NBA Playoffs Magic v. Celtics: J.J. Redick making it tough for Magic to keep him off the floor

2 Comments

nba_redick.jpgAlthough the Orlando Magic have struggled at times in their series against the Boston Celtics, they need not despair. It’s never good to drop two games on your home court in the playoffs, especially in consecutive contests in the series’ opening games.

Still, Orlando has lost two games by a combined seven points against a team on an obscene roll. It makes winning the series incredibly difficult, sure, but for as well as the Celtics have played and as poorly as the Magic have at times, the slim scoring margin between the two has to be seen as reason for optimism.

The key is for Stan Van Gundy and his staff to identify the most problematic areas and the Magic players to adjust before its too late. In a seven-game series, changes in approach and execution are only as influential as the time at which they’re implemented. Everyone within the Magic organization can only hope that there’s still time to implement a change, go about making the necessary adjustment, and do their best to perform beginning with Game 3.

One possible adjustment is to yank the injured Matt Barnes from the starting lineup, and replace him with the far more effective J.J. Redick.

Just by watching the flow of the Magic offense, you can notice a significant difference between when Redick is in the game compared to when he is not. It’s as much about what Redick does as it is about what Barnes doesn’t (or can’t, with his injury). Revisit the video from Game 2, and you’ll not only see Redick contributing off the ball on both ends (either by chasing Ray Allen around screens or making his defender chase him), but also with the ball in his hands or the hands of his defensive assignment.

The only situation in which Redick seemed to struggle was in a temporary lapse of judgment that cost the Magic a proper look at a game-tying three-pointer. That play was an outlier. It was a bout of temporary insanity for a player that has played very well this season and has carved out a place in the NBA by working and making the right play.

Don’t trust me? I’d like to point your attention to an excellent piece by Ben Q. Rock of the Orlando Pinstriped Post, who used a combination of Redick-centric stats as evidence of J.J.’s impact. When you look at his production relative to Barnes’, the decision to start Redick doesn’t even seem debatable.

This is a player that’s giving the Magic the best chance to win by playing with the starting unit, and even though Stan Van Gundy has displayed an unwillingness to alter his starting five (while still praising Redick’s impact, mind you), the most important thing is that SVG continues to employ this incredibly successful lineup for serious minutes. Redick has forced the adjustment with his play, and J.J.’s 34 Game 2 minutes should establish a trend for the remainder of the series.

Double number retirement fitting for Kobe Bryant

Harry How/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kobe Bryant’s career truly occurred in two acts.

He was Shaquille O’Neal’s super sidekick for three championships. Then, Kobe led the Lakers to another two titles himself after Shaq departed.

He was an athletic, high-flying slam-dunk-contest champion. Then, he became known for his cerebral play and footwork.

He faced trial for rape in Colorado (the case was ultimately dismissed, and he settled civilly), blame for Shaq getting traded and criticism for being too selfish when the Lakers struggled in the aftermath of Shaq’s departure. Then, Kobe – still beloved by his fans – again became a socially acceptable marketing force.

His 2007 trade request serves as the more accurate intermission point, but his 2006 jersey change from No. 8 to No. 24 works well enough. He had a Hall of Fame career in No. 8 then a borderline Hall of Fame career in No. 24. Think Tracy Mcgrady’s career followed by Bernard King’s – but it was just Kobe followed by Kobe and with far more postseason success.

Here are the win-share leaders with a single franchise during Kobe’s career:

image

So much about Kobe is excessive – his accolades, his shot selection, his reputation as clutch. He had an all-time great career, but the myth outpaces reality.

Yet, Kobe becoming the first player with two numbers retired by the same team – which the Lakers will do at halftime tonight – feels incredibly appropriate. In his 20-year career with the Lakers, Kobe had time to succeed then succeed again in an extravagant way only he could manage.

He was dedicated and disciplined, flashy and fastidious, No. 8 and No. 24

Warriors will watch Kobe Bryant’s numbers get retired, Lakers might not

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Lakers will retire Kobe Bryant’s No. 8 and No. 24 at halftime of their game against Warriors tonight.

The road team won’t miss it. The home team might.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr, via Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area:

“I want our guys to see it,” Kerr said Saturday. “It’ll be a pretty cool moment.

“Just to experience of one of the greatest players in the history of the game getting his jersey retired and we happen to be there? I’m not going to keep them in the locker room watching tape from the first half. The players would look at me like I was nuts.”

Lakers coach Luke Walton, via Harrison Faigen of Lakers Nation:

“I hadn’t thought much about [watching the ceremony],” Walton said Sunday. “We’re still deciding how we’ll approach halftime.

“Our first priority is still the job that we have. I’m sure there’s going to be some halftime adjustments we need to make against the Warriors. We’re toying with a couple different ideas to let guys at least see part of it.”

Kerr seems like a pretty cool guy, someone who understands what truly matters. This will be a historic moment, and that can take priority over watching video for one night in a long season.

But he also has the luxury of coaching an all-time great team. Even with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Zaza Pachulia and Shaun Livingston injured, the Warriors are favored.

Walton has a young team that needs every break it can get. But he too should embrace the significance of the ceremony. His franchise is.

After reportedly initially being scheduled for pregame, the ceremony will occur at halftime. The NBA implemented a hard 15-minute limit on halftimes this season. Any team not ready will be assessed a delay-of-game penalty. So, lengthy speeches tonight could hinder the current team on the court. And that’s well worth the cost of doing business.

In the same regard, current Lakers watching Kobe’s ceremony would gain pride in being a Laker. There’s real value in that, probably more than in going over adjustments for a December game during a season very likely to end outside the playoffs regardless.

George Hill nails half-court buzzer-beater with less than a second to shoot (video)

Leave a comment

I bet this made George Hill happier.

The Kings still losing to the Raptors, 108-93, probably didn’t, though.

Phil Jackson to miss Kobe Bryant’s jersey retirement Monday

Getty Images
2 Comments

For one last night, Staples Center will belong to Kobe Bryant on Monday.

Sure, the Warriors are in town to take on the Lakers, but Monday night the Lakers are retiring Kobe Bryant’s numbers — both 8 and 24 — in a halftime ceremony. It’s been the hottest ticket in Los Angeles, with celebrities, luminaries, and regular Lakers fans shelling out a lot of cash to see the Laker legend be honored.

Except, Phil Jackson will not be there, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Jackson has been in touch with Bryant in advance of the ceremony to congratulate him, sources said. But he was unable to travel from his Montana home for the ceremony in Los Angeles.

No reason was given (nor does one need to be made public, that’s between Kobe and Jackson).

Jackson coached Kobe to all five of his NBA titles, and while their relationship had its ups and downs — remember Jackson called out Kobe as almost uncoachable in one of his books — they remain close.