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Swinging for the fences

Posted By Warren Shaw On Dec 20 2010 @ 1:51 pm In Orlando Magic | No Comments

“We just keep hitting singles…It doesn’t make any sense to say, ‘Let’s tear it down and put this team back together differently. We’re not going to dismantle what we have. We’re not that far away. We just need a little tweaking.” Those were the words from Orlando Magic GM Otis Smith this summer shortly after the signing of Quentin Richardson. Four months later, following a stretch that saw the Magic lose 7 of 8, Smith decided it was time to change the “singles” approach.

On Saturday, December 17 the Magic traded Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus to Phoenix for Hedo Turkgolu, Jason Richardson and Earl Clark. Later in the day another deal was confirmed, as the Magic traded Rashard Lewis to Washington in exchange for the enigmatic Gilbert Arenas. In two trades involving 8 players, the Orlando Magic have become a completely different team. These trades reunite Arenas and Richardson who played together in Golden State and it brings back fan favorite – and more importantly Dwight Howard favorite - Hedo Turkgolu.

The fallout? While I was in favor of almost anything that got Rashard Lewis out of town, it’s hard not to come away with a sense that the team panicked on these deals. The combination of losses and the success of in-state rival Miami definitely had something to do with this change. Smith said he had been pondering these moves for a while and that he wanted to get them done sooner than later to give Van Gundy time to work with the new additions. Fair enough, but now the team is completely undersized and will have to acquire a backup center to limit Howard’s minutes going forward. Malik Allen and Ryan Anderson while decent bench guys are not the answer. While being undersized the Magic are now almost completely predicated on offense. Otis Smith said he felt the team needed some more “firepower” seeing the offensive struggles on the team’s West Coast trip. Ironically following the loss last week to Denver, Coach Van Gundy hinted at lineup changes for Saturday. Even he didn’t know this was coming considering his rants on the lack of defense.

The roles of the newly acquired playerts are not at all clear. Nelson and Howard are safe in the starting rotation leaving Arenas, Jason Richardson, Turkgolu and Bass to duke it out for the 3 remaining spots.

“Jason Richardson is playing great right now and Turkoglu is playing great. I see them two starting at the (shooting guard) and (small forward). And since I’ve been coming off the bench this season….I was coming off the bench for Washington, so I’m used to it,” said Arenas. 

Interesting! Starting J-Rich, Turkgolu and Bass alongside Nelson and Howard does give them good size to start games and a more traditional lineup. If Van Gundy was deploying Rashard Lewis at the 4 he might do the same with Turkgolu, sliding J-Rich to the 3 and Arenas taking the 2. Either way the Magic have options offensively and all the newly acquired fit the 3 point shooting happy offense Van Gundy employs.

On the surface the trades are about competing in the East this year with Boston and Miami. There is deeper meaning here to show Dwight Howard a commitment to the team’s future -  especially with Turkgolu returning to town. Howard is said to be happy with the trades but he is not the type to criticize management. I am not convinced that this is a team that can return to the finals especially with the lack of size and defense currently on the roster.

Turkgolu has not been anywhere close to the heroic player he was in Orlando three seasons ago. He has seemed disinterested and uncertain, but he flourished in Orlando and hopefully he can return to glory once again. Richardson was enjoying a fine statistical season in Phoenix but will have to play without the ball since Howard commands the ball on offense. He should continue to get plenty of open looks off Howard’s double teams and could approachto the 19ppg that he had in Phoenix. Then there is Gilbert Arenas. He has played well and been relatively quiet after a troublesome pre-season. Arenas undoubtedly is the wildest card in any deck but his father son relationship with Otis Smith provides hope that thisaddition can work. His play-making ability and late game shot heroics will be key for the team’s expected run into the playoffs.

One message is clear and at the same time very concerning. If the team struggles, Otis Smith is not afraid to swing for the fences. Batter Up!

CPR 12-20-2010

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