Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tracy McGrady Should Have Won MVP of The 2002-2003 Season

I won't hide that I'm not exactly the biggest Tracy McGrady fan in the world. The way things ended with his tenure in a Magic jersey was one of the ugliest player-team separations I've seen in the NBA. T-MAC still hates former GM John Weisbrodfor how everything concluded in the summer of 2004. The spite is evident if you occasionally check out McGrady's Twitter page.

But that's not what this topic is about. Here we're talking about how Tracy McGrady should have been awarded Most Valuable Player of the 2002-2003 season. In his 6th NBA season (3rd in Orlando), a 23-year-old Tracy finished 4th in a very competitive voting. The Magic barely made the playoffs, sneaking into the 8th seed with a 42-40 record. Grant Hill only played 29 games in another injury-riddled campaign for him. Tracy himself only played 75 games, those 7 games make a difference in a playoff race.

The team was towards the bottom of the league in defense, and depended on putting up the 6th most points per game. Doc Rivers' team got a boost when GM John Gabriel acquired Drew Gooden and Gordan Giricek, but that meant Orlando's 2nd highest scorer Mike Miller was shipped out. It was a risky move that ended up paying off at that time despite McGrady's complaints of losing his buddy Mike Miller. We were even up 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs on the #1 seeded Detroit Pistons. Too bad the first round format had changed to a 7-game series from a 5-game series.

We fall apart, and the rest is the start of a cursed playoff history for the Magic over the next 5 years. There's little doubt though that Orlando is a lottery team without the phenomenal numbers Tracy put up. Funny that we would end up with the worst record in basketball in the '03-'04 season with the same star player at the helm.

Tim Duncan was rewarded for being the best player on the best team. San Antonio, Sacramento, and Dallas all finished within 1 game of each other at the top of the Western Conference. The Spurs would win that 2003 championship, but we're talking about a regular season award. It was Timmy's second straight (and last) MVP award. To me, it wasn't earned though. Duncan averaged 2.2 ppg more in '01-'02 than he did in '02-'03. Tim's defensive numbers slightly improved, but his offense dropped off too much to garner MVP recognition. Duncan went from 80% free throw shooting to a mediocre 71% in '02-'03.

It's 'Most Valuable', not the best player on the best team. Yes win-loss record plays a role, but not when you're on a team with as few weapons as McGrady had to work with. Duncan could rely on Tony ParkerManu GinobiliStephen Jackson, and even David Robinson to divert pressure from him. Tracy, on the other hand, had Mike Miller and Pat Garrity at the 1st half of the season. Then Giricek and Gooden brought in the support during the playoff push. Those guys are not known as 2nd or 3rd offensive options.

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal negated each other kind of like Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are doing down in Miami. Plus, the Lakers underachieved in finishing 5th in the Western Conference. Minnesota T-Wolves fans can make the case that Kevin Garnett should have been above Duncan in the voting for that 2002-2003 MVP. The Wolves finished a respectable 51-31 and took the West's 4th seed. At least KG was rewarded in '03-'04 when he deserved it a lot more.

McGrady has never come close to the studly numbers he posted in the '02-'03 season. 32.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.7 spg, and 45.7 FG% is astounding for a shooting guard. It's still mind-boggling that the voters didn't choose T-MAC as the award recipient. Look at Tracy's game logs and you will see a season of consistency and him stepping up his performances against big time opponents.

Tracy won the '02-'03 scoring title by 2.1 points per game, putting up a ridiculous 32.1 ppg (Kobe was second at 30.0). He also had the highest player efficiency rating than anyone. A 30.3 efficiency score. Shaq was at 29.5. Duncan is 3rd at just 26.9. Not known as a 3-point scorer, McGrady shot 39% from downtown which was higher than Kobe and Dirk Nowitzki.

T-MAC was clearly 1st in usage percentage and offensive win shares. However, the MOST telling statistic to MVP worthiness is looking at win shares per 48 minutes and McGrady again is in first place. Tracy only averaged 39.4 minutes per game. Who knows how much larger McGrady's numbers would have been had Doc let him average an extra minute or two per game.

Look up the past decade of the more recent MVP winners and contenders such as Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Durant and Derrick Rose. Compare their numbers from various top notch seasons to McGrady and you will see that Tracy's overall statistics from that '02-'03 season match or far exceed them. The voters flat out messed up.

NBA Lockout Day 31

November 14, 1995. Your Orlando Magic hosted the Chicago Bulls with Jon Koncak starting (shooting abysmal airballs and all) for the injured Shaquille O'Neal. Koncak was just an atrocious basketball player. He spent 10 seasons with the Atlanta Hawks before making the move to Orlando for the '95-'96 season. He was so bad that the Magic were winning in spite of him. Jon would subsequently retire after his one year stay. Even without Shaq, this was a battle of two powerhouse squads. The Bulls were debuting their still popular black jerseys. 

