Cohen: Magic-Sixers Storylines

By Josh Cohen
February 9, 2011


1) HOWARD SHOULD LEAD IN MVP RACE

Though Dwight Howard has received some appreciation from national observers because of his improved offensive play, he still probably deserves even more recognition and support.

While categorically Derrick Rose and LeBron James have had sensational seasons, respectively, in my eyes, Howard is the league’s MVP by a fairly large margin.

Aside from his elevated scoring statistics, D12 has simply become a more clever basketball player. He understands the game better than ever before – always effectively reading defenses and knowing when he needs to avoid unnecessary fouls.

Especially after December’s trades that left the Magic without a true backup center, Howard is practically always on the court. Against Miami last week, Superman played the entire 48 minutes, in Boston he somehow played in more than 44 minutes in spite of an eye injury.

In Philadelphia on Wednesday – a game he erupted for 30 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and connected on 14-of-19 free throws one night after recording his fifth 20-20 of the season – Howard didn’t miss a second in the second half which proved to be significant in Orlando’s triumph.

If D12 can continue to show that he can knock down free throws like he did Wednesday consistently, there is no doubt that his confidence will grow to another level.

Already a defensive genius and now both inexorable offensively and more aware of fouls, what can Howard possibly do more of to prove he is the MVP?



Josh Cohen
2) MUCH MORE THAN JUST "EXTRAS"

It’s somewhat attention-grabbing that the Magic’s two active power forwards, who both have provided noteworthy contributions during their respective time with the franchise, were each formerly throw-ins in previous trades.

Ryan Anderson, for one, who was the “other” piece in the deal that sent Vince Carter to Orlando in 2009, has become one of the most pleasant surprises in the NBA. His outstanding 3-point shooting and relentless rebounding has transformed the Sacramento, CA native into one of the Magic’s most reliable scorers.

Rhino’s statistics are up across the board from last season – including averaging four more points and two more rebounds per game.

Since Brandon Bass suffered a severely sprained ankle more than a week ago, Anderson has stepped into the starting lineup and provided timely made connects and has even demonstrated defensive excellence over the past few games. Against the Clippers on Tuesday, he helped limit rookie sensation Blake Griffin to just 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting and on Wednesday denied Elton Brand from having one of his spectacular nights.

Earl Clark, meanwhile, who was included in December’s blockbuster trade that also delivered Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson to the Magic, has shown that he has potential to become a formidable player in the NBA.

After scoring 10 points against L.A., Clark continued his quality play with eight points and nine rebounds in Philadelphia.

When Bass returns – which may come as early as Friday when the Magic host the Hornets – Orlando should feel optimistic that it has three legit power forwards to help down low.


3) A MEMORABLE BIRTHDAY

It was beyond fitting – and somewhat comical – that on his 29th birthday Jameer Nelson visited his hometown for a matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Born and raised in Chester, PA and an All-American collegiate player at St. Joseph in Philly, Nelson returned to the city that he was a local hero at for years and like usual starred in front of thousands of spectators that always cheer him on.

What some people don’t realize about Nelson and his extraordinary accomplishments in college is that he was one of the pioneers of reforming a “smaller school” into a national powerhouse.

He led St. Joes to a 30-2 record during his senior year and was seconds away from advancing to the Final Four. Nelson graduated with countless honors, including being the program’s all-time leader in points, assists and steals.

After leading the Magic to a victory on Wednesday against the 76ers, Nelson got the opportunity to hear the vociferous chants from many of the fans that attended.

It’s not far-fetched to believe that Nelson may be the most celebrated local basketball player in Philadelphia’s history. Considering all of his achievements and though there have been plenty of superstars to come out of the City of Brotherly Love (ex. Wilt Chamberlain, Kobe Bryant and Rasheed Wallace), Nelson is among the most renowned according to many that have lived in the Philly area for years.

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