Monday, December 31, 2012

Vucevic Surpasses Shaq as Magic Must Settle for Moral Victory

Here's my 'Magic Basketball Online' recap of the Orlando Magic ending the 2012 calendar year on a 6-game losing streak as they lost 112-110 in overtime to the Miami Heat inside a packed Amway Center. Nikola Vucevic shattered Shaquille O'Neal's franchise rebounding record. Here are the player postgame locker room interviews from the historic evening.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dec. 30th Magic Post-Practice Footage

The Magic emphasized team defense, free throw shooting, and better ball movement in today's practice. Coach Jacque Vaughn implied it was more about improving the squad rather than focusing on the Heat. Arron Afflalo would then speak about continuing to have confidence. After all, this current roster has dealt with a 5-game skid earlier in the season and bounced back. The Magic will not have a shootaround Monday morning as the New Year's Eve tip-off from Amway Center will be at 5 p.m.

Jameer Nelson said he felt a lot better today, but that he has no idea how his left hip will be on Monday. Thus, Nelson's status for the Heat game is still questionable. 

It's no surprise to see guys like Gustavo Ayon practicing on free throws, as well as JJ Redick and Arron Afflalo unleashing a plethora of shots after the practice. Both perimeter men have been struggling with their jumpers. During this 5-game losing stretch, Redick has been managing just 35.6 FG% while Afflalo is only mustering up a subpar 32% from 3-point range in those same past five contests.

Finally, young guns Ish Smith and DeQuan Jones were interviewed about lack of communication on defense, and what it'll be like to face LeBron and the Heat. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Raptors Rampage Through Orlando

Here is my 'Magic Basketball Online' recap of the the Orlando Magic being crushed by the Toronto Raptors 123-88 inside Amway Center. Here are my postgame player interviews. Coach Vaughn's crew is stuck in a 5-game perilous slide that doesn't appear to be getting easier with six playoff opponents coming up.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Magic Fall to Worst Team in NBA, on Putrid 4-Game Skid

Orlando accommodated the New Orleans Hornets by assisting in the ending of their 11-game losing streak. So what about a measly 8-game streak for the Wizards? Sure, why not. Washington won 105-97. Rinse and repeat, the Magic couldn't get crucial stops down the stretch and their ball movement looked nonexistent in crunch time for the fourth straight defeat. I almost want to vomit it was so nauseating to watch the ineptitude at times. It doesn't matter if you're going up against the worst team in basketball, you still have to focus and bring the effort necessary to prevail or you'll be humiliated. Orlando was embarrassed in the paint and in transition and are in an out-of-control tail spin that is undoing all their hard work to begin this '12-'13 season. 

A ferocious Maurice Harkless jam, three Jameer 3-pointers, and an Afflalo steal that led to a lay-up, and the Magic sprinted ahead 13-4 just over three and a half minutes into the contest that left the Verizon Center crowd even quieter than usual. Their mood would rapidly change. Despite leading by as many as 17 points in the period, Orlando owned just a 31-25 advantage after those initial 12 minutes. Point the finger at Gustavo Ayon and JJ Redick for squandering opportunities. 

E'Twaun Moore injured his left elbow at the end of that opening quarter and didn't come back. That meant Ish Smith being dusted off for the first time in 2 weeks. Orlando just isn't as threatening defensively without Glen Davis on the court. Magic trailed 54-51 at halftime because the Wizards got 18 first half points from Jordan Crawford, and 11 from Garrett Temple who is fresh off a lengthy Development League stint. Pitiful. 

The Magic were playing so terribly that Coach Vaughn got desperate and tossed DeQuan Jones in at PF. It didn't help much. In fact the situation was so appalling that the Magic got tagged with a technical foul for playing with 6 men on the court. At least it caused Jacque to scream in anger for once. Orlando was behind by as much as 15 points. Against the bottom-feeder of the NBA. So sad. Josh McRoberts was finally inserted into the contest and Orlando would charge back to only trail 80-72 entering the fourth quarter.