Chicago came into the O-Rena undefeated (on their way to a legendary 72-10 record and a championship) and looked to stay that way after the 1st quarter. The game from then on gets much more competitive. Anfernee Hardaway and his 36-point offensive clinic didn't really care much for the Bulls' new wardrobe, and was ready to out-duel MJ. Michael Jordan's revenge of the '95 playoff defeat would have to wait. This was the beginning of Penny becoming a superstar. Brian Hill and Phil Jackson both get fairly boisterous throughout this game as they knew this had become a rivalry. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

On This Day, July 30th: NBA Lockout Day 30 & Donald Royal Battles Cancer


Former Orlando Sentinel writer great Tim Povtak did a great piece on former Magic man Donald Royal who was dealing with a cancerous tumor in his colon and was undergoing chemotherapy. Always a great contributor off the bench, Royal was around during this franchise's golden age. Donald was hoping to make it back into the NBA since he was only 32 at this time, but that never happened. No one has really followed up on Royal in over a decade. Hope all is well.

Donald Royal has tackled his battle with cancer the same way he approaches an NBA opponent.

``I've tried to go out there with the idea, I'm going to kick its [butt], just like you go into a game,'' Royal said from his Orlando home Wednesday. ``I will play [in the NBA] again. It just won't be as early as everyone else.''

Royal, 32, is in the midst of a draining, six-month chemotherapy cycle that he hopes will eliminate any remaining traces of cancer in his body.

Royal, who played for the Orlando Magic from 1992-96 and briefly returned to their roster last season, had a cancerous tumor removed from his colon June 24. Doctors said they believe they caught the cancer before it spread, but there are no guarantees. He also had a lymph node removed.

``They can't tell you for sure that it's all gone. That's why the chemotherapy,'' he said. ``I hope it all works. The toughest part is explaining it to my 4-year-old daughter.''

Royal has undergone the first of five, weeklong chemotherapy sessions. The next one is scheduled for Aug. 10-15. The final week will be in mid-December. Between the surgery he had at Sand Lake Hospital and his first chemotherapy session, he lost 20 pounds. The resulting vomiting, nausea and fatigue took their tolls.

``I feel fine now, I'm doing things normally, and I'm just trying to gain some weight back,'' he said. ``When I first learned about this, it really floored me, but I understand it better now.''

Doctors told Royal the tumor had been growing in his colon for two years, although the mandatory, twice-a-year physicals he took in the NBA never detected it.
The Magic traded Royal to Golden State at the start of the 1996-97 season. He spent the second half of last season with the Charlotte Hornets. He is a free agent this summer.

``I'm not even thinking about where I might be playing next because it won't be until after the first of the year,'' Royal said. ``I'm concentrating on getting healthy right now. But I will play again.''

In current NBA Lockout news, here's a clip from the L.A. Times featuring Lakers guard Derek Fisher discussing the player-owners CBA meeting that will occur this Monday August 1st. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 29

DeAndre Liggins spoke this morning at the University of Kentucky. Liggins is there to participate in Wildcats coach John Calipari's ProCamp. The Orlando Magic's 2nd Round Draft pick discussed how he's dealing with the work stoppage and his thoughts on possibly playing in Europe.

John Clay's Sidelines did the interview and here's some of what came out of it in case the audio is too difficult to comprehend:

  • Liggins said that with the NBA lockout going on, he was giving serious consideration to playing overseas. He said his agent was exploring the possibility. Liggins was a second-round pick of the Orlando Magic.
  • The money would be a factor, said Liggins, especially considering he has a son to support. “Money talks,” said DeAndre.
  • Liggins said he was here a couple of weeks ago and played some pick-up games against the new players. He was particularly impressed with Anthony Davis. “He blocked a couple of my shots,” he said. “You’re going to have to dunk on him because he’ll block your shot.”
  • Liggins said he has spent most of his time in Chicago working out.
  • He said he was happy to be picked by Orlando, that the Magic are a good fit. “I can’t hold no regrets now,” he said. “I’ve got to stick with my decision and live up to it.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 28

December 20, 1989Michael Jordan puts up 52 points in Orlando, but the start-up Magic still beat the Chicago Bulls in quite a thriller. The entire game is available and I highly recommend any NBA fan to watch. Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7

Vintage Paul Porter as the P.A. Announcer. Orlando, being coached by current t.v. color guy Matt Guokas, was still having a semi-decent season at that point in a dismal inaugural campaign. Jordan still had not won a ring, and he had a knack for putting up huge point totals in losing efforts.

