Sunday, March 25, 2012
We're a month away from the playoffs. TNT is already reminding me with their NBA postseason commercials. Go figure. That's good enough of a reason to finally gauge what certain players need to do in order to increase Orlando's chances of making a deep run in this postseason. Stan Van Gundy's and Otis Smith's jobs are on the line potentially. If you believe the rumors, it'd basically take a trophy hoisting for 'Mr. Mumble' to keep his GM position. Statistics fuel and trigger a lot of decisions now-a-days. A lot of numbers crunching and analysis occurs when it comes to viewing what player and lineups deserve more touches and minutes. Some numbers are fluky, but others may truly surprise you.
Going into Monday's matchup in Toronto, the 31-18 Magic are 8-3 when DeAndre Liggins sees the court, 7-2 when Ish Smith touches the parquet, and 4-1 when Daniel Orton gets minutes. SVG's squad is 3-0 when Earl Clark scores 6 or more points.
Orlando is 17-2 when Hedo Turkoglu records 5 or more assists in a game. The win-loss situation is 11-15 when Hedo records 4 assists or fewer, and a just as bad 6-11 when Turk dishes out 3 dimes or fewer. Pass the pizza, sir. Hedo seems to be the barometer for blue, white, and black success. The Magic are 15-1 when Turkey Dance scores 14 points or more. Doesn't matter what his shooting percentage is. He's currently averaging just 10.9 ppg. We also need Hedo to crash the glass. The Magic are 14-2 when Rebound-oglu snatches 5 or more boards.
Orlando is 11-3 when Jason Richardson shoots 40% or better from 3-point range, and just 13-11 when that percentage is under 40%. We're 5-0 when the former dunk champ records 4 or more assists. I don't expect him to dribble around, but I do expect the Spartan to cut and penetrate for dumps and dishes. What we really need is Jason to stay healthy and to stay scrappy. Keep in mind, J-Rich's backup makes more money than him.
Speaking of J.J. Redick, the Magic are 8-4 when the Blue Devil is inserted into the starting lineup. Last postseason, Redickulous and J-Rich were both hampered badly by injuries. Jonathan Clay is currently averaging a career-best 10.9 points per game. When J.J. scores 11 points or more in a contest, Orlando is an impressive 23-4. The Magic are 2-10 when Redick does not record a 3-point make. The evidence is there, Orlando just plays better when Redick is clicking on the offensive end. When Redick blocks a shot, the team is 4-0. Stan should truly consider playing Redickulous more minutes. 18-4 when on the court 26 minutes and above, 13-14 when J.J. plays less than 26 minutes.
Jameer Nelson is averaging 10.3 ppg, his lowest output since the 2004 College Player of the Year's rookie season. You would think as the point guard that when Jameer has a bad game, so does the rest of the team. That was the case in past seasons, but not so much this campaign. When Mighty Mite shoots 43% or above, Orlando is 14-2. The problem though is in that small market size, just 16 games. Nelson needs to pick up his weak 42.3 FG%. SVG's squad isn't dependent on Jameer scoring a lot either. When Jameer scores 12 points or more, Orlando is just 10-6. 14-point performances or higher doesn't get that much more impressive for 'Mr. Clutch', a worse 6-5 record. Maybe it's about Jameer sharing the rock? Magic are 13-5 when Nelson dishes out 6 dimes or more. Again, tiny sampling. Examining the turnover ratios doesn't provide answers either. Jameer was another blue and white player hobbled by injuries last season. This year it's been about concussions it seems like. He's shown glimpses, but no one knows if Nelson will be able to kick it into another gear starting in late April.
The Magic lost the one time Glen Davis has started this season. Big Baby has had one of the most tumultuous seasons in NBA history. Lockout year, traded from a Celtics organization he adored, deaths of father and grandmother, severals games of Magic fans booing. Dealing with bench minutes and fitting into this roster hasn't been easy, but Glen is getting there. This Orlando side is 10-1 when the LSU Tiger scores in double figures. Davis is shooting a paltry 38.1% from the field this season. When he does launch a 44.4 FG% or better, Orlando is a superbly impressive 14-0. It doesn't matter if he's 1-for-1 or 8-for-11, if 'Shamu' is efficient then it equals victory.
