Thursday, January 31, 2013

Big Baby's Broken Foot Alters Trading Landscape

Well we can all guarantee that Glen Davis won't be dealt elsewhere this season, not after fracturing his left foot last night in the first quarter of that Knicks loss. I was certain Big Baby would be involved in some sort of Rob Hennigan transaction before the February 21st deadline. You can see in Jacque Vaughn's demeanor that any chances of Orlando reversing their woeful ways of losing escaped with Glen's unexpected departure. For all of his ball hogging and bad shot selection, Glen still was coveted by playoff teams for his defense and screen setting. Davis' estimated recovery is 8-12 weeks, but it'd be pointless to throw Glen on the court in April. Not unless maybe the Magic are winning too many games that would hinder our tanking, or possibly if Henny wants Glen playing well for a potential deal in the summer.

It'll be intriguing to monitor how Jacque divvies out minutes for the next 3 weeks. If Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn see a much higher ratio of playing time, then it means we're seeking to develop our youth the rest of the season. But if we see a lot of Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, and Hedo Turkoglu on the court, then you know it's to showcase them for a trade. What Glen's injury won't affect is which of Afflalo or Redick gets sent packing to a new franchise. JJ and Arron are arguably the top two best assets this team is willing to deal, and both prefer the SG position. Henny has a lot of contemplating to do, and then a countless array of phone calls. 

Wednesday night was the official homecoming for Magic rookies Maurice Harkless and Kyle O’Quinn who both are New York City boys, but the Knicks weren't going to welcome them with huge grins and open arms. Orlando is now at 14-31 after a 113-97 drubbing and can't beat an Atlantic division team to save a life. We're at the portion of the season where you want this Magic roster to keep giving phenomenal effort, but that you don't mind the defeats so much because you know it gets this team closer to a great draft pick. 

JJ Redick can’t possibly raise his trade value any higher than where it currently stands. ‘Redickulous’ put up 14 points in the opening quarter while Jameer Nelson had 12 as the Knicks’ defense didn’t apply much pressure on that Magic backcourt. Glen Davis hurting his left foot and Nik Vucevic getting in foul trouble prevented Jacque Vaughn’s club from sustaining their superb start. 31-31 stalemate after one period as Orlando’s 61.9 FG% and New York’s 59.1 FG% clearly wouldn’t remain that bountiful.

Ish Smith did a wonderful job pushing the tempo and attacking the bucket in the much more defensive second period. David Steele was kind enough to remind the FOX Sports Florida viewing audience that Jameer absolutely loves destroying Raymond Felton, and there was no Jason Kidd to cover up for Felton’s terrible defending. Nelson’s nineteen first half points are a strong indicator of that. If you consider DeQuan an SF, 47 of Orlando’s 51 points at the break came from Magic guards. Amazing. All square at 51-51 in the locker room.

From there it was all Knicks. Amare' baptizing Gustavo Ayon to open the 4th really opened the floodgates. Orlando practiced at Harvard on Thursday in preparation to take on the Celtics in Boston on Friday evening.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Vucci Mane Gets All-Star Weekend Invite

What we all assumed would happen has finally become official, Nikola Vucevic’s fantastic sophomore season (no slumps here so far) is being rewarded with a trip to All-Star Weekend. ‘Vucci Mane’ gets to represent the Magic in the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. Magic rookie Andrew Nicholson's 7.2 points per game and 3.2 rebounds per game weren't enough to get the Canadian into the game. I can't call it a snub because Tyler Zeller has indeed had a better rookie campaign. However, based on Andrew's 52.6 FG%, a few extra minutes of playing time and Nicholson easily would have been penciled in.

From the team press release:

Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic was named to the 2013 BBVA Rising Stars Challenge to be played Friday, Feb. 15, in Houston during NBA All-Star 2013, as announced today by the NBA.  The BBVA Rising Stars Challenge consists of current rookies and sophomores selected to the roster by the NBA’s assistant coaches. 
Vucevic leads all second-year players in rebounding at 11.2 rpg., ranking in the NBA’s top five overall.  He also ranks in the top ten among all “sophomores” in field goal percentage, shooting .522, and in scoring at 11.9 ppg. Vucevic is the only second-year player in the NBA averaging a double-double. 
Joining Vucevic from the Sophomore class are: Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), Brandon Knight (Detroit Pistons), Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs), Chandler Parsons (Houston Rockets), Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors), Tristan Thompson (Cleveland Cavaliers), and Kemba Walker (Charlotte Bobcats). 
Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard lead a group of rookies that includes Harrison Barnes (Warriors), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Bobcats), Alexey Shved (Minnesota Timberwolves), Dion Waiters (Cavaliers), and Tyler Zeller (Cavaliers).