Orlando got their deficit within 3 early on in the last period before Washington extended their lead to double digits once more. Orlando had no more gas in the fuel tank. It was gruesome to watch this team struggle on both ends. With Hedo Turkoglu estimated to be returning against the Raptors at Amway Center Saturday night, it's perfect timing to have 'Turkey Dance' fill in for a hurt E'Twaun and take up backup point guard duties. The bleeding must be stopped because a brutal schedule is on the horizon. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ryno Gets Revenge Against Magic

Mr. Anderson has Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez to thank for the Hornets' 97-94 victory at Amway Center. Magic have lost 3 consecutive tight contests and look to be in trouble without Glen Davis. Here's Brian Serra's Magic Basketball Online recap as well as my locker room interviews after the game. It's unfortunate to see Jameer's season-high 28 points and Nik Vucevic's 19 points negated by this defeat.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

First Trimester Magic Player Grades

Twenty-seven divided by 82 games is 32.9%, and that's close enough to one-third for me to start doing some evaluations of this 12-15 squad. Plus, what better way to celebrate Christmas than to distribute gifts and coal to Orlando Magic players. Keep in mind, this is a team that many predicted would only win 13 or 16 games. So the 'overachieving' must be taken into effect when assigning grades. The problem with exceeding expectations now is that many people believe this Magic team can make the playoffs. Will pressure set in? 

Arron Afflalo: B
27 Games; 27 Starts; 35.7 mpg; 45.1 FG%; 36.0 3PT%; 16.5 ppg; 3.9 rpg; 2.7 apg

I think most Magic fans were expecting more from the man who was dubbed the main attraction of what the Magic were getting in return from the Dwight deal. Afflalo won't admit it, but the ice packs speak otherwise, the man is hurt. Whether it's his right knee that he's buckled a few times, or his left shoulder that's been clobbered on rare occasion, Afflalo is a tough guy who will play through the normal bumps and bruisings on the parquet court. That still doesn't abolish him from proper criticism of terrible turnovers.

Arron needs to work on his dribbling because he's bouncing balls off his foot at least once a game. Also, Afflalo needs to stop pulling a Keith Bogans and get his feet behind the 3-point line. His one-man fastbreak is both a blessing and a burden depending solely on the result. Jacque isn't hating on it, so I won't either. The 27-year-old did earn extra fan points for posting his season-high of 30 points against the Lakers

Glen Davis: B+
25 Games; 25 Starts; 33.0 mpg; 44.9 FG%; 16.0 ppg; 7.9 rpg; 1.0 spg

It'd be a perfect rating for Big Baby if we were just judging him based off of epic quotes and interviews. I may bitch and moan about Glen being a blackhole and how he stagnates offensive flow, but it's been apparent the team is missing him these past 2 games. Orlando has for the first time lost games in which they shot 50% from the field, versus Utah and Toronto, and it's perplexing as to why. Glen is the only real explanation since he's not out on the court. Big Baby was the team's leading scorer before going down, and he was also a main closer down the stretch. 

Maybe those weird dives on the floor or into the stands provide a spark for Glen's teammates. Maybe Big Baby's goofiness is a catalyst for keeping the rest of the roster loose. All I know is he's missed by teammates and coaches. It's all about surviving and hoping that left shoulder sprain heals swiftly. 

JJ Redick: A-
26 Games; 4 Starts; 30.9 mpg; 44.6 FG%; 35.4 3PT%; 14.0 ppg; 2.3 rpg; 4.9 apg 

He's an A+ individual off the court as JJ has been fantastic with his charity work and fan interaction this season. Coach Vaughn hasn't designated JJ as a 'captain', but he's more than represented himself as a leader. There really isn't much to negatively critique about when it comes to Redick. Does he have his bad shooting nights? Most definitely. But low shooting percentages can be ignored when you look at JJ's assist numbers. Victories can cure just about anything when you so how much of the offensive flow is depended on JJ making correct decisions.

'Redickulous' may be averaging a career-low from 3-point range, but he's still drilling his clutch attempts. He's making his 6th Man of the Year candidacy known with superb bench performance after another. The 28-year-old has taken on a closing role without flinching, and there's still room for improvement.

Jameer Nelson: B+
20 Games; 20 Starts; 33.9 mpg; 39.3 FG%; 29.8 3PT%; 12.2 ppg; 4.2 rpg; 6.7 apg

When I predicted the Magic would finish this season 39-43, I had envisioned 'Mighty Mite' carrying a much larger scoring load than Jameer initially has up to this point. Then you look at his career-highs in assists, rebounding, and steals (1.3 per game) and you see Jameer as a more rounded contributor.

Nelson absolutely savored getting his Dwight revenge. Jameer is 30 years young and is in best physical shape he's been in since his All-Star campaign. Orlando's floor general is crossing up and embarrassing opponents at an astounding rate these first few months. The Magic are 11-9 when Nelson is starting, and so there's no debate how necessary it is for Jameer to maintain good health.

