Tag:Jameer Nelson
Posted on: December 10, 2010 10:11 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 9:27 pm
 

NBA Quarterly MVP: Magic center Dwight Howard

No other NBA player has been more dominant and inspiring through the first 20 games of the season than Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. Posted by Ben Golliverdwight-howard


The NBA MVP is one of the most disputed titles in sports because there's a strange fixation on the candidate's "story." A Player can win an MVP because NBA writers feel he represents a specific era, because he deserves a lifetime achievement award, because his team's success deserves to be recognized on an individual level, or even because other worthy candidates have either won too many times and/or have egos that are too inflated.  Statistical output and winning are mandatory, of course, but there's never a shortage of candidates with the numbers and W's to make a case. What usually winds up separating the cream from the crop is "story": what's new, what's hip, what's been overlooked for too long, or what will be remembered 20 years from now. Through 20 games, one player has already demonstrated a story more tantalizing than any other: Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.  Howard has been a fixture atop the NBA's leaderboards and has gone deep in the NBA playoffs for years now, racking up all the numbers and accolades you expect from an overall No. 1 pick. But this year he has done something much more rare from someone with his star power: He has made the leap, cashing in on the vast potential that he has displayed since he made the prep-to-pro leap, becoming a dominant all-around force unlike any the NBA has seen in years. His numbers this year are as impressive as always, a more comprehensive resume than anyone else in the NBA. Howard is averaging 21.9 points per game (14th in the NBA), 12.3 rebounds per game (3rd in the NBA), 58.5% shooting (5th in the NBA), 2.45 blocks per game (3rd in the NBA) and he's registered 15 double-doubles (4th in the NBA). His advanced stats are, arguably, even more impressive. Howard currently is No. 2 in the league in player efficiency, No. 4 in rebound rate, No. 8 in value added, No. 7 in expected wins and No. 22 in usage. If all that is gibberish to you, just know this: his comically large boxscore numbers aren't a mirage, and they represent the kind of contributions that, statistical analysts agree, go hand in hand with winning. In that vein, Howard, with next to no fanfare, has carried his Magic team to the top of the Southeast Division and the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. The Magic, at 15-7, still sit atop the far more heralded Miami Heat, despite a three-game losing streak this week. How has he done it? By acting as the centerpiece of the No. 3 rated defense in the league and the No. 2 rebounding team in the league. Again, the numbers are monstrous and they have led directly to wins.  But Howard's statistical brilliance and Orlando's team success aren't a story, as both player and team have been commonplace for the last two or three seasons. The MVP story, then, is Howard accomplishing what we collectively hope for from our superstars. Put simply, Howard is a top flight talent who has committed to reaching his vast potential, to scraping his ceiling as an athlete and as a basketball player, and he had done it right before our eyes in the season's first 20 games. At 25, Howard has become the most imposing big man since Shaquille O'Neal in his prime and, even more impressively, he's demonstrated the widest variety of low-block moves since Hakeem Olajuwon. In Portland on Friday, Howard played the single best offensive quarter in the NBA this season, better even than LeBron James' third quarter homecoming explosion against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Against quality defenders in Marcus Camby, Joel Przybilla and LaMarcus Aldridge, Howard simply couldn't be stopped, and often left his man waving at air. The final damage: 18 points on 7-9 shooting plus 4-4 from the free throw line. His teammates managed to chip in four points, and he personally outscored the Blazers by four points. It wasn't just the volume, but the diversity. On Friday alone, he showed off a lefty hook, a sweeping righty hook, a turnaround, a face-up mid-range jumper, a kiss off the glass, a number of pump fakes made even prettier by excellent and improved footwork and, of course, dunks that made the entire basket support shake to the point collapse seemed imminent. Those 12 minutes were enough to turn the Rose Garden crowd into 20,000 Bill Waltons, oohing and aahing and waxing philosophical about what it means for a big man to be that fast, that good, that consistently breathtaking. He finished the night with a season-high 39 points. "It's going to be games like that when he has it rolling," Magic point guard Jameer Nelson said afterwards, without a trace of awe because that level of excellence has become routine. "If he gets played one on one, he is who he is, he's going to dominate that guy. That's why he's Dwight Howard. That's why he gets double-teamed so much, because no one can guard him one-on-one." This new smoothness and confidence wasn't there last year, and it's a terrifying development for the rest of the NBA given that Howard hasn't sacrificed any of his old ferocity and his physique is as massive as ever. Howard clearly committed serious time to improving his game over the summer, and it's paid rapid dividends. The result is an efficient, more in-control, increasingly unpredictable Howard, a vast improvement from the rigid, bulldozer Howard that we saw as recently as last season. Through a quarter of the season, players have been as game-changing defensively (Boston's Rajon Rondo), as efficient (New Orleans' Chris Paul) as productive offensively (Dallas's Dirk Nowitzki) and as athletically overpowering (James). But none of those guys, nor anyone else, has a story to match Howard's. None of those guys have drastically transformed their games, adding a major layer of greatness on top of a superstar base.  In a league where potential goes unfulfilled 90% of the time, and great players so often become good once they've been rewarded financially, Howard stands as this season's most obvious exception. He's getting better, seemingly by the day, and, through 20 games, he has played like the best player in the NBA. For more quarterly NBA coverage, CBSSports.com has you covered.
Posted on: December 10, 2010 11:25 am
Edited on: December 10, 2010 11:52 am
 

