Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sacramento Sizzles in Orlando

Here is my 'Magic Basketball Online' game recap of Orlando's 125-101 home defeat at the hands of the Sacramento Kings. Too many defensive breakdowns doomed the men in pinstripes. At least Tobias Harris got a new career-high of 23 points. Enjoy postgame player locker room interviews from Beno Udrih, Tobias, and Al Harrington.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Three New Faces Debut in Orlando Defeat

Here is my 'Magic Basketball Online' game recap from Saturday's 118-94 Cleveland bludgeoning of Orlando. It was the debut of Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris, and Doron Lamb. Enjoy postgame locker room interviews after the loss.

So Who the Buck Are These Milwaukee Guys?

So K. L. Chouinard of Behind The Buck Pass and I agreed to swap basketball analyzing services. I gave my input on what the Bucks should expect from JJ Redick, Gustavo Ayon, and Ish Smith. Now here’s his input on new Magic acquisitions Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris, and Doron Lamb. Keep in mind, Lamb and Harris could be in Orlando for a lengthy period of time. Meanwhile, Beno is an expiring contract. The odds of Orlando re-signing the Slovenian in the summer are slim to none. Here's Mr. Chouinard below:

Beno Udrih is a serviceable player, but to the Magic, he may just be nothing more than a player whose $7 million per season contract expires at the end of the season. In any case, he can do a few things well as a backup guard. This season, in particular, he has fared better with the ball in his hands than out of it. Beno has mastered the art of the PUJIT – the pull-up jumper in transition. On the season, Udrih has made 23 of his 38 shots in transition despite favoring jump shots in those situations.

You wouldn’t want him teaching that to younger players, but against all odds and better judgment, it works for him. He has also been strong as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. Unlike Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, when Udrih darts down the lane, he will usually toss in a spin move to create just enough space to allow himself time to square up and get a disciplined shot. The result? Udrih converted 59.3% of his shots in the paint this season – a much higher percentage than Ellis or Jennings. Unfortunately for Udrih, what the Bucks needed most (and hence the Redick trade) was a floor-spacing three-point shooter. Here Udrih came up short. He only made 25% of his three-pointers on the season, and he never made the shot into something with which he was comfortable. 

Doron Lamb, as far as I can tell, is a project. If what he did at Kentucky is any indication, he can hit three-point shots. But in Milwaukee, he never flashed a consistent stroke. During one brutal four-game stretch in mid-December, it fell apart completely. He only made 3 of 26 field goal attempts, going without a basket in three of the games.

To be fair, he was taking one for the team at that point. Udrih was hurt and Marquis Daniels was being used as the starting small forward, so Lamb played through the flu since the Bucks were down to having just three active guards on the roster. After that ugliness, he stopped getting regular minutes. In the preseason, there were signs of a floater that he could use as a counter-move to a three-point shot, but he never developed an outside shot that teams feared enough to overplay defensively.

Tobias Harris is the player that the Magic most likely coveted. He scarcely played at all last season as a 19-year-old rookie – the lack of a real training camp when the lockout ended hurt him badly and he was ill for most of the shortened camp that they did have. But coming into this season, Scott Skiles made him a starter.

Offensively, he played terrifically. His favorite spot on the court is on the baseline where he can slash to the rim or back his way in for a high-altitude turnaround. The Bucks needed him as a corner three-point shooter to space out the floor for the other starters and he did reasonably well in that department too. Physically, he has the tools to play like a big small forward along the lines of Paul Pierce or LeBron James, and he guarded both Pierce and James when given those assignments early this season. But that was a rare exception for Harris, who struggled defensively.

When he was given the task of stopping Pierce or James, he seemed to do just as well guarding them one-on-one as any NBA defender would. His problems came when he needed to grasp the overarching team defensive schemes and rotations. He would get lost, or stuck behind picks, and miss defensive assignments grossly. Most 20-year-olds would. That part of the game will come to him soon enough though. And when it does, watch out. The kid can score.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bobcats Claim Battle of the Beleaguered

Here is my 'Magic Basketball Online' game recap and postgame locker room interviews from Orlando's 105-92 defeat at the hands of the Charlotte Bobcats. We may have witnessed JJ Redick's last home game in a Magic uniform.