Nikola Vucevic: A
27 Games; 27 Starts; 30.0 mpg; 50.2 FG%; 10.4 ppg; 9.9 rpg; 1.1 bpg 

'Vucci Mane' is currently the best center out of that Dwight-Bynum trade and Rob Hennigan deserves enough high-fives and fist bumps that he'll be begging to ice his hand down. Vucevic is a walking double-double threat every game. Nik has racked up 12 double-doubles this season, five of which have come in the past six contests. 'Vooch' is finding his groove and is learning well from past in-game mistakes. As a sophomore, Vucci Mane should be a shoe-in to receive an All-Star Weekend invite to participate in the Rising Stars exhibition. 

The 7-footer won't get you a bunch of assists, but his unselfishness and constant crashing of the glass opens up the court enough to where Dwight isn't nearly as missed on offense as it was initially assumed. The Montenegrin is not a 'soft' player. He may get caught flat-footed or off-guard sometimes, but don't question his tenacity and drive to get better. Nik is slowly realizing he should finish plays with dunks instead of lay-ups. Vooch is also finding out he can be a rim protector

E'Twaun Moore: C+
27 Games; 7 Starts; 23.5 mpg; 44.0 FG%; 39.0 3PT%; 9.2 ppg; 2.3 rpg; 3.0 apg  

E'Twaun really is this decade's Keyon Dooling. Still can't figure out his identity between shooting guard and point guard just yet. He's much better than Chris Duhon (which doesn't say too much), but Moore still scares me when he's trying to bring the ball up the court. Moore can't consistently fill Jameer's starting shoes and that's a main reason why Orlando had suffered a 5-game losing streak in November.

3'Twaun is only effective when he's knocking down his perimeter looks and his signature floater. Moore is known for his defense, but I haven't seen much lockdown defending. He's a bargain of a contract, and his youth along with talent and decent athleticism will keep him on this team and in the NBA, but E'Twaun shouldn't feel completely comfortable in his backup PG role just yet. 

Andrew Nicholson: B+
26 Games; 1 Start; 14.7 mpg; 52.3 FG%; 7.4 ppg; 3.1 rpg

We're at the point now with Uncle 'Drew that he is definitely a steal as a 19th NBA Draft selection, but nobody is ready to settle yet considering his unlimited potential. For a guy who has taken a large amount of jumpers, Nicholson's superb field goal percentage is a testament to his efficiency as a post player. 'Drew can score wherever and whenever he wants in the paint with either hand of choice. I can't recall the last Magic player who had as fantastic a post-up game as Nicholson does. Maybe Rony Seikaly? Dwight's never been that dominant in the post.

His weakness coming out of training camp was defense. While Andrew is still a little sluggish on switches and pick-and-rolls, his knack for learning how to adjust quickly is paying off. Personality wise, we're all waiting for Nicholson to show as much excitement and enthusiasm as he did the night he got drafted by Orlando. It's weird that his two worst performances probably in Toronto. Even the most calmest of me like 'Drew can get overanxious to want to play well in front of family and friends. It would be wonderful if Nicholson was invited to Houston for the Rising Stars Challenge, but then he'd have to deal with even more media guys. 

Hedo Turkoglu: Incomplete
1 Game; 1 Start; 17.0 mpg; 75.0 FG%; 6.0 ppg; 2.0 rpg; 2.0 spg   

I'll tell you what, Turkey Dance in preseason and that first regular season game looked to be in great shape, was actively moving about on offense, and seemed to give a damn on defense. Hedo is mighty close to returning to the floor after suffering that left broken hand injury. Jacque Vaughn's offense might fit Hedo's ball-dominating style like a glove.

If Hedo does come back, would he start at power forward or small forward? Or does he contribute off the bench? A lot to contemplate when it comes to Turk. From what I've witnessed, the 33-year-old is determined to become a vital part of this franchise's unlikely push towards an improbable playoff berth.

Maurice Harkless: C
24 Games; 17 Starts; 17.4 mpg; 47.2 FG%; 4.0 ppg; 3.7 rpg; 0.9 bpg; 0.7 spg

I think we have rightfully come to expect a little more from Maurice. The 19-year-old has a fair amount of starts under his belt and still seems hesitant to contribute on offense. Harkless appeared more aggressive back when he was still fresh off sports hernia surgery. A lot of it is that Coach Vaughn doesn't run plays for Harkless. The only way Maurice can score is if he instigates the situation whether that's picking off an opponent's pass, crashing the offensive glass, or constantly cutting to the rim.

Maurice clearly needed another season or two at St. John's, but can we criticize a guy who was indeed chosen as a 1st Rounder? Harkless has become the team's defensive specialist and hasn't really been torched by anyone he's guarded as of yet. I just wish Maurice would take advantage of scoring chances presented to him as a result of lazy defending by his opponents who don't view Maurice as any legitimate scoring threat. 

