Today, two different ESPN scribes addressed subject we at this site have examined recently:
Recall erivera7's debunking of the myth that the Orlando Magic's bench is weak. Then, read Kevin Arnovitz's assessment of the benches of likely playoff teams. Here's part of what he says about the Magic:
The Magic's six-through-nine might not include a wily veteran like Kurt Thomas, Robert Horry, or P.J. Brown that usually populate the bench of championship teams, but that doesn't mean Orlando's reserves aren't primed for the postseason. It's a fairly efficient group and, comparatively, a healthy one.
Unless one counts Tony Battie as a wily veteran, the Magic are indeed bereft of such a player usually associated with championship teams, as Arnovitz notes.
The Magic still project to finish two games worse than Boston thanks to a more difficult closing kick, but they'll own the tiebreak if they beat the Celtics on March 25. Also factor in that the playoff odds don't know of Boston's injury problems. Look for this race to go down to the wire.
Also in the news today: thoughts on Orlando's backcourt.
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reports that coach Stan Van Gundy has praised J.J. Redick for his defense, of all things. I'm still waiting for the game in which he plays superbly on both ends of the floor, though; he gamely fought through screens while defending Kyle Korver yesterday, but shot just 2-of-10 himself.
Interesting to note that J.J. has played a total of 42:58 in Orlando's last four fourth quarters; put another way, he's only been on the bench for 5:02 in those games. The only game in which he did not play the entire fourth quarter was last Wednesday's 107-79 pasting of the Chicago Bulls. Van Gundy pulled Redick with 5:02 to play and inserted Courtney Lee, who has started the balance of games at shooting guard for Orlando this season, to play in garbage time.
Dan Savage of OrlandoMagic.com looks at the effect Rafer Alston is having on the team. I found this bit particularly enlightening:
"Of course the ball handling and decision making are going to always be there, because that's what he's known for," [Anthony] Johnson said about Alston's attributes. "Now he knows when his shots are going to come in the offense and is making plays. He looks like he is fitting in well. The better he plays, the better we play."
Alston's impact is having a positive affect on Johnson as well.
Although the two rarely grace the court at the same time, his presence has allowed Johnson to revert back to a backup role and increased his production.
The player known as Dad to his teammates for his veteran wisdom tallied 14 points and five rebounds in just over 21 minutes against Utah.
In his last 5 games, Johnson is averaging 7.4 points on 45.6% shooting, 2.4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 0.8 turnovers. Steady, in other words. I can dig it.