Deal or No Deal - Magic Trade Deadline Edition

The NBA trade deadline is February 21st at 3 p.m. EST. That means being fixated on your text alerts and Twitter timelines. Other than Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski tweets from Monday night pictured below, the Magic rumor mill is remaining much quieter than a basketball mind would expect. However, General Manager Rob Hennigan hasn't been shy in admitting that he's taking and making numerous phone calls with front offices all across the league. It's quite evident that the chatter will exponentially grow as Thursday afternoon approaches.

Here's your Orlando salary cap reminder and how it's necessary to keep in mind the circumstances of each contract. Whether it's number of years remaining or what years are guaranteed, partially guaranteed, or not guaranteed at all. Don't forget the $17.8 million trade exception that expires in August of this year. Expectations are that if the Magic do pick up a large (hopefully expiring) contract, that it won't be until the summer. Especially since the Magic have a full 15 players on their roster. 

Below is my viewpoint on which Magic players could, should, shouldn't, and won't be dealt. I'm hopeful Rob and his front office staff share my opinion as I go through my own version of 'Deal or No Deal'. Guys I want gone and guys I want to stay, whether for the long or short-term.

Arron Afflalo: Deal
There's a reason why I involved that Minnesota 'WOJ Bomb' tweet. I feel that Afflalo is the wing player that the T-Wolves can definitely use to make a serious run through the postseason. When 'AA' was initially acquired by Orlando, Magic fans were hoping he could become a go-to 1st or 2nd scoring option for the franchise. It hasn't quite worked out. Yes, Arron is leading the team in scoring. However, Afflalo hasn't been able to convert in crunch time like a first option needs to. Arron needs to protect the ball better instead of bouncing it off his foot. Also, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD KEEP YOUR TOES BEHIND THE 3-POINT LINE!

His subpar dribbling skills prevent Arron from being able to attack efficiently or consistently in a halfcourt set. Arron's transition attacking has been one of the few unquestionably positive services he provides. Afflalo's jump shooting hasn't been nearly as stellar as in Denver, though the 6'5" wing man is beginning to depend on his solid post-ups near the top of the paint. Afflalo's reputation as a 'good' defender has been ripped to shreds and has this Orlando decision crew pondering whether 'AA' is truly worth paying $8 million for another 3 full seasons. 

The 27-year-old is averaging career-highs in scoring (16.6 ppg), rebounding (3.8), assists (3.0), free throw percentage (85.3%), and minutes (36.4). And yet, few can say they've been impressed with Arron's Magic stay so far. When Afflalo was out for that left calf strain, we saw glimpses of E'Twaun Moore being more than capable of filling his SG shoes. Below is something that may interest both Minnesota and Hennigan.

The T-Wolves get their supportive wing while getting rid of Brandon Roy, a failed risk signing. Minnesota has Rubio and Ridnour and that makes Barea dispensable. The Magic want Roy's contract so that it comes off the books in the summer of 2014, where I'm assuming Hennigan will utilize his immense salary cap space to make his free agency push. Barea can easily be flipped to another contending team (don't tell me Dallas wouldn't take him back) or you utilize JJ's Puerto Rican background and build ticket sales. As for Ish, can we honestly envision Smith being in a Magic jersey long-term? Again, this is just a feasible example of getting rid of Afflalo rather than... 

JJ Redick: No Deal
People like mentioning Ryan Anderson's trade departure last year in regards to how Magic fans have treated talented shooters that are also seeking a pay bump. Many believe Redick will want more than the average $8.5 million per season that Ryno is receiving in New Orleans. That's up for debate. What isn't up for debate, is the obvious importance of Redick's presence in the locker room and on the court. 

Glen Davis is out, and that means Redick is hands down the best asset Orlando is willing to deal. Back in December I wrote how adored JJ is in this community. This is the final last few months of the 28-year-old's front-loaded deal that is currently paying him about $6.2 million this season. Folks are also referencing Redick's demands to be traded a few years ago as a reason for dealing JJ for fear he'll bail from O-Town this summer. That was under completely different coaching and front office regimes, and JJ wasn't playing nearly as often and as well as he has this season.

