Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Nets (12/29/11)



By Josh Cohen
December 29, 2011


In Cohen Courtside, Josh Cohen examines the state of the Orlando Magic after games this season. He will tackle sidebar storylines and focus on topics that stretch far beyond the box score. There will also be some analysis on league-wide subjects.

MESSAGE SENT


ORLANDO -- We already know Dwight Howard watched – though without volume – New Jersey’s game on Tuesday when they got slaughtered by 36 to Atlanta.

We know certainly he noticed the Nets’ dreadful performance on Thursday when the Magic punished them into submission.

Could less than a week of regular season play already have convinced Howard that the Nets – one of three teams he recently requested a trade to -- is nowhere near championship worth?

Minus Brook Lopez, who is out six-to-eight weeks with a broken foot, is obviously irrelevant since he wouldn’t remain with the Nets if Howard ever joined them.

The Magic’s supporting cast proved they are more talented, more championship level than their counterparts on Thursday.

Even if you don’t weigh in Thursday’s outcome – a 16-point smashing – just evaluate the rosters side-by-side.

The power forward tandem of Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis is superior to Mr. Kardashian (sorry, Kris Humphries), Hedo Turkoglu is more savvy, more versatile than Damion James, Jason Richardson is a miles ahead of Sundiata Gaines, etc. etc.

Even with Jameer Nelson hurt for most of the game with a neck spasm, Chris Duhon stepped up his play and delivered a superb effort off the bench.

It remains to be seen what Howard’s viewpoint is and will be as the season progresses, but as I have recited many times before, if the Magic are categorically championship equipped by around the All-Star Break, Howard’s desires may change quick.

Already off to a 2-1 start, the Magic’s schedule continues to be a favorable one. Orlando still has four straight games coming up against opponents who did not qualify for the postseason last year.

It’s very possible that by this time next week, barring any unexpected surprises, Orlando could be 6-1 with a showdown with the Bulls at Amway Center to follow.


J-RICH RELIABLE


He’s only supposed to light it up from beyond the 3-point line, right?

Actually, Jason Richardson is proving he is far more capable and more attentive to some of the other constituents on the court.

Start it off with his relentless defensive approach, which included helping limit Deron Williams to just 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting from the field on Thursday.

Move over to his eagerness to attack the basket and not settle for the outside jumper. All of his 16 points against New Jersey came from his aggressive approach.

While he is really struggling from long distance in this early portion of the season (0-for-9), J-Rich is on the verge of having nights where he can undoubtedly be considered an elite player in the league.

Once his outside shot starts falling – and it will (he was second in the NBA last year in 3-pointers made) – one can expect Richardson to score around 20 points every other game and be one of the essential perimeter stoppers on the other end.


ALREADY SPECTACULAR


It’s already been a season filled with intrigue and we are just five days into it.

The defending champion Dallas Mavericks are struggling out of the gate while the Oklahoma City Thunder are clicking on all cylinders.

A few teams who made big splashes during free agency are off to hot starts. The addition of David West has helped the Pacers, who are undefeated, and Jamal Crawford’s arrival in Portland has done the same for the Blazers.

On the other hand, the absence of Andrew Bynum (suspension) and the injury to Paul Pierce has hurt the Lakers and Celtics, respectively.

Though they barely got past the Bobcats on Wednesday, the Heat appear more formidable in their sequel season. It’s very evident that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are on a mission.

With the acquisition of Chris Paul, “Lob City” is an exciting venue to watch fast-paced action. But even with all that talent, including Paul and Blake Griffin, it’s evident it will take a while for the Clippers to be among the elite.

Dwight Howard, who grabbed 24 rebounds on Thursday, looks like he is prime to be a potential frontrunner for the MVP award this season, while Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker will likely battle it out for Rookie of the Year honors.

There have already been a few instant classics, including two on Christmas Day (Celtics vs. Knicks and Bulls vs. Lakers).

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out: this is going to be an NBA season you don't want to miss a beat of.


QUOTES OF THE NIGHT


PLAYER
QUOTES

Chris Duhon
(On having DeAndre Liggins carry his bags to the car) "He's lucky. He only has 66 games. I had to deal with training camp, summer league and the whole regular season. It's just initiation for every rookie that comes in."

Stan Van Gundy
"Ryan is going to score, and I think he's capable of a lot more. I think the sky's the limit for him."

Deron Williams
"It is definitely frustrating. I am not playing well right now and the team is not playing too well right now."






Who do you think will prove to be the Magic's more valuable reserve as the season progresses?
Who do you think will prove to be the Magic's more valuable reserve as the season progresses?
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