A few notes from Orlando Magic practice today, including quotes from coach Stan Van Gundy, Dwight Howard, and Marcin Gortat.
In today's practice, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said his team watched film and worked on some points of emphasis. The team's goals right now are "to cut down on our fouls and to work on some of our double-team schemes," as well as transition and pick-and-roll defense. On the other end of the court, Van Gundy said "we gotta work on our passing and catching better. It sounds elementary, but it's been a problem area" so far in the preseason.
The idea that the Magic have had any trouble in the preseason may seem a bit odd--they're 3-0 and coming off a 54-point victory in their last outing--but there are always areas to improve. The idea is to address those potential problem areas now, before they become bigger issues later in the season.
Van Gundy said the team's overall goal of adding a few more options offensively--a subject Josh Robbins first reported on after yesterday's practice--is a response to a few occasions last season when Orlando struggled to score. "I thought one of the mistakes that I had made was not developing lineups enough that we would be comfortable using them [in the playoffs]," Van Gundy said, specifically mentioning Marcin Gortat at power forward and Rashard Lewis at small forward as examples.
Additionally, Van Gundy explained the reasoning behind adding a few more wrinkles to his team's offense this season.
On running more post-ups for players besides Dwight Howard:
"For us, we don't have a lot of guys who are just going to break people down off the dribble and draw a second defender. One of the ways we can draw a second defender is in the post."
On running more cuts to the basket, specifically through the elbow:
"I think that was watching other teams running it with some success, and watching even good defensive teams having some trouble defending those things."
Van Gundy said "we've got a lot of options with what we do" at the elbow. Howard agreed; in his availability session, he said the only player who doesn't get opportunities to work out of the high post in the Magic's offense is the point guard. But Van Gundy said not to expect immediate results as far as that point is concerned: "anything you do with that many options, and you haven't run a lot, you're not going to be very good at it at this time of the year. That one will take a long time." One if the issues the team faced last season was an inability to score when it really needed a basket, and having to run a play in which it wasn't confident. Again, installing these elements early will help down the line.
More notes, including reaction to Howard and Gortat playing together, after the jump.
In today's practice, Van Gundy put Howard and Gortat on the same team. Gortat reiterated he's "excited for this opportunity" to play power forward, adding that he met with Van Gundy earlier this summer to discuss ways for him to earn more minutes. "Right now, we're just getting better," Gortat said of his time at power forward so far. "I just got to break a couple habits as a center, and pick up a couple new habits as a power forward." Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel wrote more extensively on the subject here:
On defense at the four, he spends more time as a help defender and defends further away from the perimeter than he’s accustomed to. Teams run less pick and rolls through their power forwards, so he isn’t always on the ball in the pick-and-roll – instead, he rotates to help out defending the cutting big man.
The benefit of playing Gortat at power forward and Howard at center, Howard said, is on defense, and to that end it's it's tough to evaluate their performance together in scrimmages, noting that the opposing team today had Malik Allen and Brandon Bass at the power positions. "[Playing with Gortat is] good when we play against guys that have two seven-footers in," Howard said, "or a team like Memphis or Boston."
I also spoke to Ryan Anderson about rebounding and Brandon Bass about defense. Please keep an eye out for posts about those conversations a bit later.
Van Gundy said he has not decided on which players will start this Thursday against the Charlotte Bobcats.
Jameer Nelson got the day off today. He and Chris Duhon are the Magic's only healthy point guards, as Jason Williams is still rehabilitating his left knee following an arthroscopic procedure last week. As such, neither he nor Duhon will get a game off in the preseason, which all the other players will.
Nelson seemed to be in great spirits after practice. When a Magic staffer asked him how he was feeling, Nelson said, "I'm chilling!" with a broad smile. "I got the day off."
I had been told that Magic practices sometimes run longer than usual, so I showed up a half-hour after the appointed time. I continued to wait for another 45 minutes as the team continued to practice. My problem today is that I wasn't late enough.
Bass stayed longer after practice than any other player, doing a mid-range version of the "around the world" shooting drill, and then practicing free throws. Robbins told me this extra work is normal for Bass. Also, he hardly ever missed.
Nelson, Lewis, Howard, and Quentin Richardson couldn't quite punch out once practice concluded, though. They had to change into their white home uniforms in order to record some in-house television spots. After meeting with the media, Van Gundy departed to the locker room in order to change into a collared shirt for a taped interview with David Steele. "I have a dress code for interviews now," he quipped.
Mickael Pietrus spent some time after practice shooting free throws. Maybe it's a result of the comfortable environment--meaning he wasn't at all in a game situation--but Pietrus seemed more at ease at the line. McCann and I both noticed he was shooting straight up and maintaining his follow-through, rather than leaning back and drawing his hands back into his chest after releasing, as he's done in the past. Last month, Sebastian Pruiti of NBAPlaybook took a closer look at Pietrus' free-throw-shooting motion, which I strongly recommend reading and watching.
Magic rookie Daniel Orton departed the facility wearing cargo shorts, slip-on Converse All-Star sneakers, and a t-shirt depicting the Marvel Comics superhero Wolverine. Pietrus wore a white v-neck t-shirt and designer jeans.