Orlando Magic Blog

Group Blog talking about the NBA 2009 Eastern Conference Champions. Due to the amazing success of the 2009 playoff run comments are now frequently deleted to kill offensive comments, incoherence, or asininity. Comments can no longer be anonymous and require either a Blogger or OpenID account.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Magic for NBA Championship?

Now that the arena issue is out of the way, the question is whether or not the Magic is on its way to building a championship team?

Here are the pros:

1) Dwight Howard. Although not a polished offensive machine yet, the potentials are extremely high for Dwight to develop into a force of unique characteristics.
2) Rashard Lewis. An accomplished offensive player in his prime. Can he be as good defensively? One has to remember that Jordan was an aberration excelling in both offense and defense. Most contemporary NBA players are more talented in one than the other.
3) Stan van Gundy. Coach SVG is a no nonsense humble leader who scores well with the players. He may not be as glitzy as some other high profile coaches, but he stands taller than many of them in terms of hard work, dedication, communication skills and the ability to adjust when need be.

And the cons:

1) Ownership’s myopia. The ownership is not smart enough to see the advantages of building equity in intangibles while taking losses in the short term. Their persistence in staying under the salary cap is detrimental to the success, or lack thereof, of the team in the long term. Their move to go after Billy Donovan – or Stan Van Gundy – and signing up the most coveted free agent at all costs was intended to show their future commitment in order to secure the arena approval.
2) Inexperienced General Manager. Otis Smith has been a combination of success and shortfalls. In all honesty, I can’t relate all the success on his side to skill or wisdom since plenty of rookie mistakes are made right next to them. This summer, it would have only taken a phone call to keep Darko and his agent warm until the Rashard Lewis’s situation had been taken care of. Instead there was an unfortunate blow-up that hurt the Magic’s interest, regardless of who said what and who went over the board. Magic could have signed Darko later based on the Bird’s rights with the type of contract that Memphis offered him if the messy situation was prevented.
3) Clear holes in the team’s roster. Frontline and backcourt issues are persistent. The starters for the PF and SG positions are not well determined, while the PG position is not addressed yet. In the meantime, based on Jameer’s performance of last year, he could not be slated as the point guard of the future. Players could not be moved around willy nilly, as was done in Brian Hill’s time. Neither one of Hedo and Rashard are known for defense, and starting them at SF and PF positions would be a defensive gaffe despite their ability to spread the floor for Dwight. The question is how many points would it mean for Dwight as opposed to the points given on the defensive side? That issue would be magnified more if Jameer and J.J. are the starters at 1 and 2 both considered defensive liabilities.

Unless the ownership changes its approach with regard to going the cheap route – on the salary cap issue, as well as hiring highly qualified professionals to run the business – the championship dream is just that, a dream. The problem is that all determining elements have to converge within a 3-5 year span, which is hard to bring about. The capable Coach, the heavy weight GM, the insightful Ownership combined with the core players are the necessary ingredients for success. Any missing ingredient would impede or hinder the probabilities of achieving the objective. To think that Dwight and Rashard are locked up for the next five years based on their contracts is foolish. How many times disgruntled players on dysfunctional teams asked for trade, or the teams have decided to break up and go for re-building?

As it stands, there are not many indications that the ownership will change. Therefore, the best chance for the Magic and the city of Orlando to compete for the NBA championship is for the current ownership to sell the team.


  • At 2:02 PM, Blogger Mike from Illinois said…

    If the players currently on the roster can all play to their potential and step up, and answer the nagging questions surrounding the team, I believe the future is very bright for the Magic; in particular, if Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick can play well at the point and the shooting guard spots. But there's also the PF spot to worry about too.

    However, there are no guarantees; the players will have to prove everything on the floor; management will also have to make the right acquisitions to strenghten the team.