Check out pre-goggles Horace Grant. It looks like Chicago was going to blow the home town team out of the O-Rena early, but it would be a close contest from the 2nd quarter and onward. Orlando folks will enjoy current GM Otis Smith putting on a show at the end. It's quite fun to see Phil Jackson squirm, it was his first season as a head coach after all. Terry Catledge and Reggie Theus had very nice efforts. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Top 10 Orlando Magic Point Guards in Franchise History

Inspired by others coming up with these sorts of lists, and the boredom of an NBA Lockout, I decided to provide my input on who I thought the Orlando Magic's best position players were in its 22 seasons of existence. That's not a long period in comparison to many prestigious professional teams. Even though we've never hoisted the championship, we've made it to two NBA Finals in our 6th and 20th seasons.

Throughout these rankings, keep in mind that it's not just statistics involved but also intangibles and whether the player did what they were supposed to do in their assigned role. Winning also plays a large factor as you'd expect. Any personal opinions will be controversial. All numbers are from regular season games only and it's the seasons themselves being averaged out, not on an individual game basis.

So here we go, the Magic's top 10 point guards of all-time.

Missing the cut:

Carlos Arroyo 

2006-2008; 161 games played; 25 starts; 20.2 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 3.1 apg, 45.9% FG percentage

I'm sure right now the Puerto Rican delegation is furious with me. 'Chuck' never made the team better. Initially in those first 27 games after the trade that also brought in Darko Milicic, it did seem like Arroyo was the distributor we needed to complement Francis' and Jameer's more shoot-first approach. However, in his first complete season with us, Carlos quickly became extremely frustrating to watch with all of his inconsistencies.

Ballhogging, inadequate defense, and bad turnovers were things we sadly became accustomed to. He became such a detriment at times that he became a liability to see prominent court time during the playoffs. It isn't until now, after he's bounced around, that we know Carlos has a short fuse and always seems to find himself unwelcome to all of his teams that he leaves behind in his destruction.

Troy Hudson

2000-2002; 156 games played; 11 starts; 18.2 mpg, 8.3 ppg, 2.7 apg, 38.5% FG percentage

Coming off the Heart & Hustle season, Doc Rivers had the difficulty of trying to find an identity for new addition 'T-Hud', an undersized shooting guard, and experimenting with him as a point guard. Hudson had such an abysmal '00-'01 season due to his adjusting, then he turns it all around the next season, drastically upping his averages. Troy needed to be a volume shooter though for him to be effective. Unfortunately for the Magic, even in a 6th-7th man sparkplug role, that didn't happen very often which led to rollercoaster performances.

Without 2001-2002, Hudson doesn't get monetarily rewarded by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the summer of '02. In the end, T-Hud may have been a better rapper than basketball player, but hat didn't stop him from having some phenomenal games in Magic stars (especially one particular 26-point performance).

Keyon Dooling

2005-2008; 188 games played; 10 starts; 21.0 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 1.9 apg, 43.9% FG percentage

Brought in as an energy scorer, 'Ninja' as I called him could be placed at shooting guard as well in evaluating him. It's not like he's not making either list. Other than getting into a fight with Ray Allen, Keyon will be a forgettable Magic man considering he did play 3 seasons in Orlando. Injuries and inconsistencies really hindered the man when his game relied so much on quickness and surprise. However, the man had some awesome hops.

Others missing the cut but not worth going into detail over:
Tyronn LueDerek Harper

10. Mark Price

1997-1998; 63 games played; 33 starts; 22.7 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 4.7 apg, 43.1% FG percentage

How could I put a one-season decrepit man on this list? Easy. Partially it's because we really have lacked in decent point guards, but the other is that the man made everyone around him better. No flashiness, just being a good floor general. That '97-'98 campaign was the season Penny played only 19 games. Chuck Daly's Magic finished 41-41, which was only good enough for 10th place in the Eastern Conference. People forget, Mark Price had one hell of a professional career. Spent his first 9 seasons with the Cavs, then jumped around to Washington and Golden State before we acquired his services.

We also signed an even older Derek Harper to come off the bench. Darrell Armstrong was being groomed for the job, but even 'Flash' missed a large chunk of the season due to injury. Price only recorded one double-double in Orlando pinstripes, but Price kept the Magic relatively afloat with no Penny around and countless other injuries plaguing the roster. If healthy, that's easily a playoff team. After Penny's famous Games 3 and 4 of the '97 1st round playoffs, Daly wanted to have the option of sliding Penny over to shooting guard and have an actual pass-first man (such as Price) to allow Hardaway to space the floor.

