Saturday, July 14, 2012

Fran Vazquez's Dilemma: To Settle or Not?

‘There’s no place like home’ and ‘Home is where the heart is’ are two ridiculously played out and cliched lines in our society. Unfortunately for Magic fans, Fran Vazquez is being tempted greatly to go back home. His basketball home. Thus, the appearance of another fork in the road and more critical decision options that have this Magic franchise waiting idly for a resolution. It takes a great player to remain at Barcelona for 6 years, but now there's almost certainly a new destination afoot. Malaga is where his family lives, it's where his professional basketball life began a decade ago, and also where there’s a rumored 1-year 1.5 million Euro offer from the city’s Euroleague team Unicaja. Malaga has about 2 million Euros at their disposal thanks to Joel Freeland's departure to the Portland Trailblazers, but they need some of those funds to retain players for next season. Fran is Unicaja's main big man target. If you recall from my previous piece, Vazquez wasn't impressed by the 1.2 million Euro offer Barcelona delivered to him. Nothing has been put down on paper yet, but Fran and his agent Jose Cobelo have had serious discussions with Unicaja’s front office to bring back home a player they had and developed a decade ago. Malaga has the advantage, there's no denying that. The door isn't shut yet Not with 'Henny' at the helm

I'm still waiting to hear any confirmation or acknowledgement from Rob Hennigan or the remainder of the Magic front office that we're even attempting to negotiate with Fran. Yeah the Magic have had 'talks', but that was nearly a week ago at minimum and no other updates have surfaced. Vazquez has stated that he wants and expects his free agency to end by next week. Real Madrid's 3-year offer (amount still unknown) still hasn't been confirmed by the ACB League so Barcelona's 10-day right of refusal hasn't quite kicked in. Remember, Barcelona has no power in retaining Vazquez if Fran signs with Turkey or the Magic. Cobelo has claimed that several NBA franchises (not just the Magic) have inquired about Fran coming over this summer. Fran confirmed the same inquiries at his basketball camp a few days ago. Most likely it's a negotiation tactic to get Barcelona, Unicaja, and Real Madrid to offer his client the best deal possible. Unlike in past ploys though, because Spain is in economic crisis and its basketball teams are cutting salary, Hennigan can easily offer more money and more years. Besides, the Magic would have to trade Vazquez's rights for Fran to join any other NBA squad other than Orlando.

It's always been a 'comfort' issue with Fran that's prevented him from jumping across the Atlantic. The 29-year-old was drafted 7 years ago, and even I'm exhausted with waiting on this guy after Fran has told us fans to remain patient and that he would come over eventually. He's a great defensive center whose physical play I believe transfers perfectly over to the NBA, but he's no star in the making. I hope Vazquez doesn't envision pulling an Arvydas Sabonis, because he's nowhere near as special or talented. I've been patient. I've seen Fran transform from a joke in the states to a champion with the pinnacle of basketball teams in Barcelona. The man's worked hard, earned his money, racked up his career statistics and records. If he goes "home" to Malaga while still in the prime of his career, then the 'mentally weak' and 'Mr. Indecisive' labels that have been tagged on Vazquez will forever be warrantedDon't accept this sort of emasculation.

I get it, Fran. You're a family man. You married your long-time girlfriend who gets mentioned by the media and fans worse than Doug Christie's wife or even Tim Duncan's wife. You're a father now. But you can go back to Malaga any time you want. No professional athlete goes to a place they want to retire at age 29. Come to Orlando, give us a few years. If you get home sick, fine, join Unicaja when you're 32 or 33 and raise your toddler kid(s) in your beloved city where they can grow up. Spain and its ACB League should be in a much more stable situation by then. But not now when there's clearly a decline at hand. Not when Fran has nothing left to accomplish at club level in his country. Vazquez has cemented himself in Spanish lore. There's already been a mass exodus of players just a few months into the offseason from the best non-NBA domestic league in the world. Being Greek, I've seen that professional athletes can not safeguard themselves or their families from the chaos and desperation of a debt-ridden society. Looting of athletes' homes has been the best outcome at times. Spain is already heading into that similar state of disarray that Greece has gone through. Vazquez should be a responsible head of the family and separate emotions from what's best. Come to Orlando. Last I checked, the City Beautiful has a large Hispanic population that would help Fran and his family acclimate easier to American life. Weather wise, we're not exactly in the Arctic North either. Did I mention you'd be making more money? 