  • At 3:54 PM, Blogger Ben Q. Rock said…

    I have to disagree with your assessment that the DeVoses need to sell the team for it to be successful. They just showed their commitment to the city by pouring in some of the money for the new arena, as well as by agreeing to build the community gymnasiums to keep kids off the streets. They've also shown, at least with the Rashard Lewis signing, that they aren't afraid to spend money. Will they ever dip into the luxury tax? I doubt it. But teams paying the tax don't always succeed: look at the Knicks, for instance.

    I know ownership has done some stupid things in the past, but it's hard to hold that against them, at least in light of recent events.

  • At 5:26 PM, Blogger OVERWADED said…

    I read the Sentinel column, relating to the Magic and their Championship dreams. The column seemed like it was written by a kid at times because of how imaginative some of the scenarios were. As it turned out, Tim Povtak wrote the article; Future world: Could Magic be a championship team for new arena? It seemed out of character for Povtak, but it was imaginative and fun. My point, I respect Matt’s post more, because he actually tried to validate his arguments, were as the post in the Sentinel, kind of jumped all over the place, even to the point of Shaq returning to Orlando in 2010 to help Dwight win a title in the new arena. Stranger things have happened, but come on?

    On with my thoughts:

    At some point, the excuses have to slow down. It's easy to blame the coach, the GM, or ownership, because they are always there, yet will never be on the court.

    Last year, I believe we have a valid complaint/excuse. Brian Hill is an awful head coach. I thought we were as good as any team in the East, yet with Brian Hill coaching; almost every player had "sub-par" seasons. Think about it, who on our team got better last year? Who had a stand out year? Hell, who even played to their expected potential? I know, Dwight Howard; but he doesn't count. He was 20 going into the season and would have got better regardless. The question is how much better could he have been if he had a coach that wasn't clueless?

    Last year, we had some common complaints; most of them relating to the coach. Well, this off season we got a lot of things we wanted.

    One, we finally fired Brian Hill. Think back to any game last season, and this fact alone should make all of us ecstatic!

    Two, we landed a great coach in return; even after The Kid bailed, we still managed to sign Stan. This didn't have to happen. Just look around the league, there are plenty of teams that have signed, or swapped one coach for another, knowing that the guys job won't be his for a long time. To date, there are 9 new head coaches this off season, and it can be argued that Stan Van Gundy is better than all of them.

    Three, we all wanted a scorer. I think I can go as far as saying, we all wanted Rashard Lewis. Well, we got him. Personally, I'm really looking forward to seeing him play next season, as I'm sure all of you are. I have a feeling he is going to step his game up even more. When you look at what he has done in the league, it's amazing how overlooked and underrated he is. There are not too many players out there that are capable of dropping 40 on any given night (his career high is 50).

    Four, we finally closed the deal on the new arena. How many years has this been going on? Did anyone ever think the day would come? Well, it did, and the Magic will be in Orlando for many years to come.

    So, the GM, ownership, Magic organization did address some important things this off season. We all complained about Brian Hill, and he's gone. For years, "crap fans" have said Dwight will leave, the Magic will leave, to Kansas City, or wherever, well, that was addressed also. Dwight was signed, and the arena deal is done; so those fans will have to move onto something else to complain about.

    As it stands, if the Magic would have managed to keep Darko, Otis Smith might have been a lead candidate for GM of the Year. But, that deal went sour (for whatever reason), so we do have a reason to be bitter. But the positives outweigh the negatives. And the fact of the matter is, the Magic have a team that is capable of beating anyone in this league. It's just a matter of the players and coaches finding the same page and clicking. It'll be a lot easier for the questions left to be answered once we finally get to see this team on the court. There are still a lot of "ifs" and "potential" on our roster; but there often is unless you're the San Antonio Spurs.

    As far as our GM and ownership goes, I'm still OK with both of them as of today. There isn't a GM in the entire league that hasn't made mistakes. As for Otis, his biggest mistake was made with Darko; but Joe Dumars made the same "mistake", yet he's viewed as a good GM. Might I add that he let Darko go for next to nothing so he could resign Ben Wallace; in turn, he let him go for nothing also. As for Darko, he's moving onto his 4th coach; only 1 of them was a "bad coach", and he was the guy who actually let him play.

