Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012-2013 Magic Win-Loss Record Prediction

Well Rob Hennigan didn't take very long to announce the finalized 15-man Orlando Magic roster over this past weekend. Gone are Chris Johnson, Justin Harper, and Quentin Richardson. A massive congratulations to DeQuan Jones for beating the odds and impressing the coaching staff and front office so much that the Miami product was worth dipping into pockets and shelling about $5.4 million to Q-Rich (If no one picks Q up off waivers which is unlikely to occur). Josh McRoberts' contract situation, player capabilities, height, and athleticism were deciding factors in surviving the chopping block. 'McBob' should thank Gustavo Ayon for spraining his left thumb. We've also found out that Nikola Vucevic's option has been picked up by the Magic and he'll be under contract until the summer of 2014. So here's what the depth chart will look like once Harrington and Harkless come back healthy:

PG: Jameer Nelson/Ish Smith/E'Twaun Moore
SG: Arron Afflalo/JJ Redick/DeQuan Jones
SF: Hedo Turkoglu/Al Harrington/Maurice Harkless
PF: Glen Davis/Andrew Nicholson/Josh McRoberts
C:  Nikola Vucevic/Gustavo Ayon/Kyle O'Quinn

The backup PG spot is the only truly debatable competitive minutes situation at this moment. The wonderful thing about having versatility is you have guys that can contribute at multiple positions. That's something that last year's Stan Van Gundy squad badly needed and didn't have. Until Al and Maurice come back, I expect DeQuan to be the backup small forward. Keep proving the doubters wrong. 

Who will provide the 3-point air guitar celebrations?! Who?! This current 15-man roster has been extremely supportive of one another throughout training camp. There are few egos to worry about, and anyone affiliated with the franchise seems eager to prove the basketball world wrong and spoil the hater party. 

So I've decided to go out on a limb and not only just predict our record, but I also noted which contests we'll win and lose. I have Jacque Vaughn's first season as Magic Head Coach as a major success. 39-43, 3rd in the Southeast division (behind Miami and Atlanta), and reaching the playoffs as the 8th seed. The Magic can squeak past the likes of Milwaukee, Detroit, and Philly (Bynum may be injured quite often) for the final East postseason ticket. Orlando's schedule is quite favorable with only 13 back-to-backs. I get pessimistic with a 6-game losing streak and a few 4-game skids thrown in among a few small win streaks. As a disclosure, anything can happen on any night. I have Orlando losing basically all of their 'heavyweight' battles, which thankfully are not many. Again, David Stern has gifted us a friendly schedule. The risk of looking like a dumbass doesn't exceed my belief in this new front office, new coaching staff, and a roster that has only 5 returning players from 6 months ago. That's right, five. At the very bottom of this posting you'll see that nabbing a playoff spot with just 39 wins is more than feasible based on past NBA seasons' standings. 