Previewing this '11-'12 campaign, we all knew Ryan Anderson needed to have his breakout year. Mission accomplished so far. 15.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, .9 apg, .9 spg, 40.8 3PT%, and 43.6 FG% are all career-highs. His 3.6 offensive rebounds per contest ranks him 7th in the league (Dwight is 6th). When the Ryan King scores 17 points or more, SVG's side is 16-4. Stan's demanding attitude toward Mr. Anderson attacking the boards is warranted. When Ryno grabs 7 rebounds or more, we're 21-7. When 'Snoggle' snags 6 boards or less, Orlando has a 10-10 record. When Ryno gets 2 steals or more, we're 8-1. Anderson is attempting and making more 3-pointers than anyone in basketball. When Ryno makes three 3-balls or more per contest, the Magic are 20-3. Living by the three keeps us fans' heart rates at a steady beat level.
Dwight Howard is of course the star and face of this franchise. We've been blessed to hold onto Superman for at least another full year. The 3-time Defensive Player of the Year award winner may be able to snag a fourth straight. His free throw woes will forever be a given problem and we're beating at a dead horse for continuing to mention them. But, we're 9-0 when D12 shoots 62.6 percent or above from the free throw line. I did find this hilarious: Orlando is 2-5 when Mr. Howard attempts a 3-pointer. So cut that crap out unless it's a buzzer beating heaving. Also, we're 14-4 when Dwight blocks 3 shots or more. Points and rebounds is a crapshoot as far as what's best for the team. Defense has always been paramount. With trade talks finally out of the way, a focused Howard can get back to putting forth maximum effort on both ends of the parquet.
Don't say it didn't implode without a fight. The Sentinel put together a very nice story on the building demolition. Call it the Orlando Arena, The O-Rena, TD Waterhouse Centre, or Amway Arena, it's all good. Just don't call it a piece of crap. Despite its bad and outdated design flaws, the O-Rena was a perfect place to watch a basketball game. Or any sporting event for that matter. Having a lack of amenities and distractions leads one to actually focus on the game ensuing in front of them. The new Amway Center is finding it difficult in keeping fans in their seats during in-game action. It worried me last postseason and it'll continue to be the case in the future. Bigger isn't always better.
I was born on May 30, 1988. Amway Arena would officially be opened half a year later. When I look back on all the Magic, Orlando Predators, Orlando Solar Bears, non-sporting events, and school ceremonies I've attended, I've physically spent, minimum a few years of my life in and around Amway Arena. Not to mention a few $$$, all well worth it. That's pretty cool in my eyes, and it can bond a man to a structure more than most people they'll encounter. It's why some people want to be buried near a stadium or have their ashes thrown onto the field of play. I'll just focus my dedication to the boys in blue and white. After all, this is a Magic blog.
I've seen the good, bad, and ugly moments in this franchise's history. A lot of those live. I've seen some wicked halftime and timeout entertainment acts (Quick Change!!!). I've seen people kill themselves for a t-shirt or to do dumb things on the jumbotron. I've seen several different Stuff mascots. I've seen the Fat Guy run a marathon around the court. I've begged that Scotty B be fired more times than any human alive. I've also demanded a Paul Porter shrine be created more times than any human alive. I've seen Sweater Vest Guy yell at dozens of officials without knowing them by name. I've seen hundreds of spats and fights involving Magic fans and whatever fake fanbase is in town for that evening. Cheerleaders, coaches, and players have come and gone. I've seen players develop and age right along with me. I've been in an actual auction item of the O-Rena. I've toured and visited the entire structure from its most public areas to the heart and guts of the structure. Celebrities of all notoriety have sat in those rusted red and black chairs. The same seats that myself and many others were staring out at that beautiful parquet court.
