possessions to any and every applicant –- and any other offensive benefits were lost as an unspectacular True Shooting percentage of 51.6 percent was enhanced by an infuriating reluctance to take shots. McRoberts took just 5.9 field goal attempts per 36 minutes, essentially taking himself out of the game on the one end where his contributions were a positive.

And so Josh arrived in Orlando, a throw-in in a blockbuster trade playing for his reputation and his next contract. So far, the results have been encouraging.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nov 26

Recap: Boston Celtics 116, Orlando Magic 110 (OT)

AP Photo/Scott Iskowitz

BOX SCORE

With a rookie head coach (Jacque Vaughn) and 10 new faces on the roster, Magic fans have been tempted to use the “Heart and Hustle II” nickname early in the season.

The original “Heart and Hustle” team in the 1999-2000 season, also led by a rookie head coach (Doc Rivers) and a ragtag group of players (many of them inexperienced or unknown), won over a Magic fan base still dealing with the after-effects of the departures of two franchise players — Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway.

Led by Darrell Armstrong, Bo Outlaw, and Ben Wallace, the “Heart and Hustle” team earned their nickname by playing hard every night, overachieving, and competing for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference until the final week of the regular season. A loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the second-to-last game of the regular season derailed their playoff hopes, as the Bucks used that game as a springboard to ultimately clinch the No. 8 seed in the East.

It’s way too early to give the “Heart and Hustle II” nickname to this season’s iteration of the Orlando Magic but with each passing game, the temptation grows.

It’s ironic that as things stand now, the Magic lost to the original architect of the “Heart and Hustle” team, the aforementioned Rivers who is the current head coach of the Boston Celtics, in a thrilling game that went down to the wire.

Trailing 58-48 at halftime, Orlando — led by Jameer Nelson — stormed back in the third quarter, using runs of 11-3 and 8-0 to claw back into the game. In the period, Nelson caught fire offensively, torching the Celtics’ defense. Nelson scored in a variety of ways, whether it was off the dribble, in pick-and-rolls, or even in transition.

Thanks to a vintage quarter from Nelson (12 points on 5-for-6 shooting from the floor), what once was a 10-point deficit turned into a 82-80 lead for the Magic heading into the fourth quarter. From there, Orlando and Boston went back-and-forth in the period, exchanging leads until the score was tied at 102 with 1:21 left. The Magic and Celtics each had chances to win the game in regulation down the stretch, but neither team was able to take advantage, thus sending the game into overtime.

After trailing 106-104 in the opening moments of the extra period, Boston used a 12-4 run to come away with the 116-110 victory.

Although Orlando lost, they deserve credit for never giving up and fighting back despite being down for most of the night. That’s been a running theme for the Magic all season and if the trend continues, with some of those losses turning into victories, maybe then the “Heart and Hustle II” nickname will catch on.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Rajon Rondo had a near triple-double, finishing with 15 points, 16 assists, nine rebounds, and two steals. Rondo has now had at least 10 assists in 37 consecutive games (tying John Stockton for the NBA record).

X-Factor

Josh McRoberts proved to be a surprising contributor (five points, 14 rebounds, and three blocks), coming off the bench for Orlando and being used in an effective small-ball lineup by Vaughn. The 14 rebounds were a career-high.

That Was … Silly

Rondo has been known to pad his assist totals. Such was the case against the Magic, where on one transition opportunity in the fourth quarter, Rondo passed up a wide open layup to try to get a cheap assist.

Nov 25

Preview: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic
  • Date: November 25, 2012
  • Time: 6:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Celtics: 7-6
  • Magic: 5-7

Probable starters

Celtics:

  • Rajon Rondo
  • Jason Terry
  • Paul Pierce
  • Brandon Bass
  • Kevin Garnett

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Celtics:

  • Pace: 92.1 (17th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 105.6 (11th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.0 (24th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.2 (15th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 97.8 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 101.4 (4th of 30)

Read about the Celtics

Celtics Hub

Nov 24

Recap: Orlando Magic 108, Cleveland Cavaliers 104

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

BOX SCORE

Lately, the Nikola Vucevics and Moe Harklesses of the Magic’s roster have been impressing as they’ve worked their way to a record improbably close to .500. But taking on the Kyrie Irving-less Cavs, it was Orlando’s veterans who carried the day.

