Dennis Scott is a man who needs no introduction to Orlando Magic fans. He's 5th in franchise history in games played, 6th in minutes played, 1st in three-pointers made, and 3rd in three-point field goal percentage. While in a Magic uniform, he set an NBA record with 11 three-pointers made in a single game, which Kobe Bryant and Donyell Marshall have since broken. In his 446 games with Orlando, he made 5 or more three-pointers a franchise-best 49 times.
Beyond the statistical feats, though, is the simple fact that he was a key cog on the best team in franchise history, a role player who complemented superstars Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway exceptionally well. His frequent three-point field goals, and Magic P.A. man Paul Porter's subsequent bellowing of his trademark "3-D! From Downtown!" catchphrase, ignited the Orlando Arena crowd.
Dennis is currently an analyst for NBA TV and appears with Brent Barry and Kyle Montgomery on The Jump, an interactive program that broadcasts each Tuesday at 1 PM on NBA.com and again Tuesday afternoons at 5 PM on NBA TV. He also works as the Atlanta Hawks' radio color analyst and runs a consulting firm. You can follow him on Twitter @3Deezy.
Last Friday afternoon, I spoke with Dennis over the phone to discuss the Magic and preview their game against the Los Angeles Lakers this evening.
Note: Due to some recording difficulties early in our interview, my first question to him doesn't appear on the tape. I also lost a portion of his answer to my second question. I've tried to re-construct the first question as faithfully as possible from memory and my notes, but it is not exact. I've indicated the missing part of his second answer with this symbol: [...???...]. Luckily, the recorder started working properly and I managed to transcribe everything else faithfully.
Orlando Pinstriped Post: As part of the Magic's first NBA Finalist team, you know first-hand what it's like to face the team that defeated you in the Finals. What was going through your mind before tipoff against the Rockets on Christmas Day the next season, and what might this year's Magic team be thinking about before their first game against the Lakers since L.A. beat them in the NBA Finals?
Dennis Scott: Well, back in 1995 when we lost to the Rockets in the Finals and we played them the following year... because they're a Western Conference team you don't think about it as much because you realize you only play those teams twice a year.
I think in the Magic's case, they're missing two key ingredients that helped them get to the Finals last year, which is Courtney Lee and Hedo Turkoglu. So I'm sure guys who were on the team last year are going to talk about the Finals appearance and how close they were, but I don't think they're going to use it much because, like I said earlier, you only play those teams twice a year.
I think the bigger thing is Orlando hasn't been playing well as of late, and they can use this game as a statement game to get back to playing better basketball.
OPP: That's a good point about losing a lot of key guys. For instance, on your Finals team in 1995, the top eight players in terms of minutes all returned the next year, whereas only the top two for the Magic last year--[Rashard] Lewis and Dwight Howard--they're back, but then Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee were the next two guys in terms of total minutes. So that sort of surprised people, that [Orlando GM] Otis Smith would make all those moves [after a Finals appearance]. Do you think those moves are for the better? You bring in Vince Carter, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass...
Scott: Well I think right now a lot of people are going to question the moves because they've had some ups and downs, and because most basketball [...???...] you don't want to tweak anything.
But at the end of the day I think Otis was trying to get over that hump, and felt like he needed one more piece. And bringing in Vince Carter, most people know he's a volume shooter compared to Turkoglu, who can shoot the three but likes to be a facilitator.
I think he and the rest of those guys are still trying to find their way. Matt Barnes has done a pretty good job with his outside shooting ability... I think they will be fine as the season wears on.
OPP: So what do you expect from the Magic today against the Lakers? Do you think that they might get fired up or do you think that they might lose focus? Overall, what do you expect the Magic to do today?
Scott: Like I said earlier, the elite teams in the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference, the top four teams, whenever they compete against each other on national TV they try to bring their A-Game, their A-Plus-Game, because they know the whole world is watching. One thing about the NBA is, it's an 82-game season, it's hard to bring the same energy and the same passion, because playing against Dwight Howard one night and then playing against a center that's not an All-Star, sometimes it's hard to get up for.
I think this might be a game where someone might want to talk about the Finals, but the Finals has nothing to do with now. They still might want to use it as motivation.
OPP: You're a former three-point shooter, a record-holder with 11 threes in a game, one of the first successful, high-volume three-point shooters. Now the three-pointer is a big part of the NBA, there are a lot of three-point specialists, a lot of teams that like to run down the court and shoot threes. Orlando's a team that shoots a lot of threes, and has gotten a reputation as a soft team, or a finesse team. Do you think that's fair, and what do you think about the use of the three-pointer in today's game?
Scott: This might sound crazy coming from me, but the old saying about shooting the long-distance jump shot is, "you live by the jump shot, you die by the jump shot." But the thing is, you have to have a comfortable mix of inside and out. Our team in 1995 had that, with Shaq and Penny and Nick [Anderson] posting up, of course later in his career Nick started shooting more three-pointers.
I think the three-point shot is great for the game because it brightens the game, it speeds up the game, and it spreads out the defense for those guys that are able to be down low and call for a pass and command double-teams. That's when you have two or three three-point shooters, and you can extend the game and make it more fun for players who want to play that style.
OPP: I wanted to get your opinion on some of the Magic's role players. They have the All-Stars--Howard, Lewis, Carter, and [Jameer] Nelson--but which of their role players has impressed you the most? Guys like Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus, Ryan Anderson, Brandon Bass, Jason Williams, Marcin Gortat, Anthony Johnson, J.J. Redick... which will be the key to their success going forward?
Scott: I think that Ryan Anderson has been the biggest surprise. With New Jersey [last season], I don't think people knew he had the outside shooting and could do it night-in and night-out. I think he will be key going down the stretch.
I think the heart and soul off the bench is a tie between Mickael Pietrus, who's been there for a couple years now, and bringing in Matt Barnes, for toughness.
But I think Brandon Bass, when the playoffs come, may become the most integral part because of his rebounding, his size. If Dwight gets into foul trouble, now you can bring in Bass for rebounding and interior defense. And because of the fact that the Magic shoot so many threes, you won't be losing much on the offensive end. They'll need the defense, rebounding, and shot-blocking, and I think Brandon Bass will be critical going down the stretch.
OPP: Those are good thoughts about Bass. He's not played very much, behind Ryan Anderson. Bass has recorded 13 DNPs and 25 games played, so two-thirds of the time he plays, the other time he's at the end of the bench. With a young player like that, do you just tell them to stick with it, or...?
Scott: Yeah, stick with it. It's a long season, a lot of things happen throughout a year. Injuries, foul trouble... you always got to stay prepared because you never know what's going to happen.
I know the coaches believe in Ryan Anderson now, but Ryan Anderson is not proven in the playoffs, whereas Brandon Bass is proven in the playoffs with Dallas. When all this shakes out, you'll see the coaches go to the guy that has already been there before.
I appreciate Dennis for his time and thoughtful answers, as well as NBA TV for making him available for this interview.