    I love to speculate and think about the future of the team. It’s interesting no matter what conclusions are drawn. At least right now, the Magic are on the rise; it could be a hell of a lot worse. So until the Cavs, Bulls, Pistons, or whoever you want to put up there in the Eastern Conference as "contenders" does something that actually makes an impact, I’m going to believe the Magic have a chance against any of them. Now if we were out West, I couldn’t say that.

  • At 6:05 PM, Blogger OVERWADED said…

    An impact like Boston is about to make...

    KG, Pierce, and Allen sure looks great on paper.

  • At 7:34 PM, Blogger Matt said…

    I tried to make an honest and true assessment of what the future holds for the Magic. I am neither pessimistic nor optimistic, and at the same time not ignoring the positives that are going for the Magic. Remember when many of you faulted me for being too hard on coach Hill before the start of last season while many positives were going on, and I insisted that Hill will be the spoiler. I campaigned for firing Hill from the start of the season and some of you doubted that will ever happen, even after the season ended, but I was persistent until it did.

    Hill was my everyday's issue, but this assessment of the Magic's future is different. I am not going to mention ownership myopia or GM's faults on daily basis. However, when the issue comes up I am going to call it as I see it. In short, I don't have a positive view of the ownership or the GM, and rightfully so, but I am not going to harp on it at all times. However, I can’t let it slide when unwarranted praise is given. It pains me when unaccomplished speakers dare to speak publicly when they are better served to keep quiet. I want Otis Smith to stay away from cameras and microphones and get to work, and yes, stay away from Jameer’s agent. The same criteria that was foolishly applied to Darko, last year, should be applied to Jameer this year, and this time wisely.

  • At 8:32 PM, Blogger Matt said…

    The balance of power has just shifted in the East with Garnett going to Boston. The only problem is Doc Rivers is known to find ways to lose games when he shouldn't. Just kidding!

  • At 8:49 PM, Blogger WeRDevos said…

    I'm looking at Boston with KG, Allen & Pierce and wondering how long it will take for Doc Rivers to screw it up. I'm thinking 21-20 at the All-Star break for Boston. Because some things never change.

    I'm also looking at Phoenix get very old and wondering if Grant Hill taking Kurt Thomas' minutes is a good idea. Will injuries and bad calls derail them and put them out in the first round? If I were in Vegas I'd put money on it because some things never change.

    For a perfect summer the Magic would get a new building, a very good coach, sign Lewis and add depth at bigs and SG. In typical fashion, the front office overpaid for the SF and let a big man go without compensation. Because some things never change.

    I'm very excited about what SVG can do. He's the guy they should have targetted all along. I don't miss the 2nd round choice they gave up for him, because the Magic have never developed a second rounder who has contributed to the team. (some things never... yada yada)

    I'm very excited about Lewis teaming with DH. I just wish it was for 5 years and 60 million instead of 6 and 120+. It's not my money, but I'd prefer to have an extra $7 million quality player on the roster in 3 years. Everyone in Seattle says good things about him and I hope he puts the extra $60 million to good use.

    Can anyone explain why the Magic gave Seattle a second round pick so they would take a $9 million trade exception? That seems wrong.

    Darko turned out to be an empty suit here in Orlando. Lots of promise but no sign of a winners instinct or intellect. We'll find out how much was Hill and how much was Darko this year. I still wish he'd spent his summers in the U.S. bulking up, playing summer league and working with his teammates. The fact that he didn't seems like it was a big deal to the franchise.

    Still, the Magic should have gotten something back. But some things never change.

    Now we wait and see how they build a team that has no NBA quality starting PF, no proven NBA quality SG, and two short, inconsistent PG's.