The Game Changer: Orlando missing some magic

Posted by Royce Young

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.

THE BIG ONE: DWIGHT NEEDS HELP

The Blazers locked down on the Magic, winning a defensive scrum 97-83, with the Magic scoring just 34 second half points. It's probably the best win (and most needed) win for Portland and a loss for Orlando that showcased a few issues.

Two main points that were highlighted really well in this game:

1) The Blazers can defend with the best of them. I think one of the most beautiful things to watch is Portland playing at home with a late lead. It's like watching the Pittsburgh Steelers milk a lead. The Blazers run the ball, take each possession seriously, but aren't afraid to punt. Portland is so ridiculously disciplined and every player understands the importance of never giving ground and never letting their man beat them.

One possession sticks out to me. The Magic had the ball on the left wing, with Jameer Nelson trying to feed Rashard Lewis in the post with the smaller Wesley Matthews guarding. Matthews of course is giving around five inches on Lewis. But not only could Nelson not get a clear entry look at Lewis, Matthews also had Lewis pushed all the way out near the 3-point line. There's just this, "I'm not going to let you score on me" mentality there.

2) The Magic need another scorer badly.
Not to take anything away from the Blazers' defensive discipline and keep in mind most of the Magic roster is still battling a bit of the flu, but all of this was really aided by the fact the Magic can turn into a painfully one-dimensional team. The Blazers made a lot of that happen by taking away the drive and kick and forcing Orlando to work 20 seconds on the offensive end.

Portland was content letting Howard do his work in the post, rarely sending a double to help. Howard played really, really well but it's clear he's not the early decade Shaq. Early Decade Shaq would've had 50 in a game like this. His team could've just fed the post every time and relied on him to score. Howard doesn't have that ability. But then again, we're talking about Shaq, one of the three best centers ever.

Howard scored 26 points in the first half and finished with a season-high 39, but finished the game 2-8 from the field. Again, Portland let Howard do his work early and that led to a big Magic lead, but later in the game when things tightened up, Orlando just didn't have a clear option. The Magic went almost seven minutes in the fourth quarter without a field goal.

And the thing is, Orlando was determined to get the ball into Howard and his new and improved post game. But that meant they bypassed their bread and butter pick and roll. Again, Howard's not a consistent post scorer (yet). So there has to be an option for him to kick out to when things get shut down. Orlando can get away with this stuff against mediocre defenses, but against a group like the Blazers, everything gets exposed.

So again, it comes back to the help Howard needs. Vince Carter, Nelson, J.J. Redick -- someone -- had to step up and be able to score 10 fourth quarter points. 2008 Hedo Turkoglu was that guy for Orlando. Instead, the Magic suffered as their possessions were strung out, most of the time ending up with a long, contested jumper or a forced shot in the post. The next high scorer beside Howard was Lewis with 11. I think that says things well.