Fran can also erase a vast chunk of the bad draft karma surrounding this Magic franchise by coming in and possibly starting in the position our Superman will vacate for the first time in 8 years. The Houston Rockets' rumored Dwight trade proposal options (as well as cap space to swallow up bad contracts) are infinitely better than what Brooklyn or the Lakers can send to Orlando. If Fran's worried about high expectations, well the Magic are building themselves from the ground up. The 'experts' and mass media won't show any faith towards Orlando being a playoff team, and so Vazquez can go about building chemistry with new teammates and sharing his experience of winning 1 Euroleague championship, 3 ACB titles, and 4 King's Cup trophies accumulated over the years (mostly at Barcelona). Again Magic fans are left playing the hope and see game. I don't want Fran signing another 1-year deal again. There's need to be an endpoint, whether that be positive or negative for us. If he doesn't want to come to our franchise, trade his rights and be done with him. For now, all we can do is be optimistic that we'll finally net our Spaniard. No more Lockout excuses.

On a slight side note as we stick with the international big man theme, the Magic also own the draft rights of 2007 2nd Rounder Milovan Rakovic. Rakovic is a name I haven't really mentioned in a year as another big man whose rights are owned by the Magic, who could come over the Atlantic in the future. Well he's staying at least another 2 years overseas in Europe, and possibly forever. The 27-year-old Serbian has shown great stints of play for Euroleague teams such as Montepaschi Siena and Zalgiris Kaunas. Milovan's English is a lot better than Fran's, by the way. I expect nothing less than another successful run at his new team Bilbao who will be a Eurocup threat. That's another international club competition that's a notch below Euroleague when it comes to quality and prestige. Again, we don't know what Rob Hennigan's opinion on the 'Rak Attack' is either.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Fran Vazquez Refuses to Go Away

From our nightmares anyway. So close yet so far it's always appeared. He's almost worse than the Black Plague. I could swear we were done with this guy last year. The NBA Lockout didn't do us any favors in our feeble attempts at attaining closure with our 11th overall pick from the 2005 Draft. Even though Fran Vazquez's page of accolades are astounding by European standards, for most Magic fans he's a stiff who needs to stop terrorizing our minds every blue moon. Hennigan wants team-first individuals who want nothing more than to winning championships. Well there's no denying Fran's won a lot of hardware. So here we are, playing the wait and tease game once more. But we may finally have a ray of hope that Vazquez may finally come through for us. Just when we thought they were out, here's Spain's economic crisis, Barcelona's slight decline, and Fran's brain bringing us right back into the fray. 

Fran reportedly made 1.9 million ($2.4 million) last season playing in Barcelona. Well Barca began low-balling Vazquez over the past few weeks with a 1.2 million Euros per season ($1.5 million) offer that he rejected. Only having one year of that proposal guaranteed didn't have him doing backflips either. Vazquez isn't a youngster anymore. The 29-year-old is peaking as a player and Fran's looking for security in still remaining with one of Europe's most successful basketball franchises. Vazquez would ideally want over $1.5 million per season and have 2 or more years guaranteed on whatever contract he signs. Whether that'll be in Spain or Orlando is the main question. Unicaja and Real Madrid are extremely interested in the center's services. But whatever proposal is offered can be matched by Barcelona. So what makes this a favorable scenario for Orlando? Fran hates Head Coach Xavi Pascual and in the past few hours it's been rumored that Barcelona won't exercise their right to match any offer thrown at Fran. Game-changer. The relationship is severely damaged and I'm sure Vazquez and his representatives would appreciate a clean slate across the Atlantic Ocean where our new coaching staff still hasn't been selected yet. Also, Barcelona is rebuilding their frontcourt to make a run at dominating Euroleague again. I'm still celebrating Olympiakos' improbable victory and European crown. We're not the only ones pressing the reset button. 