This game was always going to be ugly. The Magic don’t have a lot of talent as it is and the Cavs were missing their best player. The Magic’s veterans provided key contributions, which ultimately prevailed over the shorthanded Cavs’ relative inexperience. Big Baby did plenty of head-scratching Big Baby things on offense, but he also took advantage of Cavs rookie center Tyler Zeller.

Arron Afflalo looked much more comfortable shooting from deep, an encouraging development given his recent shot-selection issues. He hit one of the biggest shots of the game with just under two minutes on the clock — a three-pointer that gave the Magic a two-possession lead and a little bit of breathing room after a hard-fought battle back from a first-half deficit.

Jameer Nelson had the kind of performance that makes his offseason re-signing seem smart and reminded us how important he can be when healthy. He did a little bit of everything for the Magic, scoring confidently inside and out as well as adding six rebounds and six assists. His three-point shooting (4-for-8) gave the Magic another deep threat other than Afflalo and when coupled with his ability to attack the rim, he made it difficult for the Cavs to respond.

Rookie Dion Waiters has been up-and-down during his rookie season and he had a pretty solid performance, but the Magic did well to make him take 22 shots to get his 25 points.

But it was J.J. Redick who put the game away, even as he went cold from the field. He missed all five shots he took in the fourth quarter after starting the game a perfect 4-for-4. However, he made up for this by nailing eight free throws down the stretch.

The contributions from the Magic’s young players were hit-or-miss. Vucevic did an excellent job countering yet another monster game from Anderson Varejao, finishing with 10 points and 8 rebounds. Andrew Nicholson looked good in his 12 minutes, but foul trouble severely limited his effectiveness. Harkless grabbed three offensive rebounds.

Had Irving played, this game might not have been close. Jeremy Pargo had a good shooting game starting in his place for the Cavs, but he isn’t nearly the ballhandler or distributor Kyrie is. And Pargo was simply overmatched by Nelson. Jameer’s ability to exploit matchup advantages over clearly inferior opponents has proven instrumental in the Magic’s solid start to the season and this victory was no different.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Redick’s 18 points weren’t a team-high (Afflalo had 19 and Nelson had 22). But he was a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line and all eight of those makes came down the stretch, which ultimately put the game away for the Magic.

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

Tristan Thompson had a wholly unremarkable game for the Cavs and got benched down the stretch for rookie Tyler Zeller.

X-Factor

The Magic collected 16 turnovers, many of them avoidable, and somehow only trailed by six at the half. They only turned it over twice in the final two quarters, which was in large part responsible for their pulling out the victory.

Nov 23

Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers at Orlando Magic
  • Date: November 23, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Cavaliers: 3-8
  • Magic: 4-7

Probable starters

Cavaliers:

  • Jeremy Pargo
  • Dion Waiters
  • Alonzo Gee
  • Tristan Thompson
  • Anderson Varejao

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Cavaliers:

  • Pace: 94.1 (3rd of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 101.4 (23rd of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.3 (27th of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.3 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 95.9 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 100.3 (4th of 30)

Read about the Cavaliers

Cavs: The Blog

Nov 23

#ORLrank 7: Nick Anderson

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Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

G MP PER VORP WARP WS/82
1994-1995 76 2588 17.5 3.44 10.0 8.9
Nick Anderson’s best season with the Magic

 
If you were to play word association with casual NBA fans, the word most associated with Nick Anderson would be “choker.”

Facing off against the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Finals, with the score at 110-107 in the closing moments of regulation, Nick Anderson missed four free-throws that could have iced the game for the Orlando Magic. All Anderson had to do was make one free-throw and the game would have essentially been over.

As a result of Anderson’s inability to close out the Rockets, Kenny Smith nailed a game-tying three-pointer on the ensuing possession, the game went into overtime, and the Rockets held on to win 120-118. Houston would go on to sweep the Magic and win their second consecutive championship.

Those four missed free-throws defined Anderson’s career and that’s a shame, because he had plenty of memorable moments in a Magic uniform.

“The Steal” was one of those moments.

