Saturday, April 19, 2014

Former Magic Players to Watch in Playoffs

We're looking at the 2nd straight year of no postseason basketball in Orlando, and that may leave Magic fans extremely disinterested in what occurs in the playoffs. Well, other than praying Miami doesn't win another title. Anyway, Magic fans whether long or short-term can keep an eye on former players they used to cheer for.


(1) PACERS V. (8) HAWKS

There is no former Magic player on Indiana's roster. Atlanta has Gustavo Ayon, but the Mexican big man only played 26 games for the Hawks this season before being knocked out in February for the remainder of the season with a right shoulder injury. It's a shame too because 'Goose' was doing better as a Hawk than he did his half season in Orlando last year, and he would've been very valuable with Al Horford out. Ayon posted a career-high 18 points his second-to-last game before being put on the shelf. So no former Orlando employees to cheer on in this series. Moving on...

(2) HEAT V. (7) BOBCATS

Just so you know, DeAndre Liggins played one game for Miami this season. 'Dre is back in the D-League though and won't be on the Heat playoff roster.


Rashard Lewis (2007-2010)

I'm sure his name has been brought up with Nick Calathes being suspended 20 games. 'Sweet Lew' is reaching the end of the line in his professional basketball career. He's only a 34-year-old, but he's got the mileage of being in his 16th season. Somehow, Rashard's second season in Miami has statistically been worse than last year. 4.5 ppg is the worst since his rookie season. However, Lewis is seeing more playing time and played 60 games for Coach Spoelstra. 'Shard got his first ring last season despite only averaging 4 minutes per contest in 11 games. Lewis' time on the court should be higher this go around, but gone are the days of Rashard being a go-to option.


Josh McRoberts (2012-2013)

I must remember not to call him 'McBob', guy hates that nickname. 'Bobert' probably wouldn't go well either. We're supposed to hate Duke products, but it seems like he and JJ Redick (and I guess now Grant Hill too) have been exceptions. Josh provided some outstanding highlights in his 41-game Magic stint last season before being dealt for Hakim Warrick's salary. His hair is a lot longer presently. Now he's a focal point on a Charlotte squad that is on the rise with Al Jefferson and Stan Van Gundy's former coaching staff at the helm. The 27-year-old played and started 78 games this season at the forward spot which is the most he's ever played in his 7-season career. Josh is entering his third postseason, but this will be the first one he'll be expected to actually contribute. I'm highly intrigued as he's hit his prime playing years.

(3) RAPTORS V. (6) NETS

There are no ex-Magic players on Toronto's roster, which is awesome because we can keep vehemently hoping for Tyler Hansbrough to fail. There are also no former Magic gentlemen on the Nyets either ever since Keith Bogans got traded to Boston last summer.

(4) BULLS V. (5) WIZARDS

No former Orlando employees on Chicago either. Don't worry, D.C. is to the rescue.


Marcin Gortat (2007-2010)

WARLOCK AND POLISH HAMMER ALERT! You're not a Magic fan if you don't love Marcin. Gortat still hangs out in Orlando as humanly possible. The 30-year-old was traded from Phoenix to Washington just before the season began, and his 81 games of production have him feeling happier since he got to play pick-and-roll with Steve Nash. I believe the Warlock - not John Wall, Bradley Beal, or Nene - is the key to the Wizards turning some heads and progressing a round or two in the postseason.


Trevor Ariza (2006-2007)

I'll always have nightmares of AIRiza making Hedo's and Rashard's lives miserable in the '09 NBA Finals. Trevor got paid big time thanks to that series and he's still living up life on a Washington team that can make some huge noise in the playoffs. Recently, Trevor has been spotted still torching the Magic in more ways than just ridiculous 3-point shooting. Ariza is in his 2nd season with the Wizards, and Randy Wittman has played and started his forward 77 games. Ariza statistically had his best season since the Rockets signed him to a healthy contract in 2009-2010. Trevor's in his first playoffs since he was with New Orleans in 2011. The 28-year-old needs to remind people of his once sensational defense and propensity for being oddly clutch.


Drew Gooden (2003-2004)

I still have his authentic star-filled #9 Magic jersey that's meant for a 7-footer to wear. I'll never forget Drew's beastly 2003 postseason or his awful hair follicle debacle that caused him to miss several games during 21-win '04 season. Gooden has been in the league just over a decade, and he's currently on his 10th team in the Wizards. Drew's played 22 games since being picked up in March, and he's shocked me with how well he's played at times. In 18 minutes per game, the 32-year-old Kansas Jayhawk is averaging 8.3 ppg and 5.2 rpg on 53.1 FG%. Gooden is back in the playoffs for the first time since he was on the '09 Spurs.


Al Harrington (2013)

We know the nightmares of Al's knee issues as well as his overall unpleasant time in Orlando, so it's great to see an overall nice guy back on a contender. Harrington has played 34 games this season off the Wizards bench and has contributed 6.6 ppg while averaging 15 minutes per game. His shooting averages of 39.6 FG% and 34.0 3PT% are much better than what Orlando fans so of Al in 10 contests last season. It's tough to say how important his role will be on the court, but we know thanks to his last visit to Amway Center that he loves mentoring the younger guys


WESTERN CONFERENCE 1ST ROUND

(1) SPURS V. (8) MAVERICKS

No former Magic men on San Antonio's roster.


