Arron Afflalo's career season was not enough to get an invite to New Orleans for the NBA All-Star Game.
The NBA announced the reserves for the NBA's All-Star teams Thursday. The coaches for the Eastern Conference selected their reserves and took John Wall, DeMar DeRozan, Paul Millsap, Chris Bosh, Roy Hibbert, Joe Johnson and Joakim Noah.
I respect the coaches’ opinions. I’m sure every guy up there in some shape or form deserves to be there. So, I would never criticize the process. What I will say, though, is that next time around, I intend for there to be no debate about where I belong at my position and in the league for that matter. I’ll definitely put the necessary work in to make sure that happens.
Knowing how hard Afflalo works on his game and the fact that his scoring average has improved each season he has been in the league, it would not be a surprise to see him continue to make that jump.
Last week, Orlando Magic Daily celebrated its fifth anniversary.
Way back in January 2009, then-UCF student and Orlando Sentinel copy editor Zach McCann started writing Orlando Magic Daily as a passion project and a way to get some exposure for his writing with the upcoming launch of the TrueHoop Network.
Five years later, Zach has moved on to bigger and better things (including a year covering the Magic with the Orlando Sentinel) but OMD is still going strong and surprisingly reached that five-year mark.
Considering this was such a special occasion, we re-connected with the founder of Orlando Magic Daily, Zach McCann, to learn about those early days with Orlando Magic Daily and how far things have come in five years.
My thanks to Zach McCann for joining us. Be sure to check out his work at OneWorldSports.com and thank him for getting the site (and me!) going.
The Magic will surely have nightmares of Kyle Lowry as they fly south from Toronto tonight.
His shooting and confidence -- that could very well unseat Arron Afflalo from a spot on the All-Star team -- were just oozing off of him throughout the night as he seemed to hit backbreaking three after backbreaking three or making critical play after critical play.
The worst part was that he did most of his work in a 33-point, 6-for-11 3-point shooting night early on. Add in 11 assists and a Raptors team that hit its first eight 3-pointers, including seven in the first quarter including five from Lowry himself, and the Magic had a hole that required strong defense and stronger offense to climb out of.
Orlando had neither in the end of a 98-83 loss to Toronto at Air Canada Centre on Wednesday. The closest the Magic could get was eight points early in the fourth quarter. But even with Toronto cooled off, the Magic could not do much more than cut a few points into the lead before Toronto rebuilt the lead and regained momentum.
Lowry was simply masterful throughout the early stages of the game, stepping into 3-pointers and making some really difficult shots. The confidence from Lowry spread throughout the team as the shots continued to fall for Toronto.
The Raptors shot only 42 percent from the floor however, so the hot shooting cooled off. Toronto relied heavily on its defense to secure what amounted to an easy win with little challenge from Orlando.
Last week, U.S.A. Basketball released its player pool for tryouts this summer for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. The team that represents the country.
Rookie Victor Oladipo was not on that list yet, but when he looked at the list, which included young guards Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal, Oladipo could not help but think of whether he would get the opportunity to represent his country for the 2020 Olympic cycle (including the 2018 World Cup).
Isn’t that every little kid’s dream? For me to be a part of that team, it would be a blessing. That’s something that I have added to my goals list and I want to keep working and getting better. And hopefully that’s a dream that comes true.
The U.S. team usually invites a group of young players to help build and develop the roster for future years. Oladipo might even get an invite to the training camp so he can become part of the program for next year's Tournament of the Americas (if the U.S. fails to win the World Cup this summer) or in preparation for the 2016 Olympics.
There are lots of opportunities for Oladipo to get into the program and have his shot to make the team.
Most of that will come from his play with the Magic. Oladipo is a rookie and still has a lot of growing to do even to be considered on the same playing field as Lillard, Curry or Beal. All three of those players have specific skills that could make them valuable off the bench for Team USA. So does Oladipo with his defense.
Oladipo, unlike many top picks, never participated in Team USA as a college student. Oladipo's story, as we know, was one of meteoric rise with him going virtually unrecruited in high school and bursting onto the scene as a junior after slowly improving as a freshman and sophomore at Indiana.
This is one dream that seems very clearly to be in reach for Oladipo if he continues to play well (even with this star-studded draft class coming in since Dante Exum and Andrew Wiggins are not eligible for Team USA).
Oladipo will not be the only one with Olympic dreams, of course. Andrew Nicholson and Team Canada are still awaiting their fate regarding their World Cup wild card berth. FIBA is expected to make a decision this weekend on what four teams will receive these last berths into the tournament.