Trailing 91-90 with 18.1 seconds left in Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals against the Chicago Bulls, Anderson poked the ball away from Michael Jordan from behind as he was dribbling it up the floor. Penny Hardaway collected the loose ball, raced down the court, and fed Horace Grant for a dunk that put Orlando up 92-91 with 6.2 seconds remaining in the game. After Jordan turned the ball over again on the following possession, the Magic made two free-throws and improbably came away with a 94-91 victory.

Thanks to Anderson’s heroics, “The Steal” is still regarded as the most memorable moment in Magic franchise history to this day. Which is why it’s ironic that Anderson is also associated with, what’s seen by many Magic fans, as the lowest moment in the team’s history when he missed those four free-throws.

It took a while for Anderson to recover from the Finals. His confidence shattered, particularly in his free-throw shooting, Anderson’s game slowly deteriorated until it reached its lowest point in the 1996-1997 season. Anderson shot 40.4 percent from the line that year. In fact, he was so hesitant to attack the basket and get fouled, Orlando was forced to include an incentive in his contract to encourage him to get to the free-throw line.

After Anderson consulted a sports psychologist, he returned to form and in the following season, he provided the Magic fan base with another memorable moment.

During the 1997-98 season, Shaquille O’Neal made his first game appearance in Orlando as a visitor since signing with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent during the summer of 1996. In front of a sellout crowd and nationally televised audience, Anderson scored 30 points and hit a game-winning three-pointer with 7.1 seconds left to give Orlando a 96-94 win over Los Angeles. It was an emotional victory not only for the Magic but for Anderson — who could forget him bobbing his head after nailing the game-winner?

Despite the ups and downs, no other player for Orlando has provided the type of iconic moments that Anderson has.

Anderson was the first draft pick in franchise history in 1989 and the last remaining member of the expansion team in 1999. A fitting bookend to a memorable career. All in all, Anderson may be known as a choker or a hero, but he’ll always be known as “Mr. Magic.”

Voter breakdown for Nick Anderson

Drexler Highkin Rivera Schiller Scribbins
Scale (1-to-10) N/A (11) 5 8 7 6
Average rank: 7.4

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.

Nov 21

Recap: Orlando Magic 90, Detroit Pistons 74

AP Photo/John Raoux

BOX SCORE

Facing off against the Detroit Pistons for a second time in six days, the Orlando Magic skipped the dramatics this time around (following a 110-106 come-from-behind victory in Detroit) and instead used a big third quarter to put the Pistons away early after trailing at halftime.

Entering the third quarter, Detroit was up 48-45 on the Magic. At the start of the fourth quarter, Orlando was up 71-56. What happened?

In the third quarter, the Magic got off to a quick start offensively. Glen Davis got things started by making a righty hook in the paint, then Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic made back-to-back layups. Orlando’s 6-0 start to the period prompted a quick timeout from head coach Lawrence Frank.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, it would only get worse.

The Magic continued to score with relative ease against Detroit’s defense. Nelson nailing a wide open three-pointer off a staggered 1/5 pick-and-roll with Davis and Vucevic, as well as Redick making an uncontested layup on a beautiful backdoor cut (with Josh McRoberts setting a back-screen and Kyle O’Quinn making a nice feed) were examples of Orlando executing their half-court sets without much resistance from Detroit defensively.

On the flipside, as the quarter progressed, the Pistons were having a difficult time scoring on the Magic’s defense. Part of it was because Detroit shot themselves in the foot with turnovers (some of them unforced), but part of it was also because Orlando did an excellent job of contesting shots in the paint and forcing the Pistons to beat from the perimeter. Detroit, a shaky jumpshooting team, failed to do so.

As such, the Magic went on a 21-0 run.

The Pistons didn’t score their first points in the period until the 2:15 mark, thanks to two Rodney Stuckey free-throws, and they didn’t score their first field goal until the 1:57 mark, thanks again to Stuckey.

When it was all said and done, Orlando had outscored Detroit 26-8 in the third quarter (tying a franchise record for fewest points allowed in a third quarter) and would cruise to a 90-74 win.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

The Magic defense. The fewest points allowed by Orlando in a third quarter in franchise history? Eight. First on February 10, 1999 against the then-New Jersey Nets, then again in tonight’s game versus the Pistons. 