Vince Carter (2009-2010)

Dallas has gotten 3 solid seasons out of Vinsanity. The difference is the price tag. Carter is being paid $3 million per season. In his 2 seasons in Orlando it was about $17 million. The 37-year-old has been durable too having completed back-to-back 81-game seasons as a weapon off Coach Rick Carlisle's bench. Dallas missed the playoffs last year, but in the 2012 postseason Vince averaged a career-worse 8.3 ppg in the 4 games he played. Mavericks fans will hope he shoots better than 29.3 FG% this time around.


(2) THUNDER V. (7) GRIZZLIES

No one on Oklahoma City's roster ever played in Orlando.


Courtney Lee (2008-2009)

Put on the mask again, Leesus, put it on. I was ecstatic to see Courtney get dealt from Boston to Memphis knowing that he'd have a shot to get back in the playoffs with a possible contender. Yeah Lee was on the Celtics team last season and played 4 playoff games, but this is different. Courtney has started 47 of the 49 games he's played for the Grizz, averaging 11.0 ppg on 47.6 FG% in 30 minutes per contest. The 28-year-old will always be that gutsy over-achieving rookie in Orlando fans' eyes, but Lee has a chance to get his NBA career back on track as he'll be looked at to contribute greatly for Memphis.


Mike Miller (2000-2003)

Be honest, you're happy he got his ring. But we all feel guilty that he had to earn it with the Heat last year. Well Mike's back on a Grizzlies franchise where he statistically had his best years in his career. The 34-year-old has been tasked with being Memphis' sharpshooter off the bench. For the most part, Mike's come through as he played all 82 games for the first time since his Rookie of the Year season in Orlando. Miller's averaged 20.8 minutes per contest this season and has tallied 7.1 ppg on an fantastic 45.9 3PT%. Mike will need to stay healthy and relevant against a tough OKC foe for Memphis to have a chance at advancing.


Beno Udrih (2013)

Are we sure Beno didn't slip a little something-something into Nick Calathes food or drink? Anyway, the Slovenian is back in another postseason for the first time since his glorious Spurs days that concluded in 2007. Udrih was picked up by Memphis at the end of February and has only played 10 games on a tiny 5.5 minutes per contest. The 55.6 FG% is encouraging. The 31-year-old is going from being buried on the bench behind Mike Conley and Calathes, to probably being guaranteed minutes throughout this Memphis playoff run.


(3) CLIPPERS V. (6) WARRIORS

Dewayne Dedmon was with Golden State this season, but obviously the current Magic big man isn't there any longer. There are no current ex-Magic players that are on GSW's playoff roster.


Matt Barnes (2009-2010)

He will still kill you. Age may finally be catching up to the 34-year-old. It was inevitable the way the forward has always played with reckless abandonment for his body. Barnes is still averaging 9.9 ppg off Doc Rivers' bench, but his percentages are falling and his top-notch defense can't be labeled that anymore. Injuries only allowed Barnes to play in 63 ball games. He did finish the season on a 19-point high note against Portland, and he still may have enough the gas tank to help the Clippers make a run at the title.


Glen Davis (2011-2014)

Big Baby Gonna Turn It Up for the playoffs? Since getting waived by the Magic after this recent Trade Deadline, Glen played in 23 games for his former Head Coach in Boston. 4.2 ppg on 48.1 FG% at 13.4 minutes per contest. Glen might be the 3rd best-ranked big man on that roster behind Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. So playoff minutes aplenty can be had if Davis doesn't self-destruct.


J.J. Redick (2006-2013)

Poor guy. J.J. was on his way to the best season of his career only to have the injury bug undercut just how perfect he is in Rivers' system. The 29-year-old only played 35 games this season which are his fewest played since his second year in Orlando. Redick still averaged 15.2 ppg on 45.5 FG% as the starting shooting guard. He seems to be healthy after having played the final 2 weeks of the regular season. If he can just keep his body together, Doc won't have any hesitation to have him running off screens constantly.


Hedo Turkoglu (2004-2009; 2010-2013)

After basically being held in purgatory by the Magic for half this season, Hidayet is also contributing to this Los Angeles playoff run. Hedo's 3.0 ppg on 10.3 minutes per contest in 38 games doesn't seem all that important. But Coach Rivers has Turk in shape and producing semi-decently entering the postseason. The 38.5 FG% and 44.0 3PT% are signs of improvement. We may see the 35-year-old get some time at point forward should the Clippers be desperate for a change of pace.


(4) ROCKETS V. (5) TRAIL BLAZERS

Portland has no ex-Orlando players on their postseason roster.


Dwight Howard (2004-2012)

Oh... Um... Right... Yeah... I'm not looking forward to the 28-year-old getting his first title any time soon. The 8-time All-Star and 3-time Defensive Player of the Year seems rejuvenated and looks drastically better than he did as a Laker.


So that's 4 Wizards players and 4 Clippers players with Magic ties. I guess I know what Finals matchup will occur now. 

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