Magic Basketball: An Orlando Magic blog - Part 90

May 24

What I learned from Stan Van Gundy

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

When the Orlando Magic originally hired Stan Van Gundy as their new head coach in the summer of 2007, as a fan, I didn’t know what to think. To be honest, I knew more about the Magic’s initial coaching hire that offseason, Billy Donovan, than I did about Van Gundy.

Donovan was just coming off his second consecutive national championship at the University of Florida. All I knew about Van Gundy, at that point, was that “he wanted to spend more time with his family” after resigning as head coach of the Miami Heat in the 2005-2006 NBA season after 21 games. Or something like that. I honestly didn’t know if Van Gundy was the right hire or not for the Magic, or if he was a good coach to begin with.

But after five seasons with Orlando between 2008-2012, in which Van Gundy compiled a .657 winning percentage, 31 playoff wins, four 50-win seasons, three Southeast Division titles, one Eastern Conference title (and NBA Finals runner-up), I came to find out that not only was Van Gundy the right hire for the Magic but that he was, or “became” to put it more accurately, one of the best coaches in the league.

As a fan, and later as a writer, I learned a lot from Van Gundy. He helped me better understand the nuances of basketball like never before in my life.

I learned the value of the stretch four
Who would have thought power forward Tony Battie suffering a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder before the start of training camp for the 2007-2008 NBA season would have a profound impact on the Magic?

Without a traditional power forward to pair next to Dwight, Van Gundy made a choice to start Rashard Lewis — Orlando’s prized free agent signee that offseason — at the power forward position, despite the fact that he was previously a sweet-shooting small forward with the Seattle SuperSonics.

It turned out to be, arguably, Van Gundy’s most innovative concept.

Up to that point, the league had never seen a power forward shoot an extreme volume of threes with proficiency. Yet here was Lewis, shooting three-pointers at a dizzying rate while players and coaches around the NBA were trying to adjust and adapt. Even a player like Dirk Nowitzki, early on in his career with the Dallas Mavericks, didn’t come close to attempting the amount of three-point shots per game that Lewis did.

With Van Gundy turning the league on its head and opposing teams trying to solve the stretch four puzzle, a new golden era of Magic basketball began.

With Lewis stretching the four, three things happened for Orlando. First, the Magic’s pick-and-roll attack became very difficult to defend. With opposing power forwards not accustomed to defending a stretch four on the perimeter, on many instances, Lewis found himself open behind the three-point line as Orlando’s ball-handlers executed pick-and-rolls. Second, with Lewis spreading the floor, Dwight got plenty of room to operate in the post. Third, and lastly, with Dwight doing damage on the low block, any double-team had the potential of resulting in a wide-open three-point shot for Lewis.

In essence, Lewis proved to be a vital part of the Magic’s ecosystem offensively.

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May 24

3-on-3 roundtable: Life after Stan Van Gundy

Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images

On Monday, Stan Van Gundy was “relieved of his duties as head coach” according to an Orlando Magic press release. In other words, he was fired.

For those who follow the Magic closely, this piece of news should have come as no surprise. On April 5, during Orlando’s shootaround before their game against the New York Knicks that night, Van Gundy let it be known that Dwight Howard wanted him fired. The kicker is that Van Gundy knew all season long. And now here we are.

But how did it all start?

Questions about Van Gundy’s future intensified around the trade deadline in mid-March when an ESPN report surfaced that the Magic would allow Dwight to decide the future of Van Gundy and Otis Smith if he would agree to sign an extension. Orlando released a statement, denying the report, but that didn’t stop Van Gundy — when asked about the rumor — from making it clear that he didn’t care if he was fired. At that point, it was only a matter of time before things would come to a head between the Magic, Van Gundy, and Dwight.

Van Gundy, known for being one of the most honest voices in the NBA, eventually let the truth out on that fateful day in early April.

So with Orlando doing everything in their power to convince Dwight to commit long-term with them, Van Gundy was fired and Smith mutually agreed to part ways with the Magic shortly thereafter. Perhaps the rumor was true?

