The Orlando Magic improved to 3-2 in preseason play Tuesday with their 97-94 victory over the Miami Heat. Our Zach Oliver empties his notebook from the evening here. - ED
Gordon stellar in return
After missing the Magic's first four preseason games recovering from a fractured jaw, second year forward Aaron Gordon returned to game action in a big way. In 17 minutes of action Tuesday, Gordon made his presence felt, altering shots on the defensive end, and wowing everyone with high-flying plays on the offensive side. The gadget forward finished the night with 10 points, three rebounds, and a pair of steals, while showing off all of the key aspects he can bring to the young Magic bunch.
Following the contest, Orlando coach Scott Skiles raved about Gordon's play. When asked if he liked what he saw from his combo forward, Skiles said yes. "We put him in to guard Gerald Green in the first half, [and he] did a good job on him. He was active. He's a guy we believe is going to be able to come into games, if not start the game, and get after those wing players in the league, and he showed that tonight."
Gordon was also pleased with his performance. "Tonight went really well," he said. "I had a lot of fun out there. A little bit of rust just kind of on my pitch shots in the lane. It was a lot of fun. I missed playing and I'm glad to be back."
The Arizona product brings a much-needed defensive aspect to the Magic, as well as more versatility and high energy. Through their first four preseason games, Orlando had spurts where they fell flat, desperately needing someone to come in and give them a spark. Gordon, along with big man Dewayne Dedmon, were able to do that against the Heat on Tuesday night, aiding the team in their victory.
Gordon will play a key role on the team moving forward, and Tuesday's performance was just the start. While there's going to be rust to knock off, and an adjustment period learning new defensive and offensive schemes, Gordon's first preseason action is a good building block moving forward with the start of the regular season on the horizon.
Dedmon brings energy, defense off bench
Entering his third season in the league, Dedmon put in a lot of work on both ends of the floor during the offseason. Needing to expand his offensive game, the high-energy big man added a mid-range jumper, something he said he feels confident shooting. Defensively, he worked on his timing and slowing down, something that would allow him to not commit as many fouls as he used to.
With his team needing an energy boost, Dedmon came in and immediately began impacting the game. In his first stint against Miami, he gave the team five points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots, while altering several others. When all was said and done, Dedmon nearly finished with a double-double, scoring eight points to go along with 13 rebounds and the three blocked shots.
Much like he did with Gordon, Coach Skiles raved about how the big man played. "Yeah, he was great," he said of Dedmon. "I thought Dewayne was great tonight. He really stood out doing the things he does. He was around the rim, rebounding the ball, blocking some shots, changed a couple, ran the floor, I mean all the things he has done well, he did."
Dedmon, one of the team's more comical players, is a man of few words when speaking with reporters, but knows what his role is going forward. When asked about his energy making a difference, Dedmon said, "That's definitely how I see myself fitting into this team. It's my strategy and what I need to do for this team."
The jokester was amped up when asked about his improvement on the defensive end. "Fouling, bro," he quipped. "You saw it tonight. Two fouls, baby," with a wide smile on his face. Dedmon got very serious, though, saying, "It's just patience, letting the game come to me more and knowing when to be aggressive is basically it."
While he remains a relative unknown to many people across the NBA, Dedmon could play a key role off the bench for the Magic. He's going to be the anchor for the second unit defensively, and his energy can be contagious to give his teammates a much-needed lift in tough spots. He still needs to become slightly more consistent on the offensive end, but Dedmon's defense is there, and will be a key for the Magic moving forward.
Frye continues strong preseason
Coming off of a disappointing year, Channing Frye looks to be reenergized with the Magic's new coaching staff. Being used much like he was in his days with the Phoenix Suns, Frye appears more engaged, and bought into what the coaches are preaching. While he still has his shortcomings on the defensive end, the scheme the team is running seems to fit him more and not exploit him as much as the previous regimes did.
After missing all of training camp and preseason with a knee injury in his first Orlando season, Frye got off to a slow, sluggish start and was never able to rebound. Now fully healthy and in what he has categorized as the best shape of his life, the veteran sharpshooter appears ready to help the Magic begin to turn the corner.
Coach Skiles has been pleased with Frye's progression in the new system to this point as well. "He has been great," he said. "He has bought into what we're doing and he had eight defensive rebounds tonight. He has shot the ball and has been able to put [it] on the floor and do some dribble hand-off things we like to do and I know he feels kind of good about the way he came back and his conditioning and everything. He has played very well for us."
Frye's bouncing back is going to be huge for the Magic. If they're able to use him as they have offensively consistently, and he isn't as big of a defensive minus as he was last season, he could contribute a lot this season. It's only five preseason games, but it appears as though the Channing Frye the Magic signed last offseason is finally here and ready to make a huge impact.