Thursday, December 06, 2007

Can you feel the Magic?

As I was laying down at the tattoo studio yesterday afternoon, I began to think about how long it had been since I’d written here. I mean really written. I’m not quite sure why I thought of this other than the fact that you’ll think about just about anything in order to distract yourself from the sensation of being repeatedly jabbed with a needle all across your stomach and chest. Of course, there are a number of reasons for my lack of blog related productivity. For one, I’m lazy…after that you get into a number of excuses, chief among them is that I’m spending a good deal of my time right now looking for a new job (long story). It’s not an especially urgent search at the moment but it’s still something I’m dedicating a large portion of my normal blog reading and writing time to. Next in my line of excuses is that the only major topics that I’ve been inclined to write about recently are Tim Tebow’s historic Heisman run and the Orlando Magic.

I’ve held off on Tebow because I think there’s been more than enough Heisman discussion between the internet, TV and radio to last us all. My completely
biased two cents probably isn’t going to change your mind or bring up any points that haven't already been illuminated. I’ll just say this: If the Heisman was voted on like the MVP (Which it isn’t, in any way, shape, or form) there’s no question that Tebow should win. Florida is a 5 win team without Tebow at QB this year, maybe worse. Will he win this year? My PS2 says no. Colt Brennan stole the Heisman from Tebow and Percy Harvin on my 2007 season which proves that Heisman voters are the same level of curmudgeonly idiotic in virtual reality as they are in everyday life.

As for the Magic, I have often refrained from addressing them in this space due to a fear that my praise of them will immediately result in a drastic downturn in their collective fortune. This, of course, only proves that I’m as big an idiot as the aforementioned Heisman voters, as it should be clear by now that the Magic will, always eventually falter and go back to their familiar, pathetic ways.

Rashard Lewis: All-Star Forward, Part-time Ninja

Except, I don’t really feel like that this year. Make no mistake about it, this Magic team is not ready to make the NBA, or probably even the Eastern Conference, Finals. However this team is for real. I mean, they were #1 in’s weekly Power Ratings this week, which I’m pretty sure is a franchise first. More importantly, they just went 4-1 on a West Coast road trip which is always a good barometer of whether an Eastern Conference team is real or not. They have a better collection of talent than any Magic team in the last decade (I know thats not saying much, but still) and that collection has fit together very nicely on the court thus far. Listen, I was as dubious about the Rashard Lewis signing as anyone (and I still think that he’s overpaid and his contract will be a huge burden on the franchise in 5 years) but his presence has completely changed the feel of this team. He’s a known commodity in the NBA. He gets 20+ points nearly every night and does it in an efficient manner (this can’t be underestimated). By doing this, he opens up space for Dwight Howard to operate in the paint while also lessening the scoring burden on guys like Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson.

Turkoglu is a fine NBA player but he’s more playmaker than scorer. He can’t be the #2 scoring option on a good NBA team. However, he can thrive as the #3 guy. In this role, Turkoglu can play freely and create shots for himself and his teammates as opposed to feeling like if he doesn’t score 20 then his team has no chance. Furthermore, while the forward combo of Lewis and Hedo is pretty bad defensively, it’s a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses. Both can create off the dribble against less agile big men, and both can shoot well enough that defenses have to honor them, which only opens up driving lanes for Nelson an space in the post for Howard to operate. Of course, having a beast like Dwight Howard roaming the paint makes it much easier for Stan Van Gundy to throw this frontcourt on the floor together. He dominates the paint in most games and he's still not even near his peak. It's really amazing to watch his game mature right in front of you.

There’s another thing that gives me confidence in the 2007-08 Orlando Magic, Stan Van Gundy. I’m serious here. Van Gundy is a very good coach. Everybody seems to forget what he did with the Miami Heat during Dwyane Wade’s rookie year. That team started out 0-9 and was left for dead by the media. But once Van Gundy figured out how to best utilize and motivate his players, the Heat went on a tear and ended up in the 2nd round of the NBA playoffs. Van Gundy is a flexible coach who will tweak his sets to accentuate his player’s strengths. Which is in direct contrast to former head man Brian Hill who refused to push the tempo despite having a young team that didn’t shoot particularly well and needed to get it’s young (and unbelievably athletic) big man some easy buckets. Van Gundy has not only employed an uptempo system and gone with Turkoglu and Lewis at the forwards, he’s also instituted the pick and roll as a staple of the Magic offense. The effect of this is three fold: It gets Howard moving and away from double teams while also forcing defenses to choose whether they want to drop inside to cover the paint (thereby leaving numerous open shooters) or risk giving Howard an easy dunk. Finally, it also simplifies the decision making processes within the halfcourt for Jameer Nelson which, in turn, allows Nelson to play more freely while cutting down on the turnovers which plagued him last year.

While I’ve got more to say about the Magic, this post is running long so I’ll cut it off right here for the time being. I’ll be back soon with more Magic related stuff as well as a number of random thoughts I’ve had over the last week or so of sports.


CFunk28 said...

I wonder what its like to have a coach that has a clue on offense. Mike Brown sure as hell has no idea what goes on during an offensive possesion. Yeah, LeBron is out, but when your offense consists of one pass and shoot or drive the hoop and throw up a prayer between 3 defenders, you're not going to score a lot of points.

Its safe to say that Van Gundy could be worth 10 wins this season for the Magic. From his game management to his game planning, he has already made a big impact.

Greg said...

you post this....and the Magicians drop one to Hoover. Brilliant.