Orlando vs. Denver            11/2/2012 Loss
Orlando vs. Phoenix           11/4/2012 Win 
Orlando @ Chicago            11/6/2012 Win 
Orlando @ Minnesota         11/7/2012 Win 
Orlando vs. Brooklyn          11/9/2012 Loss 
Orlando @ Brooklyn           11/11/2012 Loss 
Orlando vs. New York         11/13/2012 Loss 
Orlando @ Detroit              11/16/2012 Loss 
Orlando @ Toronto            11/18/2012 Win 
Orlando @ Atlanta             11/19/2012 Loss 
Orlando vs. Detroit            11/21/2012 Win 
Orlando vs. Cleveland         11/23/2012 Win 
Orlando vs. Boston            11/25/2012 Loss 
Orlando vs. San Antonio     11/28/2012 Win 
Orlando vs. Brooklyn          11/30/2012 Loss 
Orlando @ L.A.Lakers         12/2/2012 Loss 
Orlando @ Golden State      12/3/2012 Win 
Orlando @ Utah                12/5/2012 Loss 
Orlando @ Sacramento      12/7/2012 Win 
Orlando @ Phoenix            12/9/2012 Win 
Orlando vs. Atlanta           12/12/2012 Loss 
Orlando vs. Golden State   12/14/2012 Win 
Orlando @ Charlotte          12/15/2012 Win 
Orlando vs. Minnesota       12/17/2012 Loss 
Orlando vs. Washington     12/19/2012 Win 
Orlando @ Toronto            12/21/2012 Win 
Orlando vs. Utah              12/23/2012 Win 
Orlando vs. New Orleans    12/26/2012 Win 
Orlando @ Washington      12/28/2012 Loss 
Orlando vs. Toronto          12/29/2012 Win 
Orlando vs. Miami             12/31/2012 Loss 
Orlando vs. Chicago          1/2/2013 Loss 
Orlando vs. New York        1/5/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Portland           1/7/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Denver             1/9/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ L.A.Clippers      1/12/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Washington      1/14/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Indiana           1/16/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Charlotte         1/18/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Dallas             1/20/2013 Win 
Orlando @ Detroit             1/22/2013 Loss 
Orlando vs. Toronto          1/24/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Detroit            1/27/2013 Win 
Orlando @ Brooklyn           1/28/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ New York         1/30/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Boston             2/1/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Milwaukee        2/2/2013 Win 
Orlando @ Philadelphia      2/4/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. L.A.Clippers     2/6/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Cleveland         2/8/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Portland          2/10/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Atlanta           2/13/2013 Loss 
Orlando vs. Charlotte        2/19/2013 Win 
Orlando @ Dallas              2/20/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Memphis           2/22/2013 Loss 
Orlando vs. Cleveland       2/23/2013 Win 
Orlando @ Philadelphia      2/26/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Sacramento    2/27/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Houston         3/1/2013 Loss 
Orlando vs. Memphis         3/3/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ New Orleans     3/4/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Miami              3/6/2013 Loss 
Orlando vs. Indiana          3/8/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Philadelphia     3/10/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. L.A.Lakers       3/12/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Oklahoma City   3/15/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Milwaukee        3/17/2013 Win 
Orlando @ Indiana            3/19/2013 Win 
Orlando @ New York         3/20/2013 Loss 
Orlando vs. Oklahoma City  3/22/2013 Loss 
Orlando vs. Miami             3/25/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Charlotte          3/27/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Washington     3/29/2013 Win 
Orlando @ Atlanta            3/30/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Houston           4/1/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ San Antonio      4/3/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Chicago            4/5/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Cleveland          4/7/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Milwaukee        4/10/2013 Win 
Orlando vs. Boston            4/13/2013 Loss 
Orlando vs. Chicago           4/15/2013 Loss 
Orlando @ Miami               4/17/2013 Loss 

39-43 Prediction for the 2012-2013 Magic Regular Season.

Basketball games that actually count are finally here. The Dwight saga is behind this Orlando franchise and they're ready to only be judged and critiqued on the court. No more drama or worries about embarrassing interviews. Forgive me if I don't want to tag along with the 69-defeat16-victory, or 22-win prognostications. I deem them vastly incorrect. This Orlando team has too much veteran leadership, athleticism throughout the bench, a chip on their shoulders to earn respect and show off pride, and enough talent to exceed those low-ball predictions. Even if Rob Hennigan makes a few trades, I expect continuous nonstop effort every night. No more lollygagging and displaying inconsistency, just fabulous ball movement and an underrated efficient offense with potential to also become a mediocre defensive squad. 39-43 isn't even 'mediocre', it's a notch below it. So in reality, this shouldn't be a grotesquely wild prediction on my part. 

