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One of the biggest questions heading into training camp was who would win the starting small forward job, Mickael Pietrus or Matt Barnes? While the general assumption is that Barnes would start alongside Rashard Lewis (and Brandon Bass for the first ten games), Mickael Pietrus answered that question swiftly on Monday.
“I like to come off the bench,” Pietrus said. “I don’t mind if Matt Barnes starts. I don’t mind if I come off the bench. It’s just a matter of winning a championship.”
I asked him why he prefers to come off the bench; perhaps there was less pressure that way?
“There is pressure anytime you play,” Pietrus said. “It’s all about the team. It’s about working hard at practice and then someone starts. You just have to give the best energy you can when you get in the game.
“So when I come off the bench I can bring energy. I don’t care if I start or if I come off the bench, but I really want to come off the bench.”
Of course, the Magic could also opt to start Rashard Lewis at small forward and Brandon Bass at power forward, giving the Magic a more conventional look.
Pietrus provided a spark off the bench during the Magic’s playoff run, averaging 10.5 points on 48-percent shooting. He also was counted on to guard the opposing team’s best scorer during the fourth quarter, including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Paul Pierce. He was inconsistent early in the season while playing the role of starting shooting guard. When he suffered an injury in December, he never really got the starting job back, making way for Courtney Lee.
The statistics show Pietrus as a better offensive player as a starter than off as a reserve, but he played a lot more minutes when in the starting five. It is, of course, much harder to find a shooting stroke when coming cold off the bench.
Mickael Pietrus, 2008-09 season Starter: 29.3 minutes, 11.7 points, 42.7 FG%, 38.8 3P%, 14.3 points per 36
Substitute: 20.5 minutes, 7.5 points, 39.6 FG%, 32.4 3P%, 13.1 points per 36
Those statistics don’t account for defense, the biggest area where Pietrus helps the Magic. When the Magic are at their best, Pietrus is counted on for little else besides hitting open shots from the corners offensively.
Barnes started 40 games for the Suns last season and enjoyed the best season of his career. Pietrus is glad to have Barnes aboard and is excited about the team’s depth this year.
“I’m not going to play 48 minutes, so people have to relieve me,” Pietrus said. “That’s why we have a good team this year, and hopefully we’re going to go to the NBA Finals and win it.”
Pietrus added that his injured right wrist, which he broke in December and played through in the spring, is not 100 percent yet. But he said it’s feeling better and shouldn’t be a problem.
Month of Magic Each day leading up to the season, we’ll take a look at the Orlando Magic by featuring a different player, coach, or storyline.