The writers at Magic Basketball, alongside Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post, take a look at the aftermath of Van Gundy’s dismissal and Smith’s departure. Consider it a special 4-on-3 roundtable.

Did the Magic do the right thing by firing Van Gundy and parting ways with Smith?

Nate Drexler, Magic Basketball: No. The Magic look desperate as can be right now and to make matters worse, they are not likely to land a long-term deal with Dwight. Let’s just say it sucks when you let an All-Star run a great coach out of town and then you don’t get to keep the All-Star. Doing “the right thing” is a lose-lose situation for Orlando, unfortunately. 

Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: Yes and no. Otis yes, Stan no. I understand the organization felt like they needed to cross this Rubicon to have any shot of keeping Dwight, so it makes sense. But Stan — Dwight’s petulance not withstanding — was always more solution than problem.

Matt Scribbins, Magic Basketball: Yes and no. The Magic would have been better off by keeping the Stan Van Gundy era going, but it was probably time for a change in the position Otis held. They won’t get a better coach than SVG, but they may be able to improve at general manager.

Evan Dunlap, Orlando Pinstriped Post: Yes and no. Otis needed to go, as his most recent moves have proven ill-conceived and he’d sunk the team’s chances to upgrade the roster; Orlando doesn’t have any great trade assets besides Dwight Howard. Getting rid of Stan makes less sense to me, given the great success to which he guided the Magic in his five seasons. But if he was ready to move on, then it’s hard to argue either choice. 

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May 23

Dwight Howard named to NBA’s All-Defensive First Team

Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard was named to the NBA All-Defensive First Team for the fourth consecutive season, the NBA announced today. This marks Howard’s fifth overall NBA All-Defensive selection (2007-08 Second Team).

Joining Howard (41 points) on the NBA All-Defensive First Team are forwards LeBron James of the Miami Heat (53 points) and Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder (47 points), and guards Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers (35 points) and Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies (33 points). Ibaka and Allen earn First Team honors for the first time; Allen was an NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection last season.

Howard was the league’s leading rebounder (14.5 rpg) as well as its top defensive rebounder (10.8 drpg). Ibaka paced the league in blocks (3.65 bpg) while Paul led in steals (2.53 spg). The Grizzlies allowed 96.0 points per 100 possessions with Allen on the court compared to 101.7 points per 100 possessions with him off. James paced the Heat in steals (1.9 spg) and defensive rebounds (6.4 drpg), and tied for the team lead in rebounds (7.9 rpg).

May 21

Magic fire Stan Van Gundy; part ways with Otis Smith

Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images

Via Orlando Magic press release:

Orlando Magic Chief Executive Officer Alex Martins announced today that Stan Van Gundy has been relieved of his duties as head coach. In addition President of Basketball Operations and General Manager Otis Smith and the organization have mutually agreed to part ways.

“On behalf of the DeVos Family, we sincerely appreciate and thank Otis and Stan for all that they have done on and off the floor for the Orlando Magic,” said Martins. “These are the days you dread in this business, but we feel it’s time for new leadership and new voices.”

“They both brought die-hard dedication and an unmatched work ethic on a daily basis,” added Martins. “Their success is well documented, as the Orlando Magic has had the fourth best record in the NBA over the last five years, and entering the playoffs this year the third most playoff wins over that period of time. The disappointment of getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs these past two seasons played a primary role in our decision, as we feel our momentum towards winning a championship has paused. We wish Otis and Stan all the best and we look forward to taking the next step towards winning that championship.”

