|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|November 21st, 2008|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||T.J. Ford|
|Mickael Pietrus||SG||Marquis Daniels|
|Hedo Turkoglu||SF||Danny Granger|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Troy Murphy|
|Dwight Howard||C||Rasho Nesterovic|
I asked Indy Cornrows, SB Nation's Pacers blog, a few questions about the Magic's opponent--and about former Magic point guard/fan favorite Travis Diener. Read the q-and-a after the jump, and check out the role-reversal when I answer his questions at his site.
Some quick notes before the q-and-a:
A Magic victory tonight would make them winners of 9 games in 10 tries.
Rasho Nesterovic used to defend Dwight Howard pretty well. Then the playoffs happened. Dwight needs to get back on track. Hanging a 20/20 on Rasho would be a step in the right direction.
Mickael Pietrus is back after missing Tuesday's game with bruised ribs. Consequently, J.J. Redick is headed for the bench. Le sigh.
Danny Granger is really flippin' good. Although his career scoring average against the Magic is a fairly modest 16.7, his three-point shooting against them is obscene. In 10 games against Orlando, Granger has shot 16-of-28 from beyond the arc, or 57.1%. That ain't fair.
The q-and-a follows the jump.
Third Quarter Collapse: Danny Granger, whom the Magic passed on in the 2005 draft to select Fran Vazquez, is averaging 24.3 points per game this season, tied with Kobe Bryant for the 6th-highest average in the league; only LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, and Dirk Nowitzki score more. What are your thoughts on his development? Is he now, or will he ever be, a viable franchise player as the other players in that list are?
Indy Cornrows: Danny Granger's game has really taken off since about January of last season. Over the summer he was a one man PR machine tirelessly making appearances on behalf of the Pacers. The nice, quiet forward who deferred to Jermaine O'Neal was gone as he opened up himself and his personality to fans. He officially became the face of the franchise.
Now about his game on the court. Last year he proved he could play and score at an elite level. The next step for Danny is playing at that level consistently, night in, night out. So far this year, he's had a couple of average games but for the most part has cranked up his offensive game. He's shooting the ball well from the perimeter but also taking the ball to the hole more often and getting to the line.
I don't know if he'll ever get to the Dwyane Wade, LeBron James level, but Joe Johnson and Dirk Nowitzki are certainly within reach. Along with consistency, Danny needs to improve his ability to create his own shot when things break down. Those type of plays separate a Wade, LeBron or Kobe from other great players.
Third Quarter Collapse: The Pacers are 5-5 despite the absence of last year's second-leading scorer, Mike Dunleavy, who's out indefinitely with right knee tendinitis. How will his return impact the team?
Indy Cornrows: Dunleavy understands what Jim O'Brien expects and his style of play as well as any other player. Dun's ability to handle the ball, pass and move without the ball are reasons he excelled last year. Even though the team has played well much of the season thus far, I think Dunleavy will only help upon his return.
And no, I'm not worried about the defense falling apart. The defensive improvement has been great and Dun is not a great one-on-one defender, so a casual observer may feel his return will soften the D. I don't see it. Dunleavy plays well in the team-oriented defense the Pacers utilize and the fact that better defenders surround him this year will make him appear more productive on defense.
Third Quarter Collapse: How's Travis Diener doing in Indiana? I think a lot of Magic fans were sad to see him leave in free agency.
Indy Cornrows: Travis is a fan favorite for sure and he's a great locker room guy, as well. Unfortunately, he's been dealing with a foot injury since having surgery after last season ended. He hasn't been able to practice or play consistently and sits behind T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack on the depth chart. Once he's healthy, though, he should play more minutes. Jack has been playing a lot of SG with Dunleavy out, which makes room for Travis when he can play. Jim O'Brien recently remarked about how he thinks Travis runs the team at a perfect pace when he's on the floor.
Third Quarter Collapse: Broadly, what are the Pacers' goals for this season? What are the expectations from the fans and from management?
Indy Cornrows: I think the Pacers' primary goal is to make the playoffs. I think most fans have raised their expectations after the first 10 games against solid competition. The first 20 games for the Pacers are brutal. Prior to the season, I felt if they could start 8-12 they'd be in great shape. Unfortunately, the casual fan would see the 12 losses and figure the Pacers weren't worth watching.
Well, they've been very exciting to watch, save for about six quarters and already have 5 wins after 10 games. So, the fact that I'm optimistic with a .500 record tells you that making the playoffs is the point where expectations are set right now.
Third Quarter Collapse: In the last year-plus, the Pacers have traded Stephen Jackson, Jermaine O'Neal, and Shawne Williams; they also packed the things in Jamaal Tinsley's locker and told him not to bother reporting to training camp, if I understand the situation correctly. Is there anything else they can do, or should do, to further repair their image?
Indy Cornrows: Honestly, as far as image goes, there's only one more thing they can do -- win. The team and management have done an incredible job since May of reaching out to the community and making positive impressions with all kinds of events and charity work. The roster has seven new players and all of them have come in an offered themselves up to the community and have been embraced in return. The fact that those new guys are playing so well, working hard and staying humble has made for a lot of positive press and talk around town about the Pacers. It has been an incredible transformation.
Our thanks to Indy Cornrows for his perspective. Tip's at 7. Go Magic.
Who will win tonight's game?
This poll is closed
The Orlando Magic
The Indiana Pacers