Orlando Magic v Indiana Pacers - Game Five

NBA Preview: Orlando Magic


Last season: Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

The Magic won 37 games (to 29 losses) last season because for a stretch in the first half of the season they were one of the top-five teams in the NBA. Dwight Howard was putting up his usual MVP numbers (well, not last season next to LeBron but he should be in the conversation most years), the Magic were defending and on offense knocking down threes.

But from the first days the foundation was going to crumble and it came apart in a way worthy of The Days of Our Lives. Howard and his people were pushing hard for a trade to the Nets, and they had leverage with his ability to opt-out in the summer. Except the Magic were not playing along, wanting a better deal and not to give Howard what he wanted. Then Howard caved and opted-in with the Magic for next season, so they didn’t have to trade him. Then Stan Van Gundy threw Howard under the bus in front of he New York Media. Then Howard’s back injury worsened and he had to sit out of the playoffs.

The Magic got run in the first round of the playoffs by the Pacers, then they fired Stan Van Gundy, then they eventually traded Howard to the Lakers in a four-team deal that netted them essentially five picks (three future picks and two recent players) but none of them lottery picks.

Key Departures: Orlando is going the Oklahoma City model — they are looking to be terrible and get good again through the draft. Dwight Howard is gone. While that is obvious you really need to think through how big a loss that is — he is a three-time defensive player of the year who made them one of the better defensive teams in the league for years, plus he was the hub of their offense. He is arguably the third best player in basketball right now. That’s not easy to replace.

Also gone is stretch-four sharpshooter Ryan Anderson, a guy bordering on All-Star status. Then there is Jason Richardson. That would be three of the top four scorers for the Magic. By the way, numbers five and six on the scoring list last season — J.J. Redick and Hedo Turkoglu — can be yours in a trade for picks and prospects.

Key Additions: The best player they got in the Howard trade is Arron Afflalo, a solid two-way swingman who will be asked to do a lot more scoring than he has in the past but will play well. Through the trade they also landed rookie Moe Harkless, the St. John’s star who has promise but is raw. There also is Gustavo Ayon and Al Harrington, but you get the idea. The Magic did not make this trade trying to get better, they are intentionally going to be bad.

One guy who could catch on, Andrew Nicholson. You didn’t see him play in college unless you watched a lot of St. Bonaventure, but in Summer League he averaged 12.6 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. He will get a chance.

Orlando also added new head coach Jacque Vaughn, who gets thrown into the fire of his first NBA job in charge of a roster Phil Jackson couldn’t win with.

Three keys to the Magic season:

1) When do they trade J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu and Glen Davis? The Magic are not going to be good this year, but they are going to get worse. Orlando is going with what is now called the Oklahoma City Thunder model of building through the draft. So the second they can unload one of these veterans for picks and prospects they will. Likely it all happens closer to the deadline, but you are going to hear a lot of Magic trade rumors. General Manager Rob Hennigan has a plan and they are not going halfway on it.

2) How many wins does Jameer Nelson get them? With all the roster changes and revamping the Magic brought Nelson back on a three-year deal. He is the one guy still on the roster who has proven he can up points plenty of at the NBA level, although last season he averaged 11.9 points and 5.7 assists per game. The light for Nelson will be green; he is now freed up to shoot pretty much whenever he wants. His career high is 16.7 points per game and don’t be shocked if he bests that.

But he’s not going to get them a lot of wins. (Not that the Magic brass want him to.) This is the guy you pair with an elite player, he is not elite. And his defense has not been impressive at all the past couple seasons.

3) Can Jacque Vaughn get the youth to develop? In the end for the Magic, it’s really about seeing if Moe Harkless and Andrew Nicholson can develop into solid complimentary players to the franchise guy they hope to draft down the line. Same with Kyle O’Quinn and Christian Eyenga. (Afflalo certainly would fit in, he’s proven it.) Right now it’s about developing talent for the long-term and seeing if the guys can fit in. And part of that has to fall to Vaughn to lead and teach them.

What Magic fans should fear: That the plan doesn’t really work. It’s not easy to land three years of consecutive top four picks like the Thunder did, and they were fortunate to have Kevin Durant fall to them. Then they nailed the Westbrook and Harden picks. Cleveland had the series of top picks as well and they have Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, and we’ll see how that plays out. But to get the picks is hard and to get the right guy at spots No. 2 and No. 4 is not easy (sometimes not even at No. 1).

This tear it down and build it back up strategy is the right one, but it’s far from easy or foolproof. And it’s going to take years to judge.

How it likely works out: Orlando will be one of the worst teams in the NBA this season, and Magic fans better be prepared for that. It’s not about wins, it’s about Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noel. Expect trades mid-season and a lot of very hard-to-watch losses. Most painful may be that the biggest weakness will be big men in the paint.

The hope is that you see sparks from Harkless, that Nelson and Afflalo can provide some points and the team rallies around Vaughn and is competitive. We saw a lot of losses from the Hornets last season but they played hard for Monty Williams, they defended better, and that’s where the signs of hope will be for Magic fans.

Prediction: 22-60 and a whole lot of ping-pong balls. It’s not going to be pretty in the short term, but that is the plan.

Hawks retire Dikembe Mutombo’s No. 55

Dikembe Mutombo
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ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Hawks retired Dikembe Mutombo’s No. 55 jersey Tuesday night to honor the longtime shot blocker’s Hall of Fame enshrinement.

Mutombo signed as a free agent in 1996 to make Atlanta the second stop on an 18-year career he spent with five other teams.

“I don’t think I ever thought my jersey would be retired,” Mutombo told reporters after his jersey was hung from the arena rafters in a halftime ceremony. “My name will stay forever.”

The 7-foot-2 Mutombo was a four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, an eight-time All-Star, and he ranks second on the league’s career blocked shots list and 20th in rebounds.

