After two games away from the City Beautiful early in the week, Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy has been satisfied with the effort on defense, which was something he felt needed to improve if the team was going to succeed on the defensive side of the ball. The new task for the players? Taking care of the ball, as turnovers have plagued the Magic during the pre-season. Even though Orlando is 5-0 in exhibition play, Van Gundy made it clear that taking care of the ball is important.
I was able to speak with Van Gundy, Vince Carter, and Dwight Howard* amongst the media after practice was over in the early afternoon. Here's what they had to say:
Stan Van Gundy:
With five games under your belt, do you have an idea now of who your starters are going to be?
Well, I know I'm going to start Vince, Jameer, and Dwight. From there, I really don't know at the other two spots right now.
How much do you like the offensive mismatches that Rashard brings at the three?
He can post. I think his matchup is actually a bigger problem for most teams when he's at the four than at the three. We can get him in the post when he's at the three, you have to get him in the post more, but I'm not sure if he creates a bigger matchup problem there than he does at the four. I guess it all depends on who you're playing, too.
Are the turnovers a matter of familiarity?
Not really, I think right now part of it is fatigue and you get tired and you're not as solid. A lot of it is just fundamental mistakes, jumping up in the air to pass, one-handed passing, one-handed catches. Very basic things, these guys have played basketball their whole lives so it's not a matter of who you're playing with. Who you're playing with doesn't matter if you're throwing the ball to the guy on the other team. I mean, it doesn't really matter so yeah, it's just fundamental things and a lot more concentration and a big problem right now is that we have too many guys turning the ball over. As I said to them [the players], we don't really have a low-turnover guy right now. That's the problem, I mean, you can live with the guys who are going to have the ball in their hands a lot making some mistakes as long as it's not out of range.
Right now, Dwight's turnovers are way above normal for him. I mean, he's got to get his [turnovers] down. Vince too, he's got to get his [turnovers] down. Our point guards haven't been that bad, but the other problem is what we've had in the past that's saved us is while some of our key guys have been turning the ball over a lot, we had a lot of guys out on the floor that rarely, if ever, turned the ball over and right now, we don't have anybody like that. Everybody is turning the ball over so we need to find some guys that can compliment those guys that run the offense, make open shots, and don't turn the ball over a lot and we don't have that right now.
With the game against the New Orleans Hornets, was that an example of how potent the offense can be?
Well, I mean, anybody ... when you're shooting 19 for 30 from three, I mean, even in that game, we had 23 turnovers. I would not say that our offense played anywhere near as well as it can but shooting covers a lot of mistakes. As I told them today [the players], you can't count on shooting the ball like that every night. I will say, though, we're one of the few teams in the league that has the capability of doing that. I mean, that can come at any given night for us. It bailed us out of 23 turnovers the other night, but again and I say this to them all the time in trying to understand how you win, the other thing was that the Hornets shot 38%. That's the part [defense] that sort of always gets overlooked with us, because we're making so many threes but we held them to 38%, that was really a key to the game,
In the first five games of the pre-season, how has the defense progressed from the beginning of pre-season to now?
I think we played harder in the two games on the road this past week than we did in the first three games. I thought we made a better effort. I thought we had a little more concentration on our gameplan so I thought it was a good step forward. We're still not even near where we need to be, defensively, but I thought we made very good progress on those two games on the trip.
More after the jump.
*Dwight Howard with a powerful quote about the Orlando Magic.
Stan's talked about turnovers being a matter of fundamentals. What are your thoughts on that?
I don't have any thoughts, it's a true story. It's true, he's right. I think sometimes you have to go back to basics. You tend to do things, you can make plays but when the turnovers start to get higher than the number that we want, then it's time to go back to basics and I think that's what he [Van Gundy] is trying to pull out of us.
With five games finished in the pre-season, how eager are you to start the regular season?
Getting to this point, you're always ready to get the season started. You kind of get tired of games not counting, but at the same time, I mean, like coach [Stan Van Gundy] said, it feels like we still have a ways to go to be the team we want to be so it's just patience, we have to have now, and the big picture now is getting better to hopefully continue to play and be the last team standing so days like this, games, pre-season games, ugly wins, they all count and we have to make them count.
For the returning players, how has the demeanor changed from last year to this year in terms of trying to win a championship?
It hasn't changed. Everybody wants the same goal so we know what it takes and the guys who have been in the situation where ... going to the championship, for some people, it's like once-in-a-lifetime so we got to take advantage of it and practice every situation for it.
Do you take pride in doing your part in helping the franchise get back to its glory years in the mid-90's, back when Shaq and Penny were around?
Well, we're not the glory team. It's a brand-new team and I don't think people should expect us to be like that team, we're a totally different team and I think we represent ourselves in a different way than they did and I don't want to be looked at as the second glory team. We do our own thing. We get out there and play the same way every day, every practice, and we do a lot for our community, trying to make Orlando a better place so we're not looking back to go to the glory days. Those days were way back when, we want to do more than those guys did so we have a big goal, a big task, but I think the biggest thing we can do here is get some respect for our city and make people understand that it's not just about Disney World, Universal Studios, and Wet 'n Wild, and theme parks, there's a basketball team who goes out there every night and gives 110%.
How encouraging has Ryan Anderson's play been, given that before he arrived, not many Orlando Magic fans knew much about him?
Well, that's fine. Not a lot of people in Orlando knew who Courtney Lee was but they found out. I like Ryan, he's a perfect fit for us. I call him the new Pat Garrity, I think they play the same, similar styles, and I think Ryan will be an important part of this team once he gets into his mind that coach [Stan Van Gundy] wants me to shoot every time I'm open. When he has that mindset that I'm going to shoot the ball, he makes it, but when he thinks about it too much and changes his shot, turns the ball over just like anybody. For coach, the thing is, when we're open, shoot the ball instead of forcing it. We shouldn't have to work for shots.
Odds and Ends:
In my opinion, it's looking more and more like Lewis is going to remain the starting power forward, as Orlando Magic head coach Van Gundy stated to me that he feels Lewis is much better suited at the four on offense (which makes sense). Likewise, given that it'll take time for Lewis to get re-adjusted to playing the three on defense and he's become a net positive for the squad, defensively, as a power forward (he feels more comfortable there, understandably), it doesn't seem logical for him to start at small forward. Lewis will definitely see minutes at the three, but it's unlikely that he starts there. But who knows, anything can happen when Lewis returns to suspension.
Side note: As Tania Ganguli reports, Rashard Lewis will not start the remainder of the pre-season.