In case you do not know, I also edit and write for the Bloguin general NBA blog, Crossover Chronicles. For the last month or so we have been going team by team and devoting a day to each one, describing the storylines and challenges each team is facing.
Today is #MagicDay and there will be several posts on Crossover Chronicles all about the Magic.
The Dwight-mare is over. And everyone is relieved.
The Magic are looking forward to a year without drama and a fresh start. Fans have surprisingly latched on to the new vision Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn have presented. They have embraced the players who stayed, including the re-signed Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis. There is quiet optimism about the future, no matter the trials it might take to get there eventually.
Everyone recognizes there is a long road ahead and the Magic are no longer one of the league's elite by virtue of one player on the roster. But unlike most rebuilding teams, this team is full of veterans that have big-game experience and are not going to just tank into that good night. This is a team that seems like it will play hard and keep fighting. Whether that continues after the team starts losing a lot is another question.
My colleague Kyle Boenitz took the reigns from there with a look at Glen Davis and his new starring role for Orlando. Check back here or head on over to CrossoverChronicles.com for more #MagicDay posts!
The Magic probably don't want us doing this so early in the season, but, if this season goes as many experts predict, we will be doing a lot of college basketball-watching this season.
The big names entering this year's Draft are likely to be Shabazz Mohammed, Nelens Noel, James McAdoo and Cody Zeller. Banking on winning the lottery is like, well, banking on winning the Lottery. The odds are somewhat slim. So we will look into some of the players a bit deeper in the Draft than the top pick.
One player that might be worth looking into is the player in the video above — UCLA's Kyle Anderson.
Danny Nicks of Rant Sports wrote a pretty good initial scouting report on the freshman small forward:
Literally a walking mismatch as a primary ball handler, Anderson has shown a natural ability to dictate a games pace. He’s deceptively quick and appears to constantly thinking one step ahead of opposing defenses. In some ways he’s eerily reminiscent of the Houston Rockets Shaun Livingston prior to his career altering knee injury.
Is he worth a look for the Magic?
The comparison is easy to make with the ragtag bunch the Magic have assembled for this season. Will this year's team be Heart & Hustle II? The Magic certainly hope the team puts in the selfless energy that 1999-2000 team led by Darrell Armstrong and Bo Outlaw put in for every game.
What was that Heart & Hustle team really like? Time has a way of turning memories into nostalgia.
Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel went in search of who that Heart & Hustle team really was. Here is what he found:
Heart & Hustle wasn't just a catchy slogan.
'It's who we were," said Doc Rivers, who coached the 1999-200 Magic team. "They didn't have a 'quit' button.'
Bo Outlaw, a tireless forward on that team, is 41 now, beginning his fifth season as the Magic's community ambassador. He still remains an ambassador for Heart & Hustle.
He still can be seen at Magic practices, running down missed freethrows. He encourages youngsters and is ready to step on the floor if the club is short players because of injury during workouts.
'We had good players on that [1999-2000] team, but no all-stars,' Outlaw said. 'We had guys who knew how to play the game. We knew we had to bring it every night, diving for loose balls or diving into the bleachers.
'This team is better than we were, but they can bring it every night, too. '
It takes more than just having a roster of supposed nobodies. You need the right mix of players willing to work hard and play in thenow as Schmitz describes it. Will this team be that team?
For as much criticism as Stern has received throughout his tenure, there is no doubting the success he oversaw as the NBA's caretaker. The league went from a niche sport being shown on tape delay to possibly the second most popular sport in the world. There is no Orlando Magic without Stern's push to expand the game in the late 1980s and his leadership in growing the sport.
Stern's replacement is already in place. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver will take over as commissioner and ther emay not be anyone more ready. Silver was Stern's right-hand man throughout the lockout last year and Stern deferred to Silver on a lot of issues while addressing the media.
What might be surprising was how Stern picked Silver out of the pile and brought him to the NBA, as Henry Abbott of TrueHoop relates:
Silver almost didn't work for the NBA at all. He grew up north of New York City in wealthy Westchester county, where he was a Knicks fan, and the son of a law partner at Proskauer Rose, where Stern was once a lawyer. After earning degrees from Duke and the University of Chicago, clerking for a federal judge and working for an Oregon Congressman, Silver was well on his way to following in his father's footsteps as a successful lawyer.
Then he sent Stern a letter, asking for advice on his legal career. Stern was fascinated by Silver, and after several more meetings offered him a job as a special assistant to the commissioner. Silver accepted on the spot.
'I feel as though I kidnapped Adam for the NBA on his way to a legal career,' Stern told The New York Times in 2001.
