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Orlando Magic News for September 30th: The Magic Believe They Can Win an NBA Championship

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Hedo Turkoglu of the Orlando Magic poses for a portrait at RDV Sportsplex during Orlando Magic Media Day on September 29th, 2008.Courtney Lee of the Orlando Magic poses for a portrait at RDV Sportsplex during Orlando Magic Media Day on September 29th, 2008.

Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee pose during Orlando Magic Media Day. Both players said yesterday they'd be willing to play out-of-position at point guard "in certain sets."

Photos by Fernando Medina, NBAE/Getty Images

Some actual Media Day updates await in today's links. I mean, more substantive than Marcin Gortat in Mickey Mouse ears, anyway. That photo has supplanted Hedo's game-winner against Boston as my desktop wallpaper, by the way.

Onto it...

UPDATE: added two new bullets (including some J.J. Redick-centric sub-bullets) to this morning's initial post.

  • John Denton of Florida Today says the Magic seriously believe they can win a championship. Take it away, Rashard Lewis:

    "We wouldn't say 'championship' every day if we didn't mean it or didn't think it was possible," Magic forward Rashard Lewis said on Monday. "You don't set goals to win the division or to get to the second round of the playoffs. The goal is to win the NBA championship. We're not going to be satisfied until we get to the championship. It feels like something special is coming here for us."

    I think we all appreciate the team's confidence. It's exactly the right attitude to have. But here is the wrong attitude. Dwight Howard told the Orlando Sentinel's Kyle Hightower the following:

    "We want to be a team like the Utah Jazz and people are like 'Ah, man, here come the Utah Jazz.' Where they already know [what they're in for]. We don't people saying we're playing the Magic we're going to Disney World. We have to change that mentality."

    I agree that the Magic need to toughen up. That's not in doubt. But the Jazz? Let's be clear about something: the Jazz are not a tough team, or at least not the sort of tough team whose style you should want to emulate. They finished dead last in the league last season in Free Throw Rate defense, which means they let teams get to the foul line with great frequency. They also finished 12th in Defensive Efficiency, a disappointing mark for a Jerry Sloan-coached team.

    My suggestion? It's crazy, but here it is: do as the four-time World Champion San Antonio Spurs do. By playing smart defense and not fouling excessively, they finished 4th in Free Throw Rate defense and, not coincidentally, 3rd in Defensive Efficiency.

  • Hightower also notes that small forward Hedo Turkoglu and rookie shooting guard Courtney Lee have played point guard in voluntary workouts this week and both "would be comfortable trying their hand at filling that spot in certain sets if needed." Hedo's playing the point is nothing new -- he's the primary ballhandler in crunch-time anyway, and has a better-than-average handle -- but the news about Courtney is a bit surprising. But even if he isn't so great creating off the dribble, he could at least defend opposing point guards. Stan Van Gundy told Hightower he believes he can, anyway.

    Y'know, if Lee can handle the ball, defend three positions, and shoot as advertised, J.J. Redick might not even crack the active roster this year. Oy.

    And, if Hedo and Courtney fare well enough at the point, it could render third-string point guard Mike Wilks superfluous and open a roster spot for swingman Jeremy Richardson or forward/center Dwayne Jones.

    • UPDATE: Funny I mentioned J.J. earlier, because Brian Schmitz has a brief piece about him in his blog. J.J.'s worked himself into great shape, Schmitz reports:

      "I'm in the best place I've ever been in my life," Redick said. "I know that sounds weird saying that at 24, but I'm mentally prepared for whatever happens."

      [....]

      He worked overtime this summer, reporting in terrific shape, adding muscle to his slender frame.

      J.J. said as much on his blog last week:

      Despite the uncertainty heading into training camp, my perspective on things is great. I’m going into training camp in great shape and ready to fight for a role on the Magic. I’m blessed and very lucky to be playing basketball for a living. I know the work I put in this summer will pay off in some way.

      Courtney Lee and Keith Bogans better watch their backs. If J.J. has indeed gotten stronger, he might be able to get into the lane more easily, which will help him expand his game. In his NBA career, J.J. has been strictly a jump-shooter, and one who has a bad habit of pump-faking and taking a few steps in before shooting. When he's open, he needs to catch the ball and shoot it; in other words, he need not be so tentative. His confidence seems to have improved, which leads me to believe we'll him pump-fake with less frequency this season.

    • J.J Fanatics, I need your help to satisfy my curiosity: has J.J. always had this tattoo under his left arm?
  • If you like seeing how preseason expectations and statements compare to regular- and post-season results, you'll want to check out this piece in the Sentinel, which outlines how the Magic intend to improve this year using quotes from players as evidence. I might make a sidebar item out of this article. We'll see.
  • Dwight Howard says winning an Olympic gold medal means more than winning an NBA championship. Mike Bianchi expresses his confusion. But Howard sums up his position nicely:

    "To win a championship," Dwight said, "you have to have gold-medal standards."

    If Dwight can apply the lessons he learned in Beijing to his game and improve -- and, by extension, get the Magic closer to a title -- then I don't think anyone will complain. Winning Olympic gold is nothing to complain about, either.