Orlando is a young team in the middle of its rebuilding process, and finished with a record of 23-59 last season, which left them 15 games out of the playoff picture when all was said and done in the Eastern Conference.
But at least one of the team’s players believes this is the year the Magic can make the leap into the postseason.
Maurice Harkless is one of the young pieces in place on the roster, and started half of his team’s games a season ago while averaging 7.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 24.4 minutes per contest. He feels like the experiences his club went through last season have prepared the team to be much better in the upcoming season.
From Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:
“If you look at us last year we competed with pretty much all the best teams in the league, we even beat a few of them,” Harkless said. “I feel like this year, with that much more experience and guys being that much better after another summer of work, we’ll have a chance to make the playoffs.”
Harkless expects the team to be better on the road this season.
“I think that comes with experience,” Harkless said. “You know, just being able to learn how to close those games out. You look at our road games, we’d be in it for the first forty minutes, and it’s those last eight, last six, even those last four minutes. We just let it get away from us. I think a part of that is being young and learning how to win on the road. It’s a lot different than being at home.”
The Magic were 4-37 on the road last year, the worst in the league. But even if they are able to show a marked improvement in that category, Orlando didn’t appear to add enough talent to be considered favorites to reach the postseason just yet.
Arron Afflalo was traded to Denver for Evan Fournier and Jameer Nelson was waived, and while the acquisitions of Channing Frye and Luke Ridnour may help (as will incoming rookies Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton), it may take some time for all the pieces to fit — even if guys like Harkless and Victor Oladipo mature more quickly than expected.
Marc Gasol thinks his brother Pau Gasol — who will opt out to become a free agent this summer and bolt Chicago — should join the San Antonio Spurs.
Pau doesn’t think that’s a bad idea.
Speaking with the Spanish sports publication Marca, Gasol said the Spurs would be “an interesting option for me.” (Hat tip Eye on Basketball)
Gasol put up numbers — 16.5 points and 11 rebounds a game — at age 36, he still has great post moves, can still pass, and is still fairly efficient on offense. He was an All-Star for a reason. But he’s also a liability at the defensive end. Where he lands as a free agent should be about fit.
Pau would fit with the Spurs — if he was willing to come off the bench. Which is probably what should have happened in Chicago (with Joakim Noah starting for defensive reasons). As a first big off the bench Gasol can lift a team up, but if he’s out there 31 minutes or more a night as a starter — as he was in Chicago last season — he’s going to get exposed a lot defensively.
Do the Spurs want him is another question?
Is Gasol willing to accept coming off the bench behind LaMarcus Aldridge? Or does he need to be a starter? And will he take less money to contend? Gasol has some questions to answer.
So far, the Golden State Warriors have looked just fine — thank you very much — without one Stephen Curry in the lineup. And as Dan Feldman and I discussed in the latest PBT podcast, they likely will be able to handle the Portland Trail Blazers without him as well. They don’t need to rush him back.
But Curry is rushing himself back and wants to beat the two-week timeline for his strained MCL that the doctors put out there, reports Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.
Coach Steve Kerr said Curry looked good in treatment but did not do any work on the court.
Athletes are the worst people to ask about their own recovery timelines; they don’t get to top levels of their sport without supreme confidence and a certain feeling of invulnerability. They are always sure they can bounce back faster than the doctors say — sometimes that’s true, but not often.
So long as the Warriors are not pressured by Portland (sorry Clipper fans, you’re not advancing without CP3 and Griffin), they are under no pressure to rush him back. That second round series is expected to start Sunday in the Bay Area, if the Warriors can hold serve through the first two games then they can keep Curry on the sidelines for a couple of weeks, let the knee rest completely, and bring him back on their own terms.
The Warriors will need him back for the Conference Finals and beyond, but more than that this is a Golden State team set up to be a contender for the next four or five years, you don’t want to create a bigger problem for future years pushing too hard for a title this season if he’s not right.
Friday night sees some big Game 6s across the NBA playoffs — Indiana has the best chance of forcing a Game 7 — but everyone is looking ahead to Oklahoma vs. San Antonio in the next round.
That includes Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBCSports.com, who in this latest podcast discuss that series and the Atlanta and Cleveland series that tips off next week. Also they talk about the Friday night Game 6 matchups, and if Portland could beat Golden State if the Warriors do not get Stephen Curry back.
As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes, download it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.
The Celtics will chase Kevin Durant this summer.
Will it work?
Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:
Ainge will be aggressive in free agency, team sources told The Vertical, and yes, that means a run at Kevin Durant. The Celtics believe Durant will meet with them this summer, but they know that meeting won’t accomplish much unless there are significant moves leading into it.
The Celtics are optimistic about meeting with Durant. The Warriors are optimistic about signing Durant.
That might just speak to different mindsets within the organizations – why shouldn’t Golden State be confident about everything? – but it also might handicap the odds of Durant’s next team. The Warriors definitely appear more likely than the Celtics.
Boston has plenty going for it: Brad Stevens, a solid young roster, extra draft picks (including the Nets’ first-rounder this year) and cap flexibility. But Durant wants to win now, so those more youthful assets mean only so much. It’s on Danny Ainge to prove he can turn that cap space into another helpful player, deal a Brooklyn pick or two for a veteran. That would become much easier if the Celtics win the lottery.
There’s a lot happening at once. If Durant isn’t coming, Boston might prefer to keep its draft picks and build slowly. Other free agents might not come. But if Durant is on board, that makes trades preferable and other free agents landable.
Of course, Durant should be the top option.
It appears the Celtics at least have their foot in the door.