Thursday, October 31, 2013

Can Nicholson Make the Sophomore Jump?

You better believe he can as long as Andrew isn't shackled to the bench...which he sort of was on Tuesday and Wednesday nights respectively. I don't support Jacque's reasoning for keeping him on the bench the entire third quarter at Indiana, or getting no action late in regulation against the T-Wolves or in the overtime period. The term 'tanking' is already being brought up way too often and early because fans have a reason to question why the best healthy offensive weapon off the bench is only averaging 19 minutes per game. Especially when he's averaging 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds on 63.6 FG% per contest. I'm over-evaluating a small sample size, but that's 29.4 ppg and 10.4 rpg per 36 minutes. 

Two contests in, has Andrew improved on that bottom-of-the-barrel defense? To the naked eye, I'd have to say yes actually. Uncle 'Drew has bulked up and it has improved his post-defense. We haven't seen Andrew be forced to rotate over much, and that's to his benefit. The less lateral movement Nicholson gets asked of to pull off, the better he looks. Although, Andrew looks a split second quicker in that aspect as well. Guy works hard even if he doesn't draw verbal attention to his improvement. 

Andrew can't grab a large chunk of court minutes if he's viewed as a liability on the defensive end. Especially when Tobias Harris, Jason Maxiell, Solomon Jones, and a returning Glen Davis are all biting and clawing for playing time. Last season opposing coaches would have been wise to attack Andrew every time they were on offense. But Nicholson has held his own against West, Scola, Love, and Cunningham up to this point. If that persists, we're going to have a great PF minutes problem on our hands.

Kevin Love posted a 31-point (12-of-16 FTs), 17-rebound stat line, but when you look at the film it mostly comes against Maxiell and Solomon. I'm willing to trust Andrew more than the other two Magic men in having to defend anyone around the 3-point line. Is Andrew fouling a lot? Yes. He has 9 personal fouls, but I'll wait a few more games before I consider a bench player racking up fouls a truly major issue. I just wish he had at least 1 free throw attempt at this time. Just one...and a block.

Right now, it appears Andrew's limited to being an energy shot off the bench for 5 to 10-minute spans where you can feed him basically every time down since he's the best bench scoring option. Which honestly should make all parties happy: Andrew, management, coaching, fans, peer circles, etc. Nicholson can mix it up in the post, on the elbow, or now on the corner 3 to spread out paint-clogging defenses. Maxiell starting is okay for now, but the remaining starting lineup needs to get off to better starts instead of digging into early double digit deficits.

Looking at the tape from Tuesday, Nicholson actually scored SEVEN of his 18 first half points against West. So we're rejecting Jacque's explanation of burying the Canadian because of matchup worries. That drive and spin move finish isn't something you expect Andrew to plausibly succeed at athletically, but there he was showing off a new skill. The other 11 points did come versus Scola where two of those buckets were actually against a late rotating Hibbert. You know, that Hibbert guy who annihilated the Magic with 7 blocks and 16 rebounds. So...yeah. Either way, the man was 8-of-9 in the first half! You ride him until he misses consecutive shots. 

We're all elated by Andrew's addition of the 3-point shot to his arsenal during his FIBA Americas Canada duty that his been rather consistent through preseason and early in this 2013-2014 campaign. 'Drew didn't attempt a single 3-pointer last season, and he's 3-of-4 going into Friday's home opener. Barring injury, the 23-year-old should be a shoe-in for a second consecutive (and obviously final) Rising Stars All-Star Weekend invite. With the way the 19th overall 2012 draft selection is improving by huge increments, maybe the St. Bonaventure product's ceiling isn't as limited as we all initially thought. This is a supremely confident individual who doesn't deserve to be mentally stifled by any possible subtle tanking tactics. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jacque Vaughn - Year 2

Players are not the only NBA professionals expected to make a 'leap' in their careers, so are head coaches. The training wheels are off for JV entering Year 2 of the A.D. (After-Dwight) time frame. There are NINE brand spanking new gentlemen at the helm of an NBA bench this season. That's unprecedented and goes to show a changing of the guard as far as how truly valued age and 'experience' are. Jacque went through the 2012-2013 season about as well as a Magic fan could hope for considering all the injuries that had to be dealt with as well as the perception that winning wasn't (and still isn't just yet) a main focus for this franchise no matter how adamant the front office may be in denouncing that notion. That changes in the summer of 2014.

