Sunday, December 8, 2013
Click here for the video link. I joined in on a Google Hangout podcast with Orlando Magic Daily's own Philip Rossman-Reich and The Magic Wire's Colby Huggins to chat about Jacque Vaughn, Maurice Harkless, Arron Afflalo and more. Thanks to Phil for hosting the chat and looking forward to doing more of these blogosphere collaborations in the future. Hopefully the Magic will be playing better by then.
Saturday, December 7, 2013
Yeah, I'm a week late. This hasn't been an inspiring road trip.
11/1/13 - New Orleans Pelicans
Jacque Vaughn on an aggressive Harkless: "We want all our guys to be aggressive and I think overall his focus at the beginning of the game from the tip, from warm-ups, from his concentration in film. I think overall he was ready to play tonight and it showed. That's the mindset and the attitude that every player has to have each night.
Arron Afflalo: "To protect our home court is a big emphasis this year. Furthermore, we lost a tough game the last game; personally I had a horrible defensive mistake at the end of it. So to come out tonight and perform well as a team in front of our home court was really good."
Kyle O'Quinn: "Being early in the year two wins really doesn't define a team. We have to go out there and stand for something. Get in front of the fans, home fans and just protecting something. Protect the home court. I think that was the fuel tonight, the energy in the gym, all the 25th anniversary stuff. We just need that to carry on for the rest of the season."
Pelicans guard Eric Gordon: "It was tough. They just worked hard. They out-worked us and were knocking down shots. We just could never get into the flow throughout the game. There was no rhythm."
11/3/13 - Brooklyn Nets
Not yet fired Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd on Oladipo: "He's a talented rookie. He's everything that he's been built up to be, and his future is very bright."
Arron Afflalo: "The big part of having freedom offensively and having the offense ran through you a lot is to be a willing passer. The more I score, the more attention from the opposing team you'll get on certain nights, especially when you're playing well or you came off a pretty good game. Last year I found myself forcing the issue a little. This year my goal is to be efficient, pick my spots and use my teammates to elevate my games."
Jacque on Magic's improved 3-point shooting: "I think our guys have worked on their shots, I think we are doing things differently. I said before, I'll treat each year differently. Last year's team needed the offense that we had; this year's team needs this offense that we have. It's up to me to put our guys in position to succeed. The guys have put the work in, they're sharing the basketball, and I think our looks are a little more open."
Brooklyn Center Brook Lopez: "I think they played with more energy. They out-played us. They got to the 50-50 balls. We are definitely better than this team but we didn't show it tonight...it didn't look like it. They played well and you have to give them some credit."
11/6/13 - Los Angeles Clippers
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers: "I thought they dictated the pace tonight. I thought they dictated the physicality. I thought they were far more physical than us most of the night, and I thought they deserved to win the game, I really did."
Clippers guard Chris Paul: "I think a lot of credit goes to them. They executed on us. They made us guard and once again our defense failed us. At the end of the game we didn't get stops when we needed to. They made a lot of tough jump shots. The guards need to do a better job helping out our big men with all the rolls and the lay-ups. We have to execute too and we should have won that game."
CP3 on Oladipo: "Those guys play hard. Vic plays really hard and he is going to be really good. They have a lot of really good bigs, so with Jacque they are always going to play hard and execute."
Former Magic fan favorite and current Clippers guard JJ Redick: "I am very excited to be in L.A. and playing for Doc and with this group. I was very fortunate with how things worked out during free agency. It is always good to be home in Orlando. I love the fans here. I love the guys in the other locker room. I wanted to beat them tonight but just couldn't get it done."
Redick on Oladipo: "He is an energy guy. Right now he plays with a lot of energy and he plays in attack mode. His skill set is clearly developing but it is there. He will be a fantastic player."
Clippers big Blake Griffin on Oladipo: "He is tough. He plays hard. That is all you can ask for. Rookies come in and hit the ground running but when they play hard they kind of make up for their mistakes. He is going to be good. He will keep learning."
Coach Vaughn on Vucevic: "He was extremely determined from the first play of the game. His aggressiveness on both ends of the floor, I love it. He looked over at me and wanted me to call his number. That's a first in our time together and so it's great to see and great to be a part of. Just seeing his growth overall of looking forward to playing the game of basketball, competing every night, I love it."
Jacque on E'Twaun: He's a gamer for one. He loves playing the game of basketball and he loves competing. That gives him a good chance when he steps out on the floor. He's not afraid of the moment either. I don't know if it's his background and the fact that he's not afraid of the moment. Two big 3s by him tonight. We put him on Jamal Crawford, one of their better 1-on-1 players. Hopefully it shows the confidence that I have in him."