Gustavo Ayon: C+
26 Games; 1 Start; 13.3 mpg; 52.2 FG%; 3.5 ppg; 3.9 rpg; 1.5 apg

Goose is slowly getting there. He's finally healthy after that sprained left thumb made him regress terribly after a promising preseason. He's coming off season-highs in points and rebounds these last few games, and it's paramount that he continue improving in the absence of Big Baby. Goose might be the best passing big man in basketball. If he were playing on ice, Ayon would be earning a lot of hockey assists with his phenomenal unselfishness. 

I'm still amazed at how well Goose moves about the paint, helping out on defense while tactically avoiding getting tagged with 3-second violations. Now if the coaching staff can just help Gustavo with his finishing at the basket. Ayon has that patented baseline reverse lay-up that is beginning to drop for him finally. Also, I could swear Goose has botched up an inbound play almost every game he's played in this season and that's why his grade isn't better. 

Josh McRoberts: C
21 Games; 2 Starts; 14.6 mpg; 44.4 FG%; 33.3 3PT%; 3.3 ppg; 3.4 rpg; 1.2 apg

For a guy who I thought should have been bought out once the Dwight deal occurred, 'McBob' has done okay for himself. Josh hasn't been seeing much court time as Nicholson and Ayon have eaten away at his minutes. Josh went from a huge small forward contributor to being utilized as a bench spark. When you can dunk like he can, and can prove to be a wonderful passer, you're always going to be useful for any coach. 

Kyle O'Quinn: B-
13 Games; 0 Starts; 5.5 mpg; 41.2 FG%; 2.0 ppg; 2.0 rpg; 0.5 apg; 0.6 bpg

Kyle might be Orlando's best shot-blocker. He's done a fantastic job staying optimistic and energetic despite a lack of court time. Kyle is fearless and is willing to do anything he can to contribute for Coach Vaughn, even if that means being the best cheerleader on the team

DeQuan Jones: C
16 Games; 3 Starts; 7.6 mpg; 36.4 FG%; 1.8 ppg; 1.4 rpg

We all can benefit from Mr. Jones providing solid help defense like that. I think DeQuan deserves to slide for now because he was hampered with a hip/thigh injury he sustained from the last preseason game for so long that it really hindered his abilities to get to the rim and elevate like we know he's capable of. He's still a hell of a journeyman story. Undrafted out of Miami, starting a few games, and rightfully earning a place on this roster, Jones appears healthy now and we'll see how Jacque divvies out playing time going forward. 

We all know the man can soar and should be an All-Star Weekend dunk contest participant if he gets an offer, but for Jones to have a lengthy professional career he must develop some go-to scoring moves. 

Ish Smith: D+
13 Games; 0 Starts; 10.0 mpg; 16.7 FG%; 0.8 ppg; 1.3 rpg; 1.4 apg

I almost wanted to put 'incomplete' here because Ish missed all of training camp recovering from shoulder surgery. But he's been healthy for 2 months now, and Smith isn't nearly as effective as he appeared last season. Then again, he was competing against Chris Duhon. That 16.7 FG% is an inexcusable shooting percentage. Mr. Smith is suitable as a 3rd point guard at this time, but Ish needs to get back to his bread and butter of weaving through the paint and processing his options from there because his 'new' jump shot isn't a good one. 

Al Harrington: Incomplete
0 Games; 0 Starts

For obvious reasons. 

If you agree or disagree with my grades, please feel free to comment. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

December 24th Magic Post-Practice Interviews

Despite a difficult 97-93 loss last night to the Jazz, the Orlando Magic players and coaching staff were in the Christmas spirit. For guys like JJ Redick and Jameer Nelson, it'll be the first Christmas Day they completely off and free to themselves to spend with friends and family since 2007. Jacque Vaughn discussed the rapid progress of Hedo Turkoglu who participated in 'controlled drills'. I imagine Turkey Dance won't be back until he gets a scrimmage or two under his belt which must be approaching soon. By now Magic fans should know that this franchise doesn't like dealing with set timetables. Here is my 'Magic Basketball Online' Al Harrington post-practice interview and drill footage. Enjoy my video clips of these overall happy-faced interviews. I look forward to Jameer's rookie hazing photoshoot final product reveal. Ryan Anderson gets discussed as well as he makes his triumphant return to Amway Center since departing to New Orleans this summer. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Jazz Pull Out Another Tight Win Over Magic

