Dedmon brings energy, defense
Every time he steps on the floor, no matter what the situation might be, Orlando Magic reserve big man Dewayne Dedmon plays with an edge and brings a lot of energy that the team usually so desperately needs. Wednesday night against the New York Knicks was no different.
Checking into the game just a few minutes into the second quarter, Dedmon's energy could be felt almost instantly. In just over 10 minutes, Demdon blocked four Knicks shots, dove on the floor after loose balls, and changed the game down low with his physical nature. He didn't impact the game offensively--he scored just once on a put back dunk--but his defense help set the tone for the Magic.
With Channing Frye going down with an injury early in the third quarter, Dedmon and fellow big man Kyle O'Quinn were called upon for big second-half minutes. Dedmon finished out the third quarter, and played almost nine minutes of the fourth quarter before fouling out. Before he fouled out, however, he was able to push his block total to six, a career-high, and ruffled the feathers of many Knicks, including Amar'e Stoudemire, a former All-Star.
Following the game, coach James Borrego was asked about Dedmon's play on the defensive end. "Dewayne was fantastic," he said. "I think he changed the entire complexion of the game. His energy, the way he competed, he protected the paint, protected the rim." Borrego also praised reserve guard Willie Green for his strong play off the bench and how he helped the team keep the ball out of the paint.
Borrego also said that it's possible that we could see Dedmon and Nikola Vucevic play together more, thanks to Vucevic's ability to slide down to the power forward position. We've seen the team go to a lineup with Dedmon and Vucevic before, mainly against teams with bigger front lines, and it's worked thanks to their ability to complement each other.
Dedmon said he's trying to come in and bring energy, adding he hopes that the team is able to feed off of it as well. The former USC Trojan also said that he "just tries to be a rim protector," in an effort to help get his team more possessions. Whenever he's in the game, Dedmon just wants to be a defensive presence, even if it isn't blocking shots.
Vucevic said that playing alongside Dedmon makes a big difference because of Dedmon's activity level defending the paint, blocking shots, and protecting the rim. "He was great for us," said Vucevic. "He blocked shots when a couple of guys were going to the rim and he was able to block those kinds of shots. Those are big plays that kind of get you going. He'd been doing it for us all year long and we need him to keep on doing that."
Victor Oladipo said that the team "needs" the second-year big man. "His ability to change the game or doing the little things; getting deflections, blocking shots, being in the passing lances and just being tough... We need guys like that so when he plays like that, he gives us the juice to play even harder."
Arguably the best "feel good" story on the team, Dedmon continues to come to work everyday with his lunch pail, ready for whomever is up next. His emergences as a defensive stopper has been one that was very much needed, and he should be able to stick around for a long time. With Kyle O`Quinn set to hit restricted free agency this summer, it's possible the Magic could choose to let him walk in favor for Dedmon to save some money.
For now, however, the focus is going out there every night, bringing the energy, playing solid defense, and the rest will come in due time.
Momentum heading to the break
After a long and tumultuous week, the Magic are able to take something favorable into the week-long All-Star Break. The win against the Knicks--just their second in roughly a month--gives them a building block heading into the shorter second half of the season.
In their four games since firing coach Jacque Vaughn, the Magic have shown a slight edge on the defensive end, but have still struggled some on the offensive end of the floor. The team talked about needing to play better on the defensive end, and how it needs to feed into their offense, and we're slowly beginning to see that. With the break, and some time to practice before their meeting with the New Orleans Pelicans, it could be the time we see the Magic fully get things going on both ends.
Borrego said that after he spends some much-needed time with his family, something he hasn't been able to do since the coaching change, he'll get back to work and get some things done. He also talked about how the team has had little practice time, and that most of what they have done over the past week has been on the fly. "You can't change your entire team in two days, but I think we can grow in some areas, continue to emphasize our defense, get better in that area, number one. Secondly, look at our offense, where we can help out guys and their spacing. We're playing some different rotations right now, so there's a few players that aren't as familiar with each other and so we'll look at that here over the break."
Getting the additional practice time should be big for the team to continue to make adjustments. With just 26 games remaining--16 of which will be on their home Amway Center floor-- the Magic need to find a way to get the ship going in the right direction heading into the offseason, and building off of their win against the Knicks is where they must start.
Odds and ends
- Coach Borrego told reporters following the game that Frye's dislocated finger was popped back into place and that the injury isn't serious. With the All-Star Break a week long this year, it's possible that the sharpshooting big man won't miss anytime.
- Oladipo set a career high in free throws made, making 11. The Magic, as a team, made 23 on the night, tying their second highest amount made on the season. Their most (25) came in a win against the Knicks in New York in November.