But until then Jacque has to continue to properly motivate and groom his relatively young roster while simultaneously appeasing the veterans... oh, and throw in some subtle tanking to follow management's plan. So let's take a look at some things I'll be looking for out of Jacque this season as JV strives to improve on his 20-62 debut.

1. Offense Not the Problem

Look, last season Orlando's offense was anemic on numerous occasions last year and ranked 27th in the league. That came about due to those countless games lost to injury and tanking. A larger culprit is item #2 in this piece. When the ball is in motion and the players are cutting and rotating to create space, Orlando can score and it was exhibited in this 2-6 preseason. More shots inside 10 feet or behind the 3-point line and way less in that midrange dead zone. Orlando didn't win a single game last season when they didn't reach 90 points in a contest. Usually even terrible teams can fluke their way to a low scoring victory or two. 

That means we point our fingers toward the defense that was top 10 while Glen Davis was healthy during that 12-13 promising start last year, but coughed up the sixth most points by the end of the season. I'll be intrigued to see if Maxiell can provide any type of intimidation playing next to Vucevic. Orlando couldn't stop anyone in crunch time due to blown assignments, bad fouls, and warranted disrespect from refs. E'Twaun and Afflalo were supposed to be perimeter stalwarts yet were two of Orlando's worst defenders last season. Arron has improved in the preseason, but Moore continues to regress on what should be his bread and butter. Add another concern until I'm proven wrong, excessive fouls committed and coughing up a lot of free throws to opponents. Jacque demands defensive improvement (it's why Nicholson got buried on the bench at times last season), so it's up to Vaughn to stand by his guns and reward those who can actually keep a man in front of them. 

2. Utilize Your Free Throw Attempt Behemoths

That means getting Oladipo and Tobias constantly attacking the bucket. Thanks to his added bulk, expect Harkless to raise his 1.7 FTA average of his rookie campaign. Maurice averaged about double that in preseason thanks to his constant attacking and impeccable focus at the rim. Remember, Orlando broke an NBA record for fewest team free throw attempts per game in a season. Ever. An embarrassing 16.6 per contest. Based on preseason play, I think the Magic can average around 20 per contest. That'll win you a few extra ball games just in that improvement alone. 

3. Don’t Cool Off the Hot Hand

Now if you’re tankin, ignore this. I can't count on two hands the games last season that Orlando would’ve won had Jacque not been hellbent on sticking to a rotation and instead stuck it out with a hot shooting Magic man or two. *Insert Andrew Nicholson here* It's a pill I don't want to have to swallow if Tobias goes berserk on opposition. 

4. Pick Your Spots But We Want Some Anger

Yes, that includes if I ask a stupid question. Don't hold back. I'm not saying call out a player or throw anyone under the bus, but perception goes a long way in regards to reality. Again, you don't have to smash clipboards in a Brian Hill manner. We still want that positive attitude Coach Vaughn with that genuine smile, but we don't want it at the point where fans think it's a forced fake kind of deal (which I'm not insinuating, it's what I read on message boards). Don't be afraid to get thrown out by pissing off a ref, plus that adds to the tanking.

We all appreciate what Jameer's done for this franchise, but light into him when he's 'dogging it' on defense. Give Afflalo a stern look when he's hoisting up bad jumpers or committing unnecessary turnovers. Notice I'm picking on veterans who were shielded last season and who may not necessarily be here come the trade deadline. Feel free to unload bench sparkplugs if starters are sleepwalking. Always make sure this team is communicating on that parquet floor. Orlando committed at least one out of bounds entry pass turnover in seven of the eight preseason contests. I can't recall anyone on the Magic bench looking all that furious. I know it doesn't count, but that was an issue all of last season. I'm looking at you, O'Quinn. It's simple stuff like that that accumulates and determines if you win 20 or 30 contests. 

5. Don't Outsmart Yourself on Defensive Schemes

Again, this is one of those tanking moral dilemmas. Just because man defense is simple doesn't make it a bad thing. I've seen immense one-on-one defensive progress out of Vucevic and Nicholson during their FIBA tournaments and preseason showings so far. Especially with Nik, we saw the 3rd-year Montenegrin hold his own against guys like Dwight, Dirk, and Marc Gasol.