Is Gilbert Arenas the answer? Maybe. But at one point the TNT crew had Magic general manager Otis Smith standing, watching his unit toil away with yet another empty possession. And Smith had to be thinking about getting Howard some help. Clearly the team is an upper tier squad. They'll win 50 games in their sleep. But to win a title, they need help. It's going to be a risk, but it might be worth it for the potential reward.

GO-GO-GADGET LINES

Dwight Howard gets the gold star for the night with a season-high 39 points on 13-20 shooting, but more impressive was his 13-18 effort from the free throw line. Oh, and of course he added 15 rebounds and three blocks.

Runner-up: Rajon Rondo had another Rondo night with 19 points and 14 assists.

J.J. Barea gets a mention with 13 assists in just 27 minutes.

DRAWING UP A WIN FOR BOSTON

The Celtics and 76ers traded go-ahead buckets with under a minute left in really one of the most fun games of the season so far. And with the Sixers leading 101-100 with 6.6 seconds left, Boston called its last timeout and Doc Rivers went to drawing up a play.

I think everyone assumed it would be an isolation for Paul Pierce where he gets to the elbow for a game-winner. Instead, Pierce was decoyed in a faux pick and pop, while Rondo dished to Kevin Garnett for a game-winning layup.



After watching the play about 15 times, I still can't decide if that was just Rondo audibling out of the original play or if that was the way Rivers drew it up.

But the key is how Garnett shows a screen as Pierce comes for another on the other side. The Sixers likely anticipate the ball going to Pierce so Jrue Holliday switches to Garnett immediately. Rondo sees the mis-match and lobs the ball beautifully to Garnett for the winner. A lot of it was a nice design, some was poor decisions by Thaddeus Young and Holliday, but most of it was a great play by Rondo. 

THIS ONE GOES TO 11

The Mavericks took their winning streak to 11 games with a 102-89 take-care-of-business style home win over the Nets. Really, it was about as formulaic a game as you'd expect between an 18-4 team and a 6-17 team.

The Mavs led 30-19 after one and really just kind of played like a bully keeping the smaller kid at arms length. The Nets would edge back in the game and then Dirk Nowitzki would hit a jumper. Or Jason Kidd would hit a 3. Or the Nets would go five minutes without a field goal.

What's so impressive about the Mavs right now is that it almost seems easy. Dirk led them with 21, but it was on 8-10 shooting. After that, it was Shawn Marion with 18 off the bench, Jason Terry and Caron Butler with 15 apiece and then everyone else was in single-digits. But all 10 plays that played scored.

PARTING THOUGHT

On the wrong end of Garnett's game-winner though was a dejected, heartbroken Sixers team that really fought hard in a losing effort. Philly coach Doug Collins after the loss: "It's like a kick in the gut." The Sixers are now 1-11 in games decided by less than 10 points.
Posted on: November 23, 2010 9:26 am
 

Game Changer 11.23.10: Spurs and ammo

Spurs and Magic have a classic, the Pacers show they're decent in dismantling a mediocre Miami team, and the Celtics take the Hawks to the shed in today's Game Changer.
Posted by Matt Moore


Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  


THE BIG ONE: Spurs have one more round than Magic in shootout


San Antonio 106 Orlando 97 .

That's the final score but it doesn't even come close to descrbing A. how great this game was or B. how close this game was. It was a back and forth affair for the entire game, as neither team could shake the other one. Just as one team would seem to be pulling away, the other would respond with a flurry of offense. San Antonio would bruise their way to a lead, only to find the Magic creating turnovers, sparking the break, and dropping in three-pointers in transition. The Magic would burst their way into a lead only to find the Spurs settle down, get a bucket, then a stop, then Manu Ginobili Ginobili'ing his way with a knife to their heart. In the end, the Spurs had a few more bullets left in the gun and the Magic were unable to find an answer for Manu.

Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili combined to shoot 23 of 42, for 64 points, 13 rebounds, 21 assists, 5 steals, and 2 blocks. Guess Boston and Miami aren't the only ones with Big 3s. The efficiency with which the Spurs attacked was ruthless. In the third, Tony Parker got up to full speed and was using those wide curving pick and rolls to find Duncan, while Ginobili was using the deep wing picks for that step-back jumper he's gotten to like so much. It was a clinic in execution, and the Magic weren't far behind, with Dwight Howard forcing the issue and the Magic backcourt raining 3s. Combined the two teams hit 21 threes on 37 attempts which is just ridiculous. Matt Bonner came through with 4 big ones (4-4 from the arc) while Mikael Pietrus kept breaking up Spurs runs on his way to a 3-5 run from the perimeter.

Sharp defense, tough shots, fun basketball, a close game. This one was a beauty.

WHAT YOU MISSED: The Heat suck.


I torched the Heat for their lack of effort, cohesion, and heart.

Ken Berger spoke with Delonte West in a must-read interview about his experiences with bipolar disorder .


DEAD BEFORE THE SHIP EVEN SANK

Last night's Celtics-Hawks game was not a game. It was a mercy killing, only without the mercy. The Celtics owned the Hawks 39-13 in the first quarter, and it didn't feel that close. Boston simply could not miss. Sharp passes, smart playsets, intensity at both ends of the floor, attacking rebounds, and Nate Robinson doing his best Rondo Baron Davis when he was good impression, throw in the Hawks looking like they wanted to be anywhere but on the floor and Al Horford being physically dominated by Boston's size and you've got a recipe for Von Wafer to get a fair amount of time by the end of this one.

It was stunning, considering the Hawks swept the Celtics last year. But call it motivation over last year's flukes, or the Celtics' last fluke against the Raptors, or just the impact of a healthy Kevin Garnett, but this one was over with before the t-shirt guns had even been loaded. The Hawks continue to perplex as they look genuinely good and improved at times, and like roadkill in others.

Kevin Garnett looks not only like he's healthy, but like he's healthy like when he was 31. That's terrifying for the rest of the league.

YOUR DAILY "QUAKE" GRIFFIN NIGHTMARE DUNK:




GO-GO-GADGET LINE OF THE NIGHT:


Carmelo Anthony:
39 points (17-17 from the line), 9 rebound, 5 assists

Runner-Up:


Manu Ginobili: 25 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists

FINAL THOUGHTS:


The Hornets are 11-2. Which is great. But the last few games have shown some of their cracks in the foundation. Relying on Jason Smith to be a significant bench contributor isn't going to get it done. Neither is hoping Emeka Okafor stays as an offensive force. The bigger concern may be that Chris Paul has started looking flat-out tired at the ends of games. Him missing the game-tying assist to David West was nothing more than one of those that happens, but in general he looked lethargic down the stretch. Some concerns for the Hornets do exist, even at 11-2.

Last night's game perfectly illustrates why Boston fans get so frustrated with their team. They look so awesome when they consistently try.

The story from Indiana-Miami was the Heat playing terribly but the Pacers deserve a world of credit for getting Danny Granger going, and Brandon Rush took it to Dwyane Wade, which, injured or not, isn't an easy thing to do. The Pacers look like a solid playoff contender.

People will tell you that the Oklahoma City-Minnesota game was closer than the final score appears. And it's true the Wolves lead down the stretch. So maybe I'm just exhibiting confirmation bias when I tell you that I never had a doubt the Thunder would win that game. The Wolves have no idea how to execute in clutch situations most times, and Michael Beasley still does a lot of Michael Beasley-type things.

Houston loses. Again.


Follow F&R on Twitter at @CBSSportsNBA and check out our RSS feed . This has been your daily edition of the Game Changer.



Posted on: November 11, 2010 12:51 am
 

Jazz: Giant killers or smoke and mirrors?

Do wins over the Heat and Magic on a back-to-back road trip make the Jazz giant killers or simply masters of parlor tricks they can't rely on? Survey says: Jazz fans don't care. Posted by Matt Moore

Jazz Giant Killer's Or Lucky Strikes?

You'd think that knocking off two of the best teams in the East, championship contenders both, on back to back nights, on the road, would clear up the angle of who the Jazz are. You'd think that surviving a LeBron James triple-double, a 39 point outburst from Dwyane Wade, and a 20 point night from Vince Carter would give the Jazz an air of invincibility.