Despite owning a 16-point lead Sunday night, Orlando found a way to fall apart in the second half and lose to the Utah Jazz 97-93. 20 turnovers will negate a 50 FG% performance. The Magic have dropped to 12-15 after losing back-to-back nail-biters. Here are the postgame locker room interviews. Coming off his first double-double as a member of the Magic, Gustavo Ayon was penciled in to start at power forward for the first time this season as Magic Coach Jacque Vaughn is rewarding the Mexican for outstanding play of late. ‘Goose’ started 24 games last season with New Orleans. Ayon tonight had 9 points and 12 rebounds as he missed a chance to tie the game at the free throw line with ten seconds remaining. Nik Vucevic tallied a monstrous 16 points and 16 rebounds, and now has five double-doubles in his last six contests. Arron Afflalo led all scorers with 20 points.
Coach Vaughn on missed chances: “I think it’s pretty simple. You out-rebound a team, you shoot 50% from the field, make nine 3s, have 20 turnovers for 22 points. The game is really that simple. 

Orlando suffered a disappointing 87-81 defeat in Salt Lake City on December 5th where the Magic shot an appalling 1-for-15 from 3-point range and were absolutely abused by the Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap Utah frontline pairing. Orlando did better against the Jazz big men, and even made 9-of-20 from 3-point range. It was all about turnovers and Utah have more success getting to the free throw line. Mo Williams wasn’t available due to a right thumb injury he suffered Saturday in Miami. That meant more minutes for Jamaal Tinsley and Earl Watson.  Tinsley shot 3-for-8 from 3-point range. Jazz Coach Tyrone Corbin would have the services of Derrick Favors this time around as he poured in 12 points.
Coach Vaughn on Kyle O'Quinn's 1st half minutes: "Came in with energy and he deserved the minutes he played tonight, and it was good to see him have some success out there."
Orlando pounced early on a Jazz side that did not look like they weren’t ready to play just yet. Magic put up a season-best 30 points in the first quarter, leading by a dozen thanks to 14-of-21 shooting. Fabulous contributions and hustle all around from the white-and-blue. Afflalo notched 13 points in that opening session. Orlando would only muster 17 points on 7-of-19 shooting in the 2nd period. Dumb turnovers and a lowered defensive intensity allowed Utah to only trail 47-46 at halftime.

A lay-up by Al Jefferson at the 10:23 mark of the 3rd period handed Utah their first lead of the evening, 50-49. The Magic didn’t get their first free throw attempts of the contest until the 7:31 mark as Afflalo finally got the stripe. Orlando would create some separation midway through the quarter thanks to an 8-0 run before Utah reeled the Magic in to only trail 73-71 heading into the final period of this evenly matched contest.
Coach Vaughn on Vucevic guarding Jefferson: "It was great, he stayed with the game plan, and he was disciplines. I think Al maybe got him on one pump-fake the entire night..."

The 4th quarter can only be described as a foul-heavy, physical battle that was suitable for the grass fields of the NFL. Jameer Nelson would tie the game at 82-82 off a corner 3, only to be followed by JJ Redick getting tagged with a technical foul for being furious at no foul being called on Alec Burks who pulled Redick’s jersey out of his shorts. Utah utilized back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 91-87 lead with 2:19 to go. Redick had a career-worst 7 turnovers, including four of the Magic’s 6 in the fourth period. The Magic were sloppy in crunch time. Blame it on the refs, blame it on Ayon not being able to finish, but don’t take credit away from Utah’s physical play in the second half. Orlando practices on Monday, will enjoy Christmas Day off, and will take on the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday. It’ll be Ryan Anderson’s return to Amway Center. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Adoration for JJ Redick

It's better late than never to be viewed as a hot commodity. It's taken 6 years, but JJ Redick has never been as respected in the NBA as he is currently. The mass media has noticed. The praise from teammates past and present is infinite. That's why Magic General Manager Rob Hennigan has a lot to contemplate when it comes to whether or not he should treat Redick like stock and sell high by dealing him, or retain JJ as a foundation piece. It seems like half the league is rumored to be wanting to acquire the services of the 6'4" guard. 'Redickulous' is near the top of the 6th Man of the Year candidate list for obvious reasons. Hardwood Paroxysm just did an extensive Q & A piece with Mr. Redick. I fully recommend the read.

