31 August 2007

The Southeast Division Outlook, Part Five: Washington Wizards

Before going on with today's preview, I'd like to acknowledge that divers in Pennsylvania are searching the Delaware river for Floyd Nelson, Jameer Nelson's father, who went missing from his tugboat repair shop job yesterday. It doesn't look like much good can come of this, and my thoughts are with Jameer and his family. For what it's worth, Mr. Nelson wrote a book about Jameer, which can be purchased from Amazon.com by clicking here.

And now, the preview, sans introductory text:

Washington Wizards
Last season: 41-41, second in Southeast

  • Guard Nick Young (via draft)
  • Guard Dominic McGuire (via draft)
  • Center Oleksiy Pecherov (via 2005 draft)
  • Forward Jarvis Hayes (via free-agency to Detroit)
The Wizards are a tough team to figure out. When healthy, the trio of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler, and Antoine Jamison is one of the best in the league; any one of those guys is capable of scoring 40 points on any given night. Their biggest weakness was their complete lack of an interior presence; Etan Thomas just isn't cutting it.

Naturally, the solution for the Wizards' lack of a pivot-man was for them to spend their two draft picks this year on guards. When I first sat down to write this piece, I was ready to dismiss the Wizards as irrelevant, at least for the coming season. But then I looked at the Eastern standings from last season, and I was astonished at how good the Wizards are when their big three is healthy. In fact, they controlled the Southeast division for an eleven-week span, only yielding to the Heat when Arenas and Butler went down with season-ending injuries.

Washington didn't address its biggest area of need, but it also didn't lose much; only Jarvis Hayes is gone, and he was a marginal player. Essentially, the Wizards are fielding the exact same team that was a conference contender for much of last season. I expect them to maintain that position this year.

30 August 2007

The Southeast Division Outlook, Part Four: Orlando Magic

The so-called Dog Days of Summer are here, which means the NBA season is still an eternity away -- and by 'an eternity', I mean 'two months'. Free-agents have been allowed to sign with teams for over a month, and there aren't any stars left in the pool. In other words, barring trades, most NBA teams have their core group of players in place, which means it's not unreasonable to start evaluating them.

Bearing that in mind, I thought I'd review the moves the Magic and their Southeast rivals made this summer and how those moves change the complexion of the division.

The Division Outlook series will run through this week and in alphabetical order by city. Today's post features the Orlando Magic.

Orlando Magic
Last season: 40-42, third in Southeast

  • Forward Adonal Foyle (via free-agency from Golden State)
  • Center Marcin Gortat (via 2005 draft)
  • Forward Rashard Lewis (via sign-and-trade with Seattle)
  • coach Stan Van Gundy (former Miami consultant)
  • Guard Travis Diener (via free-agency to Indiana)
  • coach Brian Hill (fired; now an assistant in New Jersey)
  • Guard Grant Hill (via free-agency to Phoenix)
  • Forward Darko Milicic (via free-agency to Memphis)
The Magic have been in the news more often this summer than at any other time in recent memory. The Billy Donovan Saga was memorable for all the wrong reasons, but the team was able to salvage that mess by hiring the offensive specialist Stan Van Gundy, a proven NBA coach. They followed that up by getting the most-coveted free-agent available, Rashard Lewis, even though it meant vastly overpaying for him.

However, one could argue the Magic lost as much talent as they gained: Grant Hill and Darko Milicic, two starting-quality players, bolted to chase a championship and playing time, respectively. Those departures leave the Magic thin at shooting-guard and power-forward, with no clear-cut starter at either position yet. Signing Lewis compounded that issue by giving the Magic too many small-forwards; Hedo Turkoglu and Trevor Ariza will either have to lose playing time or start playing out-of-position, which isn't great in the least.

Adonal Foyle provides the Magic with shot-blocking, but little else. He struggled to log minutes last season with Golden State, which runs an uptempo offensive system similar to the one Van Gundy figures to implement in Orlando. The other center, Marcin Gortat, is younger and more athletic, but will likely find himself behind Foyle on the depth chart because he will need time to adjust to playing against NBA-level talent after having spent the past several years playing in Poland.

But I'm not worried too much about any of that. Why? Stan Van Gundy is known for getting the best out of his players. In his first season as Miami's head coach, he improved the Heat by 17 games -- and this was in Dwyane Wade's rookie year, when he wasn't quite the player he is today. Oh, and that Shaq guy they have now wasn't there either. I'm not saying that the Magic are going to win 57 games, but I am saying is that they will improve. That said, they still have to contend with Washington and Miami for the division crown, and the Central and Atlantic divisions are filled with playoff contenders that could squeeze either of those two teams out of the playoffs.