Barcelona have signed rival Real Madrid's Ante Tomic, kept C.J. Wallace, and are looking at Nathan Jawai as well as another Real Madrid big body in Novica Velickovic. All while ridding themselves of Kosta Perovic and Boniface N'Dong. N'Dong may be brought back if Vazquez departs. Retaining Fran was the next goal it appeared for Barcelona until the shocking recent news of the estimated $3 million (possibly 3 million Euro) per year re-signing of Erazem Lorbek, spurning the Spurs. The deal will likely be the most money offered to any player in the ACB including Real Madrid's newly signed Rudy Fernandez. Lorbek was a near lock to be joining the San Antonio Spurs this summer with DeJuan Blair being on the trade block and Tim Duncan about ready to retire. 

The Magic have a plethora of bigs. But would Rob Hennigan and company at least entertain the dangerously lanky 6'10" blocking beast with say a 3-year deal at $2 million per season? It's a more than reasonable price to bring over a man who has been talked about as if he was Big Foot or the Abominable Snow Man. Worse comes to worse, Vazquez could always be a vital trade asset to combine in ditching a bad contract. My optimistic whispers and tweets of there being an opening to acquire Fran were picked up this weekend by more acclaimed sports media men such as Ken Berger. The train is gathering momentum as 'initial discussions' have begun between the Magic and Spaniard. Here's another media source for proof that this is reality. With so much hatred and sadness surrounding the Dwight situation, Fran's arrival could end seven years of other teams around the league making fun of Otis Smith's and Dave Twardzik's ineptitude. I've always felt Vazquez's style of play was much better suited for the NBA than Europe. It took nearly a decade, but Fran may have matured to the point where he's FINALLY going to take a risk and make that leap onto the ultimate basketball stage. I think he's ready to experience a new culture, franchise, way of life, offensive style, defensive system, and just meet hundreds of new people. I'd beg and plead to be proven wrong or right either way about what Vazquez is capable of. Just bring the man over if a reasonable agreement presents itself, 'Henny'. It's time. We've certainly waited long enough. 

Magic Blackout Brooklyn

Yes, it's Summer League. Yes, maybe the basketball gods granted us some sweet payback against the Nets. Or maybe it's just a sign of a new regime and a group of guys ready to be rid of this Dwight Howard mess. Well for 40 minutes, Mark Price's Orlando squad accomplished that. Emphatically ignoring the D12 rumors off the court, by punishing Brooklyn on it. The final score, 92-88, wasn't indicative of the beatdown we gave Brooklyn. It was quite the glorious sight to behold for any players, coaches, front office personnel, and media that were at Amway Center this morning. Rob Hennigan and Scott Perry may have had Dwight Howard trade scenarios running in the back of their minds, but they could take solace in knowing they have put together superb roster out on the parquet floor this week.

Mark Price for permanent Magic Head Coach? Kidding. Sort of. Price certainly sounds like a man eager to get his guiding and teaching skills out there. He was more giddy than most of the players after the game. His masterful starting 5 of Maalik Wayns, DeAndre Liggins, Justin Harper, Andrew Nicholson, and Kyle O'Quinn couldn't be touched. Price has the entire roster motivated to impress. Whether it be the Magic's front office or another team's. They wiped the floor with Nets players' faces like MarShon Brooks (*cough* 0-for-10 *cough*), Adam Morrison, and Al Thornton. If AMMO didn't pass the ball the lights never would've went out. I'd rather have Mark than rumored candidates like Jacque Vaughn, Quin Snyder, and Lindsey Hunter. Mike Malone, Brian Shaw, and Jeff Hornacek are the only current Magic candidates I deem legitimate solutions. Though if Ping is correct and Mo Cheeks is in the hunt, then I'd add the beloved Philly man to my list. It's cool that Mark still keeps in contact with SVG for pointers and advice. Once again, props to Mark's preparation on a successful Day 1. There's good reason to be excited about a week of 'meaningless' exhibitions. Look at the athletic difference alone from our 2011-2012 'A' squad. Leaps and bounds better. It's nice to see us push the ball up and down the court and being a constant transition threat, right?