But it wouldn't be the Jazz if the didn't leave just the slightest hint of doubt in the minds of neutral observers, enough to plant seeds of skeptical criticism and enabling Jazz fans to rally behind their team as the underrated superstars once again. Meet the New Jazz. Kind of like the Old Jazz. Only kind of better, so far.

The disturbing signs about the Jazz are based on probablities. Losing to the Magic in a close one would have actually seemingly cemented the win over Miami as legitimate, because it wouldn't be seen as a fluke. Instead, the Jazz now have back-to-back road victories on a back-to-back against two of the top 3 teams in the East (common sense, not record-wise). And that just seems improbable. It seems improbable that they survived James' triple-double and Wade's outpouring, that they managed to get Dwight Howard in foul trouble and still overcome Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson having it going. Mostly it seems improbable that they could do all of this after going down by 15+ in each of the two games.

So the question is there.

Is this for real?

The Jazz started off remarkably slow this season, with losses to Denver and Phoenix. But a big Halloween night win over the Thunder seemed to spur them into a wakeup call, and since then they've only lost once in November, and that was to a Golden State team that no longer is an unforgiveable loss. But no one could have seen this coming. Well, except Jerry Sloan. Sloan was his usual self after the game, unmoved by his team's performance. Happy with the win, sure, but he's been around the block too many times to get too worked up, though he made time to praise his point guard. As he should; Deron Williams was simply phenomenal.

Stan Van Gundy called the loss "disturbing" and he should refer to it that way. Not just for the Magic who saw Dwight Howard turn into Clark Kent getting pummeled by the suddenly superhuman Paul Millsap, but for the rest of the league and those that try and make sense of it. Are the Jazz this good? Was this just a fluke, again? Does Utah have something special going on here even in November, or was this just an anomaly on their way to where most predict them, a mid-level playoff seed and a second round exit at the hands of the Lakers again?

Playing from a deficit makes for great blog fodder and warms the hearts of fans, but it's also not a sustainable strategy. Eventually you'll dig a hole you can't climb out of, and when that happens, you'll find yourself regretting you need the shovel at all. But at the same time, the energy, enthusiasm, and burgeoning chemistry can't be denied on a team that managed to make the Magic look meek and the Heat seem sub-zero in the fourth quarters of both games. And so we'll continue to wonder if the Jazz are giant killers or just mosquitoes that managed to catch the goliaths napping long enough to draw blood.

After all, there were plenty of people saying the victory over the Heat Tuesday night was a fluke based on the perimeter prowess of Paul Millsap. Those same people will question how reliable it is to depend on the Magic to surrender 21 turnovers. In both games against the Sunshine Behemoths the Jazz were out-rebounded and faced significant deficits in field goal percentage. And in both games they seemed to go on a near-psychotic rush to pull the game back within reach. Those same people will question if this is a reliable strategy. But at the end of the day it was reliable enough to net them wins over two teams that aren't going to have too many losses come April.

And consider this: the Jazz are still integrating new players, too, and with the rest of their division looking weak early on, the Jazz are giving themselves an opportunity to do something big by winning games they're not supposed to.

But then, that's why we play them, isn't it?
Posted on: October 29, 2010 12:32 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 8:14 pm
 

Grading Wizards guard John Wall's NBA debut

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall made his NBA debut on Thursday. How did Wall do and how did it compare to the debuts of other elite point guards? Posted by Ben Golliverjohn-wall

The Great Wall of China wasn’t built in a day, and neither was John Wall’s NBA Hall of Fame résumé.

Wall,  the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, made his NBA debut for the Washington Wizards on Thursday night, going head-to-head with one of the league’s perennial powers, the Orlando Magic. It wasn’t a pretty sight for the Wizards: a 112-83 defeat that, remarkably, was even more thorough than the score suggests.

Wall’s debut was a clunker – he struggled mightily with his jump shot, finishing just 6-19 from the field – but it wasn’t all bad. 

“He’s quick, he’s fearless, he seems like a floor general out there controlling the team, and that’s a good start,” Orlando Magic guard Vince Carter told TNT’s Craig Sager at halftime. A good start was about the best Wall could hope for, debuting against one of the league’s least forgiving defenses. 