Can JJ walk away this offseason? Of course. But I believe there is a gentleman's agreement between Rob and JJ. Point blank, if Redick isn't gone at the trade deadline, then we're re-signing JJ long-term. That's what I foresee occurring. Then again, my Nostradamus side could get beaten over the head with a shovel and we see Redick going to a place like Milwaukee in exchange for a 1st round pick, an inexpensive youngster, and/or an expiring guy. Does JJ want to be a Buck long-term? That's a massive issue that only Milwaukee's brass can answer. One thing I'm certain is that JJ's distribution and driving skills are what separate him from Ryan Anderson, and why Redick is actually worth up to $9 million per season. He may be in his prime now, but if he maintains great fitness and plays with the same hunger we're witnessing this season, then Redick's style of contributing will be more than effective into his mid-30s.

Jameer Nelson: No Deal
The co-captain has tenure and loyalty on his side. When Hennigan gave Jameer a front-loaded 3-year $25.2 million deal, I'd like to believe Rob's intentions were to have Nelson in the locker room through at least the conclusion of the 2013 calendar year. However, the demand for Nelson will be much higher come next year's trade deadline than now when Jameer's '14-'15 $8 million contract season is only half guaranteed. 

Plus, the 31-year-old is averaging career-highs in assists, rebounds, free throw shooting percentage, and minutes per game. It's not like anyone at Amway Center's offices is super eager to dump class act and forever underrated talent. If his shooting percentages were a bit higher, we'd be discussing how fantastic of a season Jameer has had without Dwight. If Nelson is producing all around as he's had this season, there's no doubt playoff teams will have an interest in Jameer as a backup on their contending bench. It's all about Nelson avoiding the injury bug, which he's been incapable of this season. Maybe good fortune will come in this upcoming training camp.

Hedo Turkoglu: Deal
Harrington and Hedo are in a similar boat. Odds are neither would be dealt in the coming days unless Redick is involved. Or Hennigan drugs up a GM...into a near coma. In Turk's case, it's nearly impossible now for Hedo to be sent packing as he's got another 19 games remaining on that PED suspension. Again for extra clarification, the only way Hedo can be dealt this month is if Redick goes with him. Hedo's  final contract year of $12 million in '13-'14 is only partially guaranteed.

Al Harrington: Deal
For Harrington to be dealt in the next few days, Al MUST play either Tuesday against the Bobcats, or Wednesday in Dallas. It's not negotiable. No playoff team will take a risk on Harrington if he doesn't showcase the state of his mobility and offensive arsenal. It's not like Al has looked sharp as a knife in practices. I'll be pleasantly surprised if we witness a non-playoff team taking on Al. Each of Al's final two contract years of $7.2 mil in '13-'14 and $7.6 mil in '14-'15 are just 50% guaranteed. Below I have quite the outlandish scenario.

Josh McRoberts: Deal
But only in a package deal that assists Hennigan in netting a good draft pick for this or next year, or a larger contract that comes off the books in the summer of 2014 when Orlando will be in position salary cap wise to compete for postseason success. Josh has been showcased quite well this '12-'13 campaign and his extra energetic and unselfish nature has caught the eyes of some league scouts as an 11th or 12th man type of player to fill a playoff roster. 'McBob' has shown solid streaks of defending various positions. His expiring $3.1 million contract

The Duke product only turns 26 years old in a little over a week. Josh is still young, has a lot of spring in his step, and has been decent at knocking down open jumpers and 3-pointers. This is where Rob and I won't see eye-to-eye. Henny very well may accept a measly 2nd rounder for McRoberts to greatly decrease salary. I would much rather combine Josh with Redick, Hedo, or Harrington to get a draft pick, but also a young current NBA player. 

Gustavo Ayon: Deal
It's only $1.5 million in salary, but no more 'Goose' gives guys like Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn time to develop. Ayon went from complete trash to serviceable over these past few weeks. A playoff team short on big men depth won't be shy to take a flyer on a cheap contract. Gustavo's passing ability is phenomenal.

