Dwyane Wade Impressed by Magic's Offseason Moves
By John Denton
Nov. 7, 2016
CHICAGO – After facing Dwyane Wade 42 times over the past 13 seasons with the Miami Heat, many of the Orlando Magic’s players might have done a double take on Monday upon seeing the superstar guard for the first time in a Chicago Bulls jersey.
And the same goes for Wade, who said that he was surprised and quite impressed with the moves that his former rival made over a busy offseason to upgrade the roster.
Orlando added nine new players, led by big men Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo and veterans Jeff Green and D.J. Augustin, in an attempt to get back in the playoff chase. As for Wade, he left Miami in a huff when he felt the Heat didn’t pursue him heavily enough in free agency. After starring for the Heat since 2003 and bringing three championships to South Florida, Wade returned to his native Chicago to play for the Bulls.
Wade has long been a Magic killer, averaging 26.3 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 51.2 percent in those 42 games against the Magic (41 starts). But he knows now that the task of scoring against the Magic is much tougher after they made major upgrades to their defense.
``They struggled early in the year, losing the first three games and winning the next three, but I thought they did a great job in Orlando of putting together a competitive team,’’ Wade said. ``They did it a little different – like a throwback – where they went and got two bigs. Most people are trying to get smaller, but they went and got two bigs and that’s a throwback. But their bigs spread the floor and shoot the jump shot.
``Obviously, when they play a lineup with both of those guys (Ibaka and Biyombo) in there, defensively they are different,’’ Wade continued. ``With Ibaka, he can really shoot the ball and Biyombo can pick-and-roll to the basket as good as any center in today’s game. And those two protect the paint really well because they are two of the best shot-blockers in our game.’’
LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR MARIO: Because he is still learning the NBA game and learning how to check some of the game’s great players, Magic guard/forward Mario Hezonja treated Monday night’s matchup against Wade as another chance to gain a valuable learning experience.
Hezonja, 21, came into Monday night trying to ride the momentum of his most impactful game of the season. He scored 13 points two weeks ago in a one-sided loss in Chicago, but it was his nine points on Saturday – eight of them coming in the second half – that helped the Magic rally past the Washington Wizards.
Hezonja hoped to take that growth into Chicago where he’d be asked to guard Wade or fellow all-star Jimmy Butler while on the floor. He knows full well that Wade has loads more of experience than him and he hoped to pick up a few tips from the future Hall of Famer.
``It’s amazing facing a guy like Wade because you are going to learn times two,’’ Hezonja said. ``In a person like him you are going to see a lot of stuff that you will see the whole season. He’s one of the legends here in the NBA, so competing against a guy like that makes you grown and learn even faster.’’
CATCHING A HUGE BREAK: The Magic were thrilled to defeat Washington on Saturday night for their third straight victory. What they were not thrilled about, however, was how they had to hold on at the end and dodge disaster in the final seconds.
With the Magic up two and 1.1 seconds remaining, they had a chance to seal the victory with Nikola Vucevic at the free throw line. However, Vucevic – a career 72.4 percent free throw shooter – missed badly on both attempts.
The game before, a Magic defeat of Sacramento, Vucevic struggled late in the game from the line and he made just two of six tries in the game. For the season, he has uncharacteristically struggled, making just nine of 19 attempts.
``It’s happened to me the last two games and I’ve never really been through that before,’’ Vucevic said of his free throw struggles. ``Maybe I was just overthinking it because in the last game I went two-for-six and then I had two big free throws (on Saturday against Washington) and I didn’t take my time. I feel like I rushed them a little bit. There’s nothing crazy that I’m too worried about making free throws.’’
Following Vucevic’s misses, Washington had one last chance and seemed poised to win the game when Markieff Morris got free for a wide-open 3-pointer from the right wing. When he missed, Orlando celebrated, but knew full well that it narrowly dodged disaster.
Anticipating several screens, the Magic drew up a defensive scheme to switch men when shooters got free. However, point guard Elfrid Payton anticipated Morris going to the top of the key rather than floating back to the wing, allowing him to get the clean look.
``We switched everything appropriately, but Elfrid just lost him,’’ Magic coach Frank Vogel said. ``After the switch, he just lost (Morris).’’
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