11/8/13 - Boston Celtics
Jacque on Arron's late 4th quarter shot: "It was good execution by our guys. The shot was for Arron; he ended up making it. If his feet were a little smaller we would be in better shape. Good look, good execution down the stretch."
Coach Vaughn on Nikola not being utilized properly: "I think that one thing with turnovers, that didn't help us initiate our offense and then secondly they did a good job of trying to deny him the basketball. You've got to give them credit for their defense."
Nikola Vucevic: "I thought we started the game really well. Built up a nice lead like the last game, they made a run and obviously we didn't respond the right way. It's frustrating because we should have responded."
11/16/13 - Dallas Mavericks
Victor Oladipo on playing the whole 4th quarter: "Now I just have to perform in those circumstances. It's just a moment where I have to learn. It was just a tough loss. It was a real close game and I have to learn to execute in those times. Make sure my team is in the right place and my teammates. And making sure we're going everything we need to do on defense. Most of it really is on me, the point guard. The point guard to be a leader out there so I got to do a better job."
11/20/13 - Miami Heat
Jameer Nelson: "They are a great team. When we make the mistakes that we made in terms of turning the ball over, giving them extra shots, offensive rebounds, kind of deflates you. We have to do a better job of winning the effort."
11/24/13 - Phoenix Suns
Suns guard Goran Dragic on Vucevic: "He is a great player. I know him from when he was in college with the Trojans and we have the same agent so I really, really respect him. He is a great big guy and he demonstrated that last year. He is a great rebounder and he is really skilled for a big guy. He can shoot. He has both side hooks and the more the he develops he will be amongst the top at his position."
Jacque on Magic being unable to take the lead: "You give them credit offensively. They have some shot makers out there; guys that get the ball in their hands and make plays and make shots for their team."
11/27/13 - Philadelphia 76ers
Jacque on Glen Davis: "I think he's still feeling his way. I think guys are getting a rhythm of playing with him. He'll get a rhythm of when a guy's going to cut, when he's not going to cut."
Vaughn on Afflalo: "We went to him. He demanded the basketball and he was good when he got it. He ended up getting to a point where they double-teamed him and then he served as a cog for us on the post. So, just another good night from him. Solid, professional, came to work and did his job tonight."
Andrew Nicholson: "We're starting to mesh together and we shared the ball pretty well which really helped on the offensive end and playing good defense."
Nikola Vucevic: " The main thing for us tonight was that we were really moving the ball a lot on the offensive end and we were really good at attacking the paint which was something that coach mentioned before the game that we had to do."
Thursday, November 7, 2013
I swear to God I was going to post this before his 30-point, 21-rebound beast of an outing against the Clippers. I don’t know when it will happen, but expect Nik Vucevic to be selected to participate in an NBA All-Star Game some time in the future. Hopefully it’ll be with him still a member of the Magic. Better yet, why not this season?
Based on Nik’s historical accomplishments during the 2012-2013, and his 17.8 ppg, 13.2 ppg, 1.2 spg, 1.2 bpg and 56.9 FG% through the first 5 games of this season, it’s just a matter of when and not if. Let me explain.
Nik Vucevic became just the 3rd NBA player in the last 25 years to record back-to-back 20+ point, 20+ rebound, and 5+ assist performances. He did it April 7th and 10th at Cleveland and against the Bucks. The other two players to do that? Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley. Also, since the beginning of the '12-'13 season Vucevic now has five 20-20 performances. The next closest? DeMarcus Cousins with two.
Obstacles in Nik’s way to getting the Eastern Conference All-Star Game invite for New Orleans in 3 months will be how many touches he gets on offense - which have increased infinitely so far this season - and overcoming well known names like Roy Hibbert, Chris Bosh, Brook Lopez, and a struggling Joakim Noah in the East. Al Horford, Marcin Gortat and even Spencer Hawes are threats at the moment. Even though the conference as a whole is weak, the competition at the center position is steep. So how does the Montenegrin distinguish himself from all of those centers?
Right now Vucevic is averaging 1.4 more rebounds per contest than the next highest Eastern Conference big man (Al Horford). Vucevic has the 3rd-highest East center Player Efficiency Rating (Behind Brook Lopez and the surprising Zaza Pachulia). He's 4th in scoring among East centers behind Brook Lopez, Chris Bosh, and Al Horford. Vucci Mane has the 2nd-highest defensive win shares (Roy Hibbert #1) and 2nd-highest offensive win shares (Zaza Pachulia #1?!) among East bigs which places him 1st in total win shares (7th place OVERALL). So you can see, he very well would get that All-Star Game invite which would be perfect timing for the 3rd year USC product as Nik is no longer eligible for the Rising Stars exhibition he played in against Andrew Nicholson last season.
