He gives Hill's abandonment of the Magic for a chance to win a championship credit for giving Hedo the chance to step up. (I wonder how that worked out for Hill? Anyone know?)
While we wait to see if the Magic play Detroit (2-2 season record) or Philadelphia (3-1 Magic) it's a good time for me reflect on the season to date.
In no particular order:
Magic point guards seem to be universally considered the team weak spot. But Turk makes up the difference quite a bit. He led the team in assists 28 times this year during the regular season and twice in five games vs. Toronto.
After the series I am now a Chris Bosh fan. He played himself to exhaustion against the Magic, then after the series was over didn't make excuses and congratulated the Magic for being better and deserving to win.
No one has had 3 20-20 games in a series since 1972 and the national press still doesn't care about the Magic, and hardly cares about Superman. PTI didn't even mention the Magic making the second round or the feat the next day.
Rashard Lewis has really stepped up his defense in the post season. He had two 10 rebound games all year and suddenly pulls 13 boards in back to back games while Howard is pulled away guarding Bosh. Nice job stepping up.
How did SVG finish 8th in coach of the year voting? At the beginning of the year all the "experts" were predicting Magic having a poor year due to the loss of Hill, Battie & Darko. All Van Gundy did was get Howard focused on defense, Turk the MIP award, create a competent and confident offense and win 52 games for the first winning record in five years and first 50 win season in 12 years. Nice job.
Even better job by Dwight Howard who responded positively to being benched by SVG for worrying too much about offense and not paying attention to defense.
It will be hard to move ahead in the playoffs with basically a seven man rotation consisting of three front court and four backcourt players playing 96% of the minutes. Four other guys have played spot minutes.
Hedo and Shard had 49 assists between them in the Toronto series. Nelson, Bogans, Evans, Arroyo and Dooling had 41 assists. Jameer had an assist to turnover ratio of 1.85, Lewis was 3.67.
The Magic shot .386 from 3 point range during the regular season, but a poor .324 during the Toronto series while winning 4-1. 3 pointers and defense is a pretty good combination.
The difference a coach makes. Magic shot 1,112 more 3 point attempts and made 459 more of 'em than last year. Their adjusted field goal % jumped from .500 under Hill to .537 under SVG. All that offense didn't hurt the defense much, adjusted field goal defense dropped from .480 under Hill to .484 under Van Gundy.
The GM files.
Great move to risk firing ownership favorite B. Hill after he made the playoffs.
The team recovered from Donovan embarrassment to hire SVG who will be the best Magic coach in history.
Otis overpaid for Lewis, but Lewis sure has stepped up big in the playoffs so far.
Grant Hill had appendectomy surgery to add to an amazing list of injuries over the past 8 years and missed 12 games during the season, then missed two games with a tender groin in the playoffs in Phoenix's very dissappointing season. At 35, injury prone, and never been to the second round of the playoffs (Hello T-Mac) it is just as well he went away.
Darko was going to have his break out year, instead played 70 games was 6th on Memphis in minutes played while averaging 7.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 1.6 bpg. He's 22 now and at $6.5 million per season is kind of overpaid. Since the Magic don't have a playoff worthy big man coming off the bench so far this year, it still would have been nice to have him around. But I suspect he would have spent the year pouting and hating SVG.
The Ariza trade worked out (this year) very well for the Magic. There were hints that the Magic were very worried about Ariza's feet. That tall 21 year olds who have already developed foot problems are a huge long term risk. Turns out Ariza only played 24 games for the Lakers and looks like he is out for the playoffs. Last summer I thought this guy was going to be one of cornerstones of the Magic's future, now his career may be in doubt. The Magic may have given up the better talent, but got back Mo Evans who started 47 games and was fourth on the team in 3 pointers made. Cook played in 45 games and is merely a servicable tall guy.
Lack of deadline trades / Garrity still on the team. I'm deeply dissappointed that for the second year in a row there was no deadline trade. The Magic had a stack of expiring contracts that could have been traded for backup frontcourt help and /or point guard improvement but it didn't happen. Without the extra help, they will have trouble continuing to advance in the playoffs. For twelve years now the Magic have always failed to get adequate help for their stars and this year was no exception.
Next Round of Playoffs
You have to believe that any 52 win team with Dwight Howard has a decent chance to lead his team to the finals. Detroit has a way of giving away series to young teams they don't respect enough. Boston could win it all, but also looks... fragile and is full of players and coaches that have never made it to the finals.