We're about one-third of the way through his 7th season, and Redick is averaging career-highs across the board including points (14.0) and assists (4.9). He's putting up a career-best 44.4 FG% despite a pro worst 35.2 3-point percentage. He still deserves to be in ONE All-Star Weekend 3-point contest. It's repetitive to keep hawking this, but Redick isn't a chucker. He drive and cuts into the paint. He's knocking down Ray Allen-like curling jumpers. He's the second-best passer on the roster behind just Jameer Nelson. JJ is a huge reason why Orlando is overachieving at this moment. Let's just say Redick is worthy of his $6.1 million he's raking in this season. He's not one of Jacque Vaughn's captains, but JJ doesn't need to be handed that title to act like a constant leader on and off the court. All of Redick's interviews this season, including the one below, have always included a dose of high basketball IQ and a hint of JJ's witty personality.


Redick joined David Baumann's radio show a few days ago to discuss about his future and address his potential free agency. Redick was very open about denying a HoopsHype report and discussing the overall process of his potential free agency. He can't be extended. If he finishes out the season in Orlando, Redick will be a free agent. JJ is a consummate professional. He knows the benefits and consequences of being traded to another city. The man wants to win a championship. Can that eventually be accomplished here? I think based on Redick's attitude and the way he's carried himself as a leader that the answer is 'yes'. 

A few days ago, Mr. Redick took part in the first Orlando Magic 'Google Hangout' where JJ answered questions and interacted with fans. There's a lot of Duke and Roanoke, Virginia chatter, there's a decent amount of charity talk that reveals JJ's softer side. There are some extra intriguing responses though. At the 7:30 mark, Redick was asked which player past or present he wanted to play with on a team together. JJ's response was LeBron James.

"I think he's great at making his teammates better...I would hope, that if I ever got the chance to play with him, that he'd do that for me too."

Read into that however you want. JJ also mentioned his best NBA shot to date was this beauty that sent Game 4 of last season's playoffs against the Pacers to overtime. I get a chuckle out of Redick not even mentioning Brian Hill's name when it came to overcoming adversity. The Magic organization is listening to me, because I did wish for this franchise to be more socially accessible. It's happening thanks to Twitter chats, this Google Hangout, and more behind-the-scenes footage being filmed in series such as 'Rise of the Rookies'.

Going back to the topic of JJ, he's maybe the largest attraction in this Orlando area when it comes to selling merchandise and contributing to the filling of those Amway Center seats. Redick does consider Orlando his home and his giving back to the community is a major indicator of that. It's near impossible for someone to have lived in Orlando over the last 6 years and not seen JJ somewhere around town. He's long embraced the City Beautiful. All Magic fans want Redick to be re-signed and stay in Orlando, but they know that situation may not be in the franchise's future salary cap clearing plans.

No matter what happens with JJ, he'll always have the love and support of Magic fans. We've seen JJ go from struggling to survive in the league to now being a 28-year-old consistent contributor with still a ceiling to grow in all game facets. Redick is a superb athlete, a brilliant mind who can go into coaching when he retires, and is someone who has busted his tail and continuously works hard enough to be worthy of being called a champion.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Magic Victory Bittersweet as Big Baby Gets Injured

My Magic Basketball Recap of Orlando's 90-83 victory against the Washington Wizards that includes the unfortunate left shoulder injury Glen Davis sustained late in the contest. Here are the player locker room interview videos including JJ Redick explaining his Ric Flair obsession.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Rakovic Unleashes Rage on Opponent's Face

Milovan Rakovic decided to unleash his fury in a Eurocup game a few days ago. 'Rak Attack' is still relevant in the NBA world because the Magic still hold his league rights should he ever officially make the leap from the other side of the Atlantic. The 27-year-old came over for Summer League in 2009, but didn't play for Orlando. We haven't seen him since. I blame it on the curse of being the last pick of the 2007 NBA Draft. I'm not saying this current Orlando squad needs him. He's slower, shorter, and less athletic than Marcin Gortat. Nowhere near as skilled as the beefy Nikola Pekovic, even if Rak Attack is just as tough. But it'd be nice to see Milovan live his NBA dream, even if that means trading him and receiving some assets in return. The big man is currently in his first season of his 2-year deal with Bilbao Basket as Rakovic is racking up respectable European accolades. 

Bilbao Basket continued their scorching start to their European competition by defeating Belgian side Spirou Charleroi 85-84. Rakovic managed an efficient 9 points. Bilbao had long punched their ticket to the Round of 16 of Eurocup. The close game would conclude after the contest with a scuffle between the two sides. It looks like Charleroi's Matt Walsh immediately escalated a peaceful sharing of handshakes as he two-hand shoved Axel Herville. Maybe Walsh was unleashing 0-6 frustration despite pouring in 27 points.