May 09

Wednesday’s Magic Word

  • The Orlando Magic have a lot of decisions to make in the near future: namely the futures of general manager Otis Smith, head coach Stan Van Gundy, Dwight Howard, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, and Jameer Nelson.
  • Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel lists the top 10 issues that the Magic will be facing as they head into the offseason.
  • Orlando tried but didn’t have enough left in the tank to pull out a win in Game 5 against the Indiana Pacers, losing by the score of 105-87 after entering the fourth quarter with a 71-69 lead.
  • The Magic have a lot of questions they need to answer with regards to free agents-to-be like Anderson. Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post has an excellent breakdown of Orlando’s current roster outlook as the offseason looms.
  • Finally, the NBA is rid of an anticlimactic first round playoff series between the Magic and Indiana Pacers.
  • Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie: “And, really, it was great to see Jameer Nelson back. Even 5 1/2 months into the season he still looks out of shape, but he managed 27 points on 21 shots and didn’t turn the ball over in 39 minutes. We’ll have much more on the Magic later on Wednesday, and we want to keep this Pacers-heavy, but it was a welcome return, Jameer. If only for a night.
  • More from Dwyer: “On paper, with Van Gundy’s voice being treated as reverently as it should be, the Magic should have a chance at the conference finals, or even NBA Finals, all over again in 2012-13. That’s what overachieving is all about. Especially when you have Dwight Howard. But especially because they have Dwight Howard, Stan Van Gundy probably won’t be there next season.”
  • Orlando struggled to get to the free-throw line in the playoffs without Dwight. That is no surprise, given that Dwight accounted for 10.6 of the Magic’s 19.0 free-throw attempts per game during the regular season.
  • ESPN Stats & Information: “After losing the series opener, the Pacers dominated the series against the Orlando Magic. In the clinching game, they outscored Orlando 18-0 in fast-break opportunities and 46-22 in the paint. For the series, they held a 69-13 advantage in fast-break points and outscored the Magic by 76 points in the paint.”
  • for Orlando, a decision on Dwight’s future will be made sooner rather than later. The question is will Dwight commit long-term with the Magic or will he finally get traded? Stay tuned.
  • Adonal Foyle is on Orlando’s radar as a possible successor to Otis Smith as the team’s general manager.
  • With a win in Game 5 against the Magic, the Pacers completed the “gentleman’s sweep”.
  • Rob Mahoney of CourtVision suggests that people should not come to snap judgments with regards to Ryan Anderson’s offensive struggles in the postseason.
  • A look back at Orlando’s rollercoaster season.
  • The Magic earned a D+ for their effort against Indiana in Game 5, thereby getting eliminated in the first round for a second consecutive season.
  • David Aldridge of NBA.com: “Orlando will not have a repeat of this past season, however; Howard will be dealt in the offseason if the Magic determine he does not want to stay long-term. Several teams, most notably the Nets, want him.”
  • Hedo Turkoglu and pizza.

May 09

A vintage performance from Jameer Nelson

If the Orlando Magic had it their way, they would be in Orlando right now preparing for Game 6 of their first round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. The game would have been on Friday at Amway Center.

Instead, the Magic’s season is over, but not before they put up a valiant effort — as they did all series long — in their series-clinching loss to the Pacers in Game 5. For 40 minutes, Orlando fought tooth and nail on the road before Indiana’s talent and depth took over in the last eight minutes of the game. And leading the fight was the Magic’s captain and starting point guard — Jameer Nelson.

After scoring 10 points in the first half on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor (2-for-2 from three-point range), Nelson put together a vintage performance in the third quarter with Orlando staring down elimination. Showing off an aggressiveness and fearlessness offensively, Nelson picked apart the Pacers’ defense in pick-and-roll sets.

Nelson’s stat line in the third quarter: 15 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the floor (3-for-4 from three-point range) in 12 minutes. For the game, he had 27 points on 11-for-21 shooting from the floor (5-for-8 from three-point range), 5 assists, and 4 rebounds in roughly 39 minutes of playing time.

The scouting report on Nelson is simple. When he’s aggressive and efficient in pick-and-rolls and actively looking for his shot, he transforms into an All-Star caliber player and one of the best pick-and-roll point guards in the NBA. 2009 will forever serve as an example of Nelson at his very best.

That player showed up at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday.

In the third quarter, Nelson got himself going in pick-and-rolls and the Magic kept drawing from that well.