The biggest and most pleasing change to the old SVG system was witnessing Justin Harper look so calm and fluid playing small forward and dumping in 15 points. Justin said he's gained 15 pounds of muscle since being drafted last year. Harper was hitting it from just about everywhere but the free throw line. The Richmond grad did most of his damage against Adam Morrison. You can view that as a good or bad thing. Harper won't fix his defensive ways in one game, but he's on the right path. Kyle O'Quinn's demeanor and aggressiveness is infectious. This guy makes teammates around him want to run through brick walls and cause complete havoc against opponents. Bring it on. I could've done with a few more rebounds from Kyle, but his 8-of-10 from the field and two swats on Jeff Foote will more than forgive him. O'Quinn's 16-point output also displayed a jumper with development potential. Andrew Nicholson was godly at times in the post. 'Drew is as mild-mannered off the court as he is a patient bully on it. The Canadian's brain is constantly working, you can see it. Nicholson absolutely owned the paint on both ends and looked like he could be a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate. 24 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks (even in Summer League) is for certain a coming out party. Nicholson said in his postgame interview that he was going to immediately scout the Celtics for tomorrow. How many kids do that? This Bonnie could be quite special for years to come. One game won't fully justify Rob Hennigan's draft choices, but it's a hell of a beginning and evidence-builder. These two body-bruising bigs were relentless at times. Imagine what some bulking up will do.

They won't impress you statistically, but DeAndre Liggins and Dominique Sutton are the defensive guys who can be key pieces on a championship team. Especially in Liggins' case who loves suffocating whomever he guards. DeAndre shutdown MarShon Brooks as Mark Price demanded from him and also showed some superb paint dribble penetration. If you were wondering where Ish Smith was, and then forgot about him after watching Maalik Wayns, that's completely fine. The Villanova point guard could have a career in distribution if basketball doesn't work out. Wayns posted a calm double-double with those 10 assists. 3 steals will put a smile on your face too. When I examined this roster, I thought Wayns' explosive speed was a clear asset. Maalik wasn't going to hide that athleticism. You're allowed to go 2-of-7 from the field when you earn 9 free throw attempts. Seriously though, Ish Smith ditched our Summer League and will try and make the Houston Rockets' roster. Probably a wise decision with Wayns and Charlie Westbrook being highly-touted undrafted prospects. Those who didn't play today will certainly play against the Pistons on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Ryan Thompson and Josh Owens both did all right, but need a lot more burn. Harper's Strasbourg and Richmond teammate Kevin Anderson had a rough go of things to start, but salvaged his performance by shooting fifty percent from the field. 12 minutes isn't enough to judge and Kevin may have been shaking off some cobwebs. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Very Crucial Orlando Summer League

First of all, yes, the 2012 AirTran Orlando Pro Summer League really is for those super involved and diehard basketball fans yearning for constant professional NBA action. There's not much casual fan appeal, which is why tickets won't be sold once again to the public. I’m ecstatic that Amway Center gets to host Summer League after the Lockout derailed it last year. For the first time since Jameer and Dwight participated in 2004, Magic fans need to pay very close attention to this Orlando roster of prospects and potential who will hustle their asses off to make the training camp roster in the Fall. Mark Price is one of the few Stan Van Gundy assistants/associates still around who will be coaching our Summer League squad. Bo Outlaw and Brent Price will be Mark's assistants. Bo should suit up and rack up triple-doubles like in the old days. The Sentinel has provided a nice overall breakdown of things to keep an eye on. It’s too bad we’ll have to deal with NBA TV’s Rick Kamla and his dreadful commentary rather than the witty Dante & Galante. Can’t have everything.

