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.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Marc Stein of ESPN on the Magic So Far

ESPN - Weekend Dime: The Year's Final Tally - NBA

One of my favorite execs (who shall remain nameless) has been all over me lately about the Magic.

I admit it: This guy called it. He told me back in the summertime that the Magic would be doing what they're doing, cementing themselves as the third-best team in the East despite what I (and others) deemed insufficient tweaking to the roster. I didn't listen.

So I'm giving him the floor now, after he checked in to respond to our selection of Boston's Kevin Garnett over Dwight Howard as the best defensive player in the league with one-third of the season complete in the last Weekend Dime:

"I think it's time to start talking about Orlando as a contender," he said. "Who can't they beat? They can play any style. They can play big. They can play small. They've got so many shooters that J.J. Redick can't even get on the court for them.

"[Beating Boston or Cleveland in the playoffs] might not happen this year, but Dwight Howard is only getting better every day. What I would worry about more is whether they can re-sign Hedo [Turkoglu]. It looks like they're going to have problems keeping him, and he's huge for them.

"But [general manager] Otis Smith has done a good job there. They've put together that team nicely. They overpaid Rashard Lewis, but then they have Jameer Nelson, who is going to outperform his contract.

"I'll agree with you on KG. He's still the best defensive player in the league. He's just so smart. He reads what the other team is trying to run offensively and tries to disrupt it. Dwight Howard is not that kind of defender yet.

"But don't sleep on the Magic. The only two problems I see are re-signing Hedo -- and LeBron James. I wonder if they're going to end up like Cleveland in the [late] 1980s ... with LeBron as MJ. The Cavs had a good team but could never get past Michael."

Team officials know better than sportswriters that defense is rarely something you can judge with statistics as the main thrust, not even when the individual numbers are so gaudy that Howard is threatening to join Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1975-76), Bill Walton (1976-77), Hakeem Olajuwon (1989-90) and Ben Wallace (2001-02) in the exclusive club of players to lead the league in blocks and rebounds in the same season.

Numbers simply don't account for a player's ability to defend players of all sizes ... or his help defense ... or the impact of a defensive anchor like Garnett, who can lift his teammates' intensity and hold them accountable like a coach. The Celtics are in the midst of one of the best starts in NBA history, rank at or near the top in virtually every defensive category despite losing James Posey in free agency and have quickly hushed all the questions coming into the season about their hunger for another championship. All of that is why KG prevailed here.

However ...

I had to let my guy have his say. The Magic have been everything he said they'd be so far.

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