This will be the second consecutive season where TNT ‘analysts’ Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal get to play the role of General Managers of ‘Team Chuck’ and ‘Team Shaq’. Kyrie Irving won MVP honors last year when Orlando got to host the event as Irving went off for 34 points and 13 assists in a 146-133 Team Chuck victory. Barring him not participating and only playing in the All-Star Game, Kyrie should be the favorite to repeat as MVP once again.

Shaq and Charles will get to draft their team members on February 7th at 7 p.m. EST. Following the draft, there will be a new twist to this fresh exhibition. Fans will be able to go online and vote what the starting 5s will be when the ball is tipped on February 15th. Just like in normal All-Star Game voting, the Rising Stars voting won’t include an actual ‘center’ position which handicaps Vucevic greatly. 3 frontcourt positions and 2 backcourt spots.

If Vucevic’s popularity is in any correlation to the amount of times he gets to the free throw line, there’s not a chance in hell Nik will get voted as a starter. Even if you advertise how he’s the only sophomore to be averaging a double-double, fans don’t give a damn. Fans don’t view ‘Vooch’ as a flashy Vlade Divac or Arvydas Sabonis type of guy that can entertain them. I do though hope Shaq drafts Vucevic just so the floodgates open for more Dwight Howard jokes. I'll be curious if Jacque Vaughn and the Magic coaching staff give Nik any special instructions, or if they just tell the Montenegrin to have fun. It's a well-earned honor for the 22-year-old. The last Magic man to have played in the Rising Star Challenge was a sophomore Dwight Howard in 2006. 

The head coaches for both teams will be the lead assistant coaches from the 2013 NBA All-Star Game coaching staffs. The East and West coaching staffs will be determined by the best record in each conference through games played Feb. 3. The Chicago Bulls’ and Oklahoma City’s staffs, by virtue of having helmed the sidelines of the 2012 All-Star game, are not eligible to coach this year’s game. 

1994 - Phenoms 74, Sensations 68
1995 - White 83, Green 79 (OT)
1996 - East 94, West 92
1997 - East 96, West 91
1998 - East 85, West 80
2000 - Rookies 92, Sophomores 81 (OT)
2001 - Sophomores 121, Rookies 113
2002 - Rookies 103, Sophomores 97
2003 - Sophomores 132, Rookies 112
2004 - Sophomores 142, Rookies 118
2005 - Sophomores 133, Rookies 106
2006 - Sophomores 106, Rookies 96
2007 - Sophomores 155, Rookies 114
2008 - Sophomores 136, Rookies 109
2009 - Sophomores 122, Rookies 116
2010 - Rookies 140, Sophomores 128
2011 - Rookies 148, Sophomores 140
2012 - TEAM CHUCK 146, TEAM SHAQ 133 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Harkless Sets New Career-High as Brooklyn Slaughters Magic

Here is my 'Magic Basketball Online' game recap of the Brooklyn Nets destroying Orlando once again from deep. A 97-77 beatdown this time. Harkless showed us his star potential while Redick's trade value may be at an all-time best.

Stan Van Gundy for President!...or Something Like That

Former Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy finished runner-up in the Central Floridian of the Year race, but that doesn't diminish SVG's overall impact on Seminole County's educational system and the rest of the Orlando area. For those who miss Stan on the sidelines, you won't have much trouble listening or spotting Van Gundy on NBC's radio and television sports affiliates in and outside of Orlando. Stan was never shy to speak his opinion, and there's zero filter to hold him back.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Redick Talks Trade Rumors as Hedo & Harrington Prepare Returns

The 14-28 Orlando Magic are preparing to take on the Pistons on Sunday. Not much Detroit chatter other than Jacque Vaughn's usual on-the-ball eloquent responses for how his team can improve its rebounding against that beefy Pistons roster. Coach Vaughn did state that he had a "full 15 guys" as every Magic men on the roster participated in full contact practice. That seems to be a first for this 2012-2013 season. Jacque also stated how he thinks his team is most definitely better now than when they had a 12-13 record.

JJ Redick talked Bieber concert, and how he and his family are dealing with constant trade hearsay. Redick truly doesn't appear bothered about the rumor mill chatter, but more about having lost 15 of the past 17 contests. He's focusing solely on now, the present. "It hasn't been difficult. I think I'm handling it well. My concentration has been on the things I can control."