You’ll see a few familiar faces out there on the court for Orlando: Justin HarperDeAndre Liggins, and Ish Smith. All were with the Magic last season, but SVG didn’t give these nearly enough court time that was needed for development. It’s a clean slate for everyone. That’s certainly the case for Ish, who is fighting for a contract as an unrestricted free agent. He’ll be battling the likes of Charlie Westbrook, a guard who surprisingly wasn’t drafted last week. The South Dakota man is definitely thankful for the opportunity to prove himself in Orlando. We'd all be ecstatic if Westbrook became our George Hill. I already would prefer to have Charlie and Ish steal all of Chris Duhon's minutes. Liggins is also an unrestricted free agent, but I would be outraged if DeAndre wasn't re-signed barring some unexpected twist. Looking forward to yelling "That Ish 'Dre!" a few times this week. 

Justin Harper and DeAndre Liggins get to finally have their first full NBA offseason after enduring turbulent rookie years. Give these gentlemen the proper chance to earn their contracts and roster spots. They may very well be valuable bench pieces for the '12-'13 campaign. With Ryan Anderson being traded to New Orleans, the Magic's first round Draft choice Andrew Nicholson gets to impress us and the incoming coaching staff. Maybe he'll immediately prove worthy of big minutes. 2nd round Orlando selection Kyle O'Quinn will have to scratch and claw his way onto the training camp roster. Orlando is already big man heavy with the acquisition of Gustavo Ayon from the Hornets, but Kyle will be battling the likes of Magnum Rolle and Luke Nevill for minutes. Luke's field goal percentage is quite enticing to at least give a bonecrushing 7'1" man an opportunity. Magnum still is a badass name and the originality hasn't worn off. Rolle's college highlights may as well be ancient history. 

Speaking of Harper, most Magic fans will get their initial viewing of Justin's Richmond and Strasbourg teammate (as well as close friend) Kevin Anderson. Kevin is definitely a score first type of point guard. I had glowing reviews of Harper's time in France. Also, Lavoy Allen was on that team. I never expected him to have more success in Philadelphia than Harper has so far in Orlando. Kevin Anderson seemed to be playing even better than both Justin and Allen during that Lockout period. Looking at his game-by-game stats, Strasbourg coach Vincent Collet took away Anderson's playing time and touches. His numbers obviously weren't for the better. As I had written last year though, France isn't the best place to develop your talents. My worries may be warranted. But again, a clean slate for everyone now. We'll see if Kevin can show us that 2010 Atlantic-10 Player of the Year form

Dominique Sutton looks like an absolute terror of a man on both ends of the court when he competes. Sutton has no problem getting into a John Wall or Austin Rivers' face. At 6'5" though, he's undersized as a small forward. Sutton needs to find a way to play shooting guard. Then again, Quentin Richardson has lasted over a decade in the league as an undersized SF. Maalik Wayns is another one of those guards who I was surprised to not see get drafted. Maybe he was penalized for having an oddly spelled named? I don't know. What I do know is the guy has a quick trigger jump shot and his best asset as a point guard is constant attacking of the rim. Just give Maalik the ball, clear the lane, and watch him take it to the rack. He looks shorter than his listed 6'1", but his measurements match those a six-footer. DeQuan Jones is honestly on the outside looking in off the bat. The Miami Hurricane has to prove his value as an energetic impact player to stand a chance.

If you're a college basketball fan, then Bradford Burgess should immediately pop into your head as a main piece in VCU's 2011 improbable Final Four run. Burgess should have been in the 2011 Draft as a Junior. 48.7 FG% as a winger is very attractive. Bradford fell off his senior year, only mustering up a 36 FG% and didn't come close to being drafted this summer. If the Ram can find his peak form again, the Magic may have uncovered a golden piece who would surely get a training camp invite. I don't really care for Rider's Ryan Thompson. Here's his Italian stint. I show the same lack of interest in high-leaper Josh Owens. But that's why they play the games. Surprises and disappointments will be aplenty. 

