One of the few good things about the lockout has been NBATV. Not their sometimes one-sided coverage of the lockout. That was sometimes painful to sit through. I am talking about the hours of old NBA games the network aired. Sun Sports joined the fun in airing Magic Classics, a set of classic games mostly from the inaugural season.
There was a day on NBATV a few weeks ago that was dedicated to the 1995 Magic.
I was a little too young to remember the exact details of the day-to-day action of the 1995 team. Most of my memories are good ones as the team was always winning and had that deep Playoff run. It is hard for Magic fans to say anything bad about that squad. Watching those games again, you can see there was something special brewing in that team.
And when you watch the 1995 team and compare them to earlier versions of the Magic, you can see there was a grit missing. Some intangible quality was not there.
It is easy to say Horace Grant provided all of that. He was, after all, a three-time champion and All Star when he signed in Orlando in 1995. And Grant seemed to bring that experience with him by osmosis. The results certainly suggested that.
When you watch Grant play on those teams though, you can see Grant actually willing rebounds to teammates, digging out loose balls and taking on the defender. He was a skilled offensive player -- that top of the key shot was absolutely deadly -- and a gritty defensive player. He provided all the toughness, hustle and leadership the team needed to leap from up-and-coming to championship-contending.
I have long believed that the Magic needed a player like this to provide some of the hammer and get in the players' ears about continuing to push forward for the team and not being complacent. A player with championship experience, who has been to the top and knows what it takes, is a valuable resource to any team. This is my often-referred to Horace Grant Theory.Glen Davis is not Horace Grant. Grant was a six-year starter in the league with championships when he came to Orlando. He averaged more than 12.0 points per game in each year of his career from his second year until the lockout-shortened 1999 season. Grant was a workhorse and solid, consistent player.
Davis is not that player. At least not on the court. His career average is at 7.6 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, a 52.4 percent career true shooting percentage, and an 11.2 percent total rebound rate. His career PER is 12.8 and last year he really struggled with injuries and had a 5.2 PER. Nobody is confusing Davis with Grant any time soon.
Off the court though? Davis has something no other player on the Magic has. He has a championship and a major role in winning that championship too. Even though he just joined the team less than a week ago, he made his leadership presence felt early on in practice, as Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports:
"On Tuesday, after his first Orlando Magic practice, Davis started talking as his teammates and coaches huddled at midcourt. He told the rookies to look up the word "family" in the dictionary and prepare to make a presentation about it before the next workout.
"'It sets the tone for the year, and it's a motto that we have to live by,' Davis said. 'We've always got to protect each other. You know families. A family's going to get into arguments, a family's going to get into fights. But they're going to be there for each other.'"
It is hard to foresee what impact Davis is going to have. He is not an All Star and he will have a very specific role to fill on this team. His success on the court will be judged by what he can provide in that role.
Off the court, it is going to be moments like this and some of the lessons he can share from his time playing at the very top with the Celtics. He has two Finals appearances, that is more than anyone else in the roster.
Davis is not going to fill this role completely. But it is clear that he is willing to share that experience and help show the team what it takes to get to the top of the mountain. It won't be a quiet leadership for sure. Davis is not quite known for being quiet or serious all the time. And only time will tell if players actually follow Davis -- as a non-star, it is sometimes more difficult to get other teammates to follow you.
He is off to a good start so far though. Maybe this last ditch effort will make the team more consistent and help it realize its potential.
Didn't know where to post this, but I was wondering if an article would be coming soon about Earl Clark (topics like his potential, his defensive abilities, his possible usage this year, an analysis of his stats, etc.). Also, any possibility of the Magic going after one of the recently (or soon to be) amnestied players such as Travis Outlaw, Baron Davis, Brandon Roy (if some how he becomes medically able to play), or anyone else I am missing?
Hey Phillip: It has been a long time since I responded to one of your columns...in fact it was after LBJ signed with the Heat 2 summers ago that I predicted D12 would be gone the following year..well here I am again...I AM old enough to remember when Horace joined the Magic as I was a season ticket holder (and an adult) then..I see now comparison with the Magic signing Glen Davis now. The Magic , though young, were one player away from a championship when they signed Grant.. Had Shaq stayed, I remain convinced the Magic would have won multiple championships. Sadly, THERE IS NO COMPARISON TODAY. This is NOWHERE NEAR a championship caliber team, and Big Baby is NOWHERE NEAR the player that Grant was. In fact, if Otis was not the worst GM in the NBA, then Dwight would not be leaving, the Magic would have been in the run for Wade and James last year and CP3 and Williams this year. But sadly that is not reality. Having been a keen observer of the NBA for 40 plus years now (man I am old!), the most likely scenario is the MAgic trade D12 (not wanting to be burnt twice), they are a 1st round playoff team for a year or 2, and then they suck for the rest of the decade. That is the sad reality we are facing, which won't change until we get new ownership and new management..