29 August 2007

Tell Harris Rosen Where He Can Stick It

Warning: Hard-head area.
Photo by Roberto Gonzales, the Orlando Sentinel

Sore-loser/baby/tremendous d-bag Harris Rosen, an International Drive hotelier, has launched his bid to block construction a new arena in downtown Orlando as well has renovation of the Citrus Bowl football stadium. Rosen's group of volunteers is prepared to collected 31,000 signatures in 31 days; if successful, approval for any sports facility exceeding $25 million in construction costs will have to come from the people of Orange County. The Sentinel has the full story.

Apparently, Rosen's troops will be avoiding the Winter Park/Maitland/Edgewater area, which means I won't be able to personally give them a piece of my mind. But if one of these clowns comes to your door and asks for your signature, don't just slam it angrily in their face; tell them where they can stick their stupid petition, and then slam the door.

The arena vote was good enough for the Orange County commission, so it should be good enough for the petition gatherers. Orlandoans, do you want your town to be second-rate forever? Or do you want it to take the next step towards respectability? Having the NBA's first green-certified arena would certainly advance us in that direction, as well as having an up-do-date football stadium, which could attract major bowl games and conference championships.

Don't oppose the arena and don't give in to the opposition. Put your foot down on their scrawny necks and don't take it off until they stop breathing.

If you'll excuse me, I have a lunchbreak to enjoy. I'll try not to set off the fire-alarms with the steam coming from my ears.

The Southeast Division Outlook, Part Three: Miami Heat

The so-called Dog Days of Summer are here, which means the NBA season is still an eternity away -- and by 'an eternity', I mean 'two months'. Free-agents have been allowed to sign with teams for over a month, and there aren't any stars left in the pool. In other words, barring trades, most NBA teams have their core group of players in place, which means it's not unreasonable to start evaluating them.

Bearing that in mind, I thought I'd review the moves the Magic and their Southeast rivals made this summer and how those moves change the complexion of the division.

The Division Outlook series will run through this week and in alphabetical order by city. Today's post features the Miami Heat.

Miami Heat

Last season: 44-38, first in Southeast

  • Guard Daequan Cook (via draft)
  • Guard Penny Hardaway (via free-agency from career limbo)
  • Forward Alexander Johnson (via free-agency from Memphis)
  • Guard Smush Parker (via free-agency from the Los Angeles Lakers)
  • Guard Eddie Jones (via free-agency to Dallas)
  • Forward Jason Kapono (via free-agency to Toronto)
  • Forward James Posey (via free-agency to Boston)
The lingering health issues of Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal are only the first of many concerns the Heat should have entering this season. In addition to injuries to their franchise cornerstones, the Heat face the reality of a supporting cast of has-beens with deteriorating skills (Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton, Jason Williams, and Antoine Walker), the departure of three solid wing contributors (Jones, Kapono, and Posey), and a dearth of young talent (Chris Quinn? Daequan Cook? Dorell Wright?). It's not all lost, though; they still have Udonis Haslem, a solid complement to Shaquille O'Neal, in the starting lineup at the four. Other than that, what's the good news?

Well, they are just one year removed from, you know, winning an NBA title with mostly the same core of guys. Then again, they're also just a few months removed from getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs... with mostly the same core of guys. However, it's difficult to bet against a team with the deadly combo of Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal, provided that both players are healthy. However, with the possibility that Wade may miss the start of the season, the Heat may have to dig themselves out of a hole if they hope to repeat as division champs.

Given the new dynamics in the Southeast division this summer, it's not farfetched to imagine that Shaq will be hitting the golf links earlier than he is used to next season; the Heat are no longer playoff locks.
Photo by David Dow, NBA Entertainment

From an additon/subtraction standpoint, the Heat lost more than they gained. If they're banking on Hardaway to replicate Jones' numbers (9.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists), they're going to be disappointed. Penny hasn't had a season like that since 2002/2003; his best years are well behind him. Parker should be an adequate replacement for Gary Payton should he choose to retire; the same could be said for Alexander Johnson, who could play for Alonzo Mourning if 'Zo gets fatigued. What the Heat can't replace is Jason Kapono's three-point shooting (.514 %, first in the league) and James Posey's hustle.

Is another division title out of the question? Absolutely not. But the Heat's grip on the Southeast loosened considerably this summer, making the possibility of Orlando or Washington seizing it much more likely.

28 August 2007

The Southeast Division Outlook, Part Two: Charlotte Bobcats

The so-called Dog Days of Summer are here, which means the NBA season is still an eternity away -- and by 'an eternity', I mean 'two months'. Free-agents have been allowed to sign with teams for over a month, and there aren't any stars left in the pool. In other words, barring trades, most NBA teams have their core group of players in place, which means it's not unreasonable to start evaluating them.

