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: 54-28, Lost to Lakers in Western Conference Finals
Last Year vs. Magic: Won 122-100 in Orlando (11/4); Lost 106-103 in Phoenix (12/11)
This Year vs. Magic: Nov. 18 in Orlando (8 p.m., TNT); March 13 in Phoenix (3:30 p.m., ABC)
Magic Connection: Chucky Atkins (Player, 1999-2000); Grant Hill (Player, 2000-07); Hedo Turkoglu (Player, 2004-09)
Like Orlando and Denver in 2009, Phoenix caught everyone by surprise in the 2010 season. The Suns finished third in the Western Conference surprising everyone by returning to the "Seven Seconds or Less" mentality that made them successful in the Mike D'Antoni era. Having a healthy Amar'e Stoudemire sure did not hurt either. A rejuvenated Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Jason Richardson finally allowed Phoenix to overcome San Antonio and helped the team push Los Angeles in the Western Conference Finals.
Much like the Magic after the 2009 Finals run, the Suns had some tough decisions to make and knew they would lose some key players.
So Amar'e Stoudemire and speedy guard Leandro Barbosa are out. In comes Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick to replace them. While not quite the acquisition of former All-Star Vince Carter and the almost complete re-make of the bench in Orlando during the summer of 2009, the Suns are starting from scratch, yet not starting from scratch.
Steve Nash can still make a case as the best point guard in the league and he can do a lot to make even mediocre players around him much better. Look at how good Channing Frye played as the team's backup center last year. Add in guys like Grant Hill and Jason Richardson who not only know how to score, but can play a little defense to support what is generally considered a week defensive front.
Now you can throw super athlete Hakim Warrick and Hedo Turkoglu into the mix. We all know what Turkoglu can do and after a struggling season in Toronto, Turkoglu could find himself playing as he did in Orlando.
But this does have its issues it will need to work around.
Phoenix was not exactly known for interior defense with Stoudemire manning the paint (and/or chasing stats in the process) and neither Frye nor Warrick, nor hustle do-everything man Louis Amundson or Robin Lopez for that matter, strikes fear into any opponents hearts.
But the addition of Turkoglu to the team's cast of veteran players should make the Suns as potent as ever on the break. Phoenix will be looking to break at every opportunity and it would not be surprising to see some lineups that feature Turkoglu at the four with Richardson, Nash, Hill and Frye in there too. That is five guys on the floor who can make 3-pointers at a pretty good rate. And Nash is one of the few guys in the league that can get the ball to the right guy every time.
Seven seconds or less, may be back.
How the Suns will beat the Magic: Phoenix's offense has always been predicated on getting the ball up and down the floor and initiating offense as quickly as possible. Orlando, on the other hand, does not mind playing at a slower speed and will break when the opportunity is there. Without a dominant presence inside the paint to keep control of Dwight Howard or occupy him much defensively, the Suns will want to really push the pace and try to beat Howard down the floor.
A lot easier said than done obviously.
Few teams will want to get into a 3-point shooting contest with the Magic, but the Suns will likely have to make 3-pointers early and try to draw Howard away from the basket on the strength of Channing Frye's shooting. That should open up driving and cutting lanes for Steve Nash and the rest of the veterans on this team. Beware the pick and roll here. With a true pick-and-pop center in Frye, Phoenix will be pick-and-rolling almost every team to death.
How the Magic will beat the Suns: Dwight Howard should have a field day against Phoenix's undersized and depleted front court. With it seeming like Turkoglu will spend time at the 4 guarding Rashard Lewis, Howard should have even more free reign in the paint. Howard will have to show a lot of patience in the post as he is sure to get double teamed almost immediately upon catching the ball. That means he has to make good passes out of double teams and attack at the right moments.
It also means Orlando has to hit its 3-point shots to keep Phoenix honest and away from over-doubling Howard.
And, of course, you expect the Suns to be very scrappy. That is how they beat the Magic in Phoenix last year. So the Magic will have to match that energy level in this matchup.