    I'd be all excited about their 3 expiring contracts worth over $11 million but after doing nothing last year I don't trust that they'll figure out what to do with them this year.

    My big fear is the front office's intentions are the same as always: They only want to convince the Magic fans that the team is on track to win big at some time in the vague and distant future. That somehow this is the year that will be a small step forward, and that's all they think we want or deserve.

  • At 11:22 PM, Blogger OVERWADED said…

    Well said you guys...

    The Magic will and should put a lot of pressure on Dwight and Rashard to deliver; but why shouldn't they?

    And regardless of the holes, I find it hard to believe that those two guys, put with a group of solid role players won't deliver a winning season. I was thinking of the Houston Rockets. In the past few seasons, if they were in the East, they'd be favorites, but out West that's not the case. However, they've had a team full of holes, yet with Tracy and Yao they've put together 50 win seasons. I don't see why Rashard and Dwight can't have that kind of impact in Orlando, especially because they’re playing in the East.

    But that goes around the league. Almost every team has holes. The Cavs would be a black hole if Lebron wasn't playing there, yet they found a way to the Finals.

    The Magic need to find a style of play on the offensive end that works really well. We need to run an offense that causes a lot of problems for opposing teams. They'll need to use their quickness, always keep the floor spread for Dwight, and start moving the ball.

    Every mismatch can be looked at two ways. For example, if Rashard plays at the power forward spot, sure he could struggle if he was having to guard a dominate low post player. But, there are not many out there playing the power forward position now days. But for argument sake, let’s say Zach Randolph. Obviously the match up would be a challenge for Rashard, because Randolph is good on the block, and he uses his fat-ass well, but at the same time, will Randolph have any chance at guarding Rashard when he faces him up and uses his speed? Odds are, Rashard would be in for a big game, and Randolph would have trouble staying out of foul trouble. As for the defensive end, Rashard isn’t a little guy. Just because he’s as fast a guard, can dribble, move, and shoot like a guard, doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some muscle on him.

    All I'm saying is mismatches can and should go both ways. Nobody understood this LESS than Brian Hill. So, here's when a mismatch goes bad, and Brian Hill was famous for this night in and out. Think of Jameer Nelson. He's small, but he's quick. The only way he can excel on the floor is with his speed. The season before last Hill cut the team loose, he let Jameer run, and run some more. However, last season, he slowed him and the team down. In effect, he made Jameer useless. His speed was usually a non factor in the slow half court sets, and the only way he'd have a decent game was if his jumper was going, which he often shied away from (especially his 3 point shot), because Brian Hill always wanted players going to the basket first. Well, Jameer often tried to do that in the slow offensive sets, with the floor in a traffic jam because of the lack of shooters, and turnovers became a big problem.

    A coach can only try and change a player so much. You can't take a player out of his comfort zone, especially on the offensive end. You have to let them play the way they're confident in playing. Small things can be added as time goes on, but a coach can't force a player to do something he's not good at, it just won't work. (EX. Jameer and Grant in a "walk the ball up the court offense"...Dooling playing two guard...Darko forced on the block...Dwight on the floor with a bunch of players who lack range...) You’d think these kinds of things should be obvious.

    It's on Stan to make this work. It's a team game on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. That is to often forgotten in the NBA today. If Stan can get the right combination of players out there, and they can learn to play as a team, and use one another to their advantage, that'll make up for any deficiencies.

    As for Boston next season; it'll be interesting to keep an eye on them. KG isn't a kid anymore, and both Pierce and Allen have had their injury problems. However, you’d think in the East, they should win if KG and one of the other two stay healthy. But for some reason, when a group of players like this get put together, it never ends up working out. Something always happens; leave it to Doc to figure out what. Although he is due for a little luck; but I guess he's lucky to still have a job after how bad they've been in recent years.