Hedo Turkoglu really has been doing all he can to get back on the parquet court as confirmed by his "work your ass off" line. It's all about running enough to where Turk will be near game shape, and then he can be thrown out there. After that, it's all on Turk's mental mindset and how much he trusts that left hand when he's catching, passing, and shooting. Hedo has been patient, but he's clearly pining to see action.

Meanwhile, Al Harrington has no more bulky knee braces to worry about. He's still wearing knee sleeves, but it's progress. Jacque seemed very pleased with how Harrington managed today's practice session. You can see in his post-up and shooting drills that he's still moving around gingerly, but that's to be expected when you deal with major surgeries.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dallas’ Depth Denies Orlando

The Magic fell 111-105 and have a 14-26 record. Dallas had 7 players reach double figures in scoring. Glen Davis led all players with 24 points. Jameer Nelson’s hip must’ve felt fine as he added 20 points. Redick got the attention of his trade suitors with another 18-point solid performance. Nik Vucevic got back on his double-double track with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Dallas’ 22-10 fastbreak and 24-10 points off turnovers differentials were the main factors in the Mavericks’ road victory. Here are the postgame player locker room interviews.
Coach Jacque Vaughn on Dallas’ tweaking: “The small lineup they went to when they took Nowitzki out that got them back in it. They got some turnovers and turned those turnovers into points…”

Orlando in typical underdog mode opened the contest up 20-8. Vince Carter would proceed to check in with no Amway Center fanfare and spark an immediate 15-0 Dallas run. Despite the dreadful six or so minutes, the Magic were only down by 2 after that initial period.

Dallas is reliant on their bench contributing strongly for them to have success. Vince Carter, Jae Crowder, and Elton Brand answered the call in the first half as they combined for 24 points. The Mavericks went 58.1% from the field and maintained a 9-point advantage in the locker room. A 30-12 points in the paint drubbing will give you a lead almost in every case.
Coach Jacque Vaughn on defensive problems: “We’ve been there so we know that this team is capable and so we’ll continue to stress all the good things we’ve been doing and continue to work to get back to that place.”

Glen Davis received a technical for cursing and being visibly frustrated at the officials. That put the Magic in an angry 11-point early 3rd period hole that they’d leap out of due to an 11-0 Orlando run. All square at 63-63 at the midway point in the quarter. Foul language can be good sometimes. Despite back-to-back hammer throwdowns by Maurice Harkless on Chris Kaman, Orlando was behind 85-75 entering the final period. The home team’s defense was lacking once more. The Magic would tease its fans late once more, getting within a bucket late, only to succumb once the final buzzer sounded. The Magic will fly out to Detroit to take on the Pistons on Tuesday where Jacque Vaughn’s bunch are 2-0 against their Michigan foes so far this season. 

Magic January 20th Post-Shootaround Interviews

The 14-25 Orlando Magic prepped to take on a 17-24 Dallas Mavericks roster that is playing its best basketball of the season. This Mavs bunch is very veteran-heavy, so it'll be intriguing to see how the youthful home side will respond after a disappointing Bobcats defeat. Jameer Nelson (hip) and Glen Davis (back) both participated in shootaround today, and it is assumed that both will play tonight. Below are interviews with Coach Vaughn, Nikola Vucevic, JJ Redick, and Jameer Nelson. A lot of respect for what Dirk Nowitzki has done to transform international basketball. 'Vooch' cracking an O.J. Mayo USC joke was hilarious.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bobcats Bury Unfocused Magic

Here's my 'Magic Basketball Online' game recap of Orlando's terrifying 106-100 home defeat at the hands of the perennially bad Charlotte Bobcats. It didn't help that Jameer Nelson hurt his hip and Glen Davis suffered a back injury. Watch the postgame locker room player interviews, especially the JJ Redick clip to get a feel for the frustration of the loss.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

January 17th Magic Post-Practice Interviews

The praising of Nikola Vucevic continued just 12 hours after the 7-foot Montenegrin helped dismantle Roy Hibbert and the Indiana Pacers. Interviews were cut shorter than usual because the Magic had to participate in an NBA meeting. Orlando will now be preparing for a Bobcats team that has a 2-24 record in their last twenty-six contests.