Bearing that in mind, I thought I'd review the moves the Magic and their Southeast rivals made this summer and how those moves change the complexion of the division.

The Division Outlook series will run through this week and in alphabetical order by city. Today's post features the Charlotte Bobcats.

Charlotte Bobcats

Last season: 33-49, fourth in Southeast

  • Forward Jermareo Davidson (via draft)
  • Forward Jared Dudley (via draft)
  • Guard Jason Richardson (via trade with Golden State)
  • coach Sam Vincent (former Dallas assistant)
  • coach Bernie Bickerstaff (moved to front-office)
  • Guard Brevin Knight (waived)
  • Center Jake Voskuhl (via free-agency to Milwaukee)
The Bobcats, with an all-time record of 77-169, have not enjoyed much success since their inception, but this year's team is the best yet and appears to be ready to make a run at respectability. Trading for Jason Richardson, who becomes the Bobcats' first-ever legitimate scoring threat, was an inspired move for two reasons: it shows that the team wants to win now and it shows that the team isn't afraid to spend money to win. And in addition to taking on Richardson's hefty contract, the Bobcats re-signed Gerald Wallace and Matt Carroll to long-term deals. The core is in place.

High-flying Jason Richardson will become Charlotte's go-to scorer this season.

Photo by the Charlotte Bobcats

However, if the Bobcats are to make a playoff run this season, they'll have to overcome some fairly large obstacles. In addition to adjusting to Richardson's presence, the Bobcats would have to rely on some combination of Orlando, Washington, and Miami faltering. They'd also have to hope that Raymond Felton is ready to play big minutes and be a leader; Felton's backup, the oft-injured veteran Brevin Knight, was waived earlier this summer. Then there's the questionable health of power forwards Emeka Okafor and Sean May, who combined to miss 62 games last season.

Summarily, the Bobcats are much-improved and could raise some eyebrows this season. Still skeptical? Check out this post by Brett over at BobcatsPlanet (via TrueHoop), which shows that the Bobcats would have been playoff contenders last season if Gerald Wallace hadn't gotten off to a slow start due to injury. Might the Magic have been on the outside looking in at season's end? And if so, would that arena deal gotten greenlighted earlier this summer? The mind wonders.

27 August 2007

Dwight Howard Is Struggling...

... in the FIBA Tournament of the Americas, which continues tonight at 11:00 EST as the United States takes on Mexico and its "Cuarenta Minutos de Infierno" press defense.

The United States has cruised to big victories over inferior competition throughout this Olympic qualifying tournament, but it's largely due to Carmelo Anthony's ability to score at will and Kobe Bryant's ability to shut down the opponent's best player. The team's centers -- Howard, Amaré Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler -- have not been significant factors in any of the games.

Since this is a Magic blog, I'm inclined to focus on Howard's struggles and to leave Stoudemire and Chandler for the rest of the blogosphere. Dwight just doesn't look sharp. He looks confused and uncomfortable, especially offensively. Much of it has to do with not being the focus of the offense. With the Magic, he gets the ball on the low-block on virtually every possession; with Team USA, he's relegated to pick-setting, board-crashing, and shot-blocking duties.

Dwight Howard doing what he does best: rebound.
Photo by Gary Williams of FIBA

His picks haven't looked great, and his rolling to the basket has been even more awkward. But since Tony Battie is usually the guy setting picks for the Magic, I'm not overly concerned with Dwight's apparent lack of skill there. What bothers me is his rebounding. He's averaging 4.8 boards per game, which isn't bad, but he's had difficulty hanging on to rebounds he should be able to take easily. Balls bounce right to him, then ricochet off his hands and out-of-bounds. The same thing happens when he tries to receive entry passes. Apparently, bobbled balls don't count as turnovers in international competition, because Howard has only two turnovers to his name in 65 minutes of action. My rough estimate of dropped rebounds and entry passes for which Dwight is responsible is 6 or 7. He's going to need to tune-up before the NBA season starts; otherwise, he's in danger of leading the league in total turnovers... again.

It's not all bad news for Dwight, though. He's had a few spectacular dunks, and he leads Team USA with eight blocked shots, including this nasty swat of Venezuela's Greivis Vasquez:

Not in my house!
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler, NBA Entertainment

Additionally, his job as the Magic's center got a bit easier today with the official signing of Marcin Gortat, the Magic's 2005 second-round draft pick who has spent a few years getting seasoned overseas. His arrival brings the Magic's roster to 14 players, meaning the team will likely have that last spot open for the start of training camp.

Dwight Howard's showdown with Magic teammate Carlos Arroyo and his Puerto Rico squad will take place tomorrow night at 11:00 EST.