  • At 7:56 AM, Blogger Matt said…

    WeRDevos, I appreciate and understand your candid statements. Nicely thought and written. OVERWADED, I don't doubt your statement that mismatches could be exploited at either side of the court, and I totally agree that smaller teams are better served to run. But in order to run don't you have to defend well leading to a rebound or block to start the run? One other note; you may say all you want about Grant, but wasn't he our best finisher in a run offense?

  • At 12:15 PM, Blogger Big Figure said…

    When it comes to a championship,the coaches and players decide that on the floor with their play when you have the right combination of coach and players. Also with battie and dwight manning our front court positions,dwight lead the league in rebounding for most of the year and finished third,rebounding and running wont be a problem for the magic. Grant was our best open court finisher,the problem is he never got ample opportunities in the run game because we didnt run an up-tempo offense,factor in that he was playing out of position and it basically hampered the statistical output that grant is known for,grant should be getting triple doubles from the small-forward spot,not trying to out score opposing shooting guards from the two spot,he's outmatched because he doesnt even shoot three's,this is the same thing i dont want to see happen to trevor,he needs to only play the three so his total game can be taken advantage of.

  • At 2:47 PM, Blogger OVERWADED said…

    Grant was probably our best finisher when we ran (the few times we did). He did that very well, and that's almost the only thing he did very well. He was almost a none factor in our half court offense. His only option was go one on one, which usually meant he was pulling up for a 15 footer. Or, having the ball passed to him on from the weak side, which was usually a jumper on the baseline. I know he had a solid little midrange jumper, be he didn't do much else. However, as BIG pointed out, I'll give Grant the benefit of the doubt. I think if he was playing under a better coach, in a faster offense, playing his natural position, we might have seen a few more flashes of Grant Hill of old. Also, he wouldn't have been a defensive liability if he would have been defending the small forwards of the league. It's amazing how much the head coaching of Brian Hill butchered these players and team.

    Dwight is one of the best rebounders in the league, if not the best. Rashard averaged nearly 7 rebounds last season. Battie can grab his share. Even Hedo has the ability to rebound from time to time. I think we'll be fine.

    One last thought; since when has Phoenix defended or rebounded well? I know they’re not bad, but they don’t excel in those areas either. Obviously that helps, but a team can push the ball even off of a made basket, rather than walking it up and letting the defense get setup.

  • At 2:57 PM, Blogger OVERWADED said…

    If smaller teams are better served to run, which one of these smaller teams are defending and rebounding well?

    And if they're holding their own with a smaller lineup, then why can't the Magic do the same thing?

    The thing with defense and rebounding is most of it is just effort; it's hard work. The best defenses on not based off of individuals. The best defenses are teams working together (just look at what the Spurs did to Lebron). And with the right direction from the coach, I don’t see why the Magic can’t have a solid team defense, especially when you have Dwight as insurance anchoring the defense.

  • At 3:57 PM, Blogger Matt said…

    Well said Big Figure and OVERWADED. Typically, teams can run better off of a miss (and rebound) or a blocked shot, and that is where we could have been better off, in my view, having the services of Darko and Grant. Does anybody know why the front office was surprised when Grant signed with PHO? Did they even try to sign him up? That is not supposed to be a mystery.

    One last note, with Nash in PHO, every situation is a run situation but Nash is the one and only. The only other team that came close to it was the GS Warriors. Typically, teams cannot run when defenses are set in halfcourt. You can walk it up using the full 24 second shot clock or speed it up, but can we call the latter a run offense? I tend to think no but please correct me if I am mistaken.

  • At 5:08 PM, Blogger OVERWADED said…

    The Warriors are definitely a run & gun team. They did it with a bunch of guards and forwards. Now of course Baron Davis is better than Jameer Nelson, but they do have one thing in common, they are both shoot first point guards.

    Nash is Nash, just as Kidd is Kidd; and we have neither of them...

    But just like last season showed, a team that is going to push the ball can’t do it with one player alone. Grant often ran the floor every time, but nobody ran with him. I blame nobody but Brian Hill for that.