Last season was tough to deal with every time I saw over and over the repeated switches and unnecessary long rotation help recoveries from all the Magic men. Nicholson, Jameer, Afflalo, even Vucevic and others were not laterally quick enough handle those switches. If your Durants and LeBrons want to go off for 40, 50 points then that's fine because you can still win the game when no one else is in a scoring rhythm. Harkless, Oladipo, Afflalo are grown men, they can find a way to deal with getting torched. It's a more suitable solution than gift wrapping open 3s and uncontested dunks/lay-ups. 

The 2nd year of the Jacque Vaughn regime offers a lot of hidden promise, but the players can't be the only ones who show necessary progress. I don't want to see Vaughn handle the brunt of the rebuilding work only to be cast aside when it comes time to legitimately compete. Then you end up on the Matty Guokas side of Orlando history. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

2013-2014 Magic Win-Loss Predictions

It's that time again. This is where I go out on a limb and look extra idiotic than usual. Time to make my predictions for this 2013-2014 Orlando Magic season. Last year's 39-win forecast was overly ambitious. Having experienced a full season under the control of Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn I now will pull back on my optimism for victories. You can get 350-to-1 odds on the Magic winning the championship. Save your money. I will say to bet the over on the 23.5 regular season wins sportsbook predictions. Let's see by how much though when I break down the schedule.

The 2012-2013 campaign looked quite promising with Orlando starting out 2-0 (REMEMBER THAT?!) in almost dominant fashion against the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns. This go around though we find Orlando on the road in a back-to-back at Indiana and Minnesota. Ouch. Also, the Magic's 2-6 preseason record is a bad omen as my analysis proves as last season's squad and the '89-'90 Magic an attest to. See, don't say the preseason doesn't matter. History says it does. But this roster is better than those 18-win and 20-win sides.

Here's what I envision will be the player depth chart come Opening Night Tuesday at Indiana:
C: Nikola Vucevic, Kyle O'Quinn, Solomon Jones
PF: Jason Maxiell, Andrew Nicholson
SF: Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris
SG: Arron Afflalo, E'Twaun Moore, Doron Lamb
PG: Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo, Ronnie Price

Remember, we're waiting on a Hedo buyout, and Glen Davis is still out hurt and recovering. Also, in Jacque Vaughn's world, 'position' means little. With Tobias and even Victor, it's not if you start, it's all about being on the court late in crunch time to close out contests.

I'll go out on a limb and say that ONE MAGIC PLAYER WILL MAKE THE ALL-STAR GAME THIS SEASON. Yes, and I'm thinking it'll be one of Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, or Vicor Oladipo. It's all about playing time in the case for Tobias and Victor. Nik just needs to improve at a marginal pace and I think he'll get a legitimate chance of getting chosen as a coaching staff pick. It'll also help those three young gentlemen when two of Jameer Nelson, Glen Davis, and/or Arron Afflalo get traded by February. It's all about who can and can't avoid the injury bug. Big Baby was having All-Star moments during last year's 12-13 surprise beginning to the season before Emeka Okafor ruined him.

So right, the schedule win-loss prediction breakdown. Due to the subtle tanking that will be occurring (as opposed to blatantly obvious tanking that the Sixers and Suns are exhibiting), I expect Orlando to finish with 31 victories. That also means 11th in the East (In front of Philadelphia, Boston, the Bobcats, and Toronto *Insert Milwaukee for Toronto if Raptors care about winning*) and just barely beating out Charlotte for 4th place in the Southeast as Miami will conquer the division, Washington will make the playoffs, and Atlanta will be a fringe playoff spot contender. Let's see where those 31 wins will come from:

