With his Orlando Magic stuck in a rut, with four consecutive losses to teams with losing records, Stan Van Gundy is a man under a bit of fire. Some people are questioning his attitude, which he famously reformed early this year in an effort to be less negative; Tania Ganguli looked at the Magic's results since then, which you can read here.
Ed. note: See tonight's GameThread below. - BQR
Van Gundy doesn't think reverting to "Old Stan" would improve his team's play of late, because defense isn't the issue.
Me beating them up is not going to help what we're doing. I think if you're going into games and night-in and night-out and what you're seeing is we're scoring points but we're not making an effort defensively, and you're seeing high shooting percentages for the opponent, then maybe it's time for a kick in the ass. But when you're seeing that our defensive numbers are actually getting better... we're struggling to score... Generally, a kick in the ass is not the biggest help for your offense. I think our guys are pressing [on offense] a little bit as it is.
Van Gundy added that motivation, focus, and preparedness aren't problems for the team right now. They were for their embarrassing road loss to the Heat last month, but not recently.
He also said that he does not expect to make lineup changes tonight, but only because there hasn't been enough practice time to implement those changes. "If you think you have something that may work better, you want to give them a chance to practice," he said. Orlando on the second night of a back-to-back against Atlanta, so it did not practice today. As usual for the second night of a back-to-back set, the Magic did not hold their shootaround in the morning at their Maitland facility, but rather on the Amway Arena court just a few hours before the game. The Magic don't play again until Tuesday. "We're going to have to look at some things after this [game]," Van Gundy said. J.J. Redick will start at shooting guard for the injured Vince Carter, but that's the only adjustment to the starting lineup, at least for now.
One change we can count on? Ryan Anderson will return to the Magic's rotation last night. When I asked, "Any chance we'll se Ryan tonight, maybe?" Stan answered resolutely, and without hesitation:
Yes. We definitely will.
Anderson has not played in Orlando's last 2 games as Van Gundy relied on the quicker, more athletic Brandon Bass to counter Washington's Antawn Jamison and Andray Blatche, as well as Toronto's Chris Bosh and Amir Johnson.
Van Gundy was very complimentary of Atlanta, saying that they're "playing very well" and are "a team that's been on the rise in the last couple of years." He said one factor in their success was their run of good health: "they have not missed anybody. They've had all their starters. [Starting small forward] Marvin Williams missed one game and that's [all the injuries] they've had." The health has given them continuity in their lineup, in contrast with Orlando, which has used 9 different starting lineups (and counting: tonight will be their 10th) this year due to injury or suspension. He was not trying to downplay the Hawks' success at all, by any stretch, saying the Magic's "in-and-out" health "doesn't have anything to do with where we are right now."
Another key to their success, Van Gundy said, was the addition of sixth-man Jamal Crawford. He said their acquisition of Crawford is "one of the most significant" this season and that Crawford has "given them great scoring off the bench." In 35 appearances this season, all in relief, Crawford has scored in double-figures 31 times, with 14 games of at least 20 points. His ultimate appraisal of Crawford's play? "Tremendous."