Gustavo Ayon was working out and doing wind sprints with both knees in sleeves. Goose has been out with a right thigh contusion. Coach Vaughn hinted that Ayon is close to returning to the rotation. Meanwhile, Al Harrington has a bulky black right knee brace limiting his mobility as well as a left knee sleeve. Harrington was working on his shooting, post-up offense, and post defense.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Big Baby Boosts Bench, Magic Lose to Woeful Wizards

Orlando was an abysmal 1-10 in Glen Davis' absence due to a left shoulder sprain. Big Baby's return off the bench provided an immediate impact. Glen's efficient 13 points would not matter, as the worst offense in basketball was a buzzsaw of precision power scoring at the Verizon Center. Jacque Vaughn's crew were annihilated 120-91 in what can only be described as a forgettable evening. The Magic win-loss record is now 13-24. It got so bad I was waiting for Hedo to check in. Didn't happen. Two of Washington's 7 victories have now come against Orlando this season. Oh, E'Twaun Moore also returned having recovered from a sprained left elbow.

The Wizards are more than dangerous when healthy. Randy Wittman has his team constantly running with John Wall at the helm. The fastbreak point differential was 17-1 late in the 2nd period as Orlando appeared to be a ragged roster coming off a West Coast trip. It also helps Washington when Emeka Okafor is notching early double-doubles, Trevor Ariza mirrors the NBA champion he is, Jan Vesely doesn't look completely useless, and Bradley Beal continues to not play like a scared rookie.

Orlando was down by 19 at one instant in the second period before Jameer went into hero mode and spearheaded a one minute and thirty-seven outstanding 13-0 run in favor of the men in black heading into the locker room. The Magic trailed 53-59 at the break as their D.C. hosts put up 53.8 FG% in the half. Nelson was already sitting on fourteen points and 9 assists. 

Arron Afflalo began his evening 0-for-8 before finally making a wide open lay-up midway through the 3rd period. Adding insult to injury, Beal was a nightmare to guard. Orlando looked out of it on both ends. Couldn't spread the court and there was no defending in sight. The Wizards came into Monday night averaging 89.4 points per game, which is bottom of the league.

Well, Washington held a comfy 96-77 advantage going to the 4th period and already posted their most fastbreak points of the season. You could have turned the television off and nothing would have been missed from this grim outcome. Orlando flies back to the City Beautiful to host the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Redick Sails Magic Past League-Best Clippers

Here's my Magic Basketball Online recap of Orlando's improbable 104-101 victory over a Los Angeles Clippers squad that is on fire this season. Jacque Vaughn can be proud with how much grit his men showed in finally being able to close out a tight game with a win.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Disappointment in Denver, Nuggets Hand Magic 10th Straight Defeat

George Karl couldn't have possibly praised the Magic more in the pregame interviews on Wednesday evening. Proclaiming that Denver would've drafted Andrew Nicholson had Orlando passed up on him, and that he wanted the Nuggets to go after Nik Vucevic in the Dwight-Bynum-Iggy deal. He sounded like a coach trying to cover his ass should his team lose a badly slumping opponent. Well Denver would require a comeback, but Orlando coughed up yet another game they should've won. Nuggets prevailed 108-105 as Orlando owns a 12-23 record and the skid lengthens to 10 games. 

Vucevic fouled out with another double-double at the 1:41 mark, and the Magic's rebounding fell by the wayside. Kenneth Faried is remarkable as his 19 points and 19 rebounds proved. McRoberts once again came up empty in crunch time, and Affalo's reunion in Denver was beyond a nightmare. Defensive and offensive ineptitude galore as Arron was an abomination to watch. Rookie DeQuan Jones tallied a career-high 11 points and physics man Nicholson posted an efficient 12 points. Redick had 17 points off the pine. Jameer finished with 20 points and 8 assists. 

Andre Miller will always be near the top of the Magic killer list and would be a Hall of Famer if he only ever faced Orlando. 10 points in the fourth quarter is indicative of this pest of a point guard. If you didn't recall from the first game of the season, Denver loves to run until legs begin to fall off. After giving up 10 fastbreak points to Denver in the opening minutes, Orlando settled down and unleashed their youth to deal with the high altitude. Orlando took a surprising 30-22 lead at the conclusion of the period thanks to great contributions 10 men. 60 FG% was a result of fantastic unselfishness. Only Hedo didn't step foot on the Pepsi Center court for Jacque Vaughn during that quarter. 

