Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Opposing View: 11/28 vs. Orlando

All season long, Sonics Beat will be consulting an expert on the opposing team as part our gameday preview. Nick Adams from answers our five questions on the Magic.

What has the reaction been like amongst the Magic to getting off to such a strong start?
Despite their great start, the team remains very humble and focused. Anytime you ask them about their early success they all have the same answer: "We haven't accomplished anything yet and we aren't focused on our record but rather we are focused on our next opponent."

They are like robots when it comes to answering questions, and credit that to head coach Stan Van Gundy. He has them mentally tough, focused, and determined. They may hit a rough stretch at some point in the season, as most teams do, but Van Gundy won't let that last very long. Van Gundy is constantly pushing them and the guys are really buying into his concepts.

What has the Magic done to rank as one of the league's top three defenses?
Well ... once again credit Stan Van Gundy and his coaching staff with much of their success at the defensive end. The very first meeting Van Gundy and his staff had with the team, the first thing he said was that they were going to be one of the best defensive teams in the NBA.

He has continued to push the guys in that aspect and the guys are really making a conscience effort to play with energy and intensity on defense. The player know that if they don't play hard defense, they won't play, and Van Gundy has made that very clear.

Furthermore, anytime you have a player like Dwight Howard in the middle, you are going to be successful on defense. The casual basketball fan will look at a Dwight 35-point, 17-rebound night and not realize how much he changed the game at the defensive end. Their team defense is built solely around Dwight in the middle. Guys like Rashard, Jameer, and Bogans can really get up and pressure the ball because they know that if their guy beats them off the dribble, Dwight is there waiting to send the shot in the third row.

So in summary, Van Gundy stressing his concepts, Dwight Howard in the middle, and the rest of team's pressure and intensity have led to the Magic ranking in the top three NBA defenses.

Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu have gotten lost a little in explaining the fast start. What roles have they played?
Anytime you are on a team with a rising superstar with the likes of a Dwight Howard or a big ticket free-agent pick-up like Rashard Lewis, the other guys on your team tend to get overshadowed. As you stated, Jameer and Hedo have gotten lost in explaining the Magic's fast start, but they are just as valuable as Dwight and Rashard.

Jameer is the floor general. Van Gundy really pushed Jameer during training camp, and continues to get on his point guard about becoming that floor general. I think Jameer is exactly what you want in your point guard. He is strong both mentally, physically, and his toughness gets overlooked. He can shot well and has the ability to finish at the basket which puts pressure on the defense to guard those abilities therefore allowing Jameer to distribute the ball to the open player. Jameer has made an effort to take better care of the ball and his assist-to-turnover ratio is much improved from a season ago. Jameer is the heart and sole of the team and I think GM Otis Smith realized this singing Jameer to a contract extension earlier this season.

Hedo is having his best season as a professional basketball player in the NBA. He has really stepped up big this season and has relieved pressure off of Dwight and Rashard. Hedo has really thrived in Van Gundy's offensive schemes which give players the freedom to create their own shots. He came into camp in great shape and was focused from the moment he came back to Orlando. Van Gundy says that when Hedo is aggressive on offense, it is when the Magic are at their best offensively.

How will the recent trade for Brian Cook and Maurice Evans help the Magic?
When the Magic lost starting power forward Tony Battie for the entire season with a shoulder injury, the Magic front office knew they had to get another big body and add depth to their roster, and adding Brian Cook and Maurice Evans accomplish both.

Brian Cook is a good young player who gives the Magic another big body to help out Dwight Howard down low. Cook is not your prototypical big man in the fact that he plays more of a perimeter game. Cook's ability to shoot well from outside leaves the post open for Dwight to do his thing. Cook also fits in well with Van Gundy's style on offense which gives freedom for the three-point shot, something Cook has proven to be one of his strengths.

Maurice Evans is another good young player who provides much needed depth to the Magic roster. Evans is extremely athletic, plays good perimeter defense, and can shoot well from beyond the arc, all characteristics of what Van Gundy is looking for at the swingman position. In Evans, the Magic get a better shooting, better defending Trevor Ariza, the player they traded to Los Angeles for Evans and Cook.

Overall, I think it was a great move by the Magic.

What don't we know about the Magic but should?
They are a legit contender to represent the East in the NBA Finals. I know it is still very early but if you have the opportunity, which you will on Wednesday, watch this team play. They play hard, smart, and together.