If the deadline goes by and Gustavo is still in Magic pinstripes, keep an eye on July 25th. That's when Ayon's final year at $1.5 million for the '13-'14 season becomes guaranteed. What's most scary for me is that Goose is already going to turn 28 years old on April Fools' Day. If an opportunity at a 2nd rounder presents itself, Henny should and will pounce. Otherwise, I think we're going to allow Gustavo to venture to Europe come the summer. Ayon's body hasn't responded well to a full NBA season. 

Glen Davis: No Deal
But that will change come the summer when 'Big Baby' will be fully healthy from his broken foot. Glen is a fabulous asset off the bench for a franchise seeking championship contention. 

If you don't see Nikola Vucevic, Kyle O'Quinn, E'Twaun Moore, Andrew Nicholson, Ish Smith, DeQuan Jones, and Maurice Harkless, well it's because they're most likely not on the trading block. Whether they're youthful building blocks or just too insignificant to garner respect on the trade market, I'll leave it to you folks to interpret. Those players are 'safe' in my eyes. Then again, a guy like Ish or DeQuan can always be thrown in as a trade filler to satisfy a salary or roster limit restriction. 

The selections of Nicholson and O'Quinn already signify that Rob Hennigan is a great drafter. Henny dealt Ryno for Ayon to save on salary. Rob is looking like a solid winner of that Dwight-Denver-Bynum August deal. Now we'll see what he's made of in the mid-season trading world, and that's only if he pulls the trigger on a transaction. Strap in though, because I don't think we'll stand pat. There will be at least one move, but no one has a clue whether it will be major or minuscule. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18th Post-Practice Footage

Monday afternoon saw the reuniting of Magic players and coaching staff for the first time since last Wednesday night as batteries were recharged during the All-Star Break. Interviews were limited, and it didn't help that practice ended early and I missed out on Redick and Coach Vaughn. It's okay though, enjoy Jameer Nelson discussing this 30-game push to the finish line as well as a 3-on-3 pickup game. On one side it was Ish Smith, DeQuan Jones, and Al Harrington. On the other we had Hedo Turkoglu, Josh McRoberts and coach Laron Profit. Al's hobbling shows a man still getting into playing form while Hedo's PED suspension doesn't prevent him from practicing with the remaining roster. Al's mobility and fitness levels are showing improvement on a week-to-week basis.

Youthful Starting Frontcourt Repping Orlando Well

No matter what trade shuffling occurs at the hands of Rob Hennigan in the next few days, one thing is relatively certain and that's Henny has a 22-year-old second year center and a 23-year-old rookie Canadian power forward as part of his cement mixture in filling the foundation of this franchise's future. Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson have made Magic fans proud at a time where being 15-37 doesn't provide much solace for smiling. Both big men were genuinely thrilled to be at All-Star Weekend.

We can thank the Magic's Communications Manager, Melanie Curtsinger, for providing pictures and insight into Nik and Nich's eventful weekend that included practices, NBA Cares community service duty, and of course the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. Otherwise we would've missed out on a lot of details.

As for actual in-game performances, both Nicholson and Vucevic confirmed that they would at least allow the other guy to score once on them. Well let's just say defensive intensity was allowed to be lacking for one evening as Andrew and Nikola guarded each other on numerous occasions. 'Vucci Mane' and 'Team Chuck' annihilated Andrew Nicholson and 'Team Shaq' 163-135 as numerous records were broken in this contest.

In just under 20 minutes off the bench, Vucevic posted a superb 15 points and 4 rebounds. Nikola was even 1-for-1 from 3-point range. 'Vooch' even nailed a silky smooth running left hook. Nicholson only managed 9:31 of game action but mustered an efficient 6-point, 3-rebound outing. A few of his buckets were dunks past the defensively uninterested Vucevic. We can thank Orlando Pinstripe Post's Evan Dunlap for creating a highlight package of Nik and 'Drew. It's hilarious to see 'Vooch' attempt a teabag on Nicholson following a rare alley oop jam finish from the Montenegrin. All in the spirit of fun.

Vucevic had alluded going into the trip that he was going to shoot at least one 3-pointer, and if he made one that he wanted Coach Jacque Vaughn to draw up some 3-point plays for him. We'll see if 'JV' holds up his end of the so called bargain. 

