This past weekend, the Orlando Magic played one of their more difficult back-to-back sets of the season, with a Friday tilt against the NBA-best Cleveland Cavaliers followed by a Saturday contest against the up-and-coming Atlanta Hawks. The Magic emerged victorious both times.
One person paying particularly close attention to those games was Kevin Arnovitz, of ClipperBlog and ESPN.com fame, who saw them as an opportunity to realistically assess the Magic. Kevin came away impressed, and provides this detailed account of 7 reasons to fear the Magic. You'll want to set aside some time for this one, as it commands all your attention. Here is my favorite passage, which comes from his introduction:
I've heard the rap on the Orlando Magic. They're essentially a jump-shooting team. They don't hit the offensive glass, and don't have a go-to guy on the wing who can manufacture points in crunch time. In short, the Magic just don't seem like a championship contender in the eyes of their doubters. How do you gauge what constitutes a contender? As Justice Potter Stewart said of obscenity, you know it when you see it.
Arguments that their style doesn't conform to the postseason seem remote while watching them dismantle Western Conference powers on the road, or rip off 13 out of 15 games after their point guard and team leader was lost for the season. It's enough to make you ask, "Exactly what style of basketball are we talking about? A style that translates into the league's second most efficient defense and sixth most efficient offense? A style that wins more than 70% of its games on the road?"
We might attribute some of the Magic's inspired play this weekend to the players-only meeting team captain Dwight Howard called after their loss to the Toronto Raptors last Wednesday. In his blog today, Howard writes about what went on in the meeting, and his attitude as the regular season winds to a close:
It's kind of hard for me to tell guys that it's time to be serious, because I'm one of the silliest guys on the team and everybody knows that I love having as much fun as I can. But the playoffs are nearly here and it's time for us to lock in mentally. We have the kind of team that can win a championship. Chances like this don't have too often and we can't let this opportunity pass us by.
Nice to see the team captain taking some initiative here.
But Dwight isn't the team's franchise player for his leadership ability alone. (Duh). He gets it done on the court too, and in a major way. He won his second consecutive Player of the Week award today.
Naturally, the Magic are looking out for their own, lobbying for end-of-season accolades for their players and coach Stan Van Gundy. We mentioned as much last week, but we're bringing it up again because now the team has a highlight video for Howard (MVP, Defensive Player of the year, All-NBA team), Rashard Lewis (All-NBA team), Courtney Lee (All-Rookie team), and Van Gundy (Coach of the Year). Sadly, there aren't any clips of Van Gundy's great catch during January's visit to Staples Center to play the Lakers.
Speaking of playoffs, tomorrow night's game against Houston will be the Magic's last chance to test themselves against playoff-caliber competition, as Brian Schmitz notes. Orlando's next 5 games are against teams with nothing left to play for but pride.
UPDATE: Hello. ER here, dropping by with some more news.
- Today, Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference took the time to calculate the floor % of every go-to guy on every team since 1977-1978. For those that don't know, floor % is the percentage of a player's individual possessions which result at least 1 point for his team. In Lahman's terms, the metric is a good way to see who are the most efficient go-to guys in the NBA, historically. Given the range of years in the analysis, Magic fans can take a look at the entire franchise's history and see which players sprung up on the list. To no one's surprise, Hedo Turkoglu was listed as the team's go-to guy last season.
- With the Hall of Fame class announced today (Michael Jordan, David Robinson, John Stockton, Dennis Johnson, Bernard King and Chris Mullin), Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus wanted to take a look at how each of the players then compared to the players now (for an explanation as to how Pelton's SCHOENE projection system works, click here). On the list, David Robinson (in 1994-1995) is scored as the most similar to Dwight Howard.
- David Steele shares his take on where Orlando stands among the elite teams in the NBA (Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers).
- I forgot to post this a few days ago in the news bulletin for April 3rd, but Rob Peterson of NBA.com wrote a piece highlighting Jameer Nelson and the All-Star point guard's impact on Orlando since his shoulder injury. I suggest giving the article a read; it's a great write-up and provides some insight on what Nelson has been doing behind the scenes with the Magic.