A few observations from the Orlando Magic's 105-99 loss to the Dallas Mavericks last night...
Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard has tallied at least 20 rebounds in three consecutive games, all coming since the announcements of Orlando's major trades. Coach Stan Van Gundy's noticed Howard's improved activity level.
"His energy and effort was off the charts," Orlando's coach said following the loss to Dallas. "I thought he was playing as hard as he's played since I've been here, and against good competition. You couldn't ask him to do a whole lot more than he did tonight. I thought he worked real hard at it."
In those three games, all defeats, Howard's averaged 23.7 points, 21 rebounds, and 2 blocks. But Van Gundy praised his star center's performance against Dallas as his finest of late.
Earl Clark ranks as, by far, the least-known commodity the Magic acquired in their series of trades over the weekend.
"I'm not that familiar with Earl Clark," Magic guard J.J. Redick said the night the trades happened. "I don't know a whole lot [about Clark]," Van Gundy said last night, just after announcing Clark would probably get a chance to play against the Dallas Mavericks due to injuries to Malik Allen, Ryan Anderson, and Daniel Orton.
But in his 13-minute debut with the team, Clark showed flashes of the all-around skill that prompted the Phoenix Suns to use the 14th overall draft pick last season on the former Louisville Cardinal. Though held without a rebound, Clark shot 3-of-3 from the floor for 6 points, and added an impressive drive-and-dish assist to Brandon Bass for a jam. At 6-foot-10 with an above-average handle and great athleticism, Clark has the physical tools necessary to become an impact player for Orlando down the line. Co-captain Jameer Nelson liked what he saw.
"He just was out there with a lot of energy, and their defense lost him because of his energy. He was all over the place, slashing to the basket, doing things that made his defense miss him," said Nelson, who added that Clark still needs work on his own defense. But Nelson is confident Clark will understand that end of the court soon enough. "He seems like a smart guy and willing to learn, and a coachable guy."
Clark accounted for 3 of the 10 baskets the four Magic newcomers made last night. Not bad for a player most analysts regarded as a throw-in to Orlando's trade with Phoenix.
Van Gundy doesn't know how much time he'll need to properly integrate the newcomers with the squad--"It's going to take as long as it takes," he said--but he has an idea of how Orlando's trades will affect the point guard rotation.
"It's going to be tough right now," Van Gundy said. "I don't see a way to play--at least on a nightly basis--Jameer and Gilbert [Arenas] and J.J. [Redick] and Jason Richardson and one of those point guards [Chris Duhon and Jason Williams]. I don't see how that can be done."
The Magic signed Duhon to a four-year deal worth $3.5 million annually this summer, but the acquisition of Arenas, who can shift between both guard spots, seems to have put him squarely out of the rotation for the foreseeable future. Williams, who had eaten into Duhon's minutes even prior to the trades, also figures to stand on the outside looking in as long as both Nelson and Arenas are healthy.
Tim Povtak reported Orlando is open to trading Duhon, perhaps in combination with another asset, for a backup big man.
After wrapping up with the media, Arenas, who's missed 199 games due to injury or league suspension over the last three seasons, stood on the swivel chair in front of his locker to reach some personal effects stashed in a cabinet just out of his reach. Another writer and I discussed how we would report what could happen if he were to injure himself at that moment. Just another way to pass time in an NBA locker room, I guess.
Clark took the locker stall Mickael Pietrus used to claim, which sits on the left side of Orlando's circular locker room at Amway Center. Arenas now has Marcin Gortat's former stall on the complete opposite side of the room. Hedo Turkoglu assumed Vince Carter's uniform no., 15, as well as his locker, which stands two stalls down from Nelson's. Richardson staked his claim to Rashard Lewis' old locker, two stalls down from Howard's.
The new players' lockers, understandably, do not yet have proper nameplates. The contrast between their lockers and the standbys' is pretty striking. Instead of a metal strip printed with their name and uniform no., the newcomers have to make do with a simple square of masking tape, with their uniform no. scrawled on it, to identify their stalls.