Emeka Okafor still searching for his spotlight
Tania Ganguli describes what Emeka Okafor's move to the New Orleans Hornets yesterday evening, via trade, means for him as a player.
Five years after pundits ridiculed the Magic's selection of Dwight Howard over Okafor, the former UConn Huskie is still searching for his place in the association. He's a solid big man and a good defender.
But Okafor hasn't made an impact in the playoffs. He hasn't helped contribute to an elite team. He hasn't become a star. And he isn't exceptionally relevant outside Charlotte.
It’s likely that Shaq won’t use more possessions than Ilgauskas, but he will touch the ball more often and, more importantly, his possessions will definitely not end in 15-foot jumpers — he will indeed make Howard work on defense inside far more than Cleveland’s options did last season. However, while Shaq is stronger and will probably push Howard around the way Kendrick Perkins did in the Magic-Celtics series, it’s hard to see Shaq making a significant difference on pick-n-roll defense, since he’s just as slow as Big Z and that tough matchup was what really destroyed Cleveland in the ECF. Additionally, Shaq’s on/off defensive numbers have been mediocre since his Laker days, so there’s no reason to think he’ll be a huge upgrade for Cleveland at that end in general.
And then there’s the matter of Shaq’s age. Coincidentally enough, 37 just happens to be the magic number at which some of history’s greatest big men — Ewing, Olajuwon, Wilt, Robinson, Moses, etc. — either retired or saw their production fall off a cliff. In other words, Shaq had a nice comeback season last year and will be an offensive upgrade at center for the Cavs if he can retain that form, but if Cleveland is counting on him to be the final piece of the puzzle to help them beat the Magic or Celtics in the playoffs, they’d better have a backup plan, because relying on O’Neal is a bit of a gamble at this stage of his career.
INTERVIEW WITH MOUTHPIECE SPORTS AT MY BASKETBALL CAMP IN ATLANTA
Orlando's Dwight Howard conducts an interview with Mouthpiece Sports at his basketball camp in Atlanta. Check it out.
Easy Buckets: Who Depends on Them the Most?
UPDATE: Jon Nichols of Basketball-Statistics takes a look at which players depend on easy buckets the most. A few Magic players make the list.
Report: Lakers, Cavs to Headline NBA's Christmas Day Schedule
UPDATE 2: Brett Pollakoff of NBA FanHouse lists one Christmas Day game he'd like to see on the NBA schedule in the upcoming season.
Magic vs. Celtics: If Kevin Garnett is somewhat back to his old self, this is a good opportunity to see what a full-strength Celtics team looks like against a revamped Magic team that made it to the Finals. Besides, you can't go wrong with two of the top three projected teams in the East going head-to-head, and (as Matt Moore reminded me) getting to see the replay of Glen Davis hitting that game-winner and decking that kid over and over again would be priceless.