Nik not only maneuvered well around the court, Vucevic was able to zig-zag through trick questions during interview sessions. Vooch has the demeanor of a veteran and has no problem going in-depth with a response to a question. The goal was to not seem brain-dead like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Mission accomplished. 

Ever since getting snubbed from the Rising Stars contest, Andrew Nicholson has learned to open up a bit more with the media. Then the basketball gods gave him the opportunity to replace Andre Drummond almost as a reward for having some fun behind the microphone and smiling in front of the cameras. There are 30 games remaining in this 2012-2013 regular season. The goal going forward is for Nik and Andrew to continue developing their games, especially on defense, and to grow their confidence as starters to where they're demanding the ball more.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hawks Harass Magic at Amway

Here's my Magic Basketball Online game recap of the Atlanta Hawks destroying Orlando 108-76. Amway Center hasn't been an ideal place to play in for the home town side. Also, enjoy some different mood tones in these player locker room interviews. I think anyone affiliated with this Magic franchise is in dire need of some rest.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Magic Protect the Ball to Beat Portland

Here is my Magic Basketball Online game recap of Orlando's 110-104 victory at Amway Center against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Magic snapped their 12-game losing skid as they received career nights from Jameer Nelson and Gustavo Ayon. Nik Vucevic's 29th double-double of the season didn't hurt either. Click for postgame locker room interviews.

Quiet Nicholson Deserves All-Star Invite

Or feel free to insert your own corny tag line to infer that Andrew Nicholson is a bland character. The man that teammates have nicknamed 'YMCA' isn't exactly the boisterous type. Andrew will never give you a must-post soundbite. The reason I call the Canadian ‘Uncle ‘Drew’ is because he fits the Kyrie Irving Pepsi commercials perfectly. Andrew won’t astound anyone with his athleticism. He won't talk trash. His style of play is unorthodox to say the least. Hell, he runs like a duck and appears older than 23 years old.

But damn it, Andrew is talented and gets the job done with an impressive 53.7 percent field goal shooting efficiency. That's second among rookies behind just Detroit's center surprise Andre Drummond. If he had more shot attempts, that field goal percentage would place Nicholson 13th overall in the league between Ed Davis and Tony Parker. The arsenal of offensive moves at Andrew's disposal is beyond fantastic for any professional baller at any age. Nicholson lets his play on the parquet do all the talking. His consistency in continuing to develop new techniques and movements isn't something one expects so soon out of a 19th overall draft pick. 

With Andre Drummond now out at least a month with a bad back, that means there's an opening for All-Star Weekend's Rising Stars exhibition. Team Shaq is short one player. There is absolutely NO REASON why Nicholson shouldn’t be the replacement for Drummond as a Rising Stars participant next weekend in Houston. Also, it'd give us a fun opportunity to watch Nicholson take on sophomore beast Nik Vucevic. 'Vooch' is representing Charles Barkley's team. 

Look at the stats, there isn’t a single rookie you can place in front of Andrew now that isn't already heading to Houston. Nicholson's 7.6 points per game places him 10th among rookies. Who cares if he doesn’t speak, reward the man. Plus, Nicholson would actually do well in this type of event. No passing necessary and no defense required. ‘Drew can’t possibly be as boring as Tyler Zeller or Tristan Thompson. Plus, some extra attention may open up the physics graduate’s personality.

If Andrew was on the court longer than 15.4 minutes per contest, this campaign piece wouldn't be necessary. I don't know who makes the decision to find a replacement for Drummond. Shaq? League officials? Fans? Either way, all should open their eyes and see the no-brainer selection that is Andrew Nicholson. Send the Canadian to All-Star Weekend.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Crippled Magic Fall to Clippers

Here's Brian Serra's account of Orlando's 86-76 defeat to the better Los Angeles team. Not often you'll see the top 3 scorers for each team sit out due to injury. Here are Magic locker room interviews including the rare Kyle O'Quinn postgame chat. Eric Bledsoe is a beast as his career-best 27 points indicated.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Short-Handed Magic Stood No Chance Against Sixers

