Stan Van Gundy said he is not going to use the young players in order to make sure his starters are ready to go Sunday evening for the season opener in Oklahoma City. The coach said he is riding his veterans pretty hard in practice and that has enabled some young guys -- like rookie guard DeAndre Liggins -- to look good.
Of course, you will probably not see that tonight against Miami. Instead, it will be another heavy dose of the starters, minus Hedo Turkoglu who will miss tonight's game with a hip contusion suffered in that nasty fall in the second quarter Sunday.
What change you will see is in the starting lineup. Ryan Anderson will replace Glen Davis in the starting lineup. Stan Van Gundy said it was not to get a different look, but was done almost out of necessity.
It is no secret, Van Gundy would like to see the team add a backup center (the common refrain since trading Marcin Gortat) to help bolster this front line. Right now, Van Gundy is only comfortable using Dwight Howard, Glen Davis and Ryan Anderson at the power forward or center spot. Depending on the matchup, Earl Clark might see some time at power forward.
"Right now, I think we only got three guys up front that you can really count on," Van Gundy said. "Glen is essentially our back up center. When we get into the regular season, my one concern is -- let's say you start them together, they both get a foul early and then Dwight gets his second foul at the six minute mark. And now Glen is in there with Ryan and now Glen gets his second, what are we doing at that point? We're probably leaving him in the game at that point, to be quite honest.
"Or we got Ryan whose a four, certainly not a brutish four, who has to slide over to center. That's the other concern, balancing that so that he's on the bench. And right now, I think Ryan is capable of playing more minutes."
Yes, the possibility of Anderson having to play some center is a scary possibility. Van Gundy is not quite prepared to throw Daniel Orton, a virtual rookie into the fire. His conditioning and his health are not quite at game speed.
So the immediate quesiton is who will start between Davis and Anderson on opening night?
Anderson is an advanced stats darling with his incredibly efficient shooting and his deceptively high rebounding rate. Anderson made Rashard Lewis pretty much expendable because the team needed to free up room for him and Brandon Bass on the floor. Anderson averaged 10.6 points per game, shooting 39.3 percent from beyond the arc and posting a 55.8 percent effective field goal percentage. Surprisingly, he had an 18.1 percent defensive rebounding percentage.
If you give any credence to win shares, his first three years in the career compare favorably players like Anderson Varejao and Al Jefferson. Obviously though, Anderson is a completely different player than those two since he does not rely on a back-to-the-basket game. That is supposedly a growing part of his repetoire. Something we may see him develop this year.
Anderson fills that stretch-4 role that Stan Van Gundy likes so much. And, according to Van Gundy, he has been one of the best players in camp. From what we saw in Sunday's exhibition game where Anderson scored 22 points and seemed to be the only guy who could consistently put the ball in the basket.
Glen Davis is a newcomer to the team and is looking to fill that Brandon Bass role. He is not as good of a jump shooter but should eventually be a much better defender. Van Gundy said before Wednesday's game that Davis is getting in better shape and is catching on to what the Magic are trying to do. Anderson obviously has a learning curve advantage on Davis having been with the Magic for two years already.
Davis though is the backup center. And ultimately, if he is needed more for that role, he might be better suited coming off the bench. The power forward position is the one area that is not quite settled in the Magic lineup and surely Davis and Anderson will be competing for that spot all year long.
Who will start Sunday night in the season opener? That is a question that is still a few practices away from an answer, and probably a competition that will last into the season.