Orlando Magic Open Practice Footage

It wasn't pretty at times, but about 3,000 people got to watch the Orlando Magic participate in a free, open practice scrimmage on Monday night. It consisted of two 20-minute periods. I recorded about 95% of the contest. Jacque Vaughn did very little coaching as it was mostly his assistants handling the 'black' and 'white' teams during huddles and normal play calling situations. Maurice Harkless made his first public debut in front of the Amway Center faithful as he was recovering from offseason sports hernia surgery. The rookie out of St. John's showed decent defensive poise and a knack for scoring when he actually touched the ball. Harkless' length was well-displayed in the open court, as well as with a smooth jumpshot stroke that won't be blocked easily. Maurice proved to be a handful for Afflalo and Hedo on both ends. Afflalo drilled some jumpers, but allowed opponents like JJ Redick to score at an alarming rate and efficiency. 'Redickulous' put on an offensive show and continuously received the louder crowd reactions. Ish Smith looked fantastic. Way more impressive than E'Twaun Moore. Ish's jumper is better than ever after shoulder surgery. Vucevic had a nifty alley oop jam from Moore, as well as a lengthy delay after being popped in the nose. Nik didn't have many shining moments to Kyle O'Quinn's full credit. It's an awesome sight viewing Hedo actually sprint in transition and pass up chucks for drives to the rim. DeQuan Jones and Gustavo Ayon didn't participate in the scrimmage. Jones has a strained muscle in his hip region, and Ayon is still healing his sprained left thumb. Al Harrington was in warm-ups, but didn't play as the former Nugget is recovering from multiple knee surgeries.

Enjoy the videos below and my half-hearted play-by-play. My camcorder did run out of memory before the finish as JJ Redick pump-faked Kyle O'Quinn and earned a foul line trip on a 3-pointer. Redick only makes 2-of-3 from the stripe and the contest ends in a tie as Glen Davis missed a turnaround jumper with .9 seconds left. Some of the Amway Center crowd booed, but do you really want to risk more injury with overtime considering Big Baby damn near killed Andrew Nicholson on a collision? The "No More Duhon!" chants were hilarious. However, I would've much preferred hearing Stan Van Gundy's raspy voice on the microphone, or even a P.A. Announcer. While there are 3 regular season games tonight to begin the NBA season, Magic host Denver on Friday to start their 2012-2013 campaign.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Do Preseason Wins & Losses Actually Matter for Orlando?

How crucial is it that Jacque Vaughn wasn't pushing for those exhibition wins? You would hope not much, since the Magic began the preseason losing four straight. Vaughn easily had the chance to throw in a lineup that wasn't Gustavo Ayon-Andrew Nicholson-DeQuan Jones-Armon Johnson-E'Twaun Moore when it came to finishing out both of the first 2 preseason outings. Orlando finished with a 2-6 exhibition win-loss record. As usual, I'm borrowing some statistics from basketball-reference.com in my journey to sift through 23 seasons of Orlando Magic franchise history. Now below you'll see the preseason records of the past 23 campaigns. This is an attempt to examine if there's any correlation between how a team does in these 'meaningless' games, and how that carries over when it actually matters in the regular season and even postseason. Everything is circumstantial. From the amount of preseason games that are played, to the Magic on a few occasions not playing 82 regular season contests. Coaching philosophies, whether or not players gave a damn, team chemistry, whether or not it was a non-NBA friendly, and injuries. The variables go on and on. 

Preseason Records:
2012-2013: 2-6 (.250)
2011-2012: 1-1 (.500)
2010-2011: 7-0 (1.000)
2009-2010: 8-0 (1.000)
2008-2009: 6-1 (.857)
2007-2008: 6-1 (.857)
2006-2007: 6-2 (.750)
2005-2006: 5-3 (.625)
2004-2005: 4-3 (.571)
2003-2004: 1-7 (.125)
2002-2003: 3-5 (.375)
2001-2002: 4-4 (.500)
2000-2001: 7-1 (.875)
1999-2000: 6-2 (.750)
1998-1999: 1-1 (.500)
1997-1998: 4-4 (.500)
1996-1997: 5-3 (.625)
1995-1996: 5-3 (.625)
1994-1995: 6-2 (.750)
1993-1994: 5-3 (.625)
1992-1993: 5-3 (.625)
1991-1992: 4-4 (.500)
1990-1991: 5-3 (.625)
1989-1990: 2-6 (.250)

I dug out my 20th anniversary ('09 Finals year) Magic almanac to get the old school preseason results you see above. Enlarge the images and you'll see home games are completely capitalized, away games are not. That '03-'04 season kind of immediately jumps out to me where the 1-7 preseason record was indeed a sign of things to come that season. The dreaded 21-win season. What's obvious to note, the '98-'99 and 2011-2012 campaigns saw very short exhibition schedules. Oddly enough, in each Lockout preseason, Orlando played one game at home against the Heat, and one away in Miami. And since the Orlando community likes to mention them a lot of late, the Heart & Hustle crew were a solid 6-2 in preseason play. Don't forget the 2010-2011 7-0 exhibition period that saw a preseason game against Miami in Tampa get cancelled. Below you'll see our franchise's regular season and postseason successes and failures. Click to enlarge it.

