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Tonight's Preseason Game: Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic

2008/2009 NBA Preseason
Atlanta Hawks main logo
Orlando Magic main logo
0-0 0-0
October 6th, 2008
Amway Arena
7:00 PM
Probable starters:
Mike Bibby PG Jameer Nelson
Joe Johnson SG Mickael Pietrus
Marvin Williams SF Hedo Turkoglu
Josh Smith PF Rashard Lewis
Al Horford C Dwight Howard

UPDATE: Nothing new to report, but I wanted to bump this post to the top of the page to increase its visibility. Discuss the game here.

Well, it's finally here for the Magic: the 2008/2009 NBA Preseason. And while the games don't mean anything in the record books, they will allow us a glimpse of the team's future. How well does Mickael Pietrus fit with his teammates? Will Jameer Nelson play as well as he leads? Does Courtney Lee figure to make an impact in his rookie season?

It also gives us a chance to see what the Atlanta Hawks are doing. The Hawks aren't a great team, but they've given the Magic trouble in recent years, and clawed their way into the postseason in 2007/2008. For more insight on the Hawks, I asked Bret from Peachtree Hoops, SB Nation's Hawks blog, a few questions. The Q-and-A takes place after the jump.

Third Quarter Collapse: Which Hawks have the most to gain in the preseason? Which have the most to lose?

Peachtree Hoops: I think Acie Law needs to have a good pre-season in order not to get stuck behind Flip Murray in the rotation. Flip Murray is pretty much made for pre-season basketball so that may be an uphill battle for Acie. I'm curious if Othello Hunter, as an undersized power forward, can score and defend enough to complement his rebounding. Solomon Jones and Randolph Morris figure to be in an even battle for the last spot in the frontcourt rotation. I doubt either one will prove good enough to keep the other out of the rotation permanently but when you've got a very set first seven, you've got to take training camp/pre-season battles where you find them. The Mario West/Thomas Gardner/Frank Robinson battle for the final backcourt roster spot is of interest only to Hawks fans assuming I'm not overestimating its interest even to that sub-set of humanity.

Third Quarter Collapse: By all accounts, Mike Bibby is 100% healthy and looks great in camp. Can he be the point guard who elevates the Hawks to the next level? Or is he merely a stopgap solution until his contract expires next summer?

Peachtree Hoops: Even in less-than-full health Mike Bibby seriously upgraded the Hawks' offense after the All-Star Break. Unfortunately, the team's defense declined every bit as much as the offense improved so he didn't actually make the team much, if any, better. The degree to which Rajon Rondo (a good, young point guard but one whose value is more accurately described by the latter of those two adjectives at this very moment) dominated him in the post-season makes me hope that the organization views him as a stop-gap and turns his expiring contract into something via trade or keeps him for the full season and makes good use of the resultant cap space next summer.

Third Quarter Collapse: Al Horford posted solid numbers in his rookie season and, in my view, was robbed of the Rookie of the Year award. What's the next step for Al in developing as a player? And do you see him as a center or power forward at the professional level?

Peachtree Hoops: Had Mike Woodson not believed that Horford was subject to the collegiate rule of 5 fouls and you're disqualified, I expect he would have compiled the raw numbers necessary to win the Rookie of the Year Award. Which leads me to explain why the next step in his development isn't entirely in his own hands. This is an organization that still hasn't realized that Josh Smith has become a better player than Joe Johnson so I'm not holding my breath that Woodson will run the offense through Horford more often this season. Compared to getting Josh Smith away from the perimeter it's not even the priority.

It's a shame Horford rarely gets the ball on the move in the half-court offense considering he plays so much as an undersized center and often is quicker than his defender. He does need to improve his post play. Once he's capable of consistently drawing a double-team his passing ability will be more valuable.

Barring an evolutionary reversal, I think Horford will continue to play a lot of center. And he should for the Hawks. I think a Horford/Josh Smith frontcourt can cause a lot of matchup problems for other teams. That being said, the Hawks do need to keep a competent, bigger post player around to protect Horford from matchups he can't possibly win. Like against, say, Dwight Howard. Not that Dwight Howard is a beneficial matchup for anyone, but Horford (22 MPG, 9 PPG, 6RPG and 42.4 FG% against the Magic last season) was a comparative non-factor in those games last season. The Hawks can't afford for any of their few good players to become a non-factor for a night.

Thanks to Bret for his time and consideration. My responses to his questions are now up in his game preview at Peachtree Hoops.

The game starts tonight at 7, but it doesn't look like it's televised anywhere. Try tuning in to AM 580 WDBO in the Orlando area if you want to hear Dennis Neumann and Richie Adubato call the action. If you're outside the Orlando area, you may be in luck, as's Audio League Pass seems to have returned.

Rejoice, for the Season is upon us.