Silver has held a variety of jobs with the NBA before becoming the deputy commissioner. There should be very little dropoff when Silver takes over in a year and a half.
Glen Davis got of to a bit of a rocky start with the Magic. He was frustrated when Ryan Anderson won the starting job over him, he struggled with his on-court performance and personal tragedy took his attention away.
But after blossoming in Dwight Howard's absence, his role has changed with Orlando. As Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel writes, Davis has fulfilled his goal when he came to Orlando of not only becoming a leader on the court, but a leader off of it for this team:
Now, almost a year after he joined the Magic, he thinks he's learned to 'walk the walk.' Davis has emerged as the team's steadiest player this preseason, and his coach and teammates say they're excited about his contributions off the court, too.
'It's like a whole different world, a whole different person,' Davis said Tuesday. 'When you've got the organization, as far as the GM, motivating and saying good things as far as 'keep it up,' and you've got so many people behind you, that confidence grows. And you start really believing.
'I've always seen it: One day I will have an opportunity to lead. But I never had that opportunity. Now, the opportunity is here, and the organization and the coaches and the team just keeps feeding that fire. Now, there's a responsibility. You start believing in that character. You start to walk the walk, because it's important.
Undoubtedly, Davis' play will have a tremendous effect on this team's success and the development of the young players on this roster.
Now that we are entering the final week of the preseason, roster cuts will need to be made and the opening day roster will need to be set.
I will talk specifically about some of the roster battles later today, but Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel provides a good look at the difficult decisions ahead for Orlando:
Thirteen players — Arron Afflalo, Gustavo Ayón, Glen Davis, Maurice Harkless, Al Harrington, E'Twaun Moore, Jameer Nelson, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O'Quinn, J.J. Redick, Ish Smith, Hedo Turkoglu and Nik Vucevic — seem like locks to make the team.
Among them, only Moore doesn't have a fully guaranteed deal, but Moore is slated to enter the season as Nelson's backup at point guard.
That likely leaves combo forward Justin Harper, power forward Josh McRoberts and swingmen Christian Eyenga, DeQuan Jones and Quentin Richardson in the mix for the 14th and 15th spots on the roster.
Who do you think should make the cut?
The season is quickly approaching and so team previews will start circulating around the blogs and team sites as we get prepped for the campaign ahead.
The fine writers over at Ball Don't Lie penned a great preview of the Magic, describing the expectations for the upcoming season. As we would expect, and hope, they see a team that will be a tough out, will compete and play hard, but will ultimately not win a lot of games. While the 13-win prediction I feel is a bit low, this seems like a particularly balanced look at what to expect from the Magic this year:
What remains is a rebuilding team full of players either in or past their primes, with the two and possibly three best players from last year's team sent elsewhere. From one through 10, in the Magic rotation, it's hard to find a player whose game we either dislike, or one we couldn't see working effectively as a helper on another team. That's a warming element for Magic fans, who could watch as desperate GMs talk themselves into thinking that they're an extra tweener forward, small forward with guard skills, or wing scorer away from great things. Because most of these players are around average, and making just above average money, they're quite tradeable.
Teams full of average players don't turn out an average record, though. Mismatches have to be created, deficits have to be established so that the defense has to counter and the floor opens up for others. And even if Hedo Turkoglu can dish, Josh McRoberts can dunk, Al Harrington can score, J.J. Redick can shoot, Gustavo Ayon can tall, and Aaron Afflalo is to be respected, there is nothing here that teams have to worry about countering.
Christian Eyenga had a long, complicated journey to get to Orlando. The Dwight Howard trade was obviously pretty weird.
Eyenga though has a different outlook on life.
'This is a dream come true for me," Eyenga said, his eyes twinkling. 'I'm from the Congo. One in about 100 make it out.
'I'm blessed to just come here… to be alive.'
A pulled hammy, or even the uncertainly of his NBA journey, cannot put Christian under stress. Not when he's heard gunfire and screaming. Not when he's seen so much death.
Eyenga grew up in Kinshasa, the capital of the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.
He was about nine or 10 when he watched rebel soldiers shoot unarmed civilians on a street corner.
Indeed, it is incredible to imagine the determination and will it took for Eyenga to develop his talent and make it this far into the NBA (this will be his third season).
Nothing is guaranteed for Eyenga. The hamstring pull that has kept him out of the preseason and some of training camp has put him somewhat on the chopping block as the roster needs to get cut. And Eyenga still has a long way to go to make good on his athletic potential and a lot to learn in basketball.
His attitude though is a good one. And he is a guy the Magic may want to keep around.