@Magician1378 I kind of view Earl Clark as a minor signing. We will see if he looks any better in the preseason games and see if he can get playing time. Might be something to keep an eye on. As far as amnestied players... I think this roster is pretty complete. They have 13 guaranteed contracts, I believe. 15 is the max. Roy is retired (the Blazers would have kept him if he were not), Davis is really hurt right now. And I don't know what to make of Travis Outlaw.
@Tragic again No disagreement there. Horace Grant is much much much much much better as a player. A lot more accomplished too. But you never know. Maybe Davis uses his experience to keep the guys more focused. I do not know if that is in his character. But it cannot hurt at this point. The team still feels like a giant mess.
@Tragic again See my above comment on Davis. We will see if he can have some positive impact on this team. There were stretches last year when the Magic looked as good as they ever were. They juts weren't consistent. Having someone on the roster who played a big role in winning a title can only help keep guys pushing forward.
I think Otis made a lot of mistakes -- the fatal mistakes did not occur until last December though, it could always have been saved until that point.
But you cannot fault the team for trying. They went for it this time. They failed big time. But they put their money where their mouth is. That is very unlike what the team did in 1996 and very unlike what the team did while Grant Hill was suffering through injuries and we were wasting Tracy McGrady's prime.
@philrsquared I agree that Earl Clark is a relatively minor signing, but I do see a lot of potential in him. He has tremendous potential as a defensive player, and he showed some ability to score last year. Plus, the guy definitely hustles out there and brings heart. Also, he definitely started to bulk up last year, and I forget who said it (Van Gundy or Otis or somebody), but that they had never seen someone make such quick progress in the weight room for the Magic besides Dwight. I know Clark hasn't lived up to where he was drafted by the Suns, but I do truly think he has a lot of potential (sorry for the word overuse) and he could help make someone else on the team expendable for a trade, etc. Van Gundy apparently sees him as a lock-down defender. Anyways, I just liked what I saw from him last year since he was basically a throw-in to the Phoenix trade & a cheap contract. So yeah, I'm just saying I like Clark and I think he can help the team. I know he is not a star, or starter, or even a first player off the bench, but he could still be valuable.
And Roy is retired, but he was amnestied by the Blazers (which I don't completely understand as I thought a retired player's contract essentially became null). I know he couldn't sign with the Magic right now, but if mid-way through the season he becomes cleared medically, he could come out of retirement, and he would not be the Blazer's property. And why would the Magic not be a team to gamble on him with a 1-year contract, and of course he would have obvious reasons to play here. Yes, I know this is beyond extremely unlikely, but it is interesting to think about.
As far as other amnestied players, I am sure not everyone that will be amnestied has been already. So I was just wondering if there were any potential soon-to-possibly-be amnestied players out there that could help the Magic. I mean let's be honest, we are in a desperate situation to try to keep Dwight. Why would Otis not consider signing an amnestied player to a 1-year contract if they even had the chance of being valuable? And maybe not now, but as the season progresses and injuries and other things develop.
I know these aren't the best topics in the world, but I just can't get enough NBA right now, because even with the Dwight situation being crappy, I am really excited about the season starting. Just bought some Rocket tickets today. Go Magic!
@Magician1378 I definitely agree. Clark is still young and has a ton of potential. Van Gundy recently said he envisions Clark being a defensive stopper. We will see what he can provide when the team gets back on the floor for some game action for sure.
As far as Roy. A retired player's salary comes off the books the year after they retire if they retire in the middle of the season. So the Blazers would have still been tied on the cap to Roy. They needed to amnesty him in order to sign Jamal Crawford. I think the Trail Blazers said very often that they wanted to retain Roy but this injury issue convinced them otherwise.
The amnesty deadline is about 50 minutes away. The players amnestied so far are:
Arenas, Baron Davis (going to be out 8-10 weeks), Brandon Roy (retired, degenerative knees), Chauncey Billups (signed by Clippers), Travis Outlaw, Richard Hamilson (signed by Bulls). I believe that is it. There might be one or two more. I am sure more teams will use it next year though.