The fun begins July 9th through the 13th. Check here for game and time listings. The Magic will kick off Summer League action Monday at 11 a.m. against the Brooklyn Nets. Keep an eye on Brooklyn guard MarShon Brooks who is a main piece that would potentially be acquired in a trade involving Dwight Howard. Brooks is viewed as a possible star in the making after having a solid rookie season. I don't share that viewpoint...yet. It'd be hilarious if we somehow saw a Magic-Brooklyn throwdown. Tuesday July 10th at 3 p.m. has the Magic taking on the Detroit Pistons. Orlando meets the Utah Jazz on Wednesday July 11th at 5 p.m. Then it's the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday July 12th at 5 p.m. Finally, Orlando closes their week of action on Friday July 13th against the Boston Celtics at 10 a.m. 

A New 'Goose' in O-Town

I'm not talking about Jack 'The Goose' Givens either. Feel free to also insert your Lake Eola jokes. Gustavo Ayon is his name. You have to be a fairly solid 27-year-old rookie to earn a nickname immediately. Unless you watched a few Hornets games last season, not many of you will know what his game is like. Rob Hennigan's defenders are already referring to this as a San Antonio Spurs type of move. New Orleans media and fans seem to adore 'Goose'. A big reason was the adversity and patience he displayed in eventually navigating his way to very important playing minutes in the Lockout-shortened 2011-2012 campaign. Ayon only makes $1.5 million per season, and we have a team option on Gustavo for that same amount in the 2013-2014 season. Draft Express absolutely rave about Ayon. The Mexican isn't a flashy player by any means, but he's tough, is crafty in the paint, can pass well for his position, likes being completely unselfish, is actively always moving around on both ends, has underrated leaping ability, has superb quickness for his 6'10" and 250 pound frame, and can be a double-double threat if given the playing time. He's basically what Eduardo Najera would've been if he was a few inches taller. That's far from a bad thing. The Magic faced the Hornets once during the Lockout season. It was one too many. My insides still haven't recovered from seeing that butchering we took live and in person. Ayon didn't get much burn on that evening.

Ayon was a 2007 & 2009 Mexican League All-Star Game participant. In his final season playing in Spain before joining the Hornets, 'Goose' won the ACB Rising Star Award. So in a way we traded one Most Improved Player for another. Conditioning is the main issue with Gustavo. Orlando is always known for great physical fitness training thanks to Joe Rogowski. If Ayon's playing potential is as high as his needed improvement of English, this will be a wonderful acquisition. His Spanish sounds competent enough to me. Let's hope Gustavo can continue shooting above 50% from the field for us. Don't expect a huge influx of Mexicans showing up to Amway Center. There is zero debate in comparing the Mexican's acquisition to Carlos Arroyo's Magic joining and seeing all the Puerto Rican support that flocked over to the O-Rena for him. Hopefully all fans will love Ayon when it's all said and done. 'Goose' is athletic enough to play power forward, but his true calling (and what the Magic will need) is help at the center position. Whether that's somehow as a starter or a backup is yet to be determined. 