Above you can view the slowed down high-quality video of the incident. I love the one Bilbao fan spitting in Matt Walsh's direction. Milovan didn't start the confrontation, but he certainly finished it by standing up for his Bilbao teammates. Here is the entire television broadcast of the skirmish and calming down period. Milovan looked like an NFL defensive end running around an offensive lineman to sack a quarterback. Rakovic got a full force blow on Walsh's face.

The consequences of Milovan's actions are yet to be known as of now. There may not even be any because apparently Eurocup officials haven't even acknowledged the pandemonium occurred. I guess when it's not Euroleague play, no one cares. Maybe they're fearing Rak Attack retaliation. Can't blame them. On another former-Magic man side note, enjoy this Travis Diener interview about his current Eurocup stint with Dinamo Sassari.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hawks Swoop into Orlando and Nab Victory

For the second consecutive game against the Atlanta Hawks, the Magic shot about thirty-eight percent on field goals. That’s just asking for trouble. So are 16 turnovers. Orlando would lose 86-80 to an Atlanta team that just knows how to make the Magic struggle with scoring. Coach Jacque Vaughn’s crew now owns an 8-13 record. On the bright side, Orlando went 11-for-11 from the free throw stripe. On a negative, Amway Center's official attendance was just 16,992. That's the lowest ever for a Magic regular season game since the building opened its doors. Here are mypostgame player locker room videos. The frustration with being 4-6 at Amway Center now is growing. These veterans know they can do better, but Atlanta's stiff defense forces Orlando into being a bad perimeter squad. 

Arron Afflalo on another slow start: "We can't afford to sleepwalk into the games. That falls a lot on the guys who start the game more so than anybody."

Arron Afflalo led his team in points with sixteen. Jameer Nelson posted an efficient 12 points, while JJ Redick poured in 13 points off the pine. Glen Davis was a nightmare 2-for-11 of the field but still finished with 11 points and 7 boards. Also of note, Andrew Nicholson’s 8 points and 7 rebounds off the bench. With DeShawn Stevenson unavailable, Hawks Coach Larry Drew turned to Anthony Morrow at starting small forward. It was the former Net’s first start in an Atlanta jersey. The Hawks had little problems with their efficient 8-man rotation.

Arron Afflalo's vow for Golden State on Friday: "Next game we will play with more focus and passion in the first quarter."

Heads up, the Magic had another terrible start to a contest. The home side didn’t score a point for the first 4 minutes and forty-five seconds. Orlando trailed 16-2 at the 6:03 mark before Jacque Vaughn finally called a timeout. Then the bench brigade came in and had a major hand in Orlando’s 13-3 run as it was nice to witness some crisp ball movement. After the brutal beginning, the Magic only trailed 20-15 after one quarter of play despite 33.3% field goal shooting.

Hawks Coach Larry Drew on the Magic: "This team is a team that I believe in the future they're going to be something to beat. You're going to have to really pay particular attention to."

The Magic utilized a 10-2 run to nab a 27-26 advantage midway through the second period. Behind a 9-0 Atlanta barrage though, the Hawks would command a 46-34 lead at halftime. Orlando shot a vomit-inducing 34.1 FG% those initial 24 minutes. The suffocating Hawks defense is legitimate. You don’t lose 7 straight to Atlanta, managing only about 79 points in each of those gruesome defense, and not give credit to that stifling ATL defense. Talk about a roller coaster affair. After Atlanta led by as many as 19 points, Orlando would go on an 11-2 run to get within single digits. Atlanta once more led by a dozen going into the final period, 72-60. I’m still horrified to have witnessed Zaza Pachulia drill a ¾ court heave just after the buzzer.

JJ Redick on the team's mistakes: "We are what we are right now...we're a high turnover team."

Zaza clearly gained some courage from that ridiculous prayer shot because the former Magic big man would be an offensive handful for Glen and Vucevic early on in the fourth period. Not kidding. Thanks to a few timely 3s and some overall decent ball stopping allowed to Magic to only be behind 82-72 with 5:23 remaining. But all of this coming from behind eventually wore out the starters and they ran out of gas down the stretch. Atlanta has now won 8 straight regular season contests against Orlando. We’ve been long begging for this pain and angst to end. Not yet, Orlando, not yet. The Magic seek to recover on Friday as they will host the Golden State Warriors. Tip-off has been moved back to 7 p.m. EST instead of 8 p.m. because ESPN dropped this game from being shown on national television. Keep an eye on Maurice Harkless' minutes. I expect a fair chunk of them to be dispersed more to DeQuan Jones and Josh McRoberts who have been riding the pine plenty of late.  