Orlando @ Indiana              10/29/2013    Loss
Orlando @ Minnesota         10/30/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. New Orleans    11/01/2013    Win
Orlando vs. Brooklyn          11/03/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. LA Clippers     11/06/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. Boston             11/08/2013    Win
Orlando @ Atlanta              11/09/2013    Loss
Orlando @ Boston              11/11/2013    Win
Orlando vs. Milwaukee        11/13/2013    Win
Orlando vs. Dallas                11/16/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. Miami                11/20/2013    Win
Orlando @ Miami                 11/23/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. Phoenix              11/24/2013    Win
Orlando @ Atlanta                11/26/2013    Loss
Orlando vs. Philadelphia         11/27/2013   Win
Orlando vs. San Antonio         11/29/2013   Loss
Orlando @ Washington           12/2/2013     Loss
Orlando @ Philadelphia           12/3/2013    Win
Orlando @ New York            12/6/2013     Loss
Orlando @ Houston                12/8/2013     Loss
Orlando @ Memphis               12/9/2013     Loss
Orlando @ Charlotte               12/11/2013   Win
Orlando vs. Cleveland              12/13/2013   Win
Orlando @ Oklahoma City       12/15/2013   Loss
Orlando @ Chicago                 12/16/2013   Loss
Orlando vs. Utah                      12/18/2013   Win
Orlando vs. Sacramento            12/21/2013   Loss
Orlando vs. New York              12/23/2013   Win
Orlando vs. Detroit                    12/27/2013   Loss
Orlando vs. Atlanta                    12/29/2013   Win
Orlando vs. Golden State           12/31/2013   Loss
Orlando @ Cleveland                1/2/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Miami                     1/4/2014       Win
Orlando @ LA Clippers             1/6/2014       Loss
Orlando @ Portland                   1/8/2014       Loss
Orlando @ Sacramento              1/10/2014     Win
Orlando @ Denver                     1/11/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Dallas                       1/13/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Chicago                   1/15/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Charlotte                  1/17/2014     Win
Orlando vs. Boston                     1/19/2014     Win
Orlando @ Brooklyn                  1/21/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Atlanta                     1/22/2014     Win
Orlando vs. LA Lakers               1/24/2014     Win
Orlando @ New Orleans            1/26/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Detroit                      1/28/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Toronto                    1/29/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Milwaukee               1/31/2014     Win
Orlando @ Boston                      2/2/2014       Win
Orlando @ Indiana                      2/3/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Detroit                      2/5/2014       Win
Orlando vs. Oklahoma City          2/7/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Indiana                      2/9/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Memphis                   2/12/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Milwaukee                 2/18/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Cleveland                   2/19/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. New York                 2/21/2014     Win
Orlando @ Toronto                      2/23/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Washington                2/25/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Philadelphia                2/26/2014     Win
Orlando @ Miami                         3/1/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Philadelphia                3/2/2014       Win
Orlando vs. Houston                      3/5/2014      Win
Orlando @ San Antonio                3/8/2014       Loss
Orlando @ Milwaukee                  3/10/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Denver                       3/12/2014     Win
Orlando vs. Washington                3/14/2014      Loss
Orlando @ Golden State               3/18/2014      Loss
Orlando @ Phoenix                       3/19/2014     Win
Orlando @ Utah                            3/22/2014     Loss
Orlando @ LA Lakers                   3/23/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Portland                      3/25/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Charlotte                     3/28/2014     Win
Orlando vs. Toronto                       3/30/2014     Win
Orlando vs. Cleveland                    4/2/2014       Loss
Orlando @ Charlotte                      4/4/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Minnesota                    4/5/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Brooklyn                     4/9/2014       Loss
Orlando vs. Washington                  4/11/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Brooklyn                      4/13/2014     Loss
Orlando @ Chicago                        4/14/2014     Loss
Orlando vs. Indiana                         4/16/2014     Win

I really tried to be pessimistic with this team, and maybe we'll see a lengthy losing streak, but there are a lot of teams - could be as high as 9 - tanking and Orlando will get a few signature wins against the likes of Miami just because playoff teams will look past them and will bite the bullet. It just happens during an 82-game season. Also, this schedule isn't that scary. If Orlando even plays up to 75% of its potential and can avoid the injury 'bug', then they could sniff at snagging an eight seed just based on all the volatility from the middle and bottom East teams. For those Magic fans foaming at the mouth for the Wiggins and Randles out there, taper back your hopes and start examining guys like Exum and Smart as far as the 2014 Draft goes. Immediately following that draft, the journey back to the playoffs begins and we can stop talking about 'tanking'.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rounding Out Orlando's Roster

I don't know about you folks, but we've breezed through this preseason. We're less than a week away from the Magic's road back-to-back to begin the regular season. Jacque Vaughn's roster still stands at 19 players. If you can't recall, fifteen is the limit once Opening Night hits the league.

So with some assistance from the MBO salary page, let's take a peak at who may not wear a Magic jersey next week.

Even though Hedo Turkoglu is still in town, he won't be sniffing a Magic game or practice ever again. But he still takes up a roster spot. Rather than just give Turk the guaranteed half of his salary ($6 million), GM Rob Hennigan is trying to negotiate that number down. This could go on until the middle of January. That's bad news for camp invites Solomon Jones III, Kris Joseph, Mickell Gladness, and Manny Harris.

Gladness, along with his middle name of Jawaun reminding me of Juwan Howard which makes me hate him already, is weaker than a toothpick when he goes up to attempt anything close to the rim. It's astounding that this man is such a blocking machine. Mickell was exposed against a beefy Detroit frontcourt, and I don't see him having any chance of staying on. He didn't play Tuesday at San Antonio and it's safe to say that Coach Vaughn agrees with my viewpoint. The 6 blocks at Dallas was something special though.

I was hoping that Kris Joseph would have the best chance of the four men to make the roster. That was solely based on his Media Day interview. But I've been ready to cut the Syracuse product since the Pistons game. Kris' jumper has improved, but he's maybe on par with Justin Harper (we know how that would go) from the perimeter. Joseph can't provide a spark defensively and he's coughed the ball up too many times to truly warrant a chance on this ball club. A little more D-League sharpening will do wonders.

Manny making the 15-man squad would make me come up with creative attempts at utilizing L'Adorable in way too many headlines. Harris reminds me of a guy who probably would've been perfect in the '70s, and watching the Spirits of St. Louis ESPN 30 for 30 a few weeks ago re-affirmed that thought. Manny would have a legitimate chance if Orlando wasn't so wing heavy. His best asset is actually getting to the free throw line as he showed against Dallas. Something that is as valuable around here as water in a desert. I just wish we could see more of him on that parquet. I can't fairly evaluate his defense but he's gotten confused on a few defensive switches. Manny's outside shot is quite respectable, and a lot of that is noticeable just in warm-ups. This is where we need to think about the difference between preseason competition and the big boy show. In 80 games over two seasons in Cleveland, Harris has shot under 40% from the field. Could it be the 24-year-old will up that percentage if he's on a regular season roster? Preseason stats say yes.

So that leaves us left with Mount Dora product Solomon Jones. You talk about a humble guy who has experienced so much in his basketball career. And he's still in his 20s, barely. In the two games he's received decent court time (Mavs and Pistons), Jones has really produced on both ends with a knack for drilling jumpers beyond Kyle O'Quinn range and more like Andrew Nicholson. Kyle's the better passer, but Solomon has the more active defensive hands. Plus, that experience goes a long way. Jones will most likely get a full run on Friday against the Pelicans, and I think everyone should focus on how he handles the situation. Solomon did well to assist in shutting down Greg Monroe and Zach Randolph. That goes a long way in getting noticed.

Kyle O'Quinn is the only Magic player from last season who doesn't have a guaranteed deal. However, Kyle can stop sweating once October 29th comes around. So Rob Hennigan and crew will have a long upcoming weekend to decide how they view KOQ's future outlook. To be fair to Kyle, Solomon is making this decision difficult than anyone could've anticipated three weeks ago. Jones isn't known as a shot blocker, but he appears daunting in that statistic in comparison to Kyle. What's in Kyle's favor is that everyone in the locker room adores his personality and work ethic. Even more of a factor, Jacque likes running the offense through Kyle in the post when he's in the game. O'Quinn became an NBA prospect because of his outstanding passing abilities at Norfolk State, and Jacque is keying in on those great selfless instincts.

Then we have Doron Lamb. He showed signs of immense defensive and offensive improvements at Summer League...and then he got hurt. And now Lamb has been out hurt the entire preseason with his right ankle sprain. Doron's almost $800,000 salary is guaranteed for this season, but no further than that. However, he's two weeks away from being 22 years old and his size makes him a better multiple position option than E'Twaun Moore. You can see it that since the Redick deal, Lamb continues to get better in this Magic environment. Sure he seems a little too enamored with socks, but he wears awesome backpacks and his potential that he showed playing at Kentucky far exceeds what Moore could ever provide. And we're just talking about the 3rd point guard spot.

If I had it my way, I would bite the bullet and pay E'Twaun his under $900,000 and eat up the one season $1.2 salary cap hit and be done with it while signing Solomon Jones in the process. Why on Earth would I do that? Because E'Twaun, even when he's drilling 3s, scares me. Moore is still getting lit up on defense and he's still turning the ball over at a large clip. That's why even though he's shooting just a hair under 50% from the field this preseason, I'm not impressed in his overall growth. He's not on an Oladipo curve anymore when it comes to being a floor general, and he's too short and not versatile athletically to play SG. Could E'Twaun easily be shown the door as a free agent in the summer of 2014? Of course. It's not like Orlando is competing this season. But I'd much prefer giving Moore's minutes to Oladipo and Lamb.

What will probably happen? Last season, Henny kept the Magic at fourteen men following the Bucks deal. Considering Hedo is in one of the current spots, it's safe to say that we're looking at a full 15-man roster (14 on the plane) when we head to Indiana. Osby has looked decent in preseason and has the Kevin Durant Summer League hype supporting him. Romero's aggression and respect of time and touches has earned him points in the coaching staff's eyes. I think the other 4 camp invites will be kicked to the curb which is a shame for Solomon and Manny. But who knows, we still have that Pelicans preseason finale Friday night to change our minds.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Errors & Omissions of Sentinel 64-Team Bracket

I wanted to wait for some chaos to occur before I nitpicked this sacrilegious mess (no personal offense) of this Orlando Sentinel 64-player Magic tournament apart. It didn’t take that long for Indiana Hoosier fans to troll away at what appeared like harmless fun. We're witnessing nightmarish situations unfold. I talked about it on the radio with 740 the Game's Carson Ingle and Orlando Magic Daily's Phillip Rossman-Reich, but I wanted to get this down into post form as well. 

First, let me say that the #1 seeds of Shaq, Dwight, McGrady, and Penny are correct. And that’s about it. I think the seeded top ranks should’ve been Dwight, Shaq, Penny, and Tracy, but that’s fine. And yes, Dwight would win my tournament. Now let's get to the meat of the arguments and controversy.

Victor Oladipo should never have been in this tourney. 

And the #16 seed took down Penny at the start of the tourney. I don’t need to tell you about my soft spot for Hardaway. Victor will be great for this franchise, but he hasn’t earned a seed. Victor is about to knock off Darrell Armstrong to get into the 'Elite 8' thanks to a few Indiana message board sites imploring that they vote Oladipo to the top. Troll on, Hoosier faithful, troll on. I'm cheering on Victor to win the whole thing so this atrocity can be erased from the internet. And yes, I'm sure the Sentinel is happy about the extra web hits and the extra chatter being brought about with Victor's inclusion and domination, but you don't botch history and the importance of the past. 


Goodness. You've got Rafer who was a savior once Jameer got knocked out for what appeared to be the remainder of the '08-'09 season. Alston was a key factor in SVG's side getting to the Finals. Speaking of that 2009 postseason, you had Rashard Lewis being ultra clutch on quite a few occasions. Don't come back at me with the PED argument, because then why is Hedo in this? Oh, and Sweet Lew was an All-Star Game selection too. It's not like Orlando has had a boatload of those in its still brief history. Steve Francis needs to also be in this bracket. Yeah he went crazy, but he posted outstanding numbers during the mid-2000 rebuild before the keys were completely handed over to Dwight. Currently, Francis is the only point guard to ever average over 20 points per game as a teammate of Dwight's in a season. 

Why are Jacque Vaughn and Tyronn Lue in the poll? 

Because they're coaches now? They were at best sub-par during their stops in Orlando. Maybe Jacque can strive to be named after a region in the 35th anniversary bracket tournament. 

Vucevic and Afflalo #5 seeds?

We all love Nik, and Arron has been decent, but you can't have those two in the poll and then ignore Tobias and Harkless. Consistency folks, we don't see any. 

What's with adding 'big name' analysts Kenny Smith and Steve Kerr? 

Kerr played half a season in '92-'93 and barely made an impact. Steve wasn't the sharpshooter we would come to know once he teamed up with Jordan. Kenny Smith's seed is numerically higher than the amount of games that he played (6) in pinstripes. He was washed up at this point, not far removed from when he ripped our hearts out in Game 1 of the '95 NBA Finals. 

Who is too highly ranked? 

Dennis Scott was a solid perimeter threat that broke a few records in his day, but he's more suited as a #4 seed than a second spot. Grant Hill at #2 as well? He needs to be no higher than four as well because he only played 200 games in 7 years and basically handicapped our franchise during that period of time. Jason Richardson put up some decent numbers, but the sixth seed was such a defensive disappointment and didn't come close to playing like he did in Phoenix. Glen Davis as a 6th seed is too kind, especially since Redick is the same ranking as well. Big Baby doesn't have the on-court evidence to back up what he can truly bring to a team seeking to compete. He's a hell of a quote machine though.

Who needs to get boosted higher? 

Courtney Lee at #9 is a joke. He had one rookie season here but oh man what a season. From dunks to that epic mask, Leesus was the perfect fifth man during that Finals run. IT'S NOT HIS FAULT FOR GAME 2! KOBE FOULED HIM AND PAU COMMITTED GOALTENDING! Hedo Turkoglu should be a strong #2, not a three. Turk is the best small forward in Magic history, you treat him as such. Mickael Pietrus along with Courtney was the defensive anchor of those Stan Van Gundy deep playoff rosters. Peaches also found ways to produce some clutch and wacky buckets. Air France was beloved by the fan base and a twelve seed is a great injustice. Until Vucevic notches another solid season, Rony Seikaly is still the 3rd best center in franchise history. #6 seed is too low for Rony.

Other guys who need to get kicked out

Keith Bogans had way more facepalm moments (FOOT ON THE LINE EVERY TIME) than decent ones. Yeah we got KeBo on a few stints, but that doesn't mean you belong in the bracket. Quentin Richardson is a great guy (3-POINT AIR GUITARS!) but come on now. Q-Rich barely produced statistically. Gilbert Arenas isn't doing himself any favors by showing us how he's treating his Magic money. Ron Mercer I'd also give the ax too simply because I like Tariq Abdul-Wahad way more. Don't get me started on why I think Mark Price, Chris Gatling, Michael Ansley, and Kelvin Cato belong in the tournament too.

I won't be creating a bracket of my own. I'd definitely participate in a collaboration with other Magic media members though for sure. It's just frustrating that more effort doesn't get put into these things. It's just a cheap ploy for web hits and leaves casual fans constantly misinformed about our only (hopefully Orlando City changes this) major professional franchise. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dwight's Guide to Jersey Retirement

Dwight seeing his #12 jersey hanging in the Amway Center rafters very well could and should happen... one day. But only if the longest one-team stretch of his career ends up being during those 8 years in O-Town. 6-time All-Star, 3 straight Defensive Player of the Year awards, 5-time All-NBA 1st team, 4-time All-NBA Defensive 1st team, main piece in 2009 NBA Finals run. Let's not forget that Dwight is the franchise career leader in points, free throws, offensive and defensive rebounds, blocks, true shooting percentage, and more. Dwight's problem isn't statistical. Numerical evidence is a problem for guys like Penny, Shaq, Tracy, Nick, and Darrell. The issue everyone has with Dwight is his mouth and a need for a prolonged cooling off period before appreciation can settle in. 

So how does Dwight insure that he gets his wish of having his jersey retired by O-Town? Here's what he has to do:

1. Let Your Numbers Do All the Talking

Which I just took care of above. His name can't be blacked out of the team record books. Don't talk about how you hate talking about yourself...and the continue talking about yourself. I was hoping Dwight got all the egotistically ignorant statements out of his system when he left Los Angeles, but nope. I wouldn't be shocked if some of his Rockets teammates don't already hate him. I mean, Howard's already referred to Jeremy Lin as the current version of 2009 Anthony 'Old Man River' Johnson. No big deal. 