You wonder if Rob Hennigan witnessed that 16-point Gustavo performance in Oklahoma City and if it stuck with him as a player he'd love to have on his roster. Ayon's arrival in Orlando came at the sign-and-trade price of losing fan favorite and still-improving Ryan Anderson. The 2011-2012 Most Improved Player will be getting a 4-year deal in NOLA at an estimated $9 million per season. Not a bad pay day. I was expecting more though considering the Boston Celtics just gave Jeff Green the same exact deal. Mr. Anderson is arguably the much better player and prospect. The trade exception we get out of the deal will more than soften the blow of losing Ryan. New Orleans will love Ryno's charisma, effort, and game of Snoggle. Anderson is Mr. Space Creator who is never afraid to bang around and crash for rebounds. Dante Marchitelli is clearly the biggest loser of this transaction. We all love Ryno to death, but he's had a few terrible Magic postseasons already in his young career. Otis could've extended Anderson back in January, but chose not to. It makes you wonder if he should've been dealt at the Trade Deadline. There's the contingent of Magic fans who cherished Ryno if nothing else as a future trade asset. We did it with Marcin Gortat right? Well Gortat at $6 million as a top 10 center in the league behind Dwight Howard is more marketable than Ryno. Anderson has disappointed in EVERY Magic postseason series he's participated in. The Pacers defeat a few months ago didn't help his cause or stock (although I was certain Sacramento would overpay for his services). Was Ryno double-teamed at times and used purely as a decoy? Sure. But Ryan had an abundance of open looks that he couldn't capitalize on. David West and the rest of the Pacers's big men in a sense destroyed Anderson. Plus, Stan Van Gundy is gone. The system he ran was built to make power forwards get open looks and benefit from whomever was playing center on the court. Ask Brandon Bass who is getting paid to stay in Boston. You can't gamble with $9 million when you have no clue who your Head Coach will even be yet. Combine that with Ryno being more of a regular season producer, and it's not that difficult to envision Anderson running around in another franchise's jersey. Myself and all of Magic nation I'm sure wish Mr. Anderson all the best as he will try to build on a still quite solid MIP season. Monty Williams all of a sudden has a decent roster at his disposal. 

Hennigan's stockpiling of big men in the Draft was the main legitimate indication of Ryno not coming back. Will that mean Glen Davis gets dealt as well? Tough to say, but the Magic have a logjam of large bodies. Along with Baby, add Earl Clark, Andrew Nicholson (Who could start now), Kyle O'Quinn, Ayon, Dwight (obviously getting traded for Brook Lopez or Andrew Bynum), Justin Harper, Hedo Turkoglu (though he's a small forward). Then you add Summer League guys like Magnum Rolle trying to get a training camp invite. Can't also ever forget international men like Fran Vazquez and Milovan Rakovic. A slew of size. Glen makes $6.5 million per season. Almost a bargain now the way this free agency has gone. The only reason I'd trade Davis is if Rob can also unload a bad contract along with Baby. All I know is that the Magic still need wing and scoring help. However, this offseason is just beginning. We're nowhere near Fall just yet. Overall, I approve of this 'Henny' acquisition of Gustavo Ayon. It'll be intriguing to see the 'Goose' get loose. Once again, best of luck Ryno. You will be greatly missed by the Amway Center faithful and rest of the Orlando Magic community. Magic media can't be too thrilled either. Ryno was a pure riot.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rob Hennigan's First Magic Draft

If you follow my Twitter feed, you know I can be a pretty pretty emotional guy. Which is why I wanted to wait a few days to empty out emotions and to make sure the guys we selected didn’t get shipped elsewhere before creating this blog post. The last thing I wanted at #19 was a PF. We have Ryan Anderson, Glen Davis, Justin Harper, and Earl Clark (Who initially turned down his $1.25 million option but decided to stay with the franchise this upcoming season). We needed help at EVERY other position but the ‘4’. I had my eyes set on Marquis Teague, John Jenkins, and Perry Jones III when our turn came at #19. After we picked Andrew Nicholson from St. Bonaventure, a few things popped into my mind. First, that at least we didn’t choose Jared Sullinger. Second, that there was little chance Ryno was coming back. Or that somehow Ryno or Glen Davis would be traded this offseason. Third, a Canadian, eh? And finally, didn’t I see this Nicholson guy at the UCF Arena over a year ago? That kid and team came a long way.

