Sunday, December 18, 2011

From The Stands - Magic's '11-'12 Open Scrimmage Video & Analysis

I didn't get to enjoy the Amway Center scrimmage last season, so I was definitely making the trek this time with Dwight Howard's future in a Magic uniform in severe jeopardy. About 6,400 fans showed up to the free event. It's obviously a completely unique experience, in comparison to Dwight's charity game, when you have Stan Van Gundy mic'd up and giving the audience an opportunity to know what runs through his mind. 

So with the first of only 2 exhibition games in a mini series with the Miami Heat being played tonight at 6 p.m. (it's televised), it'll be interesting to see how many minutes Stan gives the starters. Who are our starters? It's looking like Jameer, J-Rich (even if he's paid less than Redick now), Hedo, Ryno, and Dwight. Orlando is on a 21-game preseason win streak that dates back all the way to October 6, 2008 when the Hawks last defeated the Magic. Oddly enough, that was the season we made the NBA Finals. So maybe a loss tonight isn't the worst thing in the world.

Here are my tiny evaluations of all 15 Magic men from Saturday's scrimmage along with live game footage posted underneath: 

Dwight Howard - Even if he performed terribly, I probably wouldn't admit it. Thankfully, I don't have to sabotage myself. Superman looked great, even if he was going through the motions. That jumper appears to be more and more comfortable for Howard. Doesn't depend on on the glass. Drilled an impressive fadeaway jumper from just above the free throw line. Speaking of the stripe, Howard's percentages may not have improved but that form looks infinitely better. Still a defensive and rebound beast. I noticed Van Gundy gave a few gimme fouls early to appease the superstar. 

Jameer Nelson - In veteran cruise control floor general mode. Preferred to get the other guys involved. Took the open jumper when it was there and knocked it down each time. Didn't force anything. Looks focused in trying to keep the team together in these tumultuous times. 

Hedo Turkoglu - Apocalyptically abysmal. I thought Turk was rather horrible at EuroBasket, but clearly he wasn't in a 5-mile radius of a basketball during the Lockout. He looks fit, but he's constantly laboring and his knees look destroyed. Couldn't buy a basket. Held on to the ball too long in the pick-and-roll which even the crowd even noticed. He was the only player to receive boos during this exhibition. 

J.J. Redick - It's tough to say when Redick will be absolutely 100% post surgery, but he's now got the larger contract over Jason Richardson. J.J. is now expected to fight his damnedest for that starting shooting guard spot. If he doesn't succeed, it won't be for lack of effort. Shot looks off and he's not running as fast as we're used to seeing. Not a memorable performance.  

Ryan Anderson - Couldn't miss a 3-pointer at Dwight's charity event, only to miss almost everything at this scrimmage. Stan loved yelling his name out and keeping him chugging up and down the court. Didn't show any improved dribbling skills like Ryno said he'd accomplish. On the bright side, 'Snoggle' won every loose ball and is not afraid to battle in the paint. He's going to scratch and claw for starter minutes.

Daniel Orton - Just, ugh. Had that one dunk and kind of battled well with Dwight. Other than that, just putrid. Low IQ is showing. Lost on offense and defense. Hands of stone. Got kneed in the groin by Hedo. Allowed Baby to swat a very weak attempt at the hoop. Kid looks more mobile than last year, but has light years to go. 

Quentin Richardson - He has regained some of his Clippers-Suns swag. Looked out of shape at Dwight's charity game, but is definitely fit now. Shot horrendously last year, but his 3-pointer already looks a bit more loftier. It's all about confidence with Q and I think he'll surprise us with some nice performances throughout this campaign. 

Chris Duhon - Last season Chris couldn't even dribble the ball up the court. Duhon has improved on that account. Shot is still crap and there is nothing that indicates he belongs on this roster other than that inflated guaranteed contract. 

Jason Richardson - Looks healthy but didn't exert himself much. Stayed out a lot on the 3-point line and you almost forgot he was on the court at times. I'm not too worried though, but Jason must start cutting and creating offense inside the paint. Especially when his shot may not be there to begin this campaign. 

Earl Clark - With daughter and girlfriend courtside and having fun, Earl looked much more fluid than at Dwight's charity game. Remember, this was Clark's first practice experience since being re-signed. Stan will be happy to have another defensive guy (and beastly athlete) at his disposal. Last season, coach slowly began to trust Clark more with guarding some of the elite forwards in the Association. Hopefully that continues. 

Justin Harper - Of course I had bias towards the kid, I followed his journey in France for the 9 games he played in Strasbourg. Justin didn't really show us much on this morning. Shot looks great and they'll start dropping sooner rather than later. Didn't see him bang around much in the paint. Can't judge him on much else at this time. 

DeAndre Liggins - When he was drafted, I just prayed DeAndre would be better than Keith Bogans. Mission accomplished. Already credited as a lockdown defender, DeAndre has an unbelievably fast first step on offense. He can blow by people like a flash of lightning. I like his shooting form as well. Very smooth and no hitches to complain about. Liggins carries quite the knack for the ball, and can dribble a lot better than I recalled. Got to the free throw line at will on Saturday. The Kentucky grad only played a bit of basketball at his alma mater during the work stoppage, but clearly he was able to improve. He's that Courtney Lee type of wild card player that can unexpectedly elevate the quality of a roster. 

Larry Hughes - Came into the league during the '98-'99 work stoppage, and he's still only 31 years old. We don't want Larry shooting jumpers, ever. But he made a few decent passes and had that exquisite baseline reverse lay-up that displayed his still intact athleticism. At 6'5", I'd be willing to risk making him the backup point guard behind Jameer. Unfortunately for us, I don't see Stan doing that. We'll see how much rope Duhon is given. 

Glen Davis - His physicality is so imposing that even Dwight can't move that brick wall. Baby has lost a lot of weight, and the pinstripes will be extra slimming for Glen. His patented 18-20 foot jumper didn't drop. When it finally did the crowd cheered and applauded with a hint of sarcasm as Davis bowed to the Amway Center folks. He may not know many plays, but he's got the IQ and the girth to set screens all day and night. Great hands and he knows how to move that weight into perfect rebounding position. Baby received a few boos during introductions, but towards the end it was nothing but cheers. Despite his Celtics background, Glen can be a fan favorite here in no time. 

Von Wafer - Von has always had difficulty with coaches. At Olympiakos, with Doc Rivers in Boston. Eventually he and Stan will bump heads. Thankfully, all went perfectly well in Italy in the past few months and Otis Smith is looking like a genius for bringing him to Orlando. Maybe he's matured, maybe not, but Von will be an astounding bench spark plug while he's happy and healthy. Wafer's athleticism and attacking of the paint will earn him minutes alone. Needs to work on defense, but his shooting streaks will remind you of J.R. Smith. Oh, and he can dunk with some added thunder. Wow. 

Gabe Pruitt - Need to see a lot more out of the 6'4" point guard, but I like him a lot better than Duhon only because he doesn't screw up and seems to know how to dribble. He'll be in a suit though come opening night because Duhon makes a few million more than him. 

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