There are a lot of interesting pieces in Orlando along the front line: Serge Ibaka, Nikola Vucevic, Bismack Biyombo, Aaron Gordon, Branden Dawson, and Jeff Green can play some small-ball four as well. There seems to be a lot of skill-set overlap. The question is can all those pieces fit together and turn the Magic into a playoff team?
Frank Vogel is charged with putting the puzzle together.
And he’s going big. Last season Gordon did his best work at the four and spent the majority of his playing time there, but with Ibaka in town he will now be the three, something Vogel confirmed to Adi Joseph at The Sporting News.
“I think positions still matter in today’s NBA. But (Gordon is) comfortable playing both (forward positions). You’re correct in your assessment that he’s going to be playing mostly small forward on this team. That’s something I’m excited about because I’ve always been able to build some really solid defenses, and the foundation of those teams was defensive length and athleticism. This is what we’re going to have with this club, with either Vuc or Bismack Biyombo at the five and Serge Ibaka at the four and Aaron Gordon at the three, you’ve got a really long, athletic front court, which I think is necessary if you want to be a great defensive team.”
Vogel is known as a strong defensive coach after what he did in Indiana, and it makes sense that with the players on this roster the Magic should be a strong defensive team. There are plenty of shot blockers, there is length all over the floor, and in the right system Orlando will get stops.
Can they score is another question. This is where the pieces seem and odd fit, and there may not be enough shooting (outside of Evan Fournier). Gordon was better at the four than the three. Vogel will ask Ibaka to play more inside, Vucevic will need to take steps forward, Gordon must continue on his quick trajectory of growth, and the big question is if Elfrid Payton can run this show at a playoff level? We know what Scott Skiles thought of that idea, we’ll see if Vogel can make it work.
The Mavericks went from winning the 2011 NBA championship to missing the playoffs within two years.
Somewhat by choice.
Of course, they wanted to remain competitive. But they were willing to accept a lower floor to maintain financial flexibility. They let key players – most notably Tyson Chandler – leave in order to chase bigger stars.
Dallas was repeatedly linked to Chris Paul and Dwight Howard, who could’ve become free agents in 2012 but opted in. They finally hit the market in 2013, but once again spurned the Mavericks. Paul re-signed with the Clippers, and Howard left the Lakers for the Rockets.
Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:
I really think that they, Chris and Dwight, basically wink, wink said they were going to Dallas, from what I’ve heard, and that Dwight backed out.
Word on the street. But we hear a lot of stories. That’s one story I’ve heard.
This is the peril of making arrangements in underground free agency. They’re unbinding. That was especially true with Howard, who waffled through the Dwightmare with the Magic. The Mavericks might have proceeded in the smartest way, but it backfired. Dallas is only now re-emerging upward with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis.
This also creates a fun “what if?” How good would Dallas have been? Paul remained elite, but Howard and Dirk Nowitzki were slipping. Where would the Clippers have gone with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan but without Paul? Would they still have held the credibility required to lure Kawhi Leonard and Paul George last summer? Where would Houston have turned without Howard as the star to pair with James Harden?
Kawhi Leonard hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history – a buzzer-beater that bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced in during Game 7 of last year’s second-round Raptors-76ers series and propelled Toronto toward an eventual title.
Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, via Josh Lewenberg of TSN:
“I didn’t think it was going in. I was under the basket trying to go for the offensive rebound. The ball was bouncing and one time I was so close to going [for it]. Thank God I didn’t because it could have been goaltending. That would’ve been bad. I would’ve retired. If that had happened I would have retired.”
In hindsight, that would’ve been catastrophic. It would have been been bad at the time, too – but only so bad.
The Bucks, Toronto’s opponent in the Eastern Conference finals, looked better than the Raptors. The Western Conference-winning Warriors were widely viewed as invincible. Few would have thought Ibaka’s goaltend would’ve cost Toronto a championship.
Thankfully for him and the Raptors, we now know better.
Michele Roberts got a new four-year term as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association in 2018.
Yet, Peter Vecsey tweeted:
The NBPA responded with a statement on behalf of Chris Paul:
NBPA President Chris Paul’s response to the false information tweeted earlier this evening regarding NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts:
“Michele Roberts has been and continues to be our fearless leader. The Twitter post that is circulating suggesting Michele is no longer the NBPA Executive Director is untrue. A Search Firm has been hired to advise on union hiring and succession planning, which has not yet begun. In the meantime, the Executive Committee is proud to report that Michele remains the NBPA Executive Director, is very much “in power,” and continues to enjoy the support of our members!”
Roberts led the union through Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations in 2016. She appears active in running the union now.
Controversially, Roberts rejected cap smoothing when the new national TV deals sent revenue soaring. That adversely affected many union members, though benefited others.
Roberts and Paul have also sometimes prioritized stars, to the dismay of the rank-and-file.
But the overall health of the union appears strong, and Roberts and Paul remain in charge.