Here is where we quickly found out what Rob Hennigan is all about when it comes to his Magic roster preferences. ‘Henny’ badly wants true men with character. Hearts the size of states. A willingness to fight for your teammates and the victory. But also a solid basketball IQ and a wanting to improve in facets of the game that best benefit the franchise. Orlando Magic Daily provided a superb breakdown for the 4-year senior. There you'll see some statistical numbers. I learned a long time ago to throw away college stats and just evaluate the men themselves. Nicholson isn't Mr. Charismatic. He's a blunt as he is business-like on the court. On film, Andrew initially doesn’t look all that much better than Justin Harper at times. BUT, watch enough and you’ll notice this physics addict can play like David West. Hell, even a Horace Grant 2.0. Grantland sees a sleeper. Nicholson also could be mistaken for Brandon Bass’ little brother. Extremely smooth movements on the court. Almost to the point where he can appear sluggish. But then a vicious block or dunk immediately erases that thought from your mind. Post offense potential! Andrew's slow motion-like jump shot and release was effective in full part due to that 7'4" wingspan. Can it translate to the big boy court? Also, post defense needs vast improvement. The Magic trainers have a superb weight and fitness program. They'll do wonders with Nicholson who needs to bulk up. Andrew has the frame to withstand NBA punishment. Kid is very sharp and witty and shows off his scientific creativity. I am a bit worried about his narrow shoulders. Unlike Bass, Andrew's brain appears to be constantly churning on both ends of the floor. The statistics and ‘analytics’ of Nicholson’s final 3 months with the Bonnies proves it. Tom Penn, the only useful ESPN Draft coverage member showed how Andrew is very well the best PF of this class and that Orlando got a steal. We shall see, but the highlights certainly show promise. 'Drew could be the new franchise PF when it's all said and done. For now, build strength and don't be afraid to abuse opponents in the Summer League.

I’m really digging the retro Magic hat, Kyle. Here's to many more photo ops in the future. He’s already embracing Orlando and he just arrived. Be honest, Magic fans. Raise your hand if you thought Kyle O’Quinn was a white guy the first second you heard his name called or read it on ESPN’s ticker? Anyway, with any 49th draft pick one can’t possibly put large expectations on the selection. Someone should get fired for even contemplating any athletic similarities between Kyle and Taj Gibson. O'Quinn dropped deep into the second round in large part because he doesn't overly impress you when he leaps. That and he's still raw for being a 4-year senior. You can't teach clutch however. Kyle has been penalized for not being a teenager anymore. The man who could be the doppelganger of the recently departed Otis Smith, Kyle has the build and basketball IQ to make a good professional living as a 6’10” backup center. He may have peaked as far as potential goes, but the Norfolk State Spartan knows how to maximize utilization in his 240-pound frame. There's absolutely zero fear of contact in this grown man. Double-double machines should always be given a fair chance to produce on the pro stage. He can’t possibly be worse than Daniel Orton, right?  Ridiculously likable and easily a new fan favorite in Orlando if he makes the squad. Only other guy I cared about selecting at this spot was Syracuse's Kris Joseph. Kyle's initial goal and focus should be to bang and board often. Also, some singing lessons. Offensive production is a bonus if he can be a vital defensive option and a shot blocker extraordinaire.

I’m not one to give out grades, but I’ll make the exception here: B-

Don't think Craig Sager forgot about that interview. For now, Kyle looks like the better value pick. Again, that letter grade can get a whole lot better with a trade or two and reevaluating the entire 2012 Draft class in a few years. Both Andrew and Kyle are still raw. Neither player began participating in basketball until the 11th grade. So there’s plenty for both men to learn and improve on. Plus, we did pick up Charlie Westbrook to suit up in Magic pinstripes for our Summer League team this month. Here’s to hoping he can play point guard a lot better than Duhon. Both Kyle and Andrew are ecstatic to be playing in Orlando. Both seem willing to cause positive chaos anywhere and everywhere on the parquet to better this Magic franchise. Welcome to the Rob Hennigan era. Here's to hoping it's a beyond successful journey.