The Magic faced a tall order in their game against the Pistons. Quite literally.
It caused them to change their starting lineup and put Jason Maxiell in for Victor Oladipo to match up with the size of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. The lineup change did not matter. Not with the Pistons taking control of the game in the second quarter with their size and offensive rebounding and then putting the game away by keeping the Magic out of the paint and out of sync.
A 9-0 run in the third quarter powered by the suddenly resurgent Brandon Jennings gave the Pistons a 15-point lead after the Magic started the third quarter strong. A 7-0 run early in the fourth quarter gave the Pistons as much as a 26-point lead. And that was all she wrote in Motown as the Pistons won 103-87 at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Tuesday.
Jennings scored 20 points on 7-for-19 shooting, missing his first eight shots but catching fire as the Pistons were able to pick up the pace as the Magic missed shots in the second half. Victor Oladipo led the Magic with 19 points, with much of it coming in garbage time with the game decided.
The Little Plays
The first place to start is with the rebounding.
The Pistons were hardly a model of offensive efficiency in the first half and first quarter in particular with the Magic able to set the tone. Of course, Orlando would have been able to gain more confidence and perhaps open a lead if they could grab a rebound.
Detroit outrebounded Orlando 56-40. That number is not so bad when you consider the Magic shot 41 percent from the floor. But 17 offensive rebounds is a major source of concern and explains the rebounding margin pretty satisfactorily. Detroit had 20 second chance points to Orlando's seven.
It is hard to believe that we have (finally) reached the last week of David Stern's tenure as commissioner of the NBA.
It has really been a crazy 30 years for Stern, who has ushered the NBA from also-ran league nobody in the nation cared about (they thought it was "too Black" at various points and incapable of reaching mainstream America) to the second most popular sport in the world and the most popular American sport internationally, in all likelihood.
Stern has rankled many fans with his perceived arrogance and his tireless defense of the league and its interests. He dismises the conspiracy theories many fans have flippantly.
You could measure Stern's reign by the numbers -- players have become rich, owners have become richer. The NBA is broadcast in more than 250 countries worldwide, and its players are among the most famous athletes in the world. The league gets more than $7 billion through 2016 from its current television deals with ESPN, ABC and Turner (my company), and is likely to get a bigger deal next time around. League revenues are projected at more than $5.5 billion this season.
Or, you could measure his time by the seismic social change that has occurred in his league. Black men that were shunned by much of White America in the late '70s are now cultural icons. Allen Iverson was as big a hit in China as he was in Philly. "Be Like Mike" wasn't just a corporate slogan for many.
Did Stern cause all that to happen? Of course not.
Stern was incredibly lucky with Michael Jordan coming, but he put the league in a position to take advantage of that. And his greatness.
From the Orlando perspective, there is no Orlando Magic without David Stern's vision.
Pat Williams certainly had the vision to bring the campaign for an NBA team to Orlando, but it still took Stern's leadership with the Board of Governors to seal the deal. He was also a big part in keeping the team in Orlando and eventually building the Amway Center.
It is hard to believe that this is Stern's final week as commissioner. For many (like me), Stern has been commissioner their entire lives. He has always had an effect on the game and helped grow it through all the controversies. The NBA is certainly in a better place now thanks to him.
You see what Victor Oladipo can become in flashes.
You can see it in the perfectly delivered pocket pass through the defense and into the rolling hands of the big man. You can see it in the growing patience he has off the pick and roll and his decisionmaking with the ball in his hands.
With the Magic passing the halfway point of the season, it is becoming easier to think of Oladipo less and less as a young guy learning to play point guard, but rather as a guard. Exactly how Rob Hennigan and teh Magic want people to think about Oladipo.
"From the jump I felt like it was a challenge that I could face and I could overcome," Oladipo said. "There are still a lot of things I need to work on. I'm just going to continue to keep improving. A lot of people don't think I should be playing it or I can't play it. That's fine. I'm just going to keep continuing to get better at it."
There certainly remains growing pains for Oladipo in learning how to run a team. But considering the level of competition, Oladipo has certainly performed better than expected. He has taken to the position pretty well early on in his career. Whether he stays there is a decision for beyond the end of the season.
Oladipo is averaging a meager 3.8 assists per game against 3.2 turnovers per game this year. His assist rate sits at 20.1 percent and his turnover rate is at 18.9 percent. He currently has a -0.8 offensive win shares, according to Basketball-Reference.
Those numbers show the kind of mixed bag it has been for Oladipo at point guard. He is still much more efficient at shooting guard (12.9 PER, 20.2 points per 48 minutes) and his defense against opposing point guards could still use work.
