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Early returns…

Posted By Warren Shaw On Dec 24 2010 @ 1:20 pm In Orlando Magic | No Comments

With 3 games under their belt the new-look Magic have a record of 1-2. Without question the offensive firepower exists and the progression steady since the arrival of Turkgolu, Richardson, Arenas, and Clark on Saturday. 

Orlando took on rival Atlanta Hawks with a new starting lineup featuring Nelson, Richardson,Turkgolu, Bass and Howard with Arenas as the 6th man. That lineup resulted in a 91-81 loss as Orlando looked like a team that barely knew each other. The score does not reflect the story of the game- which was a beating administered by the Hawks. Orlando shot 35% and trailed by double digits most of the game, trailing by as many as 17 at one point. The “ART” (Arenas, Richardson, and Turkgolu) trio combined for 27points, 9 rebounds and 9 assist. Not exactly what Otis Smith and coach Van Gundy had in mind.

“We’re starting from scratch,” said coach Van Gundy. “We would have all liked it to be better but it wasn’t…Look, they’re out there trying hard, just none of them played well. Nobody could shoot the ball… I’m sure they had a lot of emotions and stuff going on. It was a long night.” A long night it was indeed.

The streak-busting Dallas Mavericks rode into O-Town one night removed from dousing the Miami Heat’s 12 game winning streak. Dallas held on to finish the Magic 105-99 behind Caron Butler’s 20 points and Jason Terry’s clutch shooting (finished with 13 points). Flashes of the Magic’s explosive offense showed during this game, notably during a 17-2 run in between the first and second quarters. However flashes were not enough to top the underrated Mavericks. The new Magic again struggled to find their shots. Arenas had 2 points (1-6) Turkoglu 9 (2-11,) & Richardson 10  (4-13).

“None of those guys are shooting the ball very well right now,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I don’t know if it’s being in a new situation or putting too much pressure on themselves. All three are struggling to shoot the ball.” This was the Magic’s 4th straight loss and 8th in the last 9. After the game, Howard who put up a massive 26 point 23 rebound effort said “It can’t get any worse..” Next up the the NBA’s best team record wise, the San Antonio Spurs. Maybe Howard was wrong…

The San Antonio Spurs arrived in Orlando winners of 10 straight with NBA-best 25-3 record. They left Orlando gassed and whiplashed as the Magic found their offensive stride defeating the Spurs 123-101. The Magic did what a team with new players and no time to practice should do, they ran – scoring a season’s best 30 fast break points against the surprisingly uptempo Spurs.

The “ART” trio lived up to their potential as a whole, but Arenas stood out with his 14pt, 9ast, and 6reb effort in only 28 minutes. The Spurs had to feel like Arenas played the full 48 since   the Magic were a staggering plus 21 in this game with Arenas. Arenas received plenty of pep talks from coaches and Magic players. Howard told Arenas to forget his past and get back to being the hibachi. Coach Van Gundy reportedly left a note for Arenas in the locker room prior to the game encouraging him to push the ball and to be who he is. At least for one game it worked!

It has been trial by fire so far for Orlando. Sure it would have been nice to get some practice time in for the players to get better acquainted but the Magic’s schedule does not allow for it this week. Nor did the schedule allow for games against lesser NBA opponents with all 4 games this week against teams that made the playoffs last year. The streaking Celtics (winners of 14 straight) are up next on Christmas Day.

Amongst all the transition and struggles Dwight Howard has been stunning this week averaging of 24.6 points, 19 rebounds and 2.3 blocks through 3 games. Howard should have the Eastern Conference player of the week locked up no matter what happens on Christmas.

I am starting to change my tune on Brandon Bass. He is a bit of a black hole and might end up back in Van Gundy’s doghouse if his shot selection and defense do not improve. Luckily he has been hitting his shot and is almost forced into action with Magic lacking bigs currently. Ryan Anderson returned on Thursday against the Spurs and looked great scoring 10 points in 21 minutes. He will help with the Magic’s lack of size and stretch the floor allowing Howard more room to work down low.

A mini controversy is brewing regarding the Magic point guard situation. After a sizzling performance the questions about Arenas starting over Nelson have been darted Van Gundy’s way to which Van Gundy responded “Could it change? Sure it could change.” In Nelson’s defense he reportedly received an IV at halftime and might have had relapse of the flu that him hard a few weeks ago. Jason Richardson has been about as I expected – average. The return of Turkgolu has been uninspiring but we are still within the “he is getting re-acclimated phase”. His play should improve. What happens in the coming weeks will no doubt be interesting. Van Gundy continues to tinker with the lineup and his new toys while trying to find a balance between offensive dominance and defensive adequacy. Arenas said. “A month from now, we should be dangerous.” It is early but if the win against the Spurs is any indication, then the league should be on notice.

CPR 12-26-2010

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