One down, 81 (and more) to go.
The Orlando Magic kicked off opening night, the final one at the Amway Arena, off with a bang by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers with relative ease. The game wasn't as close as the score suggests - head coach Stan Van Gundy wasn't pleased with the team's effort in the fourth quarter, where he felt there was a lack of focus & intensity on both ends on the floor. That being said, it was a win, and that's all you can ask for.
I was able to ask a few questions to Van Gundy amongst the media, as well as speak with Mickael Pietrus one-on-one, Ryan Anderson, Vince Carter, and Dwight Howard.
Here's what they had to say:
Stan Van Gundy:
Could you talk about Mickael Pietrus' performance against Andre Iguodala, defensively?
I thought, especially early on, he really set a good tone. I thought he was very, very focused defensively. I thought M.P. had a great, great first quarter on both ends of the floor and I thought his focus defensively was outstanding and set a good tone on Iguodala so I thought that was good. The guy we couldn't guard at all was [Marreese] Speights, couldn't guard him. Everybody else until the fourth quarter, I thought we did a decent job but not on him.
You decided to go with Ryan Anderson at the four, tonight. How did you think he performed?
Well, I mean, I thought that he's playing against one of the best power forwards in this league [Elton Brand] and I would say that tonight, we got the best of that position so that I think speaks volumes. Obviously, we gave him a lot of help at the defensive end of the floor but I didn't think until the fourth quarter a couple times he really hurt us tonight and Ryan's shooting certainly hurt them so I thought that matchup was a favorable one for us and that's not how it would look on paper.
More after the jump.
It seemed that you did a good job of preventing Iguodala from doing what he wanted offensively. Could you talk about that?
I think that I was trying to [defend] him the best way I can. I have to guard the best player every night so I'll take the challenge and make sure that they don't get off on a good start. They're great players so some nights, great players are going to make great plays so I'm just trying to get myself ready to help my team and try to get a win every night.
When you're starting, what's your mentality? What do you want to do when you're in the game?
Championship. We're thinking about the trophy, the trophy that we missed last year but we had a great experience so that from the get-go, I'm thinking about the championship. I'm not thinking about who I have to guard, I'm thinking about the trophy.
What was it like seeing the Eastern Conference banner? I know that's not the ultimate goal, but how much does it mean to you?
You got to enjoy what's good in your life so I think the 2008-2009 flag was nice but it's not what we want. We want a championship so I think tonight we got off to a good start, we made shots, but I think that we just have to keep going and the season will be fine for us.
Could you talk about the team's defense tonight? It seemed that for the first couple of quarters, it was fine, but not in the fourth quarter.
Well, when you're up 30, it's kind of hard to focus defensively and offensively so I think that's how it goes sometimes so we make sure that we watch the lead in the fourth quarter. We know that we're not perfect so we'll make sure that when we play like a championship team, we make sure that we don't do those mistakes but I think every team in the NBA, when you're up 30, it's kind of hard to take over a game but the most important thing is that we did it, we won, now we have to move on to New Jersey and try to get 2 in a row.
How nice will it be to see some of your former teammates, Tony Battie, Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, the guys that were a part of the experience last year?
We really appreciate what they did for the Magic. I think that with them, we made it to the Finals so we really got to thank them for what they done for us and it's also going to be happy to see them in New Jersey so it's going to be exciting.
How much is it a luxury, for when the starters come off, to be able to have a bench that increases the lead and keeps things going?
It just makes the game a lot easier. The guys who are starting, it makes it so they don't have to press and come out to keep the momentum, the game our way, it's just a harder way to play and when the games drops off, I don't see that happening. We have so many different lineups, different guys who can come in and play, if somebody is having an off-night, you can bet that somebody off the bench is going to step up and play great.
Could you talk about Jason Williams' performance tonight? He was able to come off the bench, add some energy instantly, and score.
I think he's a game-changer for us tonight because he just rallied points, got everybody in the game, but it's just great playing alongside him because he finds you, he'll look for you and find you. He's not really a score-first guy, although he was hitting a ton of shots. He's a leader, he's a great player, so I'm real happy to be alongside him. I mean, I can't say enough how great of a leader on the court he is.
For you and Vince, you're going to be going back to New Jersey. What will that be like for you?
I'm actually pretty excited. I haven't seen those guys in a long time so it'll be good to see my old teammates and the management there. I got really close with them, they're great people. No hard feelings at all about anything but it'll be exciting to bring this team along over there and see what we can do in front of that crowd.
How much of a luxury is it to have reserves that can come in and give the starters plenty of rest?
That's what it's all about. It cuts down on the starter's minutes and I'll tell you, that'll keep us fresh on the floor if need be. If you can come in with another wave of guys who can score, guys who can shoot, guys who can make plays, it makes your team a whole lot harder to guard.
Could you talk about Jason Williams' performance? It seemed when he came into the game, he was able to add energy, score.
He got us started, he shot the ball extremely well, moved the ball, pushed the tempo in transition, and that's what he can do.
How much does sacrifice mean to this team?
It's very important. If you look at some of the great teams that should have won championships but didn't, it's just the sacrifice. There's so many variables that cause a team not to win but for us being committed to sacrifice, that it's going to take to win each and every night, through the bad times. We haven't seen or had any situations where we've lost two or three in a row, how do we react? We're trying to avoid it as well, going 82-0 would be great, but that's the biggest thing right now and I think so far, it seems like we're prepared for that and we're willing to do what it takes, then we'll see about that bad stretch.
How nice is it to get the regular season underway and get back into the grind of things?
Well, I think Stan [Van Gundy] pretty much got us back into it in training camp. We knew what was going to happen once training day started but we're just looking forward to getting better, we got to stay humble, stay hungry, and if we do that, we'll win a championship.
How much of a luxury is it to have a bench, to come in, bring some energy?
We got to be able to trust the guys on our bench and I think we have a pretty good bench, nobody is going to say it because on paper, it might look like we don't have a bench, but every guy who steps on the floor, they know know what they have to do. If we all do it together and once we play like that, it's going to be hard to beat us.
How far are you defensively, as a team?
We're getting better. I think right now, we know we can score and we try to rely on that, but there's going to be nights where the ball won't go in the hole so we have to rely on our defense so it's going to get a lot better. I think it's just early in the season, where guys are used to playing, we got a lot of new guys and the way we play in our system is different, so once we get accustomed to playing with each other, we'll be a lot better.