A few observations from the Orlando Magic's 135-81 win over the New Orleans Hornets last night...
Reserves Chris Duhon and Stanley Robinson both expressed relief at the fact that they're easing into the Magic's system. Robinson, the 22-year-old rookie from University of Connecticut, said "I'm just taking it a day at a time" after he "got the nerves out" in his NBA debut against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night. He was pleased with his rebounding--he had 4 boards in 8 minutes--after telling me prior to the game he needs to improve in that area.
Duhon said, "I'm not completely comfortable yet" because he's still adjusting to "parts of the defense" and "things offensively that we want to do." He said he's happy be played at a slower pace last night. "I think I was going 200 miles per hour [in the first two games]," he said, "I think I got it down to about 150 [tonight]." Duhon led the team with 7 assists, but none more spectacular then the lob he lofted to Robinson late in the game for a dunk; naturally, this play occurred while I was on my way down from the media level to the locker room, so I didn't manage to see it. Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel informed Duhon that Robinson said he'd buy him dinner. In response, Duhon said, "I'm just glad it happened because he's been bugging me since training camp to throw him an alley-oop. That's his first words to me every morning... hopefully he can say some different words to me now."
Robinson seems to be a popular figure in the locker room, which Vince Carter attributed to his personality. "He's just a laid-back country boy that enjoys where he is," Carter said of the Birminghaam, Alabama native, "and [he] enjoys playing and is wiling to learn. That's what's so great about it."
Carter was also complimentary of Ryan Anderson, with whom he's played for the last two seasons. "Me sitting here and just trying to praise him for his hard work in the summer won't do it justice," Carter said. "The product that you're seeing on the court is a testament to what he's really put in this summer as far as his conditioning, his strength, his knowledge of the game. He's learning."
Maybe one day he'll make the leap from fringe rotation player to sixth man, as J.J. Redick has. I asked Redick what he thought about his earning 13 free throws last night, and if that reflected on his work over the summer on his "in-between" offense, when opposing defenses chase him off his jumpers; it's something he mentioned working on at Media Day. He said he and Magic assistant coach Bob Beyer--whom Redick said "is kinda my coach when I work out"--have focused on "being aggressive and thinking shoot-first, and then making plays off the dribble for other guys." He and Beyer will review all of his shot attempts on film "every three or four games" throughout the regular season to evaluate what's working and what isn't. "I pay attention to all that stuff," he said, smiling.
Miscellaneous: As I talked with Redick about coconut water--I noticed almost every Magic player had a carton of it in his locker, and asked Redick about when that trend caught on--Quentin Richardson leaned over to me and said, "You know you're talking to BetterBasketball.com, right?" It wasn't the first time Richardson had mentioned the famous shooting instructional video Redick made. Redick laughed and said, "That was four years ago!"
About the coconut water: Redick said he, Brandon Bass, and Jameer Nelson started drinking it last year for its health benefits--"it has more potassium than two bananas," he said--and "everyone pretty much drinks it now."
I didn't see any coconut water in Marcin Gortat's locker, but I did see a can of Mountain Dew. Before the game, he stepped in from his shooting routine to take a few sips from that can, and then he left without saying a word.
The Magic's new locker room is, as you might imagine from a $480 million building, immaculate. It's circular, with high ceilings and a gargantuan Magic logo in the carpet at the center of the floor. Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson have the cushiest arrangements, as the lockers on either side of theirs are empty, allowing them to spread out. From a practical standpoint, it also means media types can crowd around the team co-captains without blocking another player's locker, a situation which cropped up all too often in the old Amway Arena locker room. Andrew Melnick of Howard the Dunk and I agree that the visiting team's locker room at Amway Center is a tremendous upgrade over the Magic's locker room at Amway Arena, which should give a decent idea of how nice the host's locker room is. Still photography is not allowed in the locker room, which is why I'm stumbling all over myself trying to describe it.
Coach Stan Van Gundy's opening remarks to the media upon reaching the podium in the interview room were, "Yeah, I know," in reference to his wearing a necktie. Van Gundy hasn't worn one as Magic coach since his very first preseason game with the team in 2007. The sight may become more common in the future, as Van Gundy said Magic owner Rich DeVos told him, "You coach better with a tie."