_______

On this possession, Orlando ran a 1/4 pick-and-roll with Nelson and Ryan Anderson that generated a three-pointer for Nelson through his own ingenuity and savvy.

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May 09

Recap: Indiana Pacers 105, Orlando Magic 87

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

BOX SCORE

Turbulent.

If I were given only one word to describe the Orlando Magic’s season, turbulent would be it. And in that turbulence, the Magic persevered.

First it was “The Indecision.” Next it was the Stan Van Gundy vs. Dwight Howard saga. Then it was Dwight’s season-ending back surgery. And lastly it was Orlando’s first round loss to the Indiana Pacers in the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Did I mention there was a lockout during the offseason?

Through it all, the Magic showed a mental toughness and fighting spirit not seen since their Finals run in 2009. The difference, of course, between the two teams is is that the 2012 team was nowhere nearly as talented as their 2009 counterpart. That reality revealed itself in Orlando’s first round playoff series.

Despite Van Gundy coaching a hell of a series and players like Glen Davis giving everything they had, it wasn’t enough. The Pacers were the better team and they made that point loud and clear in Game 5.

And in a season that’s made no sense for the Magic in every sense of the word, it makes all the sense in the world that the script of the second half of Game 5 was nothing like the scripts of Games 1-4.

Make sense?

For a half, it seemed like Game 5 was going to follow the pattern of the previous four games. Indiana jumped out to a big first quarter lead, leading by as many as 15 points in the period. Then the bench got Orlando back into the game midway through the second quarter, with the starters eventually taking the reins and continuing the push up until halftime.

That’s when Game 5 diverted from the script.

Led by the All-Star version of Jameer Nelson, the Magic finally outscored the Pacers in the third quarter (24-19) for the first time in the series.

With a 71-69 lead heading in the fourth quarter, it seemed like Orlando was in prime position to extend their season for at least one more game. But it was to no avail, as Indiana blew the game wide open, dominating on both ends of the floor and outscoring the Magic 36-16 in the period.

All the energy that Orlando spent in the third quarter trying to take the lead away from the Pacers came back to bite them in the fourth quarter. Van Gundy tried to bide the starting lineup some time at the onset of the final period, but Indiana’s second unit — led by Darren Collison — built up a lead quickly. Van Gundy was forced to rush the starters back onto the court, but it was too late. Guys like Davis (who couldn’t even reenter the game) and Nelson were gassed. In turn, Indiana took full advantage with their depth.

Like they had all series long, the Magic fought but it wasn’t enough.

Yes, Orlando lost the series and their season is over. However, in the eyes of Magic fans, the players and coaching staff should be seen as winners for handling such a tumultuous season (especially Davis, who had to deal with the death of his grandmother and biological father) with a high display of character. Well, everyone except for Dwight.

Now?

A franchise-defining offseason awaits for Orlando.

MVP (Most Valuable Player)

The game changed, and the series ended, with Collison’s outburst in the fourth quarter of Game 5. He scored 15 of his 19 points in the period, dealing a fatal blow to the Magic’s season.

Defining Moment

After Nelson made a layup in a 1/5 pick-and-roll with Davis to cut Orlando’s deficit to three points with the score at 83-80 and 7:48 left in the fourth quarter, the Pacers finished the game on a 22-7 run.

That Was … No Asterisk

Dwight’s presence would have changed the landscape of the series entirely (Vogel knows that more than anyone), but injuries happen. Indiana deserves credit for beating the team that was placed in front of them.