If Anfernee didn't get injured, it would have been special to see what this team could have done. Here's a rare clip from early in that '97-'98 season with Mark Price in action against the defending champion Chicago Bulls, before the injuries hit the Magic. I know it's against Steve Kerr, but Price was a more than decent defender. Mark also seemed to have a surprising burst of speed when he turned a corner. He also showed to be a rather disciplined wise man figure in the locker room. Too bad we didn't see his sharpshooting skills.

Due to his deteriorating body though, Price decided to retire at age 34 after completing his one season in Orlando, and having a long Lockout period to help weigh his options.

9. Chucky Atkins

1999-2000; 82 games played; 0 starts; 19.8 mpg, 9.5 ppg, 3.7 apg, 42.4% FG percentage

Kenneth Lavon Atkins only spent his rookie season in Orlando, playing all 82 games as an important piece of the Heart & Hustle team. The Evans High School local product made his NBA debut at age 25 after a few years spent in Europe. The 5'11" USF Bull knew he had to be a scrapper if he wanted to keep playing NBA ball. He really reminds me of Darrell Armstrong. No doubt that both guys on that Heart & Hustle team helped keep that team a playoff contender to the very end of that memorable 41-41 campaign. Their games, spirit, and attitude really did mirror each other.

Unfortunately, we only got the one season with Atkins as GM John Gabriel was looking to sign 2 superstar free agents in the summer of 2000. Chucky ends up going from the league minimum to over $3 million per season with the Detroit Pistons and having a decade long career in the league.

8. Sam Vincent

1989-1992; 151 games played; 80 starts; 23.0 mpg, 10.0 ppg, 4.5 apg, 43.9% FG percentage

I was too young to see Vincent play, so this is more of a statistical slot. We weren't winning games those first 3 seasons, except when Michael Jordan was putting 52 points on usHere's a clip to put you in the time machine. Can't help but enjoy a clutch Otis Smith. Injuries had plagued Sam his entire career, and it's no surprise that they continued to get worse at the end of his NBA lifespan. Still, when fans did see him on court, Vincent provided some excitement during those growing pains.

7. Brian Shaw

1994-1997; 230 games played; 41 starts; 23.4 mpg, 6.7 ppg, 4.6 apg, 37.6% FG percentage

With Scott Skiles gone in the summer of '94, the Magic needed a veteran backup who could be relied on to give Penny a rest. In a rare move at the time, Orlando looked towards Miami and Brian Shaw. B-Shaw wasn't a good shooter, by any means, but the man could throw an alley oop like few others could at that time. For those 3 seasons, Shaw was a key contributor during the golden age of the franchise.

I'm sure old school Magic fans miss saying 'Shaw-Shaq Redemption'. Brian also displayed a high basketball IQ that would lead him into coaching after he won 3 rings with the L.A. Lakers. Brian for the most part also did his thing come playoff time. Oh yeah, did I mention already he could throw a great alley oop?

6. Steve 'The Franchise' Francis

2004-2006; 124 games played; 123 starts; 38.0 mpg, 18.8 ppg, 6.4 apg, 1.3 spg, 42.8% FG percentage

Oh boy, hide the women, children, and noses. Things were looking fantastic when we acquire Stevie Franchise from the Rockets in that Tracy McGrady deal. Who knew before stepping onto the court for the '04-'05 season that we would be an immediately better squad after having the worst record in the league? We start that season by winning our first 2 games at the wire, the first being a buzzer beater from Steve himself to win the Bucks game.

In those first few months we appeared to be making the playoffs with Stevie, Hedo Turkoglu, a relatively healthy Grant HillCuttino MobleyKelvin Cato, and rookies Dwight Howard and Jameer. If only someone better than Johnny Davis was at the helm. Then Mobley gets hurt, Cato also suffers a career-shortening shoulder injury and so hockey guy GM John Weisbrod made what would be the worst decision of his life after having great success during his tenure.

Trading Mobley (Francis' best buddy) for Doug 'bone spurs' Christie. Francis' attitude drastically changes and he becomes a mad man nutcase. The wheels fall off the bus and Davis gets fired, followed by Chris Jent. The next season Brian Hill comes in and Francis just could not be contained and became a detriment to the team (No matter what statistics he may have been putting up). So we handed the keys to Jameer and shipped Steve off to the Knicks where he didn't fair much better when it came to winning.

Such a waste of talent after such a promising 5 seasons in Houston. Francis in Orlando could put up shooting guard points, yet still dish out 6-7 assist a night. Here's a superb highlight mix to remember him by, filled with amazing assists and dunks. The man had no problem putting his body on the line.

5. Rafer 'Skip 2 My Lou' Alston

2009; 29 games played; 28 starts; 29.5 mpg, 12.0 ppg, 5.1 apg, 1.8 spg, 41.3% FG percentage

Now we get to a guy who didn't even play a half season of basketball in Magic pinstripes. This is where not having postseason statistics included can hamper an argument. The dreams we had of making a good run in the '08-'09 postseason were dashed when All-Star Jameer Nelson was sidelined for what appeared like the rest of the season in February. Or so we thought.

