One month into the NBA Season and the Magic find themselves in familiar territory, atop the Southeast Conference and tied with the Boston Celtics for first in the Eastern Conference with a record of 14-4. One of the strengths of this team so far has been its ability to be resilient and win games in the waning moments and often times without key players in the lineup. Vince Carter, Jameer Nelson, and J.J. Redick have all missed time in this young season. Yet the Magic go unnoticed.
The NBA world is hypnotized by the Miami Heat even while they play mediocre basketball amidst enough drama to make TNT blush. But we knew this is how it would be going into the season and why argue with the results. The attention can remain elsewhere while the Magic piles up wins and continues to develop the depth that is going to make them a very tough out in April, May, and hopefully June.
The team’s defense prowess remains underrated but the Magic rank FIRST in opponent’s points/game only allowing a stingy 91.1. They rank sixth in opponent’s field goal percentage at .436. Having Dwight Howard anchoring the defense is the primary reason for this success but the addition of Q. Rich defending wing players and the increased playing time of the rugged Brandon Bass is also of immense help.
Speaking of Bass, kudos to Stan Van Gundy for finally realizing the help Bass can bring off the bench. Bass is averaging 9.7 points and 5 rebounds in 20 minutes of action per game. He may not win 6th man of the year honors but his contribution has Van Gundy speaking of him favorably. “Right now, he’s as good as anybody we have defensively. And, believe me, from where he came last year, that is a huge jump.” said Van Gundy.
All things considered the most impressive Magic player not named Dwight Howard has been Jameer Nelson. Nelson is playing at the level that he started the 2008-2009 season at which also happens to be the season the Magic made it to the Finals. To date Nelson is averaging a career high 7.1 assists to go along with 14.9 points while shooting 49% from the floor, 40% from 3, and 81% from the free throw line. Not only has he been efficient as evidenced by his numbers, he has truly been a vocal leader on the floor and in the locker room. Despite being diminutive he is fearless down the stretch of games and has been the primary go-to-guy when the game is on the line.
Room for team improvement still remains. Vince Carter has been inconsistent and slowed by multiple injuries. J.J. Redick is still looking for the touch on his jumper but remains a pesky defender but did fill in admirably while Carter missed 3 games with injuries. Then there is Rashard Lewis. It’s amazing this team plays at the level it does with one of the most disappointing players in the league in their starting lineup. At this point nobody expects Rashard to live up to his ludicrous contract. I think we are all beyond that and realize he is just not that guy. But 12 points and 4 rebounds a game? No sir that won’t cut it.
The Magic are taking their act on the road for 8 of their next 10 games including a 4 game in 6 night west coast trip. Look for the Magic to continue to improve and hopefully remain healthy as the schedule becomes slightly unfavorable. One thing you should not look for is for any additional attention for the team that is undoubtedly the best team in Florida. Given the early predictions of most NBA experts, that says a lot.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com