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.