Around the Amway -- February 23, 2011

By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage | Around the Amway Archive

By Josh Cohen

When you first looked at the schedule and noticed the bleak Sacramento Kings in town following an extended All-Star break, you had to figure the Orlando Magic would cruise to a victory.

But, in the NBA, games are not won on paper and on Wednesday night, it was the Kings who just seemed to have more desire as they stunned the Magic, 111-105.

Hometown hero Jermaine Taylor, who played collegiately at the University of Central Florida, erupted for a career-best 21 points. Beno Udrih contributed 18 points for Sacramento, which was without Tyreke Evans (plantar fasciitis).

Dwight Howard, nonetheless, delivered another monster performance for Orlando as he racked up 31 points and 17 rebounds. It was the fourth time in the last five games that Howard has scored at least 30 points and it was the 16th consecutive game he has recorded a double-double.

"It was very frustrating," Howard said. "If guys don't want to play, they have to sit down. We just can't have guys or anybody out there not playing hard."

"We have a lot of talent, but talent won't win you championships," he added.

Hedo Turkoglu enjoyed a solid night – posting 19 points and eight assists. Jameer Nelson (15) and J.J. Redick (12) were the only two other players to notch double figures in scoring for the Magic.

The schedule certainly does not get easier for Orlando. It hosts Oklahoma City on Friday and has meetings with both New York and Miami next week.

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By Dan Savage

Magic center Dwight Howard has been unstoppable recently. And Wednesday night was no different.

Orlando’s Superman dominated the Kings to the tune of 31 points, 17 rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.

He was sizzling from the field, knocking down 10-of-17 attempts, and phenomenal from the free throw line, missing just one of his 12 tries.

But despite D12’s dominance, the Magic couldn’t muster up enough effort on the defensive end to slow down Sacramento.

“We’re one of the most talented teams in the NBA,” Howard explained. “We’re a deep team, we have guys that can do a lot of different things, but if you don’t bring it; it’s a waste of talent.”

While a lot of people outside of the Orlando organization will be clamoring for the Magic to make a move before Thursday’s trade deadline, Howard doesn’t necessarily believe that’s the answer.

Instead, he thinks this skilled group just needs to bring more consistency on the defensive side of the floor.

“We just have to play hard; it’s as simple as that,” he explained. “Play hard for 48 minutes no matter what.”

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By Josh Cohen

This week – glistened by two blockbuster trades – may go down in history as one of the most unforgettable in NBA history.

After months of speculation and countless proposed scenarios, Carmelo Anthony finally landed with the New York Knicks.

One day later, New York’s main competitor in the ‘Melo sweepstakes, the New Jersey Nets, completed an unexpected deal with the Utah Jazz to acquire Deron Williams.

So what do these deals and any other potential trades that may occur prior to Thursday’s deadline signify?

First off, I think we have learned that if a superstar caliber player isn’t happy in his current situation, he can probably find a way out even before he reaches free agency.

Team owners watched what happened when LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire walked away from their original teams without anything in return. Cleveland, Toronto and Phoenix have struggled all season in the aftermath and it’s apparent that franchises are fearful of similar outcomes.

Also, I think teams feel that it is more constructive to save money and rebuild through younger inexpensive players and future draft picks rather than be borderline playoff teams while over the salary cap.

Denver and Utah, respectively, appeared to have followed this guideline and now hope that by taking the monkey off their backs, they can just focus on building for the future.
By Josh Cohen

Hometown hero Jermaine Taylor was recognized during his college days at the University of Central Florida for being one of the most prolific scorers in the country.

It was appropriate, therefore, that the Tavares, FL native returned to the city he flourished at for years and enjoyed his best scoring performance of his NBA career.

Taylor erupted for 21 points on a blistering 9-of-12 shooting from the field and helped keep propel the Kings past the Magic.

It’s no secret that NBA players love to thrive when they play in their hometowns. Since most don’t get the opportunity to play professionally where they originate from, a return home is always a special time during the season.

With his family and friends in attendance, Taylor certainly delivered a memorable effort in Orlando.

During player introductions, the 6’4 guard received a noticeable applause from the Amway Center crowd. It was very apparent, as a result, that hoops fans in the area have not forgotten about his legacy at UCF.

"During the game I saw a lot of familiar faces," he said. "There were a lot of people from UCF."

It was also a terrific statement game for Taylor to remain in the starting lineup for Sacramento. On Dec. 15, the scoring sensation was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Kings.

Especially with Tyreke Evans out for the next three weeks (plantar fasciitis), Taylor gave the Kings plenty of reasons to feel confident in his abilities.
By Dan Savage

  • IMPORTANCE OF DEFENSE: Wonder how important it is for Orlando to play quality defense? Take a look at this stat: The Magic are 1-10 when their opponent shoots better than 50 percent from the field.

    Sacramento shot a scorching 52.5 percent from the floor on Wednesday.

    “I’m just going to leave it at, we didn’t get any stops and we’re going to have to change it or we’re just not going to be any good.”

  • GOLDEN TOUCH: Magic center Dwight Howard was spectacular from the free throw line against the Kings, connecting on 11 of his 12 attempts.

    It’s the fifth time this season that Howard has missed one or fewer free throws in game.

  • NUMBERS GAME: Speaking of Dwight, he continues to put up numbers at an MVP rate.

    For the seventh time this season, Orlando’s Superman recorded at least 30 points and 15 rebounds in contest. Since 2007-08, Howard has 27 games of at least 30 and 15, the most in the NBA during that time span.
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