Here's my 'Magic Basketball Online' game recap of Orlando's hideous 61-78 defeat in Philadelphia. The 76ers didn't play well by any means, but they didn't need to when only 9 Magic players were even able to play. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Boston Massacres Magic

Seriously, just put a bunch of cameras and microphones on Rob Hennigan and Scott Perry because that would have been WAY more exciting than the second half of this contest. The Magic have now lost 19 of their last 21 games played. I don't really need to add more. It's a 14-32 record for a team certainly destined for ping pong balls as Boston won 97-84. The 13-point defeat wasn't that abysmal in the end thanks to the youth hustling. Props to Kyle O'Quinn for obtaining a new career-high of 11 points, all scored in the fourth period. Get that bearded beast some meaningful minutes. Oh, and Andrew Nicholson's 14 and 10 points marked the Bonnie's first career double-double. Little rays of optimism. 

Orlando got off to a nice beginning with the Celtics sleepwalking. The Magic were finding success with some sweet Redick-Vucevic chemistry, and Andrew Nicholson making the most of his starting opportunity with Big Baby likely done for the year. Other than those 3 though, the Magic got no other first half support. A 9-0 Celtics run occurred and Orlando was down 18-27 at the 10-minute mark of the second period.

The Magic trailed by 11 at the break because of a putrid 1-of-13 shooting spree. Jameer picked up another injury, this time a left forearm contusion, as Paul Pierce came down on Nelson with a rebound. Jameer is listed as 'day-to-day' and I'd guess he's doubtful for Saturday's Milwaukee matchup.

So no Jameer, Afflalo, or Glen and naturally the Magic began to reel Boston in. Give E'Twaun credit for stepping up his game as Moore started the second half with Nelson out. Orlando got within a few points before Coach Vaughn put Hedo and Ayon in to solidify the tanking. Boston's veteran calm put Orlando in its place as the Celtics entered the final period up 72-59.

The fourth quarter was a blowout of eye-gouging proportions. Hedo still can't buy a 3-point shot as he's now 1-for-23 this season. Watch the Bucks game tomorrow, if for nothing else, for their awesome retro jerseys. 

Sign the Redick for 3-Point Shootout Petition

It might be a little late, but there's still some time for Magic and JJ Redick fans to voice their opinion and send #7 to Houston for All-Star Weekend's Foot Locker 3-point Shootout. There is a website called Here an e-petition has been put in place where you just input your first and last name and an e-mail address. I've signed it, with my real e-mail address, and I have yet to receive any Canadian Viagra spam or malware so this site looks legitimate. Now if only we can remove that 'Redick Sucks' portion of the webpage. 

This Orlando franchise never has had a player of their own win the 3-point competition, but you would think that the 7-season veteran would stand a great chance to succeed where Magic men Dennis Scott, Pat Garrity, Rashard Lewis, and Ryan Anderson have previously failed. Since he was drafted out of Duke, Redick has wanted to partake in this shootout. This All-Star Weekend ought to be his opportunity to finally participate.

Entering Friday's encounter in Boston, JJ Redick was averaging a career-best 15.4 points per game and shooting 40.5% from 3-point range. That matches his 2nd best percentage for his career, falling only behind his 41.8% shot in the '11-'12 Lockout season. Barring something catastrophic, JJ will swiftly smash his previous 3-pointers attempts and makes records in a single season. Jacque Vaughn has entrusted 'Redickulous' with a lot of responsibility and minutes. When it comes to league-wide analysis, Redick stood at 5th in total 3-point makes this 2012-2013 and 7th in 3-pointers made per game. So in my eyes, JJ should be a shoe-in for a shootout invite.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! GO VOTE! TNT will announce the participants on Thursday February 7th. Reward the 28-year-old for having a career season. Is it possible that Redick gets traded before the 3-point contest? Of course, he's Orlando's best trade asset. But don't allow that possibility hinder a no-brain decision. If you're a maniac Redick supporter, you can follow the RedickForThree Twitter account. There is also a 'Keep JJ' in Orlando Twitter account, along with a website and jersey giveaway for Magic fans to view. Now if only DeQuan Jones could get this much love and fan support for a dunk contest campaign push.