Desperate in seeing that there was no way Anthony 'Old Man River' Johnson could run the show, GM Otis Smith made quite a 3-way trade to bring in Skip. In a #36 jersey that was about 8 sizes too big for him, the streetball legend came off the bench to make his debut on February 20th. He put up 3 points and 8 assists and the Magic beat the Bobcats in Charlotte. It was the last game he would come off the bench. Oh was he such an important piece for us. Providing his clever distribution and fabulous defense.

His shooting was erratic, but when he was on he was tough to stop. Look at his playoff logs. He was tough as nails and no one intimidated him. Skip knew hot to have fun. Whether that came about through the fansrefs, or just straight up embarrassing people. When Rafer played well, the Magic won. Plain and simple. It's remarkable really that a guy who supposedly couldn't shoot brought the Cleveland Cavaliers to their knees in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Even when Jameer came back too soon and took his minutes, the one great 20-point game Rafer had against L.A., the Magic won. Their only victory in that 5-game Finals defeat. This might be the biggest 'WHAT IF?' question in the franchise's history. What if Jameer doesn't play, saving our newly found chemistry, and it's Rafer playing Derek Fisher in critical phases of those Finals games? I can't say truthfully that it wouldn't have made a difference because it would have. 11 days after the Finals concluded, GM Otis Smith would take a 'win now' risk that we can now officially say didn't pay off.

Skip, Tony Battie, and Courtney Lee got shipped out to New Jersey to bring in Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson. Part of it was Hedo Turkoglu was going to walk because he'd get too much money thrown at him, the other was the front office and coaching staff didn't want Jameer and Rafer butting heads for the starting spot and decided to avoid the controversy all together. Hindsight is 20/20, but we never should have disrupted that team.

4. Jameer Nelson

2004-Present; 470 games played; 375 starts; 28.3 mpg, 12.8 ppg, 4.9 apg, 1.0 spg, 46.2% FG percentage

Call him 'Crib Midget', 'Mighty Mite', or whatever, Jameer has stuck around this team longer than anyone could have ever guessed when he first showed up in the league. It's 7 seasons and counting. We traded for him on Draft day 2004 specifically for him to be a 6th man type scorer off the bench. After all, he was the best college player despite his small height.

The reason Nelson's not higher on this list is because he still is inconsistent when it comes to making up his mind on either being more a shooter or a passer, a jump shooter or a paint driver. That doesn't mean that Jameer isn't clutchclutchclutch. You can't learn that. Jameer is never afraid of the big stage.

It seemed like he figured it out in 2008-2009 where he became an All-Star, but then got injured in February just after he was voted in. His return in the NBA Finals is our scapegoat in why the Lakers beat us. Nelson hasn't quite recovered from those criticisms even though he still has some great playoff games. Some claim he's still on this team because he's Dwight Howard's best friend. True or not, Jameer is around because he's a great player and he'll have to be dethroned or traded for that to change. Whether he's on the downhill or not, that's up to the front office and coaching staff to decide.

3. Scott Skiles

1989-1994; 384 games played; 285 starts; 30.9 mpg, 12.9 ppg, 7.2 apg, 43.3% FG percentage

It's amazing how Scotty's 30-assist game NBA record is still intact. '90-'91 was also the season Skiles was named Most Improved Player. I get nervous every time I see a player get close to his record, which is very rarely. Skiles was possibly the most valuable Expansion Draft Magic man. Skiles also had to go through the growing pains of a terrible team.

He spent 5 seasons in Magic pinstripes, and Scotty made sure every fan that paid for a ticket to see the team saw how gritty and tough he truly was. That view of him has stuck with Skiles throughout his life. Skiles did a superb job grooming Penny along with getting Shaq started in becoming a superstar. I just wish there were more highlights available to us all of Scott's work.

2. Darrell 'Flash' Armstrong

1994-2003; 502 games played; 291 starts; 23.0 mpg, 9.9 ppg, 4.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 42.0% FG percentage

The way I've weighted the numbers, this hurts Darrell because of his short first few seasons. Then again, Armstrong was more than numbers. That's why he's is so high on this list. The NBA's original 'Flash' (so back off, Wade), Darrell had the ability to make every single man, woman, and child in Orlando get excited on a nightly basis.

It wasn't because of spectacular offense necessarily. The man could make you go nuts in appreciation whenever he made superb defensive stops, or even just dove on the floor for a loose ball. Of course, it helps when you have ridiculous hops. Flash never quit on a play. Darrell is the epitome of Heart & Hustle. In fact, if you look up the terms 'sacrifice', 'heart', and 'hustle' in the dictionary, I'm pretty sure you'll see Armstrong's face listed.