UPDATED - Who's Under Contract: A Tentative 2007/2008 Orlando Magic Roster

The following is a list of players the Magic have under contract for at least the 2007/2008 season. It will be updated as the summer progresses. The timestamp will be changed with each update, which will move the post back to the top of the page.

No.PlayerPos.Contract Expires
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket1Trevor ArizaSF2008/2009
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket30Carlos ArroyoPG2007/2008
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket40James AugustinePF2007/2008
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket4Tony BattiePF2009/2010

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket10Keith BogansSG2008/2009
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket5Keyon DoolingPG2007/2008
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Adonal FoylePF
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket8Pat GarrityPF2007/2008
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Marcin GortatC
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket12Dwight HowardC2013/20142
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket9Rashard LewisSF2012/20133
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket14Jameer NelsonPG2007/20084
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket7J.J. RedickSG2009/20105
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket15Hedo TurkogluSF2009/20106
Empty roster spot 1

1: Can opt-out at the end of the 2007/2008 season.
2: Signed five-year, $85.9 million contract extension, which will come into effect following the 2007/2008 season.
3: Signed six-year, $127.2 million contract with Seattle, then was traded to Magic.
4: Agent and team in negotiations for contract extension.
5: 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 seasons are team options.
6: Can opt-out at the end of the 2008/2009 season.

The Southeast Division Outlook, Part One: Atlanta Hawks

The so-called Dog Days of Summer are here, which means the NBA season is still an eternity away -- and by 'an eternity', I mean 'two months'. Free-agents have been allowed to sign with teams for over a month, and there aren't any stars left in the pool. In other words, barring trades, most NBA teams have their core group of players in place, which means it's not unreasonable to start evaluating them.

Bearing that in mind, I thought I'd review the moves the Magic and their Southeast rivals made this summer and how those moves change the complexion of the division.

The Division Outlook series will run through this week and be presented in alphabetical order by city. Today's post features the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta Hawks
Last season: 30-52, last in Southeast

  • Forward Al Horford (via draft)
  • Guard Acie Law IV (via draft)
  • None yet.
The Hawks lucked out in the draft by getting Horford, who was voted "most ready to contribute right away" by his peers. Although the Hawks are stocked with young power-forward types (Marvin Williams, Shelden Williams), none of them have panned-out so far. Teamed with center Zaza Pachulia and small-foward/freak-of-nature Josh Smith, Horford gives the Hawks a young, talented front line that should bloom over the course of the next several seasons.

Josh Smith models the Hawks' new home jersey, which will debut this season.
Photo by Scott Cunningham

Law has the chance to start alongside All-Star two-guard Joe Johnson in the Atlanta backcourt immediately; the Hawks' other two point-guards, Speedy Claxton and Tyronn Lue, are shaky veterans who would be backups on most playoff-caliber teams. Anthony Johnson, the ten-year veteran acquired at the trade deadline, was the Hawks' best point-man last season, and he has yet to re-sign.

Overall, the Hawks are more talented than last year's team, but they aren't going to scare any divisional opponents, at least not this season. Assuming that Joe Johnson remains in good health and Smith, Horford, and Law reach their potential, the Hawks will be in contention for a bottom-four playoff spot... in two or three years. Each other Southeastern team has more depth, which means the Hawks will likely be cellar-dwellers again this season. Don't let their mediocre record fool you, though; Atlanta will be "for real" soon enough. It's one of the benefits of having a core of young players who are on the same success timetable.

22 August 2007

Carlos Arroyo Shows Masonry Skills as Mexico Upsets Puerto Rico

Carlos Arroyo, who played a key role on the Puerto Rico team that beat the U.S. in the 2004 Olympics, was not at his best tonight against Mexico.

Photo by the Associated Press

If the Magic want to have their new arena built on-schedule, they might consider asking Carlos Arroyo to lend a hand. His brick-laying skills might come in handy.

Playing for Puerto Rico in the FIBA Tournament of the Americas, the Magic's backup point guard shot 0-for-10 from the field and scored four points as Mexico pulled off the upset.

I graded Carlos highly at the end of last season, and he typically plays well in international competition, so I was surprised to see just how awful he was tonight. If the game is rebroadcast, I might have to watch it. And if this game is any indication of Carlos' skills deteriorating, he may join Pat Garrity and Keith Bogans as one of the Magic's designated Gatorade-holders.

Of course, he might have just had a bad game and it's just an anomaly. But when you're as starved for Magic-related news as I am, you have to play up everything.

The Tournament of the Americas serves as a qualifier for the 2008 Olympics. The U.S. team, which features Dwight Howard on its roster, tips off its first game at 11:00 PM against Venezuela. My DVR, however, says the game doesn't start until 1:00 AM. Go figure.