    I wouldn't have minded if Grant Hill would have stayed here, but as a bench player. I've always said that. But he still thinks he's a starter in this league, and I just don't agree with that. Then add in the fact that we are stocked at his position, and by him staying around, all it would have done was ate into Ariza and Redick's playing time.

    I tend to agree more with werdevos here; we should have traded him and his expiring contract last season so we could have gotten something in return for him. But that didn't happen, and I'm still happy we're moving on from that era.

    Back to the offense; there have been teams that have been successful with up-tempo offenses. One of the recent ones that come to mind was the Seattle Sonics of 05. This was the last season Nate McMillan coached. They finished with 52 wins and won their division. They were an up-tempo team, run & gun, and they didn't have a "Steve Nash". Actually, that was the lone season Rashard Lewis was an all-star.

    I don't envision the Magic becoming the Suns, Sonics, or Warriors. I think they can become a variation of all of them. They just need to always push the ball, and make defenses stay on their toes and work.

    Last year, we couldn't have been slower. Defenses were able to walk up the floor against us. We put no pressure on any teams to defend us. We ran the most predictable offense in the league, and even worse, had the wrong players on the court to do so. At least when Hill ran that offense in the 90’s Shaq was surrounded by a bunch of shooters. Would Dwight Howard have lead the league in turnovers if there were shooters surrounding him on the floor? Doubtful...

    I watched the Stan Van Gundy interview on Sun Sports last night. There was nothing special that stood out to me. He seemed to pretty much give the "safe answer" to every question. I actually enjoyed watching the re-run of Dwight’s interview before more so. However, Stan did mention Grant. He said they would have liked to have him back, but they knew it was a good possibility he was going to go elsewhere. He also mentioned Darko, and he said Dave and Otis did "everything they could" to keep him and sign Rashard. I didn’t really buy the answer. I figured he was just saying what he was supposed to say. It was a good waste of a half hour; but nothing anyone would regret missing.

  • At 7:25 PM, Blogger Matt said…

    I watched that interview, too. SVG took the safe route but he was pleasant. I expect for shooters to assume a bigger role in new Magic system, amongst them the forgotten name; Keith Bogans.

  • At 7:43 PM, Blogger OVERWADED said…

    Keith Bogans is a forgotten man. I don't think I've heard his name mentioned once, besides occasionally on our blog.

    I myself do not view Keith as a starter, but he should have a chance, considering his can knock down a 3, and is a solid defender. He might actually surprise some people.

  • At 4:04 AM, Blogger Mr-Kwon said…

    I don't agree with some of what you said. Lewis, lets all be real about him. He is no shape a form Michael Jordan what so ever. He isn't even as good as Joe Johnson.

    His defense won't improve. Difference between Mike was that Mike accomplished playing defense within the first 3 years of his career. Rashard is already at the mid-way point of his career.

    Already at the prime of his career turning 28 at the beginning of the season. What you saw last year was basically what you are projected to get from him next next year. Except his point total, and his Shot Attempts will be lower.

    Also, players like Lewis who aren't non-Superstar players. He will just turn into a roll player in the middle of his 6 year contract. By that time, we will be looking for another wing player which Dwight Howard will be paired up with.

    And with Dwight Howard. There that word goes again. "Potential". I know he will be a great player in the future. But this isn't really where you could say he is ready. This guy still dosen't even have a post game. He still dunks the ball alot and does putbacks, where he gets the majority of his points. Dwight is like 3-4 years from having that serious post game.

    Yes I do agree. Otis a big screwup. I thought this guy was going to be a serious GM. Then he made acouple of bone-headed moves that even the Atlanta Hawks wouldn't even do. Creative financing my ass. Yeah, pay a whole bunch of money to a 3rd option for a championship team. That really helps the cause otis.

    I wouldn't be surprised if he gets fired within the next 1-2 years.


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