With the pre-season winding down, Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy is taking the final three games of exhibition play to figure out his playing rotation for opening night against the Philadelphia 76ers on October 28th at Amway Arena. That's the main news to take away from the Magic's practice session before the team flew out to Chicago in preparation for tomorrow night's matchup against the Bulls.
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel and I spoke with Van Gundy a few hours ago.
Here's what he had to say:
Stan Van Gundy:
In terms of lineup combinations, do you look at the numbers a little bit to try to figure out which 5-man units to put out on the floor?
Well, I look at the numbers but it's tough in exhibition because you have to be really cognizant of who you're playing against. Sometimes you got a lineup that's in there playing against a real good lineup and their numbers may not look as good as maybe a lineup playing ... a coach is just playing the last five guys on his roster or something so numbers don't mean as much. I look at them but they don't mean as much in the pre-season as they do once we get into the regular season. I just get sort of a feel more than anything on how I think guys are playing together and everything else and the big thing is, it's not just what your best starting lineup is. As you rotate guys in, are you going to have enough scoring coming in and rebounding and so you try to fit it all. It's not simply finding your best five guys.
For the four guys [competing for the starting forward positions], what differences do they bring in terms of starting and coming off the bench?
Again, I think a lot of it is just going to be a feel. I want to make sure that I like what we got defensively at the start of the game, but also, I am concerned that off the bench we get some scoring there too. Now part of it, one of those three guys early in the year, at least one, if not two, will always be on the floor. We got to have people with that. I've seen some good second units that I thought have been really productive. When we've had Jason, J.J., and Marcin on the floor together, that's been a very efficient offensive lineup. They play with good energy, they move the ball, it really hasn't mattered who's at the three and the four so that's what we got to figure out with the starting lineup and off the bench but you want a second unit that you think can operate, too. Not just your starters.
I know that you've talked about when you have the second unit in, that you'd like to have a starter in there with them. Have you figured out who that guy is?
Well, no, it's different all the time but you do different things. You'll sub one guy out, usually I'll sub one guy out of my starting five early, 6 minutes in, then you get another one or two at the three minute mark, and then one or two at the quarter as some other guys are coming back and that allows you to rotate in. You go in with a plan usually in games but then foul trouble will always mess that up so it's more general than that. Now, you might, a lot of times I have Dwight going the whole first quarter but he gets two fouls, well, he's not going to go the whole first quarter so now maybe another guy like Jameer, who I was going to sub earlier, I send him in the whole first quarter so that we have one of them on the floor all the time.
During the regular season, how many lineups do you narrow down?
Well, again, you end up playing an unlimited amount of lineups. Usually you get down to starters and then a pretty good rotation but foul trouble and injuries, all that stuff, always sends you into flux so I think with us, what we try to do is get as many different guys as possible being able to play multiple positions and so that gives you the flexibility. Even early in the year with Rashard back, now we can play Matt at some four so even with foul trouble or another injury, God forbid, we got three guys there. I can play four guys at the three spot, I can play four guys at the two spot, I can play three guys at the five spot, I can play four different guys at the point, it's things like that and then guys being familiar enough that you want to stick with a pretty solid rotation but when you get into those problems, like guys are going into something they've never done before. Like this week in practice, we've worked in practice a lot with Matt at the four because he hasn't gotten no opportunities in games and not as much in practice. We want him to be comfortable there so luckily he's a smart guy and he can handle all that.
How crucial is it for Rashard, when he comes back from suspension, for him to come in right away and keep the continuity going?
Oh, that'll be easy, I think. I think it will be relatively seamless. Rashard makes the game easier because he's a very good player. The more good players you get out there, the easier it gets. Plus he's got such great knowledge of what we're trying to do so the game will get easier at that point and we've got more depth, obviously, when he comes back so for a lot of different reasons, it'll all get easier and he'll be practicing with us every day. It's not even as bad as say an injury, where he's just missing time. He'll be able to work out, stay in shape, practice, go through stuff, so he should come back and it should be pretty seamless when he comes back.