I've whipped together a bar and line graph to see what (if any) types of trends all of this information may yield when we compare exhibition and regular season. Visually it appears there is a bit of a correlation.

So what does all of this hot garbage nonsense mean in the end? Well the sample size isn't exactly massive when it comes to under .500 preseason campaigns. Orlando has only been under .500, counting '12-'13, just four exhibition years. Only one of those season ('02-'03) resulted in a playoff bid. It proved to be the heart-ripping 8th seeded Doc Rivers side that blew a 3-1 1st round lead over the Pistons. The only other 2-6 occurrence happened with the original '89-'90 squad that went a putrid 18-64. I'd like to think Jacque Vaughn's roster is immensely better than the expansion era years. In twenty-three season the Magic have made the playoffs 14 times. In thirteen of the fourteen of those preseasons, the Magic finished with a .500 or better record. Orlando went 6-2 ('94-'95) and 6-1 ('08-'09) in those respectable exhibition campaigns the two times they've partaken in the NBA Finals. I don't know about you folks, but I'm starting to wish Vaughn would've cared more about those first 2 preseason games so that we'd at worst have finished 4-4. Then again, a fair chunk of Magic fans want the team to tank so we can rebuild through the draft and are happy with the under .500 preseason results. Overall for anyone who is optimistic about sneaking into the playoffs, this isn't an encouraging analysis. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Afflalo Debuts, Memphis Make Everything in Magic Loss

For about 42 minutes, the Magic and Memphis were in a dual of solid offensive proportions where each team did not hold much back. The Grizzlies won the high-scoring affair 115-100. Orlando fell to a 2-5 record in October. The final score isn’t at all indicative of how tight the contest really was. It was a heavyweight bout of scoring as each squad had 6 players pour in double digit points. We’re at the point in the preseason where NBA teams are taking the tail end of the exhibition schedule a little bit more seriously when it comes to using mostly rotation guys. It’s more about building chemistry with the guys who will actually get minutes, and less experimenting. The Magic roster is down to 18 after Christian Eyenga and Armon Johnson got the boot. The final three cuts/waivers to get down to the required 15-player team will be among five Magic men: Chris Johnson (No way he makes the team), Quentin Richardson, Josh McRoberts, Justin Harper, and DeQuan Jones. Wednesday allowed Jacque Vaughn to throw out what the majority of opinionated people believe will be the Magic’s starting five come November 2nd against the Denver Nuggets tonight in Memphis: Jameer Nelson-Arron Afflalo-Hedo Turkoglu-Glen Davis-Nikola Vucevic. Magic fans got to see (more like ‘hear’ since this was the final Orlando contest not televised) Afflalo finally debut for the franchise. Arron is the key cog in the Dwight Howard blockbuster deal that Magic GM Rob Hennigan gained from the transaction. On his 22nd birthday, Nikola Vucevic needed to up his performance with Gustavo Ayon out for 2 weeks with a sprained thumb. Marc Gasol is a wonderful challenge. ‘Vucci Mane’ did not disappoint with 16 points and 9 rebounds in 31 minutes of action. The Swiss-born Montenegrin is learning and adapting at a wonderful pace. The Magic made 48.7% of their field goals. Usually that'll give you a chance to win an NBA game, but not when the Grizzlies show their rebounding muscle and counter with their own impressive 51.1 FG%. JJ Redick had a game-high 23 points. Turkoglu with 14. Big Baby with 12. Jameer dished out 7 assists and added an efficient 10 points.