Today, Magic Get Foyle; Tomorrow, Magic Fans Can Get Tickets

It's been so slow around the NBA that the news of Samuel Dalembert obtaining Canadian citizenship made the front-page of ESPN's NBA page last week. The Magic news has also slowed down a bit now that the Dooling/Garrity for Smith/Evans trade talk has died. Black and Blue has seen "insiders" post that the team will sign Adonal Foyle, but that hasn't been reported anywhere yet. That didn't stop Brendan over at Believing in Magic from posting his take on Foyle's potential signing and its impact on the rotation.

...would you look at that? As I was writing this post, word leaked that the Magic had agreed to terms with Adonal Foyle. Thanks to Black and Blue for the heads-up and to the Orlando Sentinel for getting the story.

Today, there is actual more news to report: Ticketmaster alerted me that single-game tickets for the Magic's upcoming 2007/2008 NBA season will go on-sale tomorrow at 10:00 AM. You can click here to browse the schedule and here to browse special multi-game ticket packages. Previously, only season-ticket packages were available to the public. As a Magic Insider, I was able to purchase the 10-game weekend package last week. Which games are you most looking forward to seeing? Let's discuss it in the comments.

On the whole, it hasn't been a bad day for the Magic. They shored up their frontcourt rotation and let their fans know that tickets will be available soon. Life is good. We'll see how it works out in October.

16 August 2007

Don't Free Keyon

Keyon Dooling wants you to keep him in Orlando. Also, he wears his sunglasses at night.

The Nuggets/Magic trade rumors heated up yesterday when John Denton reported that Denver may ask for both Pat Garrity and Keyon Dooling in exchange for Reggie Evans and J.R. Smith. Two days ago, I supported the idea of obtaining Evans. Now that Keyon's name has been brought up as bait, I've done a 180. Or, as Tracy McGrady might say, I've done a 360.

I concede that Keyon is not a great player, and I believe many would argue that he isn't even a good player. So as an individual player, he may not have much value. But as part of the Magic team, he has it in spades.

The Magic had good defensive numbers last season, although they may be more a reflection of slow pace than of actual ability. Keyon is an outstanding perimeter defender, capable of keeping pace with opposing point guards and forcing them into making bad decisions. True, the Magic have Dwight Howard and Tony Battie, two well-regarded defensive anchors, guarding the low blocks. But they're the last line of defense against an opponent's penetration. Keyon lowers the opponent's ability to get into the paint, saving Dwight and Tony some energy that they can later spend on the offensive end... okay, maybe just Dwight.

Dooling's ability to defend Kobe Bryant and the league's other premier guards would be sorely missed if he is traded.
Photo by Mark J. Terrill, the Associated Press

By including Dooling in a trade for Reggie Evans, the Magic would break-even at best; that is, they'd shore-up a need for rebounding while creating another need for perimeter defense. Consider also the Magic's other wing players: Trevor Ariza, Carlos Arroyo, Keith Bogans, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, and Hedo Turkoglu. Of those, only Ariza and Bogans are above-average defensively, and Bogans wasn't a rotation player last season and doesn't figure to be one this season. We can't expect Trevor Ariza to guard every opposing shooting guard or small forward. If the Magic trade Dooling and don't get a good defender in return, there would be no way for the Magic to contain the more potent backcourts in the East: Billups and Hamilton of Detroit; Hinrich and Gordon of Chicago; and Kidd and Carter of New Jersey. Why bother?

Keyon's familiarity with Stan Van Gundy's system should also be considered when determining whether or not to trade him. Whereas Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo will need time to adjust to running Stan the Man's offense, Dooling will not, as he played under Van Gundy in Miami for one season. His numbers were not spectacular -- per-game averages of 5.2 points and 1.8 assists -- but they did indicate efficiency; Keyon averaged fewer than one turnover per game. His assist ratio -- the likelihood that his touching the ball would lead to an assist -- was 22.4, the second-highest mark of his career. Additionally, his Player Efficiency Rating of 12.6 that season matches his previous career-high, which came during his rookie season with the Clippers.

It's easy to see why the Magic want Reggie Evans, but it should be even easier to see why they need Keyon Dooling. The Nuggets are smart to have an interest in him as well. Not only does his style fit-in with coach George Karl's run-and-gun system, but he's torched the Nuggets before, averaging 19.5 points per game on 61% shooting in the teams' two meetings last season.

Like all clichés, the phrase "you don't know what you have until it's gone" became so because it's so frequently true. Magic fans may experience that feeling next season if the team trades Keyon Dooling.

14 August 2007

Rumor Mill: Reggie Evans and Adonal Foyle?

I've spent much of my free time this week composing my upcoming Southeast Division preview. As such, I've been mum on the subject of two rumors involving the Magic, both of which involve the team filling a frontcourt need.

