Monday, October 27, 2008

Hardwood Paroxysm's 2008-2009 Season Previews: Orlando Magic

When I was little I used to think that magic was the the manipulation of the senses to achieve a mystical performance.

Now I know better.

Now I know it's the internet.

Your opening preview is by Rob Mahoney.

Abbreviated version: The Orlando Magic are the real deal, folks.

Extended version: The funny thing about the Magic is that they’re exactly what you’d expect. You know what they’re going to do to you, you know exactly how they’re going to do it, and yet there’s still only so much you can do to stop them. Some may say that’s the definition of “dominance”; I say it’s the definition of “fricking ridiculous.” I can’t imagine that it’s very fun to coach against this team. But what it also does is put the game largely in Orlando’s hands.

I can count on one hand the number of players who can match up against Dwight Howard one on one, meaning that most teams are going to have to throw some sort of double coverage at him. So naturally, you surround him with some damn good three-point shooters and two forwards who can make plays, shoot, or take it to the basket. You throw the ball in to Dwight, the defense doubles the post. The result: he either spins away from the double to throw down a slamma-lamma-ding-dong or pitches it out to the open man. It’s so simple that it’s almost painful, and it’s so simple that it’s truly beautiful.

Obviously you can’t do that every time down the floor, so it’s nice to have a back-up plan. That back-up plan is what I like to call “Give the Ball to Hedo and Act Like We’re Running a Play.” The reigning Most Improved decided halfway through his career that he was going to start creating something from nothing, a little magic act of his own. He pulls runners out of nowhere, has mastered the pull-up game, and is deceptive in his ability to get to the basket. Still, it’ll be pretty difficult for Turkish Delight to replicate the success he had last year. He’s now page 2 of the scouting report and he’ll have to adapt to that kind of attention.

And that’s where Rashard comes in. The guy makes the big bucks but was often reduced to a spot-up jump shooter in some Magic sets, which is a shame considering ‘Shard can do a lot more than that. I’m actually a fan of his high-post game (although it is somewhat limited by playing the 4) and his ability to finish around the basket after a drive or a cut to the basket. And goodness, that first step… let’s just call it the ‘single greatest contribution to modernity’ and be done with it. Look SVG, I know you’re into this whole minimalism thing right now. But Rashard Lewis is a pretty damn good player who can do a lot of things for this team on offense. The results may not always be as impressive as Dwight tearing down the rim, but two points are two points.

This team has contender written all over it, but if the Magic want to make significant progress this year, they need Jameer Nelson to grow up a little bit. Just a few inches would be nice. But if he could show some real maturity and consistency in his game, the Magic are right there. I’m talking "could give the Celtics a run for their money" right there. If Jameer calms down just a little bit and Pietrus, Bogans, Lee, and Redick can produce something from the shooting guard position without giving up much on defense, this team would be absolutely tremendous. That’s the thing that’s truly ludicrous about the Magic: yes, this team does have flaws and at times they are very visible. But the flaws are largely superficial. Slap a Band-Aid on it and you’re good to go. Okay maybe a Band-Aid won’t create a backup power forward out of air, but compared to other teams (even other contenders) these are pretty small potatoes. Dwight Howard is dominating the most difficult position to fill in the NBA and he’s 22 years old. Twenty. Two. Explain to me how that’s fair. Please.

Dwight-Rashard-Hedo was arguably the best non-Celtic threesome in the league last season. An already great defensive team brought in Mickael Pietrus, who can bolster the shooting guard spot and, you guessed it, shoot threes. Plus, they’ve got Redick and Gortat poised to bring a little sum’n sum’n off the bench. It’s not the deepest rotation in the world, but all it has to do is get them in the door. Once they’re in the playoffs, they’ll make themselves at home: Dwight’ll be raiding the fridge, Hedo never hangs up his towel, and Rashard leaves his shoes everywhere and is incapable of using a coaster. You can try to tell them what to do and you can try to make them leave, but they’re always hanging around until “after lunch” or “after the game.” The Magic are here to stay, and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.



... you hate puppies, too? I mean, honestly. This team is an underdog in a small market that sustained losing in the Finals then losing their franchise player, the Tracy McGrady years, the Grant Hill disaster and is now good but probably not good enough to compete. Jesus. Have mercy.


Oh, alright.

Jameer Nelson.


Turkoglu falling apart in the playoffs was kind of crushing. I like him at the two a lot. The new idea of playing Gortat at the 4 and using Howard, Gortat, Lewis, Turk at the 2 and Nelson is terrific to me. Turkoglu is essentially an oversized two anyway. There's no demon speed scorers at the 2 like there is in the West. Let him work there.

Oh, and just to remind you, around these parts? Dwight Howard is Big Beastly Jesus.


Paroxi-Wife Note: I am underwhelmed by the Magic. Maybe this is because my 8th-grade boyfriend liked them. Maybe it's because they're in Florida, and I hate all Florida teams. Or maybe it's because Dwight Howard is in an annoying McDonald's commercial. I think I should have been asked for reasons to hate the Magic.

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