 The majority of the attention on this evening was focused on Afflalo, and man did he not disappoint out of the gate. Orlando’s first 3 buckets were off 3 assists. ‘AA’ had an assist to Glen and converted a reverse lay-up off a nifty Vucevic pass. Add a lengthy jumper and Afflalo was 2-for-2 in a flash. Vaughn held firm on his word about playing Arron for only short bursts to protect any re-aggravations of his hamstring. He was in the contest for the first 4:54 before JJ Redick relieved him. Afflalo finished with 10 points in 19 minutes on 4-of-7 shooting. Welcome to Orlando, sir. The remaining starting lineup played the first 9:56 of the period before being substituted out. Josh McRoberts got a few minutes as the backup center. ‘McBob’ didn’t fair too well and was hooked after 3 minutes. Coach Vaughn will be relying on Big Baby to play some time at center. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Marresse Speights deserve pats on the back for being the first true rebounding test of the Magic’s preseason. Orlando was down 55-49 at halftime in the FedEx Forum despite Jacque Vaughn’s men shooting 50% from the field. The Grizz were 51.1% on shot attempts, but transition points and their 24-13 total rebound advantage was the main factor in Lionel Hollins’ squad leading at the break.

Talk about a blast from the Stan Van Gundy past. Orlando made 8-of-15 three-pointers in the first half. Three bombs each from Hedo and ‘Redickulous’, as well as two made 3-pointers from Jameer. ‘Sharing is Caring’ might be an impromptu faux slogan as the Magic had 16 assists on their 19 made field goals. That’s absurd, and takes ball movement to an entirely new level. Hedo Turkoglu scored 9 points on 3-of-5 from 3-point range which is fabulous, but he can’t pull a Justin Harper and give Rudy Gay the majority of his 17 first half points on the other end. Can’t have it.

The 2nd half saw a Magic team looking to punch people in the mouth. There were some large doses of Vucevic and Big Baby getting great shots inside the paint. Arron Afflalo drilling two 3rd period attempts from downtown found the Magic only trailing 65-63 with 7:08 left in the quarter and at that point Orlando was 10-for-17 from 3-point land. The fire power potential is there. Orlando found themselves down 88-86 going into the final twelve minutes of this shootout. Hedo and Redick were a combined 8-of-11 from 3-point range at that point. Vaughn’s team as a whole was 12-of-20. The 4th quarter saw the Magic just not able to make any crucial defensive stops. 17 turnovers is something Jacque will chide the boys about. 

E’Twaun Moore got roughed up by Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless all night. Moore is still displaying continuous improvement. Moore’s first play on the parquet floor in the 3rd period was an assist to Redick for a basket. However, E’Twaun had few decent moments in Memphis. With that said, it’s not a shocker that Ish Smith is healing up faster than originally expected from left shoulder surgery. Smith will hopefully see court time in the final preseason game on Friday, at Amway Center, against the Houston Rockets. DeQuan Jones and Andrew Nicholson showed some hard-nosed production. Jones posted 7 points and 6 boards, and Nicholson had 6 points and 6 rebounds. The experience gained far outweighs the statistics. Harper and Kyle O'Quinn got almost meaningless scrub time minutes. The two healthy Magic men who didn't play were Chris Johnson and Q-Rich. Let the 'cut' rumors continue. Bottom line: Orlando took on a Western Conference competitive playoff team and pushed them for three and a half quarters. Once this squad improves on help defense, they'll have a better chance at prevailing in late game battles and situations. I don't believe in moral losses, but there are a lot of positives to take back home. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Magic Out-Pace Indiana

Here's my recap of the Orlando Magic's 112-96 preseason victory over the Indiana Pacers on MagicBasketballOnline.com as I'll be contributing on occasion for the site.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Preseason Game #4: Magic @ Pistons Recap

A lot of defensive lapses. You know it's bad when the FOX Sports Detroit crew goes freeze frame on an opponent's weak defending. Coming into the Palace of Auburn Hills, the Jacque Vaughn's Orlando crew easily could have been 3-0 instead of 0-3. On Monday night, the Magic lost in Cleveland 114-111 in overtime nonetheless. Well there was no way the Magic should have won in Detroit on Tuesday night. Orlando gets to go home after two road losses in 24 hours. It's tough to be positive after a 112-86 smackdown, preseason or not. 

