Monday, October 8, 2012

First Impressions of the '12-'13 Squad

One 'meaningless' game shouldn't decide then and there how a player's season will go, but it was nice finally seeing some Orlando Magic basketball again. Without the drama mind you. Be honest, you were ecstatic when you saw Ryan Anderson have a horrendous NOLA debut. I'm sure Rob Hennigan feels much more relief about not having that contract on the books. Also, why was Monty Williams playing Anthony Davis out on the perimeter and starting Robin Lopez? Mexico City definitely had some hilarious and horrifying characters in the crowd. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of those old school Magic jerseys and apparel in the stands. If the Orlando Magic are supposedly going to lose a lot of games, at least they'll do it with a lot of hustle and fast-paced tenacity. No one cares that the Magic ended up losing their Mexico City friendly against the New Orleans Hornets 85-80. NBA TV's coverage was focusing so much on Monty Williams' new NOLA squad. A lot of talk about Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers as the new rookies, but also some chatter about Robin Lopez and Ryan Anderson. Maybe NBA TV didn't know what to say or how to treat the Orlando roster. Maybe Jacque Vaughn's side is already being disrespected, but when the two teams squared off one thing was clear...the Magic won't be push-overs.

The 10-0 run to open the contest was evident of Vaughn's new system that saw us actually get involved in fastbreaks and more of a swarm support defense mentality. For 3 quarters, that saw a 21-point lead occur in the process, Orlando absolutely demolished the Hornets. For three quarters, Orlando looked like the much more quality squad. Then the 4th quarter happened where Jacque Vaughn decided on riding most of his third stringers to the finish. That's why the final score is indicative of nothing. Nada. I don't expect nearly the amount of delays we saw thanks in no part to the ref crew and technical difficulties. The risks of playing outside of an NBA market. Jacque Vaughn did remind of me a hopefully smarter and wiser version of Johnny Davis. Not much yelling, more hands off. For this group of guys it may very well work. It's interesting not seeing so many 3-point attempts. Pick-and-rolls aplenty that led to wide open lanes into the paint instead of lengthy perimeter attempts. Also, not having Dwight in the paint didn't nearly hurt us as we all initially expected when it came to scoring and rebounding. Again, it's just one preseason game. So here are my first impressions that don't involve much statistical backing. A lot of promise considering we were without Afflalo, Eyenga, Harkless, Harrington, Q-Rich, and Ish Smith contributing on the court. 

Jameer Nelson - You always start with the captain. Captain Nelson looks trimmer and was ready to dictate the offense. He almost sleep-walked through a solid outing. Mighty Mite had no problem coexisting with Gustavo Ayon. Jameer funneled through some amazing passes, giving Goose quite a few gimme baskets. That's a grand way of earning popularity points. His assist to turnover ratio was surprisingly 1:1 which I found shocking. 6 rebounds helps offset that. Nelson is in shape, but that'll only matter as long as he's healthy. 

JJ Redick - This is the first time since he was playing at Duke that Redickulous is viewed as a true locker room leader. JJ no longer has to prove him worth. It must be relaxing to be known as a veteran now. Well on the court, he took another Devil to school in Austin Rivers. Redick had little trouble on both ends dealing with any shooting guard really which is a pleasant sight. Coach Vaughn kept Stan Van Gundy's set of plays that run Redick through screens 'Ray Allen' style for open looks. They worked to perfection on a few occasions. 

Hedo Turkoglu - A game-high of +19 is a nice way of getting back into the fans' good graces. Hedo still showed a few bad qualities of last season's past when it came to shot selection. Turkey Dance shocked the world when I actually witnessed him cut to the hole for an easy bucket. Turk has played a lot of professional basketball in his life. Since 1996. He looks skinnier and tanner, but it appears that Hedo has built a lot more muscle in his arms and shoulders. Does that affect shot form? Yes. Is that a big deal in Hedo's case since his shooting percentage wasn't that good in the first place last season? No. If Turk wants to start and be treated as a reliable shooter, he needs to drain his wide open looks. No discussion here. 

Glen Davis - Spinning out of control, ruining the flow the offense, and taking mindless dribbles to the basket worked for you tonight. Will it work for you in the regular season? Good God I hope so, but it won't. Glen is a shoe-in for double doubles almost every contest this season. He can get into the paint without moving around like a crazy killer whale. He'll have to find that median between being a power forward and center. Take your 15-footers, but remember you're in there to crash the paint. 

