ORLANDO — Every one conceded Orlando had a glaring weakness on its roster. Perimeter scoring.
When the team acquired Vince Carter last summer, it was assumed Carter could shoulder the bulk of the scoring load and become the team’s go-to scorer for crunch time. That never really panned out as Carter struggled to fit in to the offense. Still, Orlando won 59 games and went to the Eastern Conference Finals.
This season, the Magic were playing well, hit their rut and still have not really regained their stride. Yet something did not feel right.
Not right enough certainly for a move — and a complete re-make of the roster — before Christmas.
“(Otis Smith and I) talked about what our team needed,” Stan Van Gundy said. “And I thought for us it was, and I think what this deal has done, is a little bit younger, more athletic. The thing we really wanted to do was add some offense and guys that can create off the dribble. We got a little younger. We got a little more athletic. And we got some guys who can put the ball on the floor and make plays. I think we were on the same page as far as what our needs were as a team. I think Otis acomplished that with both of these deals.”
Smith said negotiations with several teams began about two weeks ago when the team started its strange fall from the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Even with the team playing decently, Smith was not quite settled with how his team was playing. He circled the West Coast trip as one that would determine which way this team would go. After the 1-3 trip, things had clearly not fixed itself enough and the team even took a step backwards.
So Smith took the opportunity to make this team better.
“I thought we needed scoring, a little bit more punch,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith said. “All those guys coming in have the ability to move the ball and score the ball. At the same time, looking at our team, even after 25 games, we were missing a little something. I thought change was needed.”
Smith said he is disappointed at losing the size in Marcin Gortat, but gaining the guys who can put the ball on the floor and score was crucial to getting this team to the next level.
How all the players will mesh and create offense is still a matter for question and debate. And there won’t be much time before the new guys are thrown directly into the fire. Van Gundy made it clear Jameer Nelson will start and Gilbert Arenas and Nelson will have to be on the floor at the same time as both deserve to be on the floor for 30-plus minutes a night.
Van Gundy specified that between the three players coming in, one will most likely be coming off the bench and Turkoglu will likely not play the four except against smaller lineups.
Still, the defense is the big concern with this group especially on the fly. Van Gundy said he never believed that this group couldn’t win the title, but the unevenness on offense meant the team needed to do everything possible to get to the championship level.
“We can be just real real simple early on,” Van Gundy said. “My concern is, as it has been with the guys we’ve had, is with defense. It just takes a lot more time. There’s a lot to cover defensively to get everyone on the same page. From what I know of all these guys, they are all smart guys. I think the learning will go very quickly. There’s a lot to cover and not a lot of practice time. The big thing is getting the new guys into a defensive mentality. Hell, the big thing is getting the guys we’ve had into a defensive mentality as well. We’ll all enjoy that challenge together.”
Smith said he expects all the players to meet the team in Atlanta on Monday with the possibility Arenas flew down to Orlando for a physical tomorrow.