Reggie Evans is the first player to have his name brought up. He played sparingly with Denver last season, but he does have value as a rebounder. In fact, Evans has lead the league in rebound rate in each of the past three seasons. For the uninitiated, rebound rate is a measure of the likelihood that a player will rebound a missed shot while he is on the floor expressed as a percentage. Evans' rebound rate last season was 23, a remarkably high number. Consider that he has 9 other players on the floor with whom to fight for rebounds. Now consider that he will beat each of those 9 other players to the ball 23 % of the time.

In spite of his rebounding skills, Evans is most famous for grabbing Clippers center Chris Kaman in a sensitive area during the 2005/2006 playoffs. The Nuggets are so desperate to dump salary that they are apparently willing to ship Evans and his four-year, $20 million deal to Orlando in exchange for Pat Garrity, whose contract will expire after this season. I'm all for adding a rebounder of Evans' caliber, especially if it means losing Garrity, who no longer possesses NBA-level talent. I'm willing to put Evans' dubious past behavior and lack of offensive skills aside and would welcome this move if it were made.

The Evans trade may never come to fruition, though, as another post player has recently become available and aleady has an "in" with Magic management. The second, more prominent player mentioned is Adonal Foyle, the career-long Warrior who recently accepted a buyout from Golden State to become a free-agent. As others have pointed out, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Magic are keen on signing Foyle for the veterans' minimum, which is all the team can offer. Magic Assistant General Manager Dave Twardzik was in charge of the Warriors when they drafted Foyle in 1996 and apparently has a close relationship with him.

Foyle's age -- 32 -- doesn't concern me any more than Tony Battie's does, as Foyle is less than a year older than the Magic's incumbent starting power forward. He can rebound at Battie's level and is a better shot-blocking presence. His offensive game is more limited than Reggie Evans', but the Magic have enough scorers. I'm in favor of adding Foyle, but my endorsement of Evans is stronger, mostly because he doesn't miss the basket completely when he shoots.

Overall, Reggie Evans and Adonal Foyle aren't players to get too excited about, but they are still talented and would add depth to the Magic's frontcourt. If Chris Webber and P.J. Brown decide to sign elsewhere, Evans and Foyle are the two next-best things.

12 August 2007

Miffed about the Magic's move to Fox Sports Net? Tell Bright House About It.

A few days ago, the Magic announced that they would cease using their own in-house broadcast team for next season and instead, in effect, outsource 35 of their broadcasts to Fox Sports Net. The problem? FSN is not available for free to Bright House customers. Since Bright House has monopolized the Central Florida area, Magic fans are essentially being held hostage. The Magic's V.P. of communications, Joel Glass, covered the team's rear-end by telling the Sentinel's Tim Povtak "We're hopeful that Bright House and FSN/Sun Sports will come to an amicable resolution and continue to provide the best coverage for our fans."

Yesterday, the Sentinel featured this story, also by Povtak, on the front page of its sports section. From that story came some rather appalling news:

The Orlando Magic will be the only team in the NBA this season televising its games on a pay-extra format if cable-provider Bright House Networks is successful in negotiating Fox Sports into its digital sports pack.
I'm not here to complain to you about how much this news sucks for Magic fans. Instead, I'm passing along a way for them to express their displeasure to Bright House itself. The poster Magic Madness, who runs the Magic Madness forums, posted a link to this customer care page. After filling in your information, select "Ordering Services/Pricing Questions" from the SUBJECT drop-down menu, then select "Programming/Channel Request" from the CATEGORY drop-down menu. Once that's done, you can write your message to the cable company in the provided box. If there's a character limit, I didn't surpass it.

For what it's worth, here's what I wrote:
To whom it may concern:

I am one of many Orlando Magic fans currently living in a Bright House home. Recently, the Magic awarded 35 of next season's 82 games to Fox Sports Net, a channel that many viewers across Orlando cannot get without upgrading to a special package. I am writing to urge Bright House to speed along negotiations with the parties involved to make sure that the Magic fans in Orlando have a chance to see their team play this season.

It's not as if the Magic are a bad team; although they were disappointing last season, they added the best free-agent player available, Rashard Lewis, and figure to be much more competitive this season. Support for the Magic should grow as the team gets ready to enter its new arena in the coming seasons, but they can't do it without the support of the cable companies who are in charge of reaching the largest possible audience.

Please do everything you can to make the Magic visible. By agreeing to help pay for a new arena, they've shown their commitment to the city. Please do your part in showing your commitment to them by working out an agreement with Fox Sports Net.

Ben Q. Rock
Writing these letters may not change the outcome of the situation, but it gives us the satisfaction of knowing we did our part to help the Magic reach the widest possible audience.