Gustavo Ayon - The man of the weekend. From rumors of somehow playing for Barcelona this November, to being a rock star in Mexico City, to around 60 family members and friends, along with another 18,000 folks in the arena and a few million people watching on television, enjoying his performance on the court. Goose's energy is ridiculous, and he wasn't playing out of skin because he was back home. Ayon's got a great chance of being our starting center, along with earning fan favorite patrons. We didn't get to see many perimeter attempts, but he didn't need to when Robin Lopez was biting on all of his fakes. The potential for Goose to put up high field goal percentages is mighty appealing. 

Nikola Vucevic - Start creating your nicknames for the man out of Montenegro. 'Vucci Mane' sounds surprisingly not lame. We saw a few Goose-Vuc connections Sunday afternoon. Nikola is probably our least athletic big man. That's not a bad thing though when you have his size and skills. Against what should have been a formidable Hornets frontline, Nikola found a way to gobble up some rebounds. Similar to Goose, Vucevic has a bit of a problem actually grabbing balls. Nikola and Goose like to tap/slap the ball around instead of nab it. That's where coaching will come in. Expect to see Nikola get more chances to show off his offensive potential at home against Philly on Thursday. Watch how Vaughn balances Vucevic and Ayon's court minutes. 

E'Twaun Moore - The former Boston Celtic played more minutes than any Magic man with 27 points. Moore's team-high 16 points and 7 assists is a clear sign of that. E'Twaun's statistics look impressive, but he didn't look better than a third string point guard or shooting guard for the most part. Don't get me wrong, there were flashes of brilliance. Drilled open jumpers (3-point threat for sure), needled in a few wonderful passes for simple lay-ups. But his dribbling just isn't reliable. A healthy Ish is a better game manager. E'Twaun is supposedly touted as a lockdown defender, however I saw little of that. Let's see how Moore deals with these next few weeks knowing fully well he has a guaranteed contract. 

Armon Johnson - Started off well when he checked in as a point guard and caused some paint chaos for New Orleans' defense. The lefty showed some decent touch around the rim. He's a defensive playmaker for sure. With everything said, I never want to see Armon take 9 shot attempts again. His 2nd half was quite forgettable and why Johnson will need a miraculous turnaround to make the roster come November. 

Andrew Nicholson - We're not at St. Bonaventure anymore. The Canadian's slow playing style may have been passable against lesser college competition, but that 'calm and collective' type of approach won't succeed in the NBA. I'm being harsh, but I expect great things from 'Drew. Nicholson always seemed a second late. On offensive sets, defensive assignments, and even rebounding. We saw a little bit of his post-up repertoire. The refs wrongfully robbed Nicholson of an And 1 by calling him for travelling. Andrew is still holding on to the ball too long and will stall ball movement almost as badly as Dwight did. Nicholson will get many more touches in the coming weeks. I want to see more post moves and jumpers.

Josh McRoberts - Hey, we have 2 Dukies still. This one thankfully doesn't have to worry about dribbling much. I don't know if he always has the same attitude, but 'McBob' looks like a very cocky guy. When you're hustling for balls and lending support on both ends, that type of attitude works. I don't think Josh will last long in Orlando. Maybe I'll be wrong. If I am, it'll be because the Magic see Josh as a contributor and not just some bloated contract that can be traded down the road. Again, all opinion on my part. 

Kyle O'Quinn - Calm it down, young fella. It's not like we're mistaking you for Otis Smith, there shouldn't be much panicking for you. Let the offensive opportunities come within the flow of the game and the offense. Did you get ridiculously swatted by Ryno? Yes. Will that come with the territory of playing in the NBA? Of course. Throw that away from your mind and make up for it on defense. Kyle's like a human bowling bowl. No fear of crashing into people. That'll lead to some unnecessary fouls, but that'll earn you playing time if it helps swat and affect opponents' shots. 

DeQuan Jones - For a guy who supposedly can't shoot, I saw some silky smooth elbow jumpers drained. Keep knocking down shots and running well in transition and DeQuan has an actual chance at making this 15-man squad. I didn't think he had a chance in hell coming in, but I was impressed by Mr. Jones. The man's leaping ability was something else to admire. It's effortless how high DeQuan gets. There were a few times in this first preseason game where you saw Jones actually have to duck his head to avoid hitting the rim/backboard. That's crazy. I don't know how  he'll progress from here, but if the Magic don't keep DeQuan, there are a few NBA rosters that could use his services.  

Justin Harper - You sir, need to thank the basketball gods that you have a guaranteed deal, because you don't look like an NBA player right now. I've defended Harper since Otis Smith drafted him, but I can't do it any more. The potential I saw out of Justin when he played in France during the Lockout is gone. I just can't figure out what happened. He's a solid athlete, has a great work ethic, and displays the correct attitude. He needs to prove his worth and value of being a small forward, otherwise Rob Hennigan should take the cap hit for this season and just cut him now and let the Richmond Spider product make a living in Europe. 

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