Clearly the rest of the NBA noticed as well, because in the 1998-1999 Lockout season Flash was named both Most Improved Player and 6th Man of the Year. Armstrong's path to success is something special. Bouncing around the minor basketball leagues, Europe, and grocery stores as a bag boy before he finally made it to the O-Rena. I'm sure if there was a statistic for floor burns and most coffee consumed before a game, Flash would far and away own both all-time records. Even when he left after a long tenure in Orlando, Darrell still proclaims his love for this town, team and its fans.

He never won a championship as a player, but I'm glad he just now accomplished it even as an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks.

1. Anfernee 'Penny' Hardaway

1993-1999; 369 games played; 365 starts; 36.8 mpg, 18.6 ppg, 5.9 apg, 1.9 spg, 45.6% FG percentage

At his best, Penny was playing point guard. He only slid over to shooting guard when his mobility lessened due to his injuries. Plus, it helped that Darrell Armstrong could push the tempo and force feed him the ball. Since being traded by Golden State along with 3 future first round picks on Draft day of 1993 to Orlando for Chris Webber, the pressure was on Hardaway to be Shaq's sidekick.

To this day, I think Anfernee was Shaq's most talented partner that provided the best chemistry. Even when Shaq left town, Penny flourished as an All-Star and did his best to keep the squad competitive. His culmination may have came in a series that we lost, but Game 3 and Game 4 of the 1st round of the 1997 playoffs are memorable to watch. Penny was so spectacular that Nike began the greatest puppet campaign ever for the man (Chris Rock to this day is still thankful). Lil' Penny was even given an NBA on NBC intro. Penny had shoes that were beyond respectable in the business, and he was rightfully dubbed the man to succeed Michael Jordan.

If only his legs held up. When healthy, Anfernee showed he was one of the best players in the world. It wasn't all offense either, the man could defend his position with the best of them. He reminded folks of what Magic Johnson was doing in L.A. a decade earlier. There wasn't anything Penny couldn't do with the ball. Penny took great pride in theMagic-Heat rivalry as well when few others have. Hardaway is a 'should have' player. Penny should have been an All-Star more than 4 times. He should have be an NBA champion and he should have been a Hall of Famer. At least he has that 1996 Olympic gold medal. I don't hide that Penny is my favorite NBA player of all-time.

The way it all ended with this franchise is a shame, but there's no question that Anfernee gave his all on the court. Penny still cheers on the franchise that banished him and that's a testament to the man's heart. Love him or hate him, in 6 seasons Penny proved that he is by far the best point guard in this franchise's history.

NBA Lockout Day 27

Here's the best highlight mix of Steve Francis in an Orlando Magic uniform. I won't go too deep into details about 'The Franchise' because I'm doing a top 10 list of all-time Magic point guards. I will say that I do miss his Spider-Man dunks. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 26

Here are the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat facing off in the lockout shortened '98-'99 season, but it's all narrated by a hot British chick who clearly enjoyed the City Beautiful and really ups the excitement of such a crummy game. 

The date was April 22, 1999 as the 50-game season was coming to a close. Even though Miami would win 75-70, it's still a very enjoyable clip despite the bad offense. It doesn't take a diehard fan to realize how special it is to see Bo Outlaw make a buzzer beating jumper from the corner.

Chuck Daly did a hell of a job with that '98-'99 squad. Penny Hardaway was relatively healed up after his career looked to be in jeopardy, and the team was battling things out with Pat Riley's Miami Heat for that top spot in the Eastern Conference for most of that season. It's also good to hear Jack 'Goose' Givens on the call as he had more of a fan's perspective of things. 

I've never seen a player get the ball jammed between the rim and the backboard at such a crucial time in the game as Darrell Armstrong somehow managed to accomplish. Tim Hardaway just had to put on a clinic towards the end. The postgame interviews with Alonzo Mourning and Penny proved to be the more valuable segment of this clip. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 25

A must-see clip for any Orlando Magic fan. Very high-quality rare footage involved including my favorite 3-point celebration at the end. This was created a few years ago by a skilled fan to celebrate the franchise's 20 years of existence. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

On This Day, July 23rd: NBA Lockout Day 23 & Tim Floyd Creeping Towards Chicago


Not many positive things one can say about Tim Floyd now-a-days, so I'll let Terry Armour's article on his rumored succession of Phil Jackson as Chicago Bulls head coach take over:

One of the most prevalent rumors in Chicago sports history moved a step closer to reality Wednesday when Tim Floyd resigned as Iowa State's basketball coach, paving the way for him to join the Bulls.