Despite the blowout loss, there were both promising signs and areas for improvement. Let’s break down John Wall's NBA debut and grade it out.

Playing Time:  A-

Wall played 35 minutes tonight, including the entire first and third quarters. He committed just three fouls and pushed the pace whenever possible, so he aced two early tests for rookie point guards: avoiding unnecessarily dumb mistakes while playing defense and being properly conditioned to play heavy minutes against big, physical defenders.

Running The Offense: B-

Wall possesses a number of abilities that make him an ideal NBA point guard on the offensive side of the court. He has the off-the-dribble quickness and passing ability to be lethal in the high screen and roll. He locates his passes very well. His mentality is a solid hybrid between attacking and pass-first, so he is able to generate points for himself and open looks for his teammates simultaneously.

Tonight, the Orlando Magic dared him to shoot the pull-up jumper, and he couldn’t resist, nor could he knock it down consistently. None of his attempts were truly ill-advised, but many were far too passive. Wall will learn, and learn quickly, that just because a team gives him a good shot doesn’t mean he can’t generate a better one.

The passivity spread to his teammates too, and while he hit Washington’s perimeter shooters on the money time after time, they simply couldn’t knock down shots. The Wizards managed just 15 points in the entire first quarter and shot just 21.1% from 3-point range on the night.

The open shots that the Wizards did knock down, though, were almost all created by Wall. He found fellow guard Kirk Hinrich for multiple 3-pointers and set up both Cartier Martin and Andray Blatche for jumpers. Wall finished with nine assists; his teammates potentially left another nine on the table.

In the future, Wizards coach Flip Saunders will want Wall to increase his assertiveness, especially from the perimeter in the team’s halfcourt sets, to increase his team’s overall energy. Wall avoids a lower grade in this category because of the strength of the competition. Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard limits any attacking point guard’s ability to break down the interior of a defense, and Howard swatted Wall on multiple occasions Thursday night.

Scoring/Finishing: C

Given how often he touches the ball and his immense ability in the open court, Wall should have no trouble averaging 15+ points per game immediately. Tonight, he struggled hitting the open shot, finishing at the rim and he wasn’t able to get to the free throw line as frequently as star players in the NBA usually do. His point total reflected those struggles.

Howard’s ability to contest layups and runners played a big part, and when Wall was able to get free in transition his finishing was markedly better. In one instance, he shook Chris Duhon so hard with a head fake near the rim that Duhon wasn’t even able to gather himself to jump as Wall completed the uncontested layup. Whenever Wall was able to push the tempo, even in semi-transition against a set Orlando defense, the head start opened better creases for him to get to the rim. Washington will learn that the tempo will never be too fast with the ball in his hands: more good things will happen than bad.

Play making/Passing: B

Wall made far, far more good reads than bad reads, and his three turnovers came on the rare occasions he tried to make something out of nothing. As mentioned, his teammates did him no favors with their cold shooting. Wall was a bit tentative with his passing, preferring to hit the safe, open man rather than thread the needle. Elite NBA point guards are able to do both, and Wall didn’t show that ability on day one like he did last season at the University of Kentucky.

His best plays, both going to the basket and setting up teammates, came in transition. His first NBA basket came when Howard goaltended his coast-to-coast layup attempt, and he drew multiple fouls on Magic defenders that were trying to slow him down.

One promising playmaking flash came when Wall crossed over at the top of the key, losing his defender completely and hitting a wide open passing lane to Hilton Armstrong, who was cutting to the hoop. The Magic were forced to foul Armstrong to prevent the bucket.

On-Ball Defense: B

Wall competes very hard on the ball and his long arms caused some problems for Magic point guard Jameer Nelson. Wall was able to cleanly pick off one entry pass and he harassed Nelson into a few other bad decisions.

He gets docked points here because Magic guard Quentin Richardson was able to exploit his size advantage twice, taking Wall into the post when the two were cross-matched, getting one basket and forcing Wall to foul the second time. Wall also had a poor close out on Carter, who was able to blow by him to the basket, drawing a late slap foul for an and-one.

