Monday, July 9, 2012

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. 

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