Vaughn's starting five of E'Twaun Moore-DeQuan Jones-Quentin Richardson-Josh McRoberts-Gustavo Ayon doesn't instill much confidence in your fan base. Lawrence Frank was not shy to play his expected regular season Pistons starters. Frank appeared to be working on his real rotation. For a fourth straight game, Jacque's help defense approach led to a lot of wide open jump shots for our opponent. However, for the first time this October the Magic's offense was absolutely stagnant. The Pistons' overall size and length advantage over Orlando played a major factor in this beatdown all night. Detroit's speed is scary. Very ugly at times and Detroit had this contest at hand almost from the beginning. No Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, Nikola Vucevic, Glen Davis (despite being charged with a technical) and Andrew Nicholson will do that. That's on top of Al Harrington, Arron Afflalo, Ish Smith, and Christian Eyenga already being out this entire preseason so far. It was encouraging to see Orlando begin the 3rd on a 9-2 run despite being down 38-62 at halftime. Then an 11-2 in the middle of the 3rd period by Detroit basically ended the game right then and there. Heading into the 4th quarter, the Magic were down 88-61. Game over. I didn't blame you if you switched to the Obama-Romney debate at 9 p.m. EST. It was pleasantly surprising seeing Jacque Vaughn actually stand up and show some fire in his eyes. 

E'Twaun Moore started off nicely by scoring Orlando's first 5 points. I still don't like him as a point guard though. He can dish it, but Armon Johnson's ball handling skills are still exceedingly more impressive than Moore's. Moore is still an upgrade over Chris Duhon. There's little doubt. Defensively, he can be a spark plug. But he can shoot the rock and thread some needle passes. 

DeQuan Jones' first career NBA start (Eh, we'll count preseason for the Miami Hurricane) was Monday night in Cleveland where he impressed against the much more highly-touted Dion Waiters. Jones started once more on Tuesday. For a man who can't shoot, DeQuan Jones again just keeps displaying a gorgeous 'silky smooth' jumper. Multiple times. One of the few bright spots in a mud-stomping. Oh, and he can still dunk, making Jonas Jerebko a victim and throwing down some pure thunder. A rim rocker indeed. Don't expect Jones to be able to lock down a muscular guy like Corey Maggette though. 16 points scored through the first three quarters while still providing some decent defense will make Vaughn happy. 22 total points on the evening is great. 1 rebound, 1 assist, and 5 turnovers? Eh, not so much. Kobe Bryant maybe would've been proud. I'm a huge fan of DeQuan, and so should the majority of Magic fans. Keep Jones this roster, permanently. 

Josh McRoberts can't play much defense, but the man can dunk. Threw down a thunderous 1st quarter windmill with so much force it almost knocked off Q-Rich's head. Unlike Redick, I don't want this Dukie to shoot jumpers. Ever. Sweet little no-look pass to a cutting Justin Harper for a lay-up in the first half. Same goes for a behind-the-back baseline dish to a cutting Ayon early in the 3rd quarter. Also, used his athleticism to drive around Jason Maxiell for a smooth right-handed jam. 

Gustavo Ayon had a lot of problems trying to score on Greg Monroe early on. 'Goose' even allowed Monroe to beat him on one fastbreak. That'll be a rarity this season. About midway through the first period though, Gustavo settled down and got back to crashing the paint hard. He used his bag of tricks to creatively throw up a few reverse lay-up attempts. The Mexican had a lot of problems against the larger Andre Drummond. Then there were a few turnovers off post-ups which we expected from Dwight for 8 years. I was thrilled to finally see Ayon drill a 17-foot jumper from the left elbow and take a few more jumpers with as much confidence as Big Baby usually has, but Goose exhumed more faith in his shot. Despite his 4 turnovers, Gustavo poured in 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists in the first half. I just expect so much from the former New Orleans Hornet. Heading into the final period, Goose was at 17 points. Ayon finished with a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. 

Kyle O'Quinn kept Jason Maxiell and Greg Monroe on their toes in the first half. Otis Smith's look-a-like is improving every game it appears. Remember, he didn't play Monday night in Cleveland. Andre Drummond did prove very problematic though with his sheer size. Kyle had a solid block on former Magic man Corey Maggette. Monroe made several jumpers over Kyle, but that's what you'd prefer. The alternative is have Greg crush you in the post. O'Quinn nabbed 8 rebounds but seemed out of his element as the blowout progressed. O'Quinn over-commits on help defense and gets burned in that instance. 