Through his foundation, Mutombo, 49, built a hospital that has served 140,000 in his native Congo. He twice won the NBA’s J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and now works for the league as a global ambassador.

Mutombo was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame two months ago.

Warriors make NBA history as first team to start season 16-0

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) The defending champion Golden State Warriors set the record for best start in NBA history at 16-0, as Stephen Curry had 24 points and nine assists in a 111-77 rout of the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night.

With their coach sidelined, the Warriors surpassed the 15-0 starts by the Washington Capitols of 1948-49 and 1993-94 Houston Rockets.

Confetti streamed down when the final buzzer sounded and Golden State’s players barely celebrated.

Kobe Bryant shot 1 of 14 for just four points, matching the worst-shooting performance of his career in a game where he had at least one basket. The Lakers dropped to 2-12 with the second-worst record in the NBA.

Draymond Green added 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Warriors extended their franchise-record home winning streak to 27 games with coach Steve Kerr watching from behind the scenes while recovering from complications following two back surgeries.

Interim Luke Walton is leading the way, and it might have been a little sweeter to set the record against the Lakers franchise he helped win two titles.

Golden State became the sixth team in NBA history to win 20 consecutive regular-season games, a streak dating to last season. The Suns have the next shot at stopping this incredible start when the Warriors visit Phoenix on Friday night.

Curry only had to play 30 minutes, taking a seat for good with 6.5 seconds remaining in the third to huge cheers from a sellout crowd of 19,596 that was really closer to 20,000 with all the standing-room only tickets sold.

Bryant went 1 for 7 from 3-point range in 25 minutes as Los Angeles lost its fourth in a row and eighth in nine.

He also finished 1 for 14 last season against San Antonio, according to STATS.

Klay Thompson had 11 points but missed his first seven shots and, as has been the case in a handful of these wins, the Warriors took a few minutes to get rolling – and then they were off and running.

Golden State missed five of its first six shots before Curry’s 3-pointer from the left wing at 8:28. The Warriors knocked down five of their first 12 from long range to build a 27-9 lead with 1:41 left in the opening period.


Former Warriors shooting guard Jason Richardson couldn’t believe the fortunate timing: Golden State honored him Tuesday and he got to be at Oracle Arena to see his old team make history. He received a framed jersey from Adonal Foyle in a presentation after the first quarter.

“Even though I didn’t retire a Warrior, you guys make me feel like a Warrior for life,” he told the crowd.

Richardson, part of the 2007 “We Believe” team that reached the second round of the playoffs after ending a 12-year drought, has been a big supporter of Green, who took a similar path from Saginaw, Michigan, to Michigan State to Golden State. Green wears Richardson’s No. 23.

“I think Draymond shocked everybody besides himself,” said Richardson, Golden State’s first-round pick taken fifth overall in the 2001 draft.


Los Angeles coach Byron Scott was part of his share of special teams with the Lakers, too. He recalls when they were winning nearly every night.

“I think once it’s all over, you look back and realize how much fun it was,” Scott said. “One thing Riles (Pat Riley) wouldn’t let us do is live on what we did the last night.”


Lakers: The Lakers were outscored 35-17 in the third and have lost eight of 11 at Oracle. … Chasing a loose ball in the first, Bryant slid right into the courtside area by owner Joe Lacob, who gave him a safe sign. … Nick Young borrowed ex-Warriors guard Gilbert Arenas’ black and gold shoes.

Warriors: Golden State has won six straight at home against the Lakers for its longest streak since seven in a row from 1993-95. … The Warriors have scored 100 or more points in 43 consecutive home games, longest since the Nuggets did so in 47 straight from Feb. 1, 1990-Feb. 23, 1991. … Walton confirmed before the game his car was stolen last week in Oakland and he credited authorities apprehending and charging a suspect. “That’s part of life,” he said. “They did a good job.”


Lakers: At Portland on Saturday.

Warriors: At Phoenix on Friday.

Kristaps Porzingis grew up a Kobe fan. Still is one.


When you hear player comparisons for Knicks rookie, the most common is Dirk Nowitzki — a European big with ridiculous shooting range and potential to embarrass anyone.

So did he grow up idolizing Dirk? Not so much.

Rather, like many of his generation, he grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant, he told Mike Francesa of WFAN.

“My favorite player growing up was Kobe. The Lakers were my team and I still love him.”

There is an entire generation of NBA players — and just fans — who would say the same thing.

In the interview, Porzingis laments his missed shots and turnovers, he thinks he can be a lot better. That is exactly what you want out of a rookie. It’s a huge adjustment playing at the NBA level, the speed of the game and IQ is a leap from Europe (or college). Recognizing the challenge is part of it.

There’s a lot to like in Porzingis. He could be special (we don’t know yet, we see only the potential). But idolizing Kobe — and if you understand the work he put in, the passion for the game — can be a good start.

(Hat tip NBA reddit)

Warriors’ interim coach Luke Walton’s car stolen

Luke Walton

If you’re looking for a “when are things going to go wrong for the Warriors” moment, we have one for you. But it may not be what you had hoped for.

Warriors’ interim head coach Luke Walton — the guy on the sidelines for the 15 (soon to be 16) game winning streak — had his car stolen during a crime spree, reports NBCBayArea.com.

One of the cars stolen during an Oakland Hills crime spree belongs to Golden State Warriors coach Luke Walton, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said late Monday.

Walton’s Mercedes Benz was stolen Tuesday by two suspects, who police believe are also responsible for a violent attack on a 75-year-old woman outside her home on Thursday. The suspects also took the woman’s car during the attack, according to police.

Yikes. That’s serious.

I’m sure Steve Kerr has like 14 cars, he can loan one to Walton.