A few observations from the Orlando Magic's 86-73 win over the Charlotte Bobcats last night...
Last night, Brandon Bass really stole the show--although one could make a compelling case for Quentin Richardson as well--on the court, with team-bests in scoring (16) and rebounding (9) to go with 2 blocked shots. He's made remarkable progress this preseason. But one thing that's always stuck out to me about Bass is his rebounding splits. He's remarkably above-average on the offensive glass, but well below-average at the other end. I asked coach Stan Van Gundy how he'd explain those splits.
"I think that the thing is he's very quick to the board, which I think helps you more on the offensive end," Van Gundy said. "Generally, size helps you more at the defensive end, to keep other people off the glass and off the board, and he's not a huge guy, size-wise." He added that he's pleased with Bass' progress with regard to rebounding this season: "I think he's focused on it very, very well."
Counting this win, Bass has 19 rebounds in 68 preseason minutes, which translates to 10.1 per 36 minutes. That figure is well above his career average of 8.1, so the progress he's made in that regard is evident.
Before the game, I chatted again with Stanley Robinson and asked him if he ever compares his game to that of Bobcats forward Gerald Wallace. Robinson noted that he and Wallace both hail from Birmingham, Alabama. But they have more than their hometown in common. "I always watched his game, and his game is not different from mine," Robinson said. "He's a slasher, he's all over the court, he rebounds, he blocks shots, he drives the lane pretty good. He can knock down a shot, too."
In his second home preseason game, Robinson finished with 2 points, 2 rebounds, and 1 foul, playing 6 minutes. He seemed much more relaxed and focused last night, as compared to Sunday's home preseason opener.
The Magic haven't lost a preseason game since October 8th, 2008, a streak of 18 exhibition victories. "That's a big number," Van Gundy deadpanned. "I'm probably [going to] go out and celebrate tonight, but maybe not. I might hold off until tomorrow."
But Van Gundy did address the topic honestly, after getting that zinger out of the way. "The one thing [the streak] does say is that even in the preseason, our guys aren't taking nights off," he said. "There aren't many NBA games anywhere where you see teams taking 8 charges, but in the preseason, you're never going to see it."
Dwight Howard had the night off, so he spent a bit more time in the locker room than he usually does before games. To the team's ballboys he demonstrated the effects of his new wristbands. He didn't mention their brand name or what specifically they do--"everything" was his response when one reporter asked him--but he did say they retail for $110 and that they're hot sellers.
Van Gundy's famous whiteboards were hidden from view; a curtain was drawn over them during the media availability period.
Bobcats forward Darius Miles visited Richardson in the Magic's locker room immediately following the game. Miles was already decked out in designer jeans, a collared shirt, a baseball cap, and top-of-the-line headphones, while Richardson had only just emerged from the shower. The former Clippers teammates chatted privately in front of Richardson's locker for a few minutes before Miles departed.
"I was definitely happy to see him play well and not hurt us too bad," Richardson said. "I was definitely pulling for him to make some shots and do some good things out there." Miles is a tough player to peg at this point in his career. He hasn't played a regular-season NBA game since the 2008/09 season with Memphis. His lack of athleticism is particularly obvious on the offensive end, where he's become a spot-up shooter from midrange. But he flashed some hops on the other end, blocking 3 shots in just 16 minutes.
Howard casually mentioned that Milwaukee Bucks big man Drew Gooden repeatedly contacted him this summer to ask about re-joining the Magic. Gooden played two seasons for Orlando and has bounced around the NBA prodigiously over the last several seasons.
When asked his thoughts about the game experience at Amway Center, one Magic player said he enjoys it for the most part, but that the music is far too loud. "It's like, 'Dance, Dance, Dance, Dance,' while you're trying to shoot a free throw," the player said, referencing the song "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz. "Come on."
A computer in Orlando's locker-room reads the players' heartbeats to determine what kind of music to blare over the speakers. If the players have a calm heart rate, the music will in turn be more relaxed. If the players are "jacked up," in Howard's words, the music will reflect that mood. Jameer Nelson said Richardson often takes control of the music, though, because he's often the first player to arrive. "The new guy!" Nelson said, with mock indignation, when asked who usually earns that privilege.
Richardson's locker is right next to Nelson's, and they have a good rapport going. Nelson good-naturedly interrupted Richardson in the middle of answering a question to let Richardson know his wife appreciates how vocal and supportive Richardson is on the bench.
The players on the right side of Orlando's locker room--Marcin Gortat, Jason Williams, and Malik Allen, to name a few--dress remarkably quickly and, as such, are hard to reach after games. Williams is remarkably scarce; in the several games I've covered since he signed last summer, I've seen Williams in the locker room precisely once.