Cohen Answers Popular Questions
By Josh Cohen
January 11, 2011
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January 11, 2011
I have kept track of some of the more popular questions that Orlando Magic fans have at this point of the season and decided to provide my answers and analysis to a few of the more striking curiosities.
QUESTION: You have talked so much about the importance of seeding in the playoffs, but what seed do you think the Magic will end up with this season?
ANSWER: Obviously it’s impossible to predict the future, but if I had to surmise a forecast, I would suggest Orlando would end up as the No. 2 seed in the East.
Irrespective of how well the Magic play the rest of the season, much will depend on how the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and even Atlanta Hawks perform.
Miami, noticeably, has elevated its play after a disappointing start and has won 13 straight road games and 21 of its last 22 overall. Most NBA observers seem to think the Heat will ultimately finish with the best record in the league.
I think, however, the two teams to watch over the next couple of months are the Celtics and Bulls. Last season after a terrific 23-5 beginning, Boston went 27-27 to finish the year. It ended up with the No. 4 seed before getting hot in the playoffs and advancing to the NBA Finals.
While Orlando is certainly talented to defeat any opponent in any round – regardless of who has the home court edge—it would be ideal if the Magic earned the No. 2 seed, the Bulls swooped in to No. 3 and the Celtics slipped down to No. 4.
As a result, rather than having to contend with either the Heat or Celtics in the conference semifinals, the Magic would clash with the Bulls who clearly seem on paper to be a much more inferior and inexperienced adversary.
I’m not signifying that the Magic would want to elude Miami or Boston, but let’s face it; it’s always a bonus if you only have to play one of those teams rather than both in your journey to the NBA Finals.
QUESTION: Of the four acquisitions in last month’s two blockbuster trades, who do you think has been the most surprising?
ANSWER: Hedo Turkoglu
I can’t emphasize how impressed I have been with Turk since he returned to Orlando. After a year and a half of frustration in Toronto and Phoenix, Hedo has generated so much energy and has allowed the Magic to play at a faster tempo that was absent prior to the deals.
In just 11 games since rejoining the Magic, Turkoglu has already recorded a triple-double in one game and dished out a career-high 17 assists in another.
He is also one of the catalysts in Orlando’s balance. In all nine games during this impressive winning streak, at least five Magic players have scored in double figures.
Besides his offensive excellence, Turk has shown he causes all kinds of mismatches against opponents. Against Boston on Christmas Day, for example, the 11-year veteran helped limit Paul Pierce to zero fourth-quarter points.
Also astounding is Hedo’s precision. In Orlando’s last five games, he has not recorded more than two turnovers – which is outstanding for someone that handles the ball as frequently as he does.
When the two trades were made on Dec. 18, I honestly thought the two marquee additions were Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson. And while both those guys have shown spurts of excellence, it’s been the Turkish superstar that has translated into the “steal” of the deals.
QUESTION: With all the Carmelo Anthony trade talk going on, have you ever seen such mysterious back-and-forth speculation about impending deals?
ANSWER: Not really, although when Kobe Bryant openly demanded a trade from the Lakers in 2007 and when the 76ers decided they planned on dealing Allen Iverson in 2006, there were similar rumblings on a daily basis.
For Iverson, first off, every day there was a different team that seemed to be the “favorites” to land the perennial All-Star. I recall one day it was Miami, the next it was Boston, then New York. And then finally, Denver appeared out of nowhere and offered a package that Philadelphia decided it couldn’t refuse.
For Bryant, on the other hand, the speculation lasted from around June of 2007 until around December of that year before L.A. transformed into a Western Conference power again (verified when it acquired Pau Gasol from Memphis that season). At one point, Detroit reportedly had a package in place that would land Kobe, but speculation was always that the superstar wanted to play in Chicago. Eventually, none of these cravings mattered because the Lakers turned out to be the best team in the conference.
As far as Carmelo, who reportedly has hinted that his preferred destination is New York, it just seems that every day there is a different obstacle in completing a deal. New Jersey has exhausted all of its efforts and you figure that if it can’t finalize a deal this time it never will.
I think the most remarkable aspect of all of these alleged trade discussions is the sheer number of players that it may take for a deal to get done. At one point, rumors suggested that as many as 17 players could be involved in the negotiations.
We will see how it concludes (if ever).
QUESTION: What are your thoughts of the Miami Heat at this point of the season?
ANSWER: They are who we thought they were. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are phenomenal players and Chris Bosh is a tremendous third addition.
I still have some doubts, however, about the Heat come playoff time. If you look at NBA history, there are three components that are generally very influential in deciding NBA champions. They are:
- Dominance in the paint
- A survival kit if star players don’t live up to potential
- Defensive agenda
Outside of the Michael Jordan era, eventual NBA champions all had one thing in common – a consistent and effective inside presence. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan have combined for 29 NBA titles. Other notable big men that have helped lead their teams to championships include Willis Reed, Moses Malone and Robert Parish/Kevin McHale.
The Heat just simply don’t have a legitimate inside presence. There will come a point in the playoffs where they will have to rely on outside jumpers and normally that will prove to be ineffective against the other elite NBA teams.
I also wonder what will happen when James and Wade are both not shooting the ball well. Up until this point, Miami’s role players have not demonstrated an ability to “replace” the big three if they are not dominating (which they have over the last 22 games).
Past NBA champions generally have role players that hit big shots (ex. Robert Horry on Lakers/Spurs).
With all this said, I do respect the Heat and think they have a chance to conquer these particular obstacles. James and Wade are two of the best players of all-time and they deserve recognition.
But anyone who suggests they should be the absolute “favorites” to win it, I would have to disagree with that.
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What playoff seed do you think the Magic will end up with in the East?
Of the four acquisitions, which player do you think has been the most surprising?
What are your thoughts of the Miami Heat at this point of the season?