LVP (Least Valuable Player)

Go ahead and hand the LVP “award” to the whole Detroit team after a dreadful performance. Here’s the Pistons’ stat-line in the third quarter — eight points on 2-for-21 shooting from the floor (.095 percent) and six turnovers. Oof. 

Defining Moment

Trailing 48-45 at halftime, the Magic outscored Detroit 26-8 in the third quarter (the first 21 points were unanswered). The Pistons were held scoreless until the 2:15 mark in the period when Rodney Stockey made a pair of free-throws. 

That Was … Impressive

No, not Orlando’s third quarter performance. It was Andrew Nicholson who was impressive, not just with his offense (15 points on 7-for-9 shooting), but doing the little things like setting good screens and being willing to take a charge defensively.

Nov 21

Preview: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic

Essentials

  • Teams: Detroit Pistons at Orlando Magic
  • Date: November 21, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: Fox Sports Florida
  • Arena: Amway Center

Records

  • Pistons: 2-9
  • Magic: 3-7

Probable starters

Pistons:

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

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Arron Afflalo
  • Maurice Harkless
  • Glen Davis
  • Nikola Vucevic

Advanced stats

Pistons:

  • Pace: 91.9 (19th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 102.2 (20th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 107.0 (23rd of 30)

Magic:

  • Pace: 92.0 (16th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 96.1 (29th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 102.6 (13th of 30)

Read about the Pistons

Piston Powered

Nov 20

Beginning to consider the 2013 NBA draft lottery

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

There have been no shortage of conspiracy theories surrounding the NBA Draft lottery since its inception in 1985, but I have an only-half-joking hunch that the Magic are going to end up with the top overall pick in 2013. This doesn’t mean they’ll finish with the worst record in the league, although anything is possible.

Over the last three years, an unprecedented number of top-tier players have changed teams, leaving their old clubs temporarily without direction. The teams that lost the biggest stars have been paid back in the form of the prize of that particular year’s draft class.

LeBron James spurned Cleveland for Miami in 2010 and the Cavs ended up with Kyrie Irving the following year. Then, last offseason, Chris Paul navigated his way to the Clippers from the Hornets, who were rewarded with Anthony Davis in June. If the pattern holds, it would stand to reason that everything the Magic have had to deal with over the past 18 months with Dwight Howard would land them at the top of the lottery.

Half-baked conspiracy theories aside, it’s become clear that this Magic team isn’t good and they have a solid shot of finishing the season in range of one of the top few selections. This is a surprise to no one.

College basketball is underway and three weeks into the NBA season, it’s safe to say that we have an idea of what Orlando can do this year. Which is why now is as good a time as any to begin diving into the pool of prospects.

Unfortunately, the early analysis of the 2013 draft class is that it’s a weaker one than the much-lauded 2012 crop. The general consensus is that there are three players favored to be the top picks in some order: UCLA guard Shabazz Muhammad, Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, and Indiana center Cody Zeller.

After a controversial NCAA investigation into his eligibility that delayed the start of his college career, Muhammad finally made his UCLA debut on Monday to mixed reviews. He scored 15 points and shot 2-for-3 from three-point range, but it was clear that the 19-year-old’s game is still a work in progress. Noel has been similarly inconsistent thus far, putting up solid numbers and displaying flashes of his phenomenal physical ability, but still showcasing a raw set of skills. Zeller is the most polished of the three, but has perhaps the least long-term upside. There’s no clear number one like Davis or Blake Griffin and not even these three players can be considered sure things. 

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports had one particularly telling quote from an executive:

As one Western Conference executive was leaving Barclays on Monday night, he knew he’d have to see Shabazz Muhammad over and over this season. After watching Zeller and Muhammad, he did have a suspicion about this spring’s draft. “I think you’re going to see a team who gets that first overall pick who will seriously think about trading down and moving out of it.”

All of this is to say, Hennigan will have plenty of options in June. Even though the Magic stand a good chance of having one of the top picks, there’s no telling what Hennigan will do with it.

This roster is still very much in flux. Through the early season, a few youngsters (Moe Harkless, Nikola Vucevic, and E’Twaun Moore) have impressed, but there is nobody on the team who could be considered “untouchable” in a trade of any kind. And depending on how the rest of the college basketball season shakes out, a pick near the top of the 2013 lottery may turn out to be similarly movable.

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