Chris Johnson won't be making this team. That is all. #24 may not last the weekend at this rate. Banging knees with Kim English didn't help the cause. Did rack up some points though including a 3-pointer. Not a defensive asset though. I'd add Quentin Richardson to the cut list if he didn't have a guaranteed deal. Q-Rich just can't keep up with the uptempo style Jacque wants to play. I'm ready to see Justin Harper and Armon Johnson get sent away as well. Armon can't provide much assistance on offense or defense. Can't pass, can't really shoot. He can bring the ball up the court, and attack the rim. That's about it. It may have been decent enough for SVG to use him last season, but not now. It's bad when Will Bynum was hurting late in the third, stayed in, and Armon couldn't execute against him.

I defended Harper for so long from the day he was drafted, but no more. Can't do it. Harper may need to go back to Europe to earn a living. Any bit of offensive potential gets trumped by massive defensive faults and inefficiencies. Harper would make a few jumpers, then give it all back and more to guys like Kyle Singler and Tayshaun Prince. Justin scored 11 points tonight, but probably gave up 31 on the other end. Unforgivable defense. Now I know what Vincent Collet in Strasbourg was griping about. 

At 0-4, and halfway through preseason, I think DeQuan Jones will make the Magic roster. I want Josh McRoberts, Justin Harper, and Quentin Richardson bought out or traded now. Make it happen, Hennigan. Then just cut Armon and Chris Johnson. Orlando has 3 homes games and a trip to Memphis to close out the month of October. Jacque and Henny should have seen enough already to get a great idea of who will still be on the 15-man roster come opening night against Denver. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Goose & Vuc: Creating A Formidable Frontcourt

Don't tell Nikola Vucevic he was the worst center involved in the Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum blockbuster trade a few months ago. Also, don't go off comparing 'Vuc' to Nikola Pekovic, Darko Milicic, or Vlade Divac. This Montenegrin is unique and shouldn't be compared at all to those other ex-Yugoslavians. 'Vucci Mane' is tall and lengthy. No doubt he maximizes that almost 7-foot frame on the offensive end. Vucevic is fairly agile for his size, but don't expect him to successfully defend anyone that's shorter or skinnier than him. Nik's help defense is still sluggish at this point but that can be fixed with coaching. What he lacks in athletic explosiveness, Nik makes up in pump fakes and jukes. I've mentioned how Nik and Goose like to tap the ball around rather than grab it when it comes to their rebounding effort. Well that does lead to some offensive rebounds (4 for Vuc and 3 for Goose). Ayon started in Mexico City against his former Hornets, and Vaughn found it ideal to start Vucevic against his former Sixers. Vucevic's 12 points and 10 rebounds double-double wasn't going to draw up Dwight comparisons, but going 6-of-8 from the field at least gave Magic PA Announcer Paul Porter a chance to practice his 'Nikola Vucevic' pronunciations. Vucevic isn't shy from contact. Nik knows that he needs to go immediately to the hole

Someone steal Gustavo Ayon's passport before the Barcelona rumors come swirling out of control again. 'Goose' won't block a lot of shots, but the way he moves and patrols the paint on both ends is astonishing. Ridiculously high basketball IQ. On defense, Ayon constantly moves and knows to cover all areas of the paint without coming close to being called for defensive 3-seconds. On offense, his 5 assists were not an aberration. Goose's unselfishness is phenomenal to watch. He got Andrew Nicholson 6 wide open points. Talk about a confidence building outing for the St. Bonnies rook. Nicholson still looks slow in comparison to the game speed, but that didn't affect his offensive output. Andrew put on a show. Anyway if Ayon averages around 30 minutes per night, I have no doubt that Gustavo can lead all centers in assists this season. It's a shame most Magic fans couldn't see this game on Thursday night. Especially that nifty double spin lay-up move Gustavo showcased. I hope he teaches everyone that along with his constant hustle. Effort can definitely be contagious on this roster. Goose and Vuc didn't see the court together Thursday night, but they did in Mexico City. 

