Around the Amway -- February 27, 2011
By Josh Cohen & Dan Savage | Around the Amway Archive
The Orlando Magic understood that while the Charlotte Bobcats may have been a more inferior team based on talent and record, they shouldn’t be disregarded.
That lesson was learned on Wednesday when the lowly Sacramento Kings stunned the Magic. As the old adage goes, it’s sometimes productive to take one step back before taking two steps forward.
Orlando delivered another dominant performance on Sunday as it thrashed Charlotte, 100-86, for its sixth victory in its last eight games.
Although he didn’t reach the 30-point plateau like he had done in five of the previous six games, Dwight Howard still poured in an outstanding effort with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
The Magic’s two point guards, Jameer Nelson and Gilbert Arenas, combined for 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field. Nelson, for one, collected 13 points and seven assists, while Arenas contributed 16 points and buried 4-of-6 from 3-point range.
Brandon Bass and Jason Richardson also posted double digits – scoring 17 and 11 respectively.
While Orlando played stifling defense, the only player it had trouble stopping was Stephen Jackson, who erupted for a game-high 35 points.
In the aftermath of the Gerald Wallace-to-Portland trade, it’s very apparent that Jackson will be relied upon to carry the offensive load the rest of the season for Charlotte.
The Magic have three extremely difficult games the rest of the week as they host the revamped Knicks on Tuesday, visit their Sunshine State rivals, the Heat, on Thursday and return to Amway Center for a pivotal showdown with the Bulls on Friday.
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In order for the Orlando Magic to succeed in their quest for a championship, they’re going to have to get improved play from both their point guards.
Orlando needs for Jameer Nelson to be on the attack and for Gilbert Arenas to be an x-factor off the pine, both aggressively creating plays and knocking down shots.
On Sunday, the backcourt duo both delivered in the Magic’s wire-to-wire triumph over the Bobcats, putting on display how dominant Orlando can be when both its floor generals are performing at a high level.
Nelson scored his first four buckets off pick-and-rolls as he attacked the rack for 13 points on an efficient 6-for-11 shooting night.
Gilbert Arenas was equally electric, breaking out of his long distance shooting slump and connecting on four of his six tries from downtown.
“He just has to remain confident shooting the ball,” All-Star center Dwight Howard explained. “Every time he gets in the game, (we need him to) be aggressive and play hard. That’s all we need from him.”
Arenas followed Howard’s request against Charlotte, finding his spots on the floor and drilling five of his seven attempts from the field on his way to 16 points.
“It was good to see him make shots and hopefully get some confidence going,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I thought that was a positive outing for him.”
You can safely bet, Orlando is hoping they see a few more “positive outings” in the near future from both Amway Arenas and Mighty Mouse.
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Michael Jordan heard the skepticism loud and clear from NBA spectators following his decision to trade his franchise player, Gerald Wallace, to Portland in exchange for three expiring contracts, including Joel Przybilla’s, and draft picks.
On initial analysis, NBA viewers reacted with bewilderment. Wallace is a proven star – recognized largely for his relentless hustle and willingness to accept contact. There is a justifiable reason why he is nicknamed “Crash.”
In addition, aside from losing the 10-year veteran, the two draft selections Charlotte acquired are both conditional picks – one in 2011 and the other in 2013. As a result, the Bobcats will not likely receive any additional lottery choices (besides their own if they miss the playoffs) in the draft.
But Jordan, who became majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats in early 2010, immediately defended his assessment to finalize this deal.
“I think it’s one of the best trades,” Jordan said.
Irrespective of whether it should be considered a “good” or “bad” decision, it was extremely risky.
By sending Wallace packing and not accepting any guaranteed salaries in return, the Bobcats will be under the current salary cap following this season and way under the cap the subsequent year.
Jordan, likewise, seems to be confident he can convince a future prized free agent to sign with his team.
Charlotte, however, has never been known as a market to attract superstars. But Jordan likely believes he can utilize his own name and analogous legacy to recruit.
Only time will tell if this deadline deal will be one that Jordan can ultimately turn to all the critics and say, “I told you so.”
Besides the obvious – which is continue to work hard at practice and perfect all of Stan Van Gundy’s schemes and tactics – the Orlando Magic may be interested in the standings as we approach the late stages of the season.
While players will generally never admit to caring about what their competition is doing unless they are scheduled to play them in their next game, they obviously care about potential playoff matchups.
The expectation is that by the start of the postseason, the Magic will be confident to beat anyone in a seven-game series. But in sports, it’s always helpful to play against more inferior, less experienced competition to assure favorability to win the NBA championship.
If Orlando remains as the No. 4 seed, which is where it is currently positioned, it would be beneficial for it to watch the standings the rest of the season to see whom it would play in the playoffs.
The chase for the No. 5 seed, presently occupied by the Hawks, would be one of interest for the Magic. While Atlanta has a somewhat comfortable advantage over both New York and Philadelphia, it also has the league’s toughest schedule the rest of the season.
Also significant if Orlando stays at the No. 4 spot would be the race for the top seed. Boston, Miami and Chicago are all contending for the No. 1 seed.
As of right now, it’s difficult to determine which one of those three teams the Magic match up with best should they advance to the conference semifinals. Boston has the experience, Miami has the most star-studded trio and Chicago has the impregnable defense.
Needless to say, Orlando still has aspirations of climbing up in the standings. If it does, there will be completely different potential seedings to ponder.
“I finally have something to put in my office,” Richardson explained. “I’ve been waiting on that ball. Every time I go to Charlotte, I’ve been asking them about it.”