Jameer Nelson on frustrating losses like tonight: "I can't figure it out by myself, not any one person here. We have to figure it out together."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Magic Bench Burns Phoenix; Nicholson Career Night

After two recent disappointing defeats, Orlando concluded their 5-game Western Conference road trip 3-2 as the Magic snatched a win 98-90 in Phoenix. Orlando shot 51.9% from the field. Jacque Vaughn's men are 8-12 overall on the season. Arron Afflalo drilled a long 2-pointer with 1:22 to go to put Orlando up 97-88 and clinch the victory. Tonight was rookie Andrew Nicholson's night. Career-highs galore: 9-of-11 shooting, 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 steals. The Magic survived coughing up 6 more turnovers than their opponent by out-rebounding Phoenix 44-29.

Magic are now 8-3 when they make at least five 3-pointers as they shot 5-of-15 Sunday. Orlando also received superb bench support from JJ Redick and E'Twaun Moore. Redick posted 20 points and 9 assists off the pine and Moore managed 10 points. Don't forget 15 points from Glen Davis, 14 from Arron Afflalo, and 12 & 9 out of Nik Vucevic. Goran Dragic was a late scratch due to illness, leaving Phoenix without their best scorer and dish dealer. 15.1 ppg and 6.4 apg to be specific. Sebastian Telfair was inserted at point guard as this was Telfair's first start of the season. 

Orlando began the contest sluggishly once more. Phoenix were up 6-0, then 13-4 just past the 6-minute mark of the opening quarter. The blue and white did not take their hosts seriously by any means to start the contest. They saw Dragic not on the court, as well as the fact Phoenix has one of the worst defenses in the league, and thought Alvin Gentry's club would just roll over and die. A lot of Magic player confusion could be spotted as Phoenix broke down Orlando's defense for a large amount of easy buckets. 

Despite appearing like he should have been taking a tap dance lesson wearing those black shoes in white attire, Marcin Gortat danced around the likes of Vucevic and Ayon on both ends of the paint and put on a clinic early and often. Coach Vaughn got desperate early, as ten Orlando players were already utilizes in the first 6:55 of the game. JJ Redick and E'Twaun Moore with a combined twelve points were crucial in slicing into Phoenix's lead and only trailing 20-23 after one quarter. 

E'Twaun Moore had been struggling mightily away from Amway Center. In the last four games, Moore had posted 9 points total. He had 7 by halftime. Wesley Johnson fouled JJ Redick on a 3-pointer TWICE. Christmas isn't for a few more weeks. Props to Andrew Nicholson, who turned 23 years old Saturday, for getting the better of Luis Scola. The Argentinian was either injured, or unprepared to deal with the Canadian on both ends of the court as Andrew was an efficient 3-for-3 from the field going into the break. Phoenix is so inept without Dragic to lead them on offense that the Magic turned their deficit into a 43-36 advantage midway through the 2nd period. 'Redickulous' poured in 17 first half points. Orlando went into the locker room ahead 53-48 as they were in control after another rocky start. 

After 2 backdoor lay-ups from Maurice Harkless to begin the 3rd quarter, an 11-0 Phoenix run made the score 59-57 in favor of the Suns as the Magic began yet another half terribly. The momentum shift would end as a 19-4 run before Orlando seemed to wake up from their coma and answered with an 8-0 run of their own to lead 69-67 in the final two minutes of the 3rd. A lot of praise and respect earned by Nicholson. Orlando had a 12-rebound advantage and a 71-70 lead going into the final period.

Nicholson and Big Baby were on the court together in crunch time. They, along with Redick, were the main factors as to why Orlando was able to build a cushion. The Magic would not look back. Be very proud of the St. Bonaventure alum who gave Markieff Morris and Scola constant fits. Orlando led 93-82 with 4:38 left in the contest before Phoenix came back with a 6-0 run before Andrew came up clutch to put Orlando up 95-88 with under 2 minutes in the contest. 

No offence to 19-year-old Maurice Harkless and the long NBA career he'll have ahead of him, but he's been invisible the past few weeks at starting small forward. Harkless only managed 6 the first 4 and a half games of this West journey before mustering up those quick 4 third period points. That's not something to be thrilled about. I'd cut the kid some slack if his defense was up to snuff, but it hasn't been. Not like it was when he was guarding Carmelo Anthony. His confidence is in the dumps when he's not active. Needless to say, I can't wait for Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington to see the court soon. Orlando gets to relax a few days back in the City Beautiful before the Magic host the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday.