For the last pre-season game of the 2009-2010 season and in front of a nationally-televised audience at home, the Orlando Magic made a statement (whether it was intentional or not) by thrashing a divisional rival, the Atlanta Hawks, in a game that was over quickly. Without Rashard Lewis. Take a minute to think about that.
I was able to ask a few questions to Stan Van Gundy amongst the media, as well as speak with Brandon Bass and Vince Carter. Here's what they had to say:
Stan Van Gundy:
Vince and Ryan had pretty quick starts to the game, could you talk about their performances tonight?
Well, I mean, Ryan [Anderson] and Brandon [Bass] ... look, those two guys, they're playing great offensively. Both of them putting the ball in the basket and they're working hard, defensively. That's still going to be a challenge but they're putting up a lot of points for us, which really helps, and Vince as you know has been getting better every game and more aggressive and everything else. He was tremendous tonight, but we had a lot of guys play extremely well but Dwight [Howard] was unbelievable. I mean, he was unbelievable, because early in the game, they [Atlanta] wanted to double-team him all the time.
He took every double-team and threw it out, did not have a turnover until a very suspect traveling call late in the game so he just kept making the right play, our guys made shots, and their defense got more and more spread out and they quit doubling him and then in the third quarter, he was one-on-one down there all night and went to work. I thought it was a very mature approach on his part and he was just making the right play, all the time, and playing great defensively too. We had a lot in the gameplan tonight of double-teaming people and getting back and playing his own guy. He had a lot of work to do tonight and he did very, very well.
With Jameer Nelson and Jason Williams, it seemed like they did a good ball of knowing when to score, when to pass, could you talk a little bit about their performances?
I thought for the last two games our point guard play has been outstanding. I think that they're both playing real, real well. They're organizing the team well, they're playing well themselves, they're making plays. Yeah, I thought in the first half with the big lead, Jason tried to take some chances a little bit more than he has and he had some turnovers in the first half. I think a lot of that was a function of having a cushion in the game and trying to hit some home runs, but he was much better in the second half, much more solid, and yeah, that play has been very good and I hope that it continues.
More after the jump.
With the pre-season finally over, how eager are you to get the regular season going?
Well, first, we got to get these next couple days of practice because they're going to be some nice practices and all we're going to do is continue to get better. Wednesday can take its time in getting here, we got a couple more days to continue to improve.
Do you expect Stan to run you guys hard in those practices?
Oh, yes sir. We're going to get that every day.
When things are going well offensively and defensively, how contagious is that to keep going?
Oh, it's crazy, I mean, coach [Stan Van Gundy] told us that even though we were up by like 25 or 30, he told us to still continue to go hard and push it like we do in practice so that's what we tried to go out there and do.
Could you talk about some of the challenges the Philadelphia 76ers will bring for you guys to start the regular season?
I mean, they're just a young and athletic team. I'm sure they're going to bring a lot of athleticism and we just have to match their intensity and throw it into the big fella [Dwight Howard].
Do you expect it to be a run and gun type of deal or do you guys want to put your stamp on the game in terms of pace and what not?
Right, we're going to start on the defensive end first and then get out and run, inside out.
How do you feel offensively? It seems like you can't miss a mid-range jumper. How much hard work did you put in to get that jumper to where it is?
Lot of work, lot of work. I worked for a long time, I told Ryan [Anderson] the other day, I was like, man, how many shots did you shoot in the summer to be hitting the threes you be hitting? He was just telling me, he don't really have to shoot that much, he just got it and I said me, I just shoot a million mid-range jumpshots.
How many years did it take for you to develop your shot?
Probably my junior year of high school and that was something I needed to take my game to the next level as far as from high school to college. I tried to make it more consistently to play on this level [the NBA].
When did it get to the point where you felt completely confident in your shot? Like when was the moment when you said, I got it?
Maybe like ... I'm still improving on it. I feel like if you leave me open, it's going down but I'm still improving on it so it's not anything where I'm satisfied that it's good. I'm still improving on it to this day.
Are you looking to expand your range a little bit?
Dirk [Nowitzki] told me last year that I need to expand it out to like 18 [feet] but my goal is just to be the best mid-range player to ever play the game so if I can really knock that down and be able to go left, right, defend, be a defensive stopper and a rebound and run the floor, I'm great and as long as we can win with me doing that, I'll be satisfied.
Talking about Dirk, and you played with him, he's a prolific scorer, what type of tips did he give you as a shooter?
He just thought that I was one of the best mid-range shooters out there. He was just telling me that maybe I should extend it out to 18 to 20 feet and I mean, I thought about it, but like I said, I told myself that I want to be the best mid-range player so I just work on my mid-range and try to perfect that.
For the first regular season game, what type of challenges do you think Philly is going to bring to the table for you guys?
They're a very athletic team, I think [Andre] Iguodala has emerged into a young star and Thaddeus Young is now emerging. I think Elton Brand still has it and Lou Williams, I've always been a fan of his so I think he has the opportunity to run the show so playing against them in the summer in Philly, we got to see their talent and how they've gotten better so for us, once again, we have to make our mark on the game immediately come jump ball.
You talked about punching teams in the mouth to start games. How important is it to set the tone?
I think it's important. You want to make a team lay down, if possible, and continue from that. I think the Orlando Magic organization has earned the respect of being a pretty good team but you look at the team on paper, well, they're pretty good. In my opinion, that's not good enough. We have to make believers out of people still so each and every time we stop on the court, there just has to be that type of mentality like it was tonight from the beginning each and every night.
In terms of offense and defense, has Stan put in place everything he wants or is there still sets left to include?
You'd have to ask him. I'm sure there are many, many more plays yet to come. I think, for us, he put in some things that we're going to use and that works and then I think he'll slowly incorporate other trick plays or specialty plays.
How impressive was it for you guys to play the way you did tonight without Rashard Lewis?
I mean, that's what has to happen. I think that's really his [Stan Van Gundy] angle for not playing him the last three games because he's not going to be here, it's going to be Brandon, Ryan, and even Matt [Barnes] is going to play some at the four to get comfortable in that position and for us all to feel comfortable when he's not there. I mean, those guys on the floor and of course with Rashard not being there. It's unfortunate, but it's great to see everybody really gelling together and playing together until he gets back.
Do you guys feel comfortable with the situation?
Yeah, it's been accepted. From day one when it was announced, we knew that a lot was going to be expected of each and every one of us individually and to just do a little more, not forcing anything, but we're going to have to pick up his 19 to 20 points a game until he gets back.