May 08

Preview: Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacers, Game 5

Essentials

  • Teams: Orlando Magic at Indiana Pacers
  • Date: May 8, 2012
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: NBA TV
  • Arena: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

Records

  • Magic: 37-29
  • Pacers: 42-24

Probable starters

Magic:

  • Jameer Nelson
  • Jason Richardson
  • Hedo Turkoglu
  • Ryan Anderson
  • Glen Davis

Pacers:

  • George Hill
  • Paul George
  • Danny Granger
  • David West
  • Roy Hibbert

Advanced stats

Magic:

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

Pacers:

  • Pace: 90.7 (19th of 30)
  • Offensive Rating: 106.7 (7th of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 103.1 (9th of 30)

Read about the Pacers

8 Points, 9 Seconds

May 08

Tuesday’s Magic Word

  • As Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinels tells it, “Eight teams in NBA history have recovered from 3-1 deficits.” Will the Orlando Magic become the ninth team?
  • What can the Magic do to beat the Indiana Pacers on the road in Game 5 to extend their first round playoff series at least one more game? Robbins breaks it down.
  • It’s been reported that the Charlotte Bobcats plan to interview assistant coach Patrick Ewing for their vacant head coaching position. The Bobcats just completed the worst regular season in NBA history, finishing with the lowest regular season winning percentage of all-time (.106). On the bright side, Charlotte is in line to win the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery and get a chance at selecting Anthony Davis with the first overall pick.
  • The Pacers have a chance to finish off Orlando in Game 5 and complete the “gentleman’s sweep.”
  • Matt Moore of CBSSports.com: “Orlando has done more with less than any other team in the playoffs. The Magic have fought, and defended, and hustled, and hit shots, and pushed Indiana. But they don’t have Dwight Howard. This will forever be the year of what-ifs for the franchise, one way or another, and Tuesday is one more chance for them to stand up and show what they’re made of.”
  • Ewing’s friendship with Bobcats owner Michael Jordan may pay dividends as he tries to secure his first head coaching position in the NBA. But Ewing isn’t alone on Charlotte’s wish list.
  • Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk expects Indiana to beat the Magic and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals: “Orlando plays hard, Stan Van Gundy knows how to coach. But in the end Indy has Roy Hibbert, David West and Danny Granger and talent wins out in this league. The Pacers will close this out.”
  • After crunching the numbers, Neil Paine of ESPN Insider concludes that Orlando has a 32 percent chance of winning Game 5 and staving off elimination in the first round of the playoffs for a second consecutive season.
  • If the Magic want any chance of coming back in their series against the Pacers, Ryan Anderson must step up according to Zach Lowe of The Point Forward: “[T]he Magic need Anderson to make this matchup something close to a wash. He’s just 10-of-31 from the floor so far, and the secondary skills he brings — offensive rebounds, two-point shots, the occasional free throws — have vanished in this series.”

May 07

Ryan Anderson wins NBA’s “Minutes Increased Per Game” Award

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

On Friday, Ryan Anderson became the fifth player for the Orlando Magic to win the Most Improved Player award in the franchise’s 23-year history (the other four players? Scott Skiles in 1991, Darrell Armstrong in 1999, Tracy McGrady in 2001, and Hedo Turkoglu in 2008).

Except there’s one problem. Anderson didn’t deserve to win the award.

That statement has nothing to do with Anderson’s struggles against the Indiana Pacers in the Magic’s first round playoff series, either. The Pacers have gameplanned against Anderson, almost always accounting for him while he’s roaming on the perimeter as well as using their collective length to disrupt him offensively (and using that length to limit his effectiveness on the offensive glass). Head coach Frank Vogel and Indiana’s coaching staff is well aware that, with Dwight Howard out, Anderson is Orlando’s best player and they have done everything in their power to contain him — something they’ve done successfully in the first four games of the series so far.

That speaks to the level of respect that coaches and players around the NBA have for Anderson. It says something about the voting contingent, too, that they voted for him as the league’s Most Improved Player.

Anderson is a very good player. The problem is that it seems like people are just realizing Anderson is a very good player, perhaps because the Magic have been on national TV quite a bit this season, Anderson himself participated in the 2012 NBA Three-Point Shootout during All-Star Weekend in Orlando, and he’s taken on a more prominent role as a starter. In other words, Anderson’s national profile has grown over time, which certainly helps in being considered for a major NBA award as more of the media is aware of who he is.

The reality is that Anderson has been a very good player, not just this season but last season as well.

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