Corey Brewer's career-high is 27 points. That's relevant because Brewer came off Denver's bench and poured in fourteen in his initial 10 minutes of work. After suffering a 12-2 Denver run, Orlando reignited behind energetic plays like DeQuan Jones' thunder dunk. Jones played fabulous defense and notched 7 points at the break. Jameer would get furious at Kenneth Faried and pick up a technical foul. That sparked Nelson to embarrass Faried as the co-captain mounted 10 second quarter points. Orlando sat in their locker room up 55-53. Denver only managed to make one jumper. 18 fastbreak points and 42 points in the paint in twenty-four minutes will cover your perimeter woes. 

A 12-2 Orlando run towards the tail end of the 3rd period assisted the Magic in obtaining a 77-70 advantage entering the final period. Orlando didn't look intimidated or fatigue in the thin atmosphere. Midway through the 4th, Orlando was ahead 94-87. Then like we've seen plenty of times during this losing streak, Coach Vaughn's side committed careless turnovers and other mistakes that developed into an 8-0 Nuggets run. Wilting under physical defensive pressure. However, Jameer's 10 fourth period points provided salvation until once more Orlando succumbed to their own unnecessary failings. The Magic play the best team in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon...the Clippers. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Jameer's Assist Record Dampened by 9th Straight Defeat

The Magic are not playing bad, they just can't finish ball games without Glen Davis. The glaring problem is defense. They're now 12-22 and have lost 9 straight with Big Baby out of the lineup as the Magic fought to the bitter end and lost 125-119 to the Portland Trailblazers. It's a shame to see so much heart and effort be wasted in defeat. Jameer Nelson hit a lengthy 3-pointer to tie the game at 108-108 with 8.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Damian Lillard missed his own tough trey attempt and the game went to overtime. Orlando was exhausted in the 5-minute period and the weak jumpers were a result.

No Glen, E'Twaun, Gustavo, Al, and Hedo looked terrible once more and played just 5 minutes. JJ Redick set a new season-high with 29 points. Jameer Nelson finished with 21 points and 12 assists. 24 points were notched by Arron Afflalo. Nikola Vucevic posted another double-double, this time 17 points, 13 boards, and 5 assists. Josh McRoberts posted 12 points, 8 assists, and 5 rebounds. Nice stat line, but again we question whether Nicholson or DeQuan should have played more. 35 of the Magic's 46 field goals were assisted, Nik and 'McBob' set new career-highs in assists, and Orlando still can't win. 

Jameer became the sole owner of the all-time franchise assist record, passing Scott Skiles at the 4:04 mark of the 1st period as his 2,777th assist of the evening was on an Andrew Nicholson jam that gave Orlando a 19-12 lead. Of course Skiles loses out on a record, and is on the same evening is no longer Milwaukee Bucks Head Coach. Terry Stotts is doing a fantastic first-year job in Portland so far. The Trail Blazers are a potential playoff team out West because of their fantastic depth and well-balanced offensive attack. The Rose Garden hosts held a 25-24 advantage after the initial 12 minutes.

JJ Redick tallied 10 points in just three minutes and nine seconds into the second period, which was necessary because the Magic found difficult scoring against the lanky and quick Portland players. Then the other Duke Blue Devil, Josh McRoberts, went into scoring mode and notched eight of his own points in the period. Thanks to 16 first half points by Arron Afflalo, and the Magic only coughing up four turnovers, Orlando headed into the locker room up 57-48. It was glorious to see confidence and enthusiasm reenter this roster as you'd expect a 14-2 run to accomplish.

Portland would erase their deficit and take a 71-70 lead at the 5-minute mark of the 3rd period because of swarming defense and astonishingly superb shooting efficiency. JJ Hickson would not be contained by Nicholson or McRoberts. Makes you wonder how Kyle O'Quinn would have done, but we'll never know. 'Redickulous' followed up an 11-point second quarter with eight points in the third period as the contest was tied 85-85. Portland scored an unbelievable 37 points in that session.

The beginning of the fourth period was a continuation of the JJ Redick Show. My goodness, what a shooting exhibition. Orlando was up 92-87 before Portland once again used their crowd to come back and tie the contest with 6:51 remaining. Coach Jacque Vaughn's gang was in another tight battle. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Matthews and Batum would hand Portland a four-point lead with 3:01 remaining as Orlando was once again stumbling to the finish line. Jameer put the team on his back and was able to extend the contest past regulation before tiring. Orlando heads to the lofty altitudes of Denver on Wednesday as Afflalo gets to re-acquaint himself with Nuggets fans.