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Practice Report: It's All About Adjusting And Playing Defense

As Ben has already touched on, the most relevant news pertaining to the Orlando Magic's pre-season game against the Miami Heat is the fact that there will be a change in the starting lineup for tonight - Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass, and Dwight Howard. For the first time since these particular new players have arrived via free-agency, fans will be able to see a combination that may see plenty of time on the basketball court during the first 10 games of the regular season while Rashard Lewis is out due to suspension. Given that Barnes and Bass were two of the players that played very well against the Dallas Mavericks on Monday, it'll be interesting to see how they perform as starters.


I was able to attend the Orlando Magic's shootaround early this afternoon and speak with Stan Van Gundy,Carter, and Howard amongst the media.


Here's what they had to say:



Stan Van Gundy:


How many of your guys do you expect playing tonight?

We're going to with about 10 again, I think, we may get one or two more in but with probably about 10, to get them in any kind of rhythm and get a real good look at what they're doing, that's about as many we can get.

Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes seem to bring an added toughness and intensity to the court against the Dallas Mavericks a few days ago. What were your impressions of their debuts?

I thought Matt was our best player in the game, I thought he had the best overall game. I thought that Dwight played very, very well too but he didn't shoot the ball particularly well. I thought Matt was probably our best player in the game and then I thought Brandon got off to a slow start and then finished very, very strong so I think he got more comfortable as the game went on and that was good so tonight we'll get a chance right from the beginning and we'll see.

How often do you keep in contact with Fredi Gonzalez (manager of the Florida Marlins)?

During his season, once or twice a week. I try to touch base with him.



Vince Carter:


Were you surprised by all the open looks you had in the game against Dallas?

Of course. You have to respect each guy on the floor. Everybody is an All-Star and we got a great thing so for me, that's more so the adjustment, knocking down open shots. I'm used to knocking down shots going up against a double team, my job now is to make them.

So that seems to be a good problem to have, right?

Oh, very good problem. Just try to make everybody's job easier.

Playing with the new guys, how do you think they all performed against the Mavericks?

I think we all played well. Just, like I said, for us to adjust to a new style and what's expected of us, I can't say it was jitters but we were all excited. I thought Brandon was phenomenal, he really carried the load in the stretch run. For me, it was more so just trying to figure out how I can make my game fit in with everybody, just making plays for the team. In the first half, it was just finding the ways. In the second half, I felt a little bit more comfortable and so did Matt and he got it going in the second half.



Dwight Howard:


Is there certain things you want to concentrate on against the Miami Heat?

I think the biggest thing, like I said, is to get the new guys accustomed to the way we play offensively and defensively and that's the thing me and Jameer are trying to get accomplished. Right now, we got a lot of new guys. The biggest thing is getting those guys to know where they're going to be on defense, just picking their spots on offense, and running. That's one thing that coach [Stan Van Gundy] wants us to do is really get up the court.

What does it mean to be on the cover of a game [NBA Live 10] you grew up enjoying?

It's a blessing. It's something I always dreamed about, being on the cover of a video game, especially NBA Live which is something we all grew up playing so it means a lot to me. I always think with sports, just allowing me to be on the cover, is something not a lot of people get the opportunity to do so it's a blessing.

In terms of the pre-season, does Stan go ahead and piece in schemes bit by bit or does he introduce everything all at once?

Oh, no, the thing right now is, like I said, just trying to get everybody focused on how we play on defense, how we move on defense, how we rotate. That's the biggest thing that we're trying to do right now. Offensively, it's going to take a while but defensively, we got to get going and we got to get going early.