Wednesday’s game against Miami was the first undoubtedly “big game” at the Amway Center. The game was sold out long before hand and the Magic faithful packed the building and kept it loud, booing LeBron James on just about every touch.
There was plenty of concern before the Amway Center opened that it would not be as loud as the old Orlando Arena. The O-Rena’s design was more like a college stadium with rows built on top of each other and very close to the court. The Amway Center is more like other professional arenas as the bowl opens up toward a spacious ceiling. The only thing trapping noise might be the roof.
But the Amway Center should quickly get a reputation as a loud arena. At least Stan Van Gundy thinks so after Wednesday night’s game.
“I don’t notice it a whole lot. But the one thing we noticed last game is our players had a lot of trouble hearing each other on pick and rolls, calling out schemes. And that’s not often our guys are saying, ‘I can’t hear it.’ The noise level has to be pretty good. I know in the first half we were getting on them a little bit at halftime because we weren’t together on our pick and roll coverages and the problem was that guys couldn’t hear our big guys. The noise level has got to be pretty good in there.”
Van Gundy said he never remembered the Magic having that problem at Orlando Arena. And if the Magic are having issues communicating, you would hope other teams do too.
So is it a good thing that Orlando’s crowd is that loud? In a word: Yes. Definitely yes.
“You certainly want a very enthusiastic, very involved crowd,” Van Gundy said. “There’s no question.
“I don’t think there’s any negatives. Well, there is one. The only thing I notice is that there is so much good stuff in here the first four or five minutes, there’s nobody in their seats. But they get back there fairly quickly.”
Van Gundy marveled that the stadium is more or less empty when the team comes back onto the floor at the beginning of the second half. But by the time the game got close, the crowd did their job to feed Orlando with a little energy.
Cleveland without LeBron
After LeBron James and the Miami Heat roll into town, his former team makes its way into the Amway Center. Cleveland is undoubtedly a much different team than it was last year.
Gone is the ball-dominating style James featured the last few years and in is new coach Byron Scott’s variation of the Princeton offense (a style that is near and dear to my heart as a Northwestern fan.
“Every team presents challenges,” Van Gundy said. “With these guys they do a lot more movement and moving the ball. They run a lot of that Princeton offense stuff. The great players like LeBron and Wade and Kobe, those guys obviously require their own preparation. Those stars require more preparation on the way you are going to play them. No matter who people have, there’s always something that makes the preparation different and challenging. There is never an easy preparation.”
Even without James’ scoring and play-making ability, the Cavaliers are playing pretty well. Cleveland is a much more balanced team now with Mo Williams leading the team with 14.8 points per game and 4.3 assists per game, followed closely by Daniel Gibson’s 14.0 points and 4.0 assists per game.
The Cavaliers still have a lot of guys who can put up points in a hurry. They have had six different guys score a season-high of 20 points so far this season, including JJ Hickson putting in a 31-point effort earlier this year. There is no one star to focus in now.
“Generally when you played Cleveland in the past, they had some good things that they ran. But you were really talking about, the majority of what you were talking about them was how you were going to play LeBron’s isolations and LeBron’s pick and rolls. Now it’s how are you going to deal with their movement. Now it’s a different preparation.”
Happy for an Offseason
With college basketball starting and all the Thanksgiving tournaments wrapping up, Van Gundy is happy he gets an offseason. No qualms about playing another low-scoring game in the Big Ten or dealing with the trials and tribulations of recruiting.
“I think to be honest, one thing I like here is even though our season is grueling, the offseason is the offseason,” Van Gundy said. “Whereas in college, you are out recruiting all the time. This is just pure basketball. The part I don’t miss is worrying if kids are going to class or going to tutoring and dealing with the boosters. This is just basketball. Our players are responsible for their own lives.”
Van Gundy coached at Division II UMass Lowell, before becoming an assistant coach at Wisconsin before spending some time as the head coach. After that, he joined Pat Riley’s staff in Miami.
Mary Schmitt-Boyer of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer asked Van Gundy if his father encouraged him to get into coaching and whether he would encourage his kids to get into coaching. Van Gundy grew up in a coaching family and took to the job. Whether his kids will, well that is another issue.
“I would just make sure that if my kids wanted to get into it, that they really understood what they were getting into,” Van Gundy said. “They need to make sure that they talk to their moms and stuff too. There are some great things in this business, but there are downsides. It takes a toll on your family there is no question about that.”