Although the Sixers prevailed 102-95, for a second straight game, Jacque Vaughn's team showed a plethora of potential. Not the potential of a lottery team, the potential to snag an 8th spot in the East. We're looking at a Magic team that is 0-2 in preseason, when Orlando would easily be 2-0 if Vaughn cared about the final result. All of this being done with no Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Maurice Harkless, and Ish Smith. All 4 will be crucial starters or rotation players this season. If we face an opponent who has basically two centers starting (Think Golden State with Andrew Bogut-David Lee), then I would hope Vaughn goes with a Vucevic-Ayon duo. I want Jacque to have the testicular fortitude to not care about Glen Davis' veteran status and contract and play the guys who mesh well together. Baby will be a black hole with his constant green lights. That stagnates the offense, and it's not what wins games. Let's see if Vaughn starts playing more of his rotation guys on this back-to-back road trip at Cleveland and Detroit this coming Monday and Tuesday. So far our offense is the least of our problems. It's all about being able to game plan for stars and chuckers. In Thursday night's case, I'm referring to Jrue Holiday and Nick Young. We're trying hard, but help defense is quite ugly at times. Improvement comes in communication. Seriously though, we're not that bad. We're closer to a playoff team than we are a bottom feeder. That's for certain.

Jacque Vaughn's eyes are scary on the jumbotron. His approach of coaching and Stan Van Gundy's approach are night and day. SVG was extremely animated, loud, and would do a fair amount of sweating. Don't expect Jacque to stand up too much from his bench seat. I didn't see Vaughn yell or even show facial expressions of discontent. Not sure I like that or not yet. I'm fairly proud of Magic fans in general last night. The reported attendance at Amway Center was 18,106. There were a few thousand empty seats, but you could safely say that when everyone was in their seats the attendance was a legitimate 15,000-16,000. There's zero shame in that for a preseason contest. Maybe it helped that this game wasn't televised in the Orlando area. Or maybe it was a signal from the fans and ticket holders that it was time to actually focus on basketball instead of having to deal with the saga of a certain former #12. Magic fans were wearing Redick, Nelson, and even jerseys with their own names customized on the back. A lot of 'Orlando' and 'Magic' general apparel. Some 'STUFF' green gear. Even a Heart & Hustle shirt or two. No remnants of Dwight Howard could be spotted within Amway Center, and there were very few individuals who wore any time of #12 gear. Good for them. We're moving on with pure class. 

Life will be swell if Hedo goes 5-for-7 on a nightly basis. Yes please. Got a few easy looks by Turk standards. Looked WAY more impressive than he did against New Orleans. Made much wiser decisions. Jameer will succeed this year if he keeps picking his spots to shoot while still sharing the rock as crisply as he's capable of. Redick made Jason Richardson his bitch on both ends. JJ fans should rejoice. It didn't help J-Rich's cause that he was wrongly ripping into Stan Van Gundy's offensive system coming into his swift return to Orlando. Glen is still playing outside of his means. Getting into the paint wildly, committing dumb turnovers. But Big Baby has made it work in consecutive games so far, being rewarded for his play with free throw line trips. We all love Q-Rich's 3-point air guitars and overall enthusiasm, but his preseason debut reminded Magic fans that there's not really a place for him on this team. 

I was happy to see Kyle O'Quinn get a few easy buckets, including this nice dunk from Jameer. The Norfolk State product looked much more effective and calmed down on both ends. He doesn't have massive hops, but it's good enough to be a 3rd string energetic center at this time. DeQuan Jones made 2 buckets. But I was impressed on each one. Another silky smooth jumper that he displayed a bit more in Mexico City, and a steal and sky high open court dunk that got the loudest Amway Center reaction of the night. Armon Johnson played the last 7:20 of the contest, and his team-worst plus/minus of -14 shows for it. Armon at SG just isn't as useful as he would be as a point guard. The bulk of the PG minutes have belonged to E'Twaun Moore. A paltry 2-for-13 and another game where he made a lot of bad decisions, but also 4 nice dishes that hasn't had me more confused about a combo guard since Keyon Dooling was in a Magic jersey. Again, I can't wait for Ish to get back so Moore can be used solely as a 3rd PG/SG and a situation-only defender. Oh, and E'Twaun's defense is mediocre at best up to this point.