2. Don't Win a Title in Houston

Or anywhere else for that matter before your 35th birthday. If Dwight plays let’s say less than 6 years in Houston and doesn’t win a title with the Rockets, then for me, he’s still an obvious candidate for jersey retirement in Orlando because his best years will still have been in Orlando. Supposedly, Kevin McHale's coaching staff will be receiving Dwight's prime production. I'm not so sure of that with James Harden running the show. I don't know what ownership's opinion is of Houston still, I haven't heard Rich DeVos comment on anything in forever, but that's the franchise that decimated the Magic in the '95 Finals. That wouldn't sit well with me if Dwight helps add to the Rockets' trophy count when we're still at zero. If Howard is a main cog in the Rockets winning a championship in the next few years, then he'll be known in the world basketball spectrum as a Rocket. Same thing with Shaq. Once O'Neal got that first ring in 2000, he was purple and gold forever. If Dwight never wins a championship, Orlando's celebration of his misery for being ring-less will eventually turn to sympathy and eventually a support for remembering the good times we had for almost a decade. 

3. Start Re-constructing Burned Bridges

Good news, Dwight, you're mostly already there. You don't have to apologize to Bob Vander Weide or Otis Smith probably ever. You already patched things up with Stan. All of his old teammates are out of here except Jameer and Glen Davis. If you watched Orlando's preseason loss at Houston Wednesday night you'd know that Nelson and Dwight were more than chummy when it came to huge-smiled chit-chat. All that's left to appease is the DeVos family. Oh, and millions of Magic fans. Rich DeVos may not be still alive when this jersey debate comes up after Dwight's retirement, but his children and benefactors will have a major influence. Hell, I wouldn't be shocked if Rich and Helen already have this matter spelled out in their will. Dwight's kind of shown his affection towards the Magic fans, but there's a long way to go in that marathon. Somewhere around 2020 is when the Orlando community could positively give its vote of approval for a jersey honoring. I'm also assuming the Magic will be winning multiple playoff series by then. 

4. Pray Tobias Harris Doesn't Kick Ass in Pinstripes

There is another factor that we haven't fully considered: What if Tobias Harris has a better Orlando tenure than Dwight? It wouldn't take too much if he can be a big piece to an Orlando championship banner. If T12 can be a Carmelo-lite, then Harris will earn his All-Star selections. The sky is the limit for a 21-year-old who can post 17 points and 8 boards with relative calm. 

As far as Tobias wearing #12, Harris has a very appropriate reason for doing so and it’s something Dwight needs to back off on. Howard got traded, but let's be honest, he forced his way out of Orlando. The fact that Hennigan can say he got the better of Philadelphia, Denver, and the Lakers is still a miraculous feat considering those crippling circumstances. 

Let's examine the ugly Stan Van Gundy mess closer. Both Dwight and SVG have already forgiven one another. Dwight's quoted as saying he'd love to be coached by Mr. Diet Pepsi again in the future and vice versa. SVG has mentioned in local radio interviews how he and Dwight chat and text on a regular basis and that Van Gundy highly recommended Houston as Dwight's destination from L.A. As far as I know, Dwight is also still very charitably active in the community, including having donated to an SVG Seminole County cause or two. 

Old wounds can heal fast. Especially when front offices change. We're about to see Tracy McGrady get honored by the franchise for the home season opener on November 1st after T-MAC forced his way out of Orlando in the summer of Houston. Remember, Tracy wanted the #1 pick traded for veterans because McGrady didn't want to go through a rebuild. There are no remnants of John Weisbrod's bulldozer to be found in this town. The only common ground that this franchise has seen during the ugly exits of Shaq, Penny, Tracy, and Dwight is PA announcing stud Paul Porter and the DeVos ownership. I don't know how tight the other 3 past players are with the DeVos family. But if Shaq can maintain that special bond still with Rich and company, then I don't see why Dwight can't eventually earn that love back. I'd like to hear Alex Martins' thoughts on that. 

We're entering the 25th season of Orlando being a major sports town. By my count we're looking at maybe around ten years before we really see a Magic jersey other than #6 ('The Fans') being retired. There's no dispute that Dwight currently has had the best Magic career in this franchise's existence. It's just a matter of a few things, mostly time, going in Dwight's favor for his request to come true. Magic fans can't remain steaming mad forever.