This doesn't necessarily mean Floyd, 44, will be the Bulls' next coach - at least not yet. The Bulls will name him to a front-office position, director of basketball operations, at a news conference today, the Chicago Tribune has learned.

Management hopes Floyd will grow on Michael Jordan, who mentioned him by name last week in stating he had no desire to play for ``a college coach.''

With NBA business shut down by a labor dispute, the Bulls are in no hurry to name Phil Jackson's successor, and they're prohibited from negotiating with Jordan, Scottie Pippen and their other free agents while the lockout is in effect. Jordan said last week he'd wait until the lockout ends to decide on his future, so by bringing Floyd in now, the Bulls may be endeavoring to use the downtime to allow Jordan to determine if he and Floyd are compatible - informally, of course.

If they aren't and Jordan decides he wants to continue playing, the Bulls presumably would be back in the market for a coach. If they aren't and Jordan retires, the Floyd Era would begin, ushering in a massive rebuilding effort for the six-time world champions.

Floyd called a team meeting at Iowa State on Wednesday morning and told his players he no longer would be their coach. But he didn't say he was leaving for another coaching job, or that his next place of employment would be Chicago.

``He just said he was resigning and taking a job somewhere else. He didn't specify,'' center Tony Rampton said.

Later, at a news conference announcing Floyd's resignation, Iowa State Athletic Director Gene Smith acknowledged Floyd was joining the Bulls but wouldn't elaborate, saying that details would have to come from the Bulls.

The Bulls, of course, refused to comment. There was no mention of ``coach'' in a news release announcing today's conference.

Jordan avoided reporters before and after playing golf Wednesday at an Oak Brook country club. His agent, David Falk, said ``only time will tell'' what the future holds for Jordan.

The latest development in the Bulls' search for Jackson's replacement comes as a surprise. Since Jackson's departure, Floyd - a longtime friend and occasional fishing companion of General Manager Jerry Krause - has been the odds-on favorite to take over as coach, a move that might still have far-reaching implications for the future of pro sports' premier dynasty, beginning with the possible retirement of Jordan.

Though he has no NBA experience, Floyd has a solid track record on the college level (243-130 overall). Iowa State's 12-18 record last year was his first losing season in 12 years as a head coach.

There were reports Floyd was having cold feet about accepting the Bulls' job, possibly because of Jordan's insistence that he'd rather retire than play for Floyd. If Jordan does retire, Floyd will have the unenviable position of being characterized as the man who drove perhaps the game's greatest player into retirement.

``Everyone knows the story of the toad that got the princess to kiss him,'' center Bill Wennington said. ``So, hopefully, it will work out.''

Friday, July 22, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 22

Here's Theo Ratliff checking out a pornstar's rack. It was Mary Carey of course since most Orlando folks should remember she had alleged involvements with Dwight HowardMario Kasun, and Marcin Gortat. At least the Magic won that game in Philly. Unfortunately for Theo, that might be his best NBA highlight since he's more famous for getting posterized a lot than his actual shot blocking ability.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

NBA Lockout Day 21

Here are full Vince Carter highlights of his best game in an Orlando Magic uniform. It was a February 8, 2010 win over the New Orleans Hornets. It was perfect timing considering Vinsanity had the worst January of his NBA career. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On This Day, July 20th: NBA Lockout Day 20 & Fans Get Disgruntled


Here's a taste of what Larry Guest was receiving from NBA fans. We're not even a full 3 weeks in and NBA supporters were already feeling antsy.

The customers always write...

Dear Larry: As I blinked myself awake one recent morning, I read that the NBA Players Association, meeting in Hawaii, and the NBA owners are not making enough money. I guess they figure that if we fans have kept the turnstiles whirling to date, we don't have highly developed observational skills.

I, for one, have seen enough. No other business would have the gall to bill you for thousands of dollars for a two-dollar item that might be delivered and might not - depending on how all the pouting millionaires at the home office feel that day.

The Magic called to offer us one more chance to keep the four seats my family has held since the beginning but didn't renew. Only 25 percent down on a season that may or may not happen, where Emperor Michael may or may not play, Latrell could choke another coach, hundreds more illegitimate children might be conceived, and Penny may get inspired to saunter off the bench. Please pass along my answer: NO THANKS. This ex-sucker is saving for a trip to Hawaii. - Janet Walsh, Orlando

Jaundiced Janet: I'm afraid neither players nor owners have given much consideration to how people like you are viewing their freestyle money grapple. I suspect they will be discovering soon that there are far more ex-suckers like you out here than they ever imagined.

Dear Larry: How many times have teams led by Shaquille O'Neal been swept in a playoff series? What does that say about character? And, does character count? But then I would have traded O'Neal for Alonzo Mourning and Kendall Gill on draft day years ago - if Charlotte was dumb enough to do it.