Again, it's extremely early and this post is following the best game of Vucevic's career. But he's a humble man who won't ever pump up his own name, so we the media need to do it for him and build the the well-deserved hype machine.
I wasn't worried about Nik’s wasted Montenegrin EuroBasket experience in September, and if anything Nik is using that as motivational fuel. It’s not his fault the national team coach is incompetent and stubborn. Vucevic’s lack of playing time was not because of a flu or injury. Nor was it because he was not performing. Plus/minus is a stronger on-court measurement in international ball. Even when Nik wasn’t shooting lights out, his solid defending helped spark runs and confidence in teammates. That improved defense has carried over into Jacque Vaughn's blossoming system.
When you have boatloads of European writers and even unbiased FIBA play-by-play announcers questioning why Nik wasn’t on the floor more at EuroBasket, you know the player isn’t in the wrong. But I view that frustration as a positive for Vooch in that he’s hungry to succeed even more in Orlando. It was evident at media day, training camp, preseason, and this present time. Vucevic's confidence is continuing to soar and he's not hesitating to demand the ball now. Especially when there were games last season that Orlando lost that they would've won if Vucevic received more touches. Feed your 23-year-old beast, Jacque. Especially when his worst habit is not choking at the free throw line, but being at times too unselfish. This is the ultimate team guy. Reward him. He's going to be an All-Star, let's make it sooner than later.
Bottomline: Nikola Vucevic is the hero Orlando needs and deserves right now. He's the human mascot that embodies this shockingly decent 3-2 record to begin this '13-'14 campaign. It's all about health for Vooch and continuing to impress us with his expanded offensive game and active defensive and rebounding abilities. This Magic team being able to keep winning would be a massive boost as well.
Saturday, November 2, 2013
I always like going back and examining solid quotes from both Magic and opposing players and coaches and just keeping track over the course of a season what type of changes or transformations occur that are captured by words. I'll share some of the better ones. This may be a monthly trend.
10/11/13 - Cleveland Cavaliers
Nikola Vucevic: "I like moving around the floor. I need to play whatever Coach puts in and just run it. You've got to be active, you have to move around. As a big, you've got to set screens, then you have to roll, you just can't be standing on the court."
Kyle O'Quinn: "Nik's a more skilled big. Lefty, righty, lefty hook, right hook, that's what he does. I just do the dirty work, things he shouldn't have to do when he's that for the team."
E'Twaun Moore: "I spent most of the summer just trying to get my ball handling and point guard skills down. I'm used to playing off the ball a lot but now I'm with the ball. A lot of ball handling drills, passing, Steve Nash-type stuff."
Cavs guard Kyrie Irving on Oladipo: "He is going to be great. He is going to be great in this league. The size that he has at the PG position...and then he can move over to the 2. He can guard the 1 and 2. His potential is out the roof. When I was coming up with him because we are about the same age, he was known as just a defensive player. Now to see his offensive game develop it is just great to see. He has come into a league were the PG position is definitely front-loaded and there are going to be nights where guys come at him, but he is prepared for that."
10/18/13 - Memphis Grizzlies
Jacque on Victor's energy and maybe toning it down: "Tone him down, from diving on the floor and doing your job every night? I don't think I'm going to do that, I think I'm going to encourage that to play defense with the energy and effort every night to dive on the floor and get a possession for your team. Those things are important every single night. So I don't see me changing or diluting that instruction at all."
Coach Vaughn on Oladipo's knack for getting to the FT line: "Well that makes us better. Those are free points when you can get there and it puts pressure on the defense. Getting to the bonus enables you to get to the line and other people can benefit from his aggressiveness and getting to the line. It's tough to keep him in front of you, and so if he can put pressure on the defense the more the better for us as a team."
Victor on playing his first road trip: "It's lovely. No classes, no walking to class, no tutoring, no homework. We just play basketball. We've all been playing since we were little, we all have a love for the game. You can't forget that no matter what happens, it's a blessing. You've just got to keep working hard."
Vucevic on facing Dwight, Dirk, and Marc Gasol: "I like going against guys that are better than me. It gives me a chance to see where I'm at. I feel like I've done a pretty good job against those guys; going pretty hard and seeing where I'm at, especially comparing with last year to see if I improved and I feel like I did a better job against them than last year."
10/20/13 - Detroit Pistons
Jacque on adjustments against Detroit: "That's the part of the maturation right there, and it's seeing how the game is flowing. There's a little different pace to every game, whether fouls are called early or not, and so being able to adjust to the referees to the style of play, the physicality of play. That showed a lot by our group for sure."
Tobias Harris: "The way you practice is the way you play. So if we go out there and get physical in practice and push each other, I think it correlates to the game. I think it showed tonight. So that's a good sign for us."
