Around the Amway -- February 16, 2011

By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage | Around the Amway Archive

By Josh Cohen

It was imperative for the Orlando Magic to head into the All-Star break with some extra confidence.

While their opponent may not have been among the elite in the Eastern Conference, the Magic still managed to infuse some more optimism as they earn some rest until games restart next week.

Becoming repetitious in all postgame recaps, but still always striking and impressive, Dwight Howard delivered another marvelous performance with 32 points on 12-of-15 shooting from the field and 10 rebounds as Orlando cruised past the Washington Wizards, 101-76, on Wednesday.

It was the Magic’s sixth consecutive victory over the Wizards, including their fourth this season to complete the season sweep.

Superman, who didn’t even have to play the entire fourth quarter, has now scored at least 30 points in three of the last four games and has notched 45 double-doubles this season.

"He's been dominant," said Jason Richardson, who contributed 16 points. "He's been dominant for the past month or so, the past two months."

Brandon Bass, who started for the first time since injuring his ankle last month, tallied 15 points and 11 rebounds.

Gilbert Arenas dished out six assists against his former team and Ryan Anderson hauled down eight rebounds.

Rookie sensation John Wall enjoyed one of his best scoring performances with 27 points, but managed to compile only one of his team’s eight assists.

The Magic return to action next Wednesday following the All-Star break when they host the Sacramento Kings. They follow that contest up with home contests against Oklahoma City, Charlotte and New York.

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By Dan Savage

There’s no question that former Magic All-Star forward Rashard Lewis had a profound impact on the franchise during his time here.

Both his teammates and head coach had tremendous respect for what helped this squad accomplish.

Here were their thoughts on Lewis as he made first trip back to Orlando following the blockbuster deal that sent him to Washington:

Stan Van Gundy: “He was a key guy, if not the key guy, instrumental in really getting this franchise going to a much higher level. On top of that, he was a great pro, a great teammate, model citizen and involved in the community.

Ryan Anderson: “I learned a lot from Rashard. He is one of the most professional guys I’ve ever met. He taught me to be ready for anything. He’s definitely someone I look up to.”

Dwight Howard: “He was my hanging buddy. We were always together. Even during the summer, I went to Houston just to hang out with him for a couple of days. I was able to watch his kids grow up and that was fun to be a part of.”

Lewis could have been bitter about the franchise that sent him packing, but instead he had nothing but praise to say about the Magic organization and their fans.

“Orlando fans are great fans,” Sweet Lew explained. “It is a basketball town. Everywhere I went for the three years I was here, they really showed us a lot of support. It is almost like they were our backbone. I wish we had won a championship for the city of Orlando because we feel like the fans really deserve it. I’m sure that’s their number one goal and hopefully they get it.”

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By Josh Cohen

Rashard Lewis’ time with the Orlando Magic can hardly be defined with just one explanation. His three-and-a-half year tenure with the franchise was filled with all kinds of twists and turns, wavering highs and lows and a combination of celebration and turmoil.

When the Magic acquired Lewis in a sign-and-trade from the Seattle Sonics in 2007, some NBA observers were quick to criticize the transaction. Although he was previously an All-Star in Seattle, most spectators thought the signing amount -- $110 million over a span of six years – way exceeded his talent level.

But the Houston legend overcame the detractors in his first two seasons in Orlando – averaging around 18 points per contest and becoming one of the catalysts in the club’s second ever NBA Finals berth. Lewis buried several meaningful and even game-winning shots during the Magic’s playoff run in 2009, including two critical 3-pointers during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers.

After providing big contributions that season, however, his status as one of the league’s most menacing power forwards quickly declined. Last season, Lewis averaged just 14.1 points per game – his lowest season mark since his second year in the NBA.

Although there was some optimism heading into this season because of the decision by Head Coach Stan Van Gundy to play the 13-year veteran at his more natural position, the small forward spot, it was very apparent that Lewis’ speed – especially when he had to contend with some of the more elite wing players – was moribund.

As a result of his decrepit performance and the team’s need to uplift their roster, President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith decided to trade Lewis to the Wizards for Gilbert Arenas.

While the jury is still out on whether this was a good decision for the Magic, one thing remains clear: Most fans in Orlando will always cherish and commemorate over Lewis’ success and contributions – both on and off the court.

Although he didn't play on Wednesday because of a knee injury, Lewis earned an applause from the Amway Center crowd when he was shown on the jumbotron.
By Josh Cohen

There is so much buzz around the entire country for this weekend’s All-Star festivities, which will take place in Los Angeles for the third time in NBA history.

Here are the top three items that I am most looking forward to:

1) Watching D12 play alongside LBJ & D-Wade

Ever since last summer when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami, there has been a very intriguing tension between the Heat and the Magic. Although none of these players suggest that Miami is Orlando’s biggest rival and vice versa, you can still feel the competitiveness in the air around the Sunshine State. I am somewhat curious to see Dwight Howard team up with the Heat’s dynamic duo in the Eastern Conference’s starting lineup during the All-Star Game.

2) Watching Blake Griffin in the Slam Dunk Contest

Blake Griffin has been one of the league’s most electrifying stories this season. Just a rookie, Griffin has astounded spectators with his awe-inspiring slam dunks and relentless hustle. Although I am sure his competitors will be eager to try and upset the favorite, I expect Griffin to be very creative and deliver a performance to remember.

3) Getting a Glimpse of What We Can Expect Next Year

As I am sure you all know by now, Orlando will be the host of 2012 All-Star Weekend. While covering the events in Los Angeles, I will get the opportunity to get a perspective of the kind of atmosphere we can expect when the festivities come to central Florida. I am sure there is plenty of tips we can share as the city prepares for this remarkable event next February.
By Dan Savage

Every year, every member of every team says the same thing about the last contest before the All-Star break: “It’s important to not overlook this game. We can’t think about All-Star Weekend. We have to close out the first half of the season with momentum.”

While that’s usually lip service for a number of squads, this Magic team actually meant it.

Behind a 32-point, 10-rebound effort from Dwight Howard, the Magic throttled the Wizards and headed into the break with a boatload of steam.

“It’s definitely good to get a win (before the break),” Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson explained. “We’re playing really well right now. Now we get to relax, get away from basketball and come back refreshed, finish the rest of the season and get ready for the playoffs.”

The matchup almost didn’t go that way for Orlando.

After a dismal first quarter, where the Magic managed to score just 17 points, they looked as if their minds were already set on vacation mode.

“We had to get it going,” Orlando point guard Jameer Nelson said. “The human nature kicked in a little bit, guys knew it was All-Star break.”

But the Magic were able to switch their mindset back into the right great. Orlando outscored Washington 84-58 over the final three quarters, sealing a season sweep of the Wizards.

“”We got it going and came out with a victory,” Nelson added. “We (finished strong) and played well.”
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What are you most looking forward to at All-Star Weekend?
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