They are down 2-1 to the Atlanta Hawks, a team that through the regular season and into the playoffs has shown its matchup advantages are hard for Orlando to overcome. Now the Magic face a virtual must-win Game 4 and likely will have to do it without Jason Richardson, who probably will get suspended for his little run in with Zaza Pachulia in Game 3.
There are a lot of people blaming Orlando’s roster-changing trades in November as the root of the problem.
Unless you think Vince Carter could solve the Magic’s woes, that theory doesn’t really work. And if you think Vince Carter changes this series, your issues may require professional help.
Orlando traded one roster that was going to lose early in the playoffs on for another.
The Magic would have gotten about as much out of Rashard Lewis as they are Gilbert Arenas. Orlando GM Otis Smith had more faith in Arenas than anyone else, and that hasn’t worked out, but Lewis was already becoming a ghost on this roster. Marcin Gortat would have given the Magic depth in the paint and allowed Stan Van Gundy to cut Howard’s minutes from the 46 a game he has played this series to maybe 38 or so (he wouldn’t go much lower) but that is not a series changer.
The Magic brought in guys who were supposed to get them through a series like this easily. Orlando certainly expected more out of Jason Richardson in the playoffs (8.7 points per game and he’s shooting 26.7 percent from three). Hedo Turkoglu has been worse, and we’re not just talking about that disaster of a last play the Magic ran in Game 3. Turkoglu was always a pretty average player who Van Gundy understood how to use well, but he has not found room this series
Orlando as a team is shooting 26 percent from three, the Hawks are doing a good job contesting the arc (because they can single-cover Howard with Jason Collins and others). When Orlando can’t hit threes, their offense falters. The guys Orlando got in this deal are not doing the job.
But if you think that Carter and Lewis were changing things you are sorely mistaken. The only real difference between this roster and the last one is that this one is more expensive long term.
Which might have Dwight Howard thinking about things. But that is another issue for another day.
Cavaliers have offered Anderson Varejao a championship ring. Does he take it?
In the middle of last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers let go of long-time Cav and fan favorite Anderson Varejao to make room for Channing Frye, a stretch four they thought would be more valuable in the playoffs. In hindsight it seems the right move.
After a cap clearing move in Portland, Varejao ended up on the bench of the Golden State Warriors. We all know the story from there, including Varejao getting some meaningful minutes after Andrew Bogut went down, but it wasn’t enough for Golden State.
Which brings us to the awkward championship ring conversation. Usually, an iconic team player like Varejao would get one from the Cavaliers, but will Varejao want this one? From Marc Stein of ESPN:
Anderson. Varejao says the Cavaliers have indeed offered him a championship ring but says he hasn't decided yet whether to accept it.
Is there a correct answer for Varejao? A wrong answer? I can’t blame him either way.
He is on the Warriors roster again this season, and he once again could get meaningful minutes (now behind Zaza Pachulia). Does he decide that one with this team is what he wants (and will bet is going to happen)? Nobody can answer all these questions for him.
Nuggets retiring Dikembe Mutombo’s number at first home game
Mutombo spent his best years with the Hawks, but he was pretty darn good with the Nuggets, who drafted him No. 4 overall in 1991. He won a Defensive Player of the Year award and went to three All-Star games with Denver. Playing for the Nuggets, he also produced the most iconic image of his career: lying on the floor and clutching the ball in jubilation after Denver became the first No. 8 seed to upset the No. 1 seed (Seattle SuperSonics in 1994):
Draymond Green says he doesn’t want to chase 74 wins: “It’s brutal.”
If the Warriors have been consistent about one thing in the run-up to the coming season it is this: They are not going for a record number of wins again.
From the GM on down they have worked to tamp down expectations about their regular season, saying there is no goal of chasing their 73-win total of last season. This is how Draymond Green put it on media day, via Sam Amick of the USA Today.
Draymond Green: "To be quite frank with you, I don't even want to win 74 games, or 75 games. It's brutal."
Last season Steve Kerr and some of the staff were hesitant to chase the Jordan-era Bulls 72-win record, but it was a push from the players — Draymond Green being at the front of that parade — who wanted it. They pushed, and Kerr let them. They got 73. Was that lack of rest down the stretch the reason they were down 3-1 to Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals, then blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals against Cleveland? Certainly not, there were plenty of other bigger factors (hello LeBron James), but it may have played some role. Clearly, the team thinks it did, based on their words and actions.
However, the Warriors still want the No. 1 seed in the West and will make that a goal. The question is, with an excellent regular season team in San Antonio — one that had a better point differential than the Warriors last season, then they added Pau Gasol — how many wins will it take to get the top seed in the West? 65? More? How hard will the Warriors and Spurs push to get home court throughout?
The Warriors aren’t going for the record, but the top of the West is still going to be an interesting place.
Mike D’Antoni declares James Harden the Rockets’ point guard (‘points guard’)
With James, we’ll make a cheap joke. He’ll be a points guard.
We just renamed it. You guys got something to write about.
Harden already controlled the ball a ton, taking primary playmaking and distributing responsibilities last season. This just gets the ball into his hands quicker and should allow the Rockets to play faster, a key component of D’Antoni’s offense.
Of course, D’Antoni’s offense functioned best when Steve Nash – more of a pure passer – ran it with the Suns. Harden won’t duplicate that. His passing ability is more predicated on taking advantage of his scoring threat. But Harden – who, like Nash, is an excellent ball-handler – could make the offense hum in his own way.
Even though D’Antoni is trying to downplay the position switch, it’s a notable shift. Harden fully commanding the offense is a grand experiment with major upside (and potential for a rocky downside).