And for the record, I used my real name in the letter I sent to Bright House.

10 August 2007

Dwight Howard's McFarlane Action Figure Revealed

Dwight Howard becomes just the third Magic player to be made into an action figure by McFarlane, joining Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill.
Photo courtesy McFarlane Toys

McFarlane Toys has unveiled photos of the NBA SportsPicks Series 13 lineup, and Dwight Howard is among the players represented. Howard is depicted in the Magic's blue road uniform at the apex of a jump, either grabbing a rebound or preparing to dunk; it depends on the viewer's perspective. I would have preferred a plastic interpretation of Howard's sticker-slam from the Dunk Contest, but this pose is pretty neat as well.

The figure will be released in December 2007. The other figures in this wave of NBA SportsPicks are Chris Bosh, LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. Photos of the entire lineup can be found here, and more photos of Howard's figure can be found here.

09 August 2007

Fuel For the Fire: Heat Sign Penny Hardaway

Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal went from being teammates in Orlando and in the Olympics to being rivals on new teams. They'll be back in action together this season with the Heat. (Note Grant Hill in the background of the Olympic picture. I weep for this franchise.)

Add another item to the list of reasons why the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat should hate each other.

Penny Hardaway has signed a one-year deal with the Heat
, reuniting him with former Magic teammate Shaquille O'Neal. Just off the top of my head, here's a list of players who have played for both the Magic and the Heat:
  • Michael Doleac
  • Keyon Dooling
  • Penny Hardaway
  • Shaquille O'Neal
  • Danny Schayes
  • Rony Seikaly
That list doesn't even count Stan Van Gundy, the Magic's newest head coach, who coached the Heat for two-plus seasons. It also doesn't count the fact that the Magic and Heat are in-state rivals, have played in the same division for their entire existence, and had a nice playoff rivalry once upon a time.

This signing is more or less a joke. Penny's skills began eroding during his time in Orlando, and he was a shadow of his former self when he played for the Suns and Knicks. Now, after being out of the NBA for nearly two years, he thinks he's going to come back and contribute significantly? Please. His bionic knee can't take any more than 15 minutes a night. If the Heat think Penny is going to replicate the production of Eddie Jones, who recently signed with Dallas, they've got another thing coming. As amagic25 put it over on Magic Madness, "the [H]eat is favored to win the 1995-1996 championship now."

Nonetheless, I'm happy with this news. Maybe the storylines between these two teams will be compelling enough that the Worldwide Leader will be forced to televise one of their games nationally.

02 August 2007

NBA Schedule Unkind to Magic

I came home from work today fully intending to write a long-winded post about the Orlando Magic's 2007/2008 schedule, but when I opened my RSS aggregator, I saw that Four Free Throws beat me to it (rated PG-13 for language). Here's an excerpt that illustrates how hard this season will be:

If those 11 away games in November aren't enough, then the fact that we play 14 of our 30 games against Western Conference opponents in the first two months should sway your opinion against the NBA's scheduling geniuses. Oh, and 9 of those games are AWAY games. Yes, that's right, almost TWO THIRDS of our away games against the western conference are in the first two months. That's brutal.
To add insult to injury, the Magic will be featured on national television exactly once: April 5th against the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

I understand that the Magic aren't a big-market team, but shouldn't the addition of Rashard Lewis to the team draw some sort of national interest? Shouldn't the opportunity to see Dwight Howard dunk all over people make people want to see the Magic? It's like we were a mediocre team last year or something.

Oh, wait.

Anyway, here is a list of ten eleven Magic games to look forward to next season:

2 Nov7:00 PMOur first shot at revenge against the team that beat us 8 times last season.
10 Nov7:00 PMFans in Orlando get their opportunity to boo Grant Hill and his Suns teammates into oblivion.
18 Nov6:00 PMThe Garnett/Allen/Pierce trio makes its Orlando debut.
21 Novat

8:30 PMWe'll find out just how well the Magic measure-up to the world-champion Spurs.
24 Nov7:00 PMStan Van Gundy tries to outcoach his teacher as his Magic take on divsion-rivals Miami Heat
26 Novat 10:00 PMDwight Howard vs. Greg Oden. 'Nuff said.
15 Dec7:00 PMThe Magic's first opportunity to crush Darko Milicic's soul.
31 Decat 2:00 PMWe get our first crack at Chicago, one of the East's top teams.
2 Jan7:00 PMWe ring in the New Year against New Jersey, a team against which we'll be vying for playoff position.
4 Feb7:00 PMThe Mavericks come to town to face us as part of a five-game homestand against teams that made the playoffs last year. The season could hang in the balance.
16 April7:00 PMWe close out the season against Washington, a tough divisional opponent. Given how evenly matched we are with them, this game could have huge playoff implications.