I was there when the #2 seed Magic during the '99 Lockout season pissed away their home court advantage to an up and coming Sixers squad. I've seen Rony Seikaly get stretchered, carried, dragged off the court more times than any kid should have to. My only time as a season ticket holder was in the 2003-2004 season. Seriously. I survived that with a smile still on my face. That's why I can be so optimistic about just about anything.
I was there in February 2003 when the Magic had that epic comeback victory against the Hornets. Unless you were at that game, odds are you don't remember a second from that contest. Many people just recall it being Mike Miller's final game in an Orlando uniform. The Florida Gator also played all 48 minutes. Strange considering how injury-riddled his career was and still is now.
Looking back at the '03-'04 21-win season where I got to see everything in person, we went from almost pulling off the improbable in knocking off the top-seeded Pistons to choking, having Drew Gooden lose his mind with the signing of Juwan Howard, Doc Rivers and Horace Grant having their falling out, the crazy coaching carousel beginning, and Tracy McGrady going from a hero to a goat all in one year. However, there were still bright spots to be had. Gordan Giricek becoming a god for one night, ending Orlando's 19-game losing streak to the Suns. There was the legendary McGrady-LeBron Christmas Day showdown that saw Bill Walton at his announcing best and Juwan being clutch in overtime. Of course we can't forget T-MAC's 62 points against the Wizards.
The closest I ever sat for a Magic game was on April 15, 2006. We were coming to the end of Dwight's Sophomore season and Brian Hill had the Magic in the hunt for an 8th seed. That night against the Sixers, Howard became a man. I knew after seeing that 28-point, 26-rebound phenomenal exhibition of athleticism, guts, heart, and talent that Dwight would be a superstar one day. Glad to see I got that one correct. That's still the most effort I've ever seen D12 put into a game. That's a very underrated victory in franchise history. We also bucked the hauntings of Allen Iverson that evening. I sat a few rows in front of then Philly GM Billy King and his two random ladies. He had used his halftime stat sheet to write down his votes for regular season player awards. Notice 'Sheed got crossed out in favor of Dirk.
I remember driving to Amway Arena for Game 3 of the '08 playoff series against the Pistons, seeing the Mears bus carrying the Pistons to the arena, flipping off and honking at that bus and getting a priceless facial expression from Chauncey Billups. We won that game, our sole victory of that series. Makes me regret not finding that bus and repeating the same 'routine' for Game 4. Ah, to be a teenager again and able to get away with childish acts like that.
One of the best sports viewing moments of my life came on my 21st birthday. Game 6 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals. I wasn't even in the building, but the entire city was buzzing and screaming with me. It's one of the biggest victories in Magic history, and one of the best performances in Dwight's career. It's also one of the most loudest times in the O-Rena's existence even from a televised perspective. Not as loud as some of those mid-'90s games when NBC would display the decibel levels, but still ridiculously noisy.
In the 1995 playoffs, we closed out the original Boston Garden on our way to our first NBA Finals. Guess what? We didn't allow the Celtics to return the favor. Amway Arena went out on a winning note. Not many stadiums in any sport can say that. And to think, I haven't even gone into specific player details or playoff runs, or even how the idea of an arena began or was even funded. Remember, Orlando had a tiny population 25 years ago compared to what it is now. David Stern and other league officials having faith in this Mickey Mouse town to maintain strong basketball support should never be ignored.
I have just so many memories that would take weeks to type out. 'Flash' Armstrong stealing the ball from Philly and scoring the lay-up with help from a Penny double-screen to win the game at the buzzer and causing bedlam, Hedo Turkoglu's game-winners, Rashard Lewis' game-winners, beating the Raptors in 2008 to win our first playoff series in 12 years. Dwight, Jameer, Penny, Shaq, McGrady, looking at vintage film from those baby years. Memories that stay with diehard fans forever along with their professional and personal memory collections and accomplishments. Farewell Amway Arena, you were a source of enormous entertainment for millions of people around the globe. Best of luck to the new Creative Village that will replace the O-Rena and hopefully will make even a tiny percentage of a positive impact as its predecessor did. It may be rubble now, but the O-Rena lives in the spirit of this Orlando community.