Team Defense: Incomplete

The Wizards didn’t play much team defense tonight, so it’s really hard to assess this properly. The Magic picked them apart with ease, shooting 55.8% as a team on the evening. Wall made the appropriate rotations, when it came to that, but was often a non-factor on the weakside as his teammates watched open Magic shooters drain from everywhere.

Rebounding: C

Wall was a non-factor on both the offensive and defensive glass, which should come as no surprise because his team was out-rebounded, 53-25. You can’t really blame a point guard for those numbers, but Wall may need to expend more energy crashing the glass as the season wears on, if his team’s bigs plan on disappearing so completely on a regular basis.

The one rebound Wall did grab was quite nice, as he immediately pushed the pace in transition, setting up Armstrong in the paint. Unfortunately, Armstrong was whistled for a player control foul.

Turnovers: A-

All three of Wall’s turnovers came in the few moments he looked like he was rushing. Two came on jump passes, and another came on the final possession of the first quarter, when he looked for a dribble drive and dish that simply wasn’t there.  Considering the quality of the Magic defense, how many touches Wall had tonight and his past problems with turnovers, like at this year’s Summer League, there’s no shame at all in committing three turnovers.

Overall: B-

It’s hard to give Wall anything better than a B- for his NBA debut, given that his team was blown out. With that said, it’s equally difficult to be hard on him given the circumstances. Wall managed to play calm, intelligent and, at times, exhilarating basketball in a showcase game on TNT against an elite defense. That’s a positive first step, despite the ugly shooting and stretches of hesitant play.

Wall finished with 14 points, one rebound, nine assists, three steals and three turnovers in 35 minutes during his NBA debut. Here’s a look at how that line compares to the NBA debuts of other elite point guards.

john-wall-table All numbers courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.
Posted on: October 15, 2010 12:16 am
Edited on: August 14, 2011 7:50 pm
 

Stan Van Gundy apologizes to Magic fans

Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy personally apologized to Magic fans for benching his starters. Posted by Ben Golliver
There's a good reason most NBA head coaches are stubborn: indecision can be easily misread as weakness in a competitive field like professional sports. Once you start waffling as a coach, whether it's about strategy, rotations or lineups, players, media and fans alike take it upon themselves to start questioning every last decision or non-decision you make during the course of a game. This fishbowl atmosphere is what makes Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy's comments after tonight's preseason game between the Magic and the Charlotte Bobcats so unexpected, and refreshing. Van Gundy decided to start five bench players in front of the home crowd in Orlando's Amway Arena. The Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz writes that Marcin Gortat, J.J. Redick, Chris Duhon, Ryan Anderson and Mickael Pietrus started over first-stringers like Dwight Howard, Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis and Quentin Richardson.  It's fairly common to rest starters during the preseason, but not all at the same time, of course. Given the risk of injury and the meaningless nature of the exhibition, surely most Magic fans would understand the decision, even if they left disappointed. But that didn't stop Van Gundy from calling Schmitz after the game to pass on his personal apology to Orlando fans for his decision.
"It's been bugging me," he said. "I want to say I'm sorry and I was wrong. I thought I reasoned it through, but I can't justify it. If it was the first game that somebody came out to see, you bring your kids … I'd be upset, too. "I won't do it again." Van Gundy pledged to never bench his entire starting group at home again in the preseason.

Kudos to you, Stan Van Gundy, for seeing the error of your ways and for reaching out to the fans in such a direct and personal manner. But be forewarned. You just set a dangerous precedent.
Posted on: September 27, 2010 1:24 am
Edited on: September 27, 2010 1:24 am
 

Preseason Primer: Magic

Posted by Royce Young

The team holding training camp at a military base a couple hundred miles north will hog the attention in Florida this year, but still, the Orlando Magic have a roster built to compete for the Eastern title. The team returns almost entirely intact and welcomes in just a couple of role-playing faces. Dwight Howard enters his seventh year as a pro and is looking to push his team over the hump. The Magic's window might be closing with some of their player's aging, but coming in, they look primed to be in the middle of it all in the East.