UPDATE: In my haste to get this entry posted, I forgot to add one important link. You can click here to purchase 2007/2008 Orlando Magic season-ticket plans. I'll let you know when individual game tickets can be purchased.

01 August 2007

Are the Magic a Playoff Team? Discussion From Around the Web

  • Unsilent Majority: "Tough break [sic] Orlando"
  • Ballhype: The Magic are a team "Expecting to make playoffs but probably won't"
  • Basketbawful: The Bucks and Magic will fight a losing battle for the final playoff spot.

(Kudos to Henry Abbott of TrueHoop for publishing this wrapup, from which the above quotes came)

Yes, the Trade To End All Trades has occurred, prompting every NBA fan with a pulse and a keyboard to make their playoff picks for next season. Nevermind the fact that the playoffs are eight-and-a-half months away.

Kevin Garnett's arrival in Boston may have knocked the Magic out of playoff contention.
Photo by Charles Krupa, the Associated Press

I should note that not all bloggers are taking a negative view of us. J.E. Skeets writes:
Who makes the playoffs? Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto, and Boston are locks. Miami, though they'll still sneak into the playoffs, won't even be the best team in Florida. Simply put: '06-07 Magic + Rashard Lewis - Brian Hill (!) = approximately 10 more wins. Yes, I think Orlando will win 50 games this year. Book it.
Brendan Sonnone of Believing in Magic also, uh, believes in us. Homerism? Perhaps. Worth reading? Yes.

So, with rare exception, most bloggers aren't giving us a chance. But ESPN's experts are a little kinder:

Does the addition of Rashard Lewis make the Magic a postseason lock?

Abbott: Like Boston, I feel the Magic need a top-flight point guard before they can be considered a reliable top Eastern team. And again, I'm feeling that barring a surprise there aren't a lot of Eastern spots up for grabs.

Hollinger: Again, not so fast. The Magic lost nearly as much as they gained between Hill, Darko and Diener, and their neighborhood just got tougher.

Stein: A lock, yes. Just because Lewis is way -- W-A-Y -- overpaid doesn't mean I don't like the idea of pairing Rashard with Dwight Howard. As long as we're only talking about finishing in the top eight, sure. Howard and Lewis aren't enough to lift Orlando to contender status, but those two get you in the playoffs in spite of some obvious holes around them.

Thorpe: Barring injury, probably yes. Especially with the new coach. They can play big or small effectively, and Dwight Howard should only keep growing as a player. Jameer Nelson is obviously a key, as is getting production from J.J. Redick. I like both to have better seasons this year.

Bucher: No lock, but I like their chances, as much because they hired Stan Van Gundy as having added Lewis to a team that squeaked into the playoffs last year. Boston is the only certifiable lottery team from last year joining the playoff mix and with the Wizards still a mixed bag and huge question marks about Miami, the Magic have as good a shot as they did last year. Which was good enough.

So they aren't singing our praises, but they aren't hanging us out to dry, either. But I get the feeling that it won't matter what we do when the season starts; we'll be disrespected no matter what. Let me explain: last year, we got off to a scorching 13-4 start, beating the Western-leading Jazz in Utah along the way. We were the toast of the league. Seriously.

Our season unraveled soon thereafter and we just squeaked into the playoffs, where we were summarily pounded by Detroit. We won a combined 10 games in December and January; to put that misery into perspective, we got our 10th overall victory three-and-a-half weeks into the season. The bottom dropped out. We were laughingstocks.

Dwight Howard couldn't have been satisfied with the way last season played out.
Photo by Gary W. Green, the Orlando Sentinel

So, even if we get off to a hot start this season, everyone will say we won't keep it up, pointing to last season as evidence. If we get off to a cold start, everyone will say we're paying the price for overpaying Rashard Lewis. And if we get off to a lukewarm start... it's still lukewarm. We won't get any respect.

All that lead me to write this entry. I'm playing the disrespect card and I'm not afraid to do so. The stuff the bloggers at the top wrote? That's bulletin-board material. We know that all too well. Remember when T-Mac said "now that we're in the second round" after going up 3-1 on the Pistons, only to lose out the rest of the way? You think that quote wasn't plastered all over the Pistons' locker room?

I don't claim to be read by anyone remotely connected with the Magic, so this entry won't motivate the team. What it should do is motivate its fans to stand and cheer, loudly and proudly, for their team. Let them talk smack about us. Let them write us off. We'll show 'em.

It worked for Golden State.

Photo by Ben Margot, the Associated Press

It can work for us.

So, what do you think? Are we a playoff team next year? I posed this question in a poll, but Blogger is goofing-up on me and it won't work, so it's stuck at the bottom of the page below my picture until further notice.