Shaq's play in the playoffs this year was, at times, an awesome display of offensive talents. The spin move on Malone. The followup dunk on Ostertag. The putback of a Horry miss. But on the other end, Bill Russell he's not. There's no ``D'' in Shaquille. The number of times it was 5-on-4 can't be encouraging to his Lakers teammates. - Eric Ludwig, Orlando

Eric: If I haven't lost count, I think the Shaq Sweeps are now up to four. The truly amusing part of the Big Fella's bow out this year was his command for his non-supporting cast to get off of ``his'' team.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Magic Fans, Here's The 2011-2012 NBA Season Schedule & Detailed Breakdown

If the NBA Lockout ends in time, the first game of the 2011-2012 NBA season for the Orlando Magic is November 2nd at home hosting the Charlotte Bobcats. Just like last year, the Magic begin the campaign on a back-to-back with the tailend of it being in Miami on TNT. Final Orlando game is April 18th at the Boston Celtics. Final Magic home game of season is April 16th, hosting the Philadelphia 76ers.

There is a schedule conflict between what the NBA has and what has. The Magic's website has Orlando versus the defending champion Dallas Mavericks March 30th on ESPN, but the NBA's website has that matchup on NBA League Pass.

For now, we'll abide by and say the Magic have 14 nationally televised games, with also 6 games on NBA TV. Last season if I recall correctly, Orlando had 22 nationally televised games. It was 24 the season before that after we reached the Finals.

The NBA could be preparing for Dwight Howard possibly leaving. Maybe they just don't believe Orlando will be that good. We have a leap year in 2012, so we get an extra day in February, which means the Magic have just 17 back-to-backs next season and 12 of those on the road. The Suns and Kings have the league's fewest back-to-backs at 16. David Stern has also been kind to Stan Van Gundy and the Magic by not having them play on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Orlando hasn't had December 25th off since 2007.

First big Magic road trip is 5 games out West from Dec. 5th to Dec. 14th. Pretty spaced out. No back-to-backs surprisingly. Next Magic Western Conference road trip is 4 games from January 8th to 14th with a back-to-back in between. Not bad again. Third lengthiest Magic road trip is 4 games in the East from February 19th to the 28th WITH THE ALL-STAR WEEKEND in Orlando in between the 3rd and 4th game. 

Magic fans, look at the two 3 p.m. games on March 7th and 8th against the New Jersey Nets. David Stern has shipped us off to London, England. This is the most favorable Magic road schedule I've seen in 4-5 years. Only 3 road trips that are 4-5 games long each with a lot of rest days to soften the blow.

See the Scott Skiles-Mookie Blaylock image at the top. On October 30th & 31st1993, the Orlando Magic split 2 preseason games against the Atlanta Hawks in London, England at Wembley Stadium. That was Brian Hill's and Penny Hardaway'sfirst season in Orlando. It proved to be a good warm-up because the Magic began their '93-'94 season 3-0 before finishing a superb 50-32. A potential dynasty was being born.

The Orlando Magic lost the first game of the '96-'97 at home to the Washington Bullets. Then the team hopped a plane to Tokyo, Japan to play 2 games against the New Jersey Nets. Remember, Shaq was a Laker at this time. Orlando's 1st played game against the Nets was November 7, 1996 in the Tokyo Dome. 

Orlando beat New Jersey for its 1st NBA win of the season. Funny that David Vaughn was starting over Rony SeikalyGerald Wilkins came up big with the 18 points to complement Penny's 23. The third game of season, 2nd in Japan versus Nets was November 8, 1996. It was all Penny that game and another Orlando win. Both contests were extraordinary Tokyo Dome sellouts of 38,639 in each game. That was the 45-37 season that saw a lot of injuries, Brian Hill facing a player mutiny that cost him his job, and Richie Adubato almost pulling off a miraculous 1st round playoff upset. 

The last, and most recent international Magic trip, came in October 2007. 3 gamesin Shanghai & Macao, China. There were 2 preseason wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers, and 1 win over 'Team China'. the '07-'08 season was Stan Van Gundy's first season as Magic Head Coach which resulted in a solid 52-30 campaign. 

The '11-'12 Orlando Magic have more road games than home games in the months of December, January, February, and April. Orlando has 17 games where the opponent is coming off of 2 days rest. That's most in the NBA. Kings only have 7 games, and the Raptors with a league low of 6 games. Upon closer look though, it's not that bad. 

Considering how reasonable the Orlando Magic's schedule is, all Magic fans should pray this Lockout ends pronto. Oh yeah, our city also does have the All-Star Weekend on the line too. Orlando could use that money and popularity boost. 

Here's a nifty NBA rest tool for this upcoming season: