A few observations from the Orlando Magic's 105-67 win over the Chicago Bulls last night...
Magic center Dwight Howard has a reputation for being a relaxed, fun-loving guy, but one thing he does take seriously is his jump shot. Check out this exchange between one writer and Howard:
Writer: You tried to experiment before the game with a baseline turnaround [jumper]. Are you going to...?
Howard, interrupting: That's not an experiment.
Writer: That's not an experiment?
Howard: No, I've been doing that all summer.
Writer: You going to be doing that in games?
Writer: I bet Hakeem [Olajuwon] showed you that one, huh.
Howard: No, he didn't.
Thanks to some thick curtains, Coach Stan Van Gundy's famous whiteboard work is hidden when the locker room opens during the pregame availability session, so it's hard to know what the Magic's agenda heading into any given game is. But one of the new things the Magic did try working on last, said backup center Marcin Gortat after the game, was "blitzing the shooters coming off of staggered screens... and blitzing the point guard on screens. And I think we did a pretty good job."
If there's any team to try blitzing against, it's the Bulls, who have taken to running some of the Boston Celtics' Ray Allen-friendly sets to free shooting specialist Kyle Korver away from the ball. The Magic sent the screener's defender, in addition to Korver's, at Korver all night, and it worked. The bottled-up Korver only tried 4 shots in his 21 minutes, missing all of them.
You can live with leaving that screener open when he's Brian Scalabrine, who clanked his fair share of reasonably clean looks tonight. Kurt Thomas did too, but given that the baseline is one of his sweet spots, it's not always wise to concede that shot to him.
Howard said Van Gundy's pregame point of emphasis to him was to run the floor, to try getting easy, quick baskets.
Lots of discussion in the media workroom about the Magic's potentially showcasing Brandon Bass for a trade. He's recorded double-doubles in each of the last two games after having none in his first season with Orlando. I tend to think the Magic want to keep Bass around, and will use him when the situation calls for him. In theory, that was the plan last season. In practice, Orlando played Rashard Lewis at power forward a majority of the time.
As he got dressed, Howard regaled us with stories of the lies people tell him in an effort to get his autograph, highlighted by "I followed you all through college, man!" Howard, of course, came to the NBA directly from Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy high school.
Vince Carter wore an icepack on his right elbow after he checking out of the game for good, but said he didn't suffer an injury. Curiously, the 25th photo in this Orlando Sentinel gallery of last night's game shows Carter holding that elbow.
On another health note, Ryan Anderson had no injury to report after sitting out tonight's game. "Everybody got a game off [in the preseason]," he told me, "and today is my day... I'm feeling pretty good."
Co-captain Jameer Nelson kidded the media a bit by insisting we wait for Carter to get dressed before we approached his locker, even though Carter needed only to put his shoes and socks on. "I got you," Nelson deadpanned to Carter.
I've been to three games and one shootaround this season and have yet to see Jason Williams anywhere.
Quentin Richardson's locker is near J.J. Redick's, and Richardson's making the most of that proximity by teasing Redick about his appearance in "Better Basketball" instructional DVDs. Redick told reporters that, during the game, Richardson "kept yelling 'Better Basketball'" at him. On cue, Richardson said "BETTER BASKETBALL!" in a tone not unlike that of an infomercial announcer.
Amway Center is essentially complete, but I did notice two new additions in the Event Level hallways tonight. The wall outside the visitors' locker room is now painted a sharp black-to-blue gradient. The Magic's trailing basketball partial logo appears as well. Additionally, flat-screen televisions on the wall of the hallway facing the open section of the Mercedes-Benz Star Lounge have been installed.