Training camp site:
Orlando, FL

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Quentin Richardson (free agent), Chris Duhon (free agent), Daniel Orton (draft)

Key subtractions: Matt Barnes (free agent)

Likely starting lineup: Jameer Nelson, PG; Vince Carter, SG; Mickael Pietrus, SF; Rashard Lewis, PF; Dwight Howard, C

Player to watch: The easy answer here is Dwight Howard. Around him, all things function in Orlando. But the guy to keep an eye on is Vince Carter. He had somewhat of a down season last year, but he's coming into this camp kicking off a contract year. So the thinking would be that he'll be more focused, in better shape and as prepared as ever. J.J. Redick could potentially push him a bit for his starting spot so Carter has got to be ready to hit the ground running.

Chemistry quiz: The Magic will be answering one common question during training camp and really during the entire season - What do you think about the Heat? Stan Van Gundy isn't someone to mince words, nor is Howard. Not that it'll cause a rift among the actual team, but it's certainly possible - nay, probable - that someone says something that catches some attention and headlines. Maybe Orlando wants the focus, maybe they want to provide some bulletin board material. But there's no doubt that some off-court stuff will definitely jump into the picture during camp.

Camp battles: As mentioned, it's possible that Redick could push Carter. Van Gundy is a coach that likes defense and Redick has come a long way on that end. He can shoot, which is something the Magic like. And now he's playing hard and defending. Carter obviously still is a great athlete that can explode any night, but if there's any sign he's dogging it, Van Gundy may decide to go with the young guy.

Another position to keep an eye on is power forward. Brandon Bass has been pretty vocal about wanting more playing time. But still, Ryan Anderson figures to be in front of him on the depth chart. Not only could that be a chemistry issue, but it'll definitely be a camp battle to watch.

Biggest strength: Everything hinges around Howard. The drive and kick is Orlando's bread and butter and it's there because of the rock anchoring the inside. The Magic don't really have a hole to fill as long as everyone is clicking and working together. The bench is solid, the starting five is quality and there's a star that can handle the spotlight.

Glaring weakness: One dimensionality. I think I just made that word up, but Orlando can become one dimensional in a hurry. And they can do it in a variety of ways. What I mean is that the issue varies from game to game. Sometimes, they commit far too much to pounding Howard down low to the point of forcing it. Other times, they shoot too many 3s too early in the shot clock. The Magic have an identity: They want to use Howard for attention and let their athletic guards drive and create open outside looks. And then defend on the other end. But sometimes, they sure don't execute it. When they do, they're as good as anyone. When they don't, they equally as beatable.
Posted on: July 28, 2010 9:07 am
 

Orlando locked and loaded for future

Posted by Matt Moore

The Orlando Magic are a force in the NBA. Despite making the Finals in 2009, and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010, there are still those who dont' fully realize how good this Magic team has been. Much of this is on account of their style of play, which focuses on their three point shooting as part of their "1-in-4-out" strategy. The Magic set a record last season for made three pointers. They believe that this perimeter attack, when combined with Dwight Howard's physical play and their elite-level defense is a recipe for a championship.

So much so that they've locked into the approach for three more years.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Magic have agreed to three-year extensions with both Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith. The extensions are part of a wider range of moves that look to reformulate the structure of the front office with several executives being promoted and/or changing titles. Van Gundy's contract was set to expire at the end of this season. SVG has faced criticism from just about everyone, from Dwight Howard to Shaquille O'Neal to Michael Wilbon for his coaching style, which generally involves a lot of yelling. Teaching, to be sure. But a lot of yelling. And then screaming, and then more yelling. But despite all the criticism, and what I can only assume are a lot of throat lozenges, Van Gundy is effective. And that's what matters to Orlando ownership.

Meanwhile, as Magic blog Orlando Pinstriped Post points out , the Magic are primed for their best three-point shooting season yet. Of the nine players currently on roster with the Magic who do not play center, 8 of them had a three point shooting percentage above the league average last season. Their top four backcourt players (Nelson, Carter, Redick, Duhon) shot better than 37%. The Magic replaced two of their worst three-point shooters (Jason Williams and Matt Barnes) with two solid-to-great three point shooters in Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon. The Magic are primed to hit from the perimeter like never before.

And they've got their abrasive general back as well.
 
 
 
 
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