Kyle O'Quinn on Oladipo: "He's one of a kind. He just comes in and does anything he has to do to fit in. Whatever Coach says to do, he does. Whatever the vets and even the second year players, you give him a tip and he runs with it. On top of his talent, it just makes it that much better out on the floor."
Oladipo on what he's learned up to now: "To stop going so fast. Sometimes I don't realize how fast I'm going. I missed a lay-up today and I was like, 'OK', but everybody was like running out and I was going so fast I didn't realize I missed it. So sometimes I have to slow down. Other than that, I think I'm doing pretty good. There are mistakes here and there but they're correctable mistakes so I'll keep growing as a player."
10/25/2013 - New Orleans Pelicans
Coach Vaughn on Oladipo's preseason growth: "Well, he barely has his feet wet. There's a lot that he's going to see this season and overall what I really love about him is his demeanor. I think guys really like playing with him. His effort level doesn't change and it's a positive things so whether he's making shots or not, getting to the free throw line or not, I think you'll see an effort level every night from him that will be contagious."
Thursday, October 31, 2013
You better believe he can as long as Andrew isn't shackled to the bench...which he sort of was on Tuesday and Wednesday nights respectively. I don't support Jacque's reasoning for keeping him on the bench the entire third quarter at Indiana, or getting no action late in regulation against the T-Wolves or in the overtime period. The term 'tanking' is already being brought up way too often and early because fans have a reason to question why the best healthy offensive weapon off the bench is only averaging 19 minutes per game. Especially when he's averaging 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds on 63.6 FG% per contest. I'm over-evaluating a small sample size, but that's 29.4 ppg and 10.4 rpg per 36 minutes.
Two contests in, has Andrew improved on that bottom-of-the-barrel defense? To the naked eye, I'd have to say yes actually. Uncle 'Drew has bulked up and it has improved his post-defense. We haven't seen Andrew be forced to rotate over much, and that's to his benefit. The less lateral movement Nicholson gets asked of to pull off, the better he looks. Although, Andrew looks a split second quicker in that aspect as well. Guy works hard even if he doesn't draw verbal attention to his improvement.
Andrew can't grab a large chunk of court minutes if he's viewed as a liability on the defensive end. Especially when Tobias Harris, Jason Maxiell, Solomon Jones, and a returning Glen Davis are all biting and clawing for playing time. Last season opposing coaches would have been wise to attack Andrew every time they were on offense. But Nicholson has held his own against West, Scola, Love, and Cunningham up to this point. If that persists, we're going to have a great PF minutes problem on our hands.
Kevin Love posted a 31-point (12-of-16 FTs), 17-rebound stat line, but when you look at the film it mostly comes against Maxiell and Solomon. I'm willing to trust Andrew more than the other two Magic men in having to defend anyone around the 3-point line. Is Andrew fouling a lot? Yes. He has 9 personal fouls, but I'll wait a few more games before I consider a bench player racking up fouls a truly major issue. I just wish he had at least 1 free throw attempt at this time. Just one...and a block.
Right now, it appears Andrew's limited to being an energy shot off the bench for 5 to 10-minute spans where you can feed him basically every time down since he's the best bench scoring option. Which honestly should make all parties happy: Andrew, management, coaching, fans, peer circles, etc. Nicholson can mix it up in the post, on the elbow, or now on the corner 3 to spread out paint-clogging defenses. Maxiell starting is okay for now, but the remaining starting lineup needs to get off to better starts instead of digging into early double digit deficits.
Looking at the tape from Tuesday, Nicholson actually scored SEVEN of his 18 first half points against West. So we're rejecting Jacque's explanation of burying the Canadian because of matchup worries. That drive and spin move finish isn't something you expect Andrew to plausibly succeed at athletically, but there he was showing off a new skill. The other 11 points did come versus Scola where two of those buckets were actually against a late rotating Hibbert. You know, that Hibbert guy who annihilated the Magic with 7 blocks and 16 rebounds. So...yeah. Either way, the man was 8-of-9 in the first half! You ride him until he misses consecutive shots.
We're all elated by Andrew's addition of the 3-point shot to his arsenal during his FIBA Americas Canada duty that his been rather consistent through preseason and early in this 2013-2014 campaign. 'Drew didn't attempt a single 3-pointer last season, and he's 3-of-4 going into Friday's home opener. Barring injury, the 23-year-old should be a shoe-in for a second consecutive (and obviously final) Rising Stars All-Star Weekend invite. With the way the 19th overall 2012 draft selection is improving by huge increments, maybe the St. Bonaventure product's ceiling isn't as limited as we all initially thought. This is a supremely confident individual who doesn't deserve to be mentally stifled by any possible subtle tanking tactics.