The 2010-11 season is right around the corner. No, it is like literally right around the corner. Training camps open in a few weeks and we can finally stop conjecturing and start making sense of this summer of upheaval. The new season will be much different than the old. So let’s start thinking 2011 and all the hope and promise that comes with it.
Jeff Clark of CelticsBlog.com has organized the NBA Blog Preview, consisting of all the best basketball blogs across the Internet, to help everyone get ready. The Magic will be coming up sooner rather than later and the season will be around the corner. I will be trying to keep up and give a Magic-centered look at each team being previewed.
Last Year: 25-57, Missed Playoffs
Last Year vs. Magic: Won 109-88 in Sacramento (1/12); Won 100-84 in Orlando (1/22)
This Year vs. Magic: Feb. 23 in Orlando (7 p.m.); March 9 in Sacramento (10 p.m.)
Magic Connection: None
It has been a long time since Shaquille O’Neal was worrying himself about the Sacramento “Queens” and Chris Webber, Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic were running down the ARCO Arena floor and giving teams fits with their smooth passing abilities and patient fast break. Now Sacramento is fighting for its very survival as the team has gone very young and put all its hopes — including the hope of a new arena — on the shoulders of Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans.
Evans will be the story all season long for the Kings. Coach Paul Westhead has apparently elected to have Evans play as shooting guard and off the ball rather than at the point like he did at Memphis. Evans joined elite company by averaging 20.1 points per game, 5.3 rebounds per game and 5.8 assists per game. Those are historic numbers.
Evans clearly has point guard skills, but he will be splitting time with Beno Udrih at the point. And much like the Rashard Lewis debate in Orlando, Evans’ position debate will likely consume Sacramento all year — albeit for slightly less higher stakes.
The Kings also lucked into DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins was widely considered at least the third best player from last year’s draft. But he slipped to Sacramento at five and the team was very happy to snatch him up.
Kings fans are hoping Cousins will give their team the type of interior defense the Magic have. Or at least a fraction of it. It is no secret Sacramento has not had much of a low post threat in a long time. Dwight Howard has torn up the Kings either by himself or by the threat of himself (remember that record game two years ago?). Throw in the acquisition of Samuel Dalembert and all of a sudden you have got a team with some good young post player — the Kings also have Jason Thompson and rookie Hassan Whiteside.
Sacramento is still a young team. And improvement is the goal. I do not think anyone expects a postseason appearance from Sacramento. The Kings will be a tough out though.
How the Kings will beat the Magic: Sacramento has some good young post players that could force Orlando to move to a more traditional lineup. I know, I know. The Magic are thinking about doing that anyway. But against a team like Sacramento, Orlando should think about putting all the shooters it can on the floor and taking advantage of all its mistakes. Anything Sacramento can do to make itself feel more comfortable will allow this young team to stay in the game.
Now, Dwight Howard is going to have a big say defensively and offensively. But Sacramento needs to find a way to eliminate Orlando’s shooters. And a good way to do that is get big and dominate the glass. The Kings may have the personnel to do this.
How the Magic will beat the Kings: Shooting will be vitally important in this matchup. But the one thing Orlando can use is its poise and its ability to control the tempo. Sacramento is such a young team that if Orlando can knock it out of its comfort zone, Orlando should come out with a win.
The Kings are not a great half-court team. Evans is really the only one that can create a shot on the team and Cousins is a rookie. So the Magic must make shots and keep the Kings from getting out on the break and then use their suffocating defense to dominate the pace of play.