The Magic were not going to go down without a fight. A double-digit deficit was eaten into and the Magic had a chance to win.
The road was blocked. Quite literally. Every turn Orlando took seemed to lead right into Anthony Davis' gigantic, outstretched arms. It was his seven blocked shots which kept the Magic from gainign much offensive fluidity for much of the game. It was his two thunderous dunks which emphatically shut the door on this game.
Davis took a lob and threw down a two-handed jam on one possession for a six-point lead. Then he took the ball and flew over Glen Davis for a monstrous dunk that made the Pelicans' lead an eight-point one. That was the exclamation point on a 22-point, 19-rebound, seven-block performance for New Orleans in a 100-92 win over Orlando at New Orleans Arena on Sunday night.
Davis was a true defensive presence for the Pelicans throughout the evening. He constantly changed Magic shots and kept them out of the paint. He was even affecting perimeter shots, blocking two 3-pointers in the first quarter too.
Orlando did its best to grind and keep things close. But the second unit struggled and the Pelicans opened up a 16-point deficit. It took a momentous effort to bring Orlando back in the game.
That effort included a healthy diet of Arron Afflalo running off screens and posting up whoever was guarding him. He had 25 points on 9-for-14 shooting. Orlando's ball movement was pretty solid for much of the night when the team was not turning the ball over or looking too hard for Anthony Davis for a blocked shot.
Orlando did get the ball moving on several occasions and were solid when they could get out on the break and beat the Pelicans down the floor. The defense was actually pretty solid too, forcing difficult shots and even keeping Davis from an efficient night (9 for 21 on the night).
The Magic are currently sitting at 12-31 just past the halfway point of the season.
When you ask most opposing coaches about the Magic they say they like the young talent on the team and the way they are building. They usually comment on the fact the team plays hard and they are not a team to look past in any sense. It still takes a focused effort to defeat the Magic, despite any apparent talent or ability gap.
This is no surprise.
So how are the Magic actually doing?
Ben Golliver of The Point Forward gave the Magic a C-minus for their 12-31 effort. The team still looks like it has a bright future, but several players have struggled to show the kind of progress people expected. And, at least early on, the Magic are not showing improvemento n the win-loss side of things:
Projected as one of the league’s worst teams, Orlando has certainly lived up (down, really) to that billing in Year 2 of the post-Dwight Howard era. I thought this rebuilding Magic group would be a little bit friskier. On paper, an established backcourt and a handful of young pieces, many with considerable athletic gifts, looks like a good formula for springing upsets. Instead, the Magic have beaten only four teams currently above .500, they’re winless against the Western Conference since Nov. 6. and they’re doing their best to sneak wins here and there from the East’s dregs.
Golliver concedes injuries have played a big part in the Magic's struggles. Tobias Harris missed the first month of the season and only now seems to be rounding back into full game health and the way he played last season. Nikola Vucevic has missed the last two weeks with a concussion.
The Magic are not going to win too many games without those players.
Tobias Harris was not expecting the pass to come bouncing up to him as he trailed Victor Oladipo on the fast break. Really, the way he was rebounding, he was probably just trying to get in good position for a rebound in case Oladipo ended up missing the shot.
Instead, Oladipo made the <ahem> simple play of bouncing the ball between his legs to Harris. Harris said he was not expecting the pass, but when it came he knew what to do with it. That is just basketball, Harris said. A team playing the right way and, most importantly, having fun.
After Harris jammed the ball into the basket with about two and a half minutes left in the third quarter, drawing a foul on Kendall Marshall and giving the Magic the lead for good, he gave Oladipo a chest bump as the Lakers called timeout. It sparked a 14-0 run to end the third quarter.
Orlando had an 11-point lead and did not let the Lakers make any serious challenge in the fourth quarter for a 114-105 win at Amway Center on Friday night.
"It's flashy, it got the crowd going and it was a good pass," Harris said. "[Oladipo] kept saying, he's happy I caught it because coach would have got on him if I didn't. It was flashy."
Oladipo agreed, but the "feathery" play was only a highlight in a very efficient and stellar performance from Harris. It was the caps-locked starting salvo of the Magic's offensive, fast-breaking onslaught on the Lakers in the second half.
Harris scored 28 points on 9-for-15 shooting and grabbed a career-high 20 rebounds, using the space of the Lakers 4-out/1-in offense to help on the glass. It was Harris' first 20/20 game. He was a constant source of offense and an extremely reliable option for the team as it struggled with turnovers early on in the game and just tried to keep pace with a Los Angeles team full of shooters.