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: 50-32, Lost NBA Finals
Last Year vs. Magic: Won 83-78 in Boston (11/20); Lost 86-77 in Orlando (12/25); Won 96-94 in Orlando (1/28); Won 96-89 in Boston (2/7); Lost 92-88 in Orlando (5/16); Lost 95-92 in Orlando (5/18); Lost 94-71 in Boston (5/22); Won 96-92 in Boston (5/24); Won 113-92 in Orlando (5/26); Lost 96-84 in Boston (5/28)
This Year vs. Magic: Dec. 25 in Orlando (2:30 p.m., ABC); Jan. 17 in Boston (8 p.m., TNT); Feb. 6 in Boston (2:30 p.m., ABC)
Magic Connections: Shaquille O'Neal (player 1992-96); Doc Rivers (coach 2000-04)
The Previews: Jamie Canu/Celtics 24/7, Brendan Jackson/Celtics Hub, Jeff Clark/Celtics Blog, FLCeltsFan/Celtics Life, BPaul/Gino's Jungle, John Karalis/Red's Army, Alan Siegel/SBNation Boston, Tom Halzack/Celtics Central, Ricky Lewia/ChalkItUp, Everything Basketball
So let's start from where we ended.
The Celtics and what went wrong in the Eastern Conference Finals have been talked ad nauseum among Magic fans. Boston came into Orlando ready to play and ready to battle from the opening tip and stole two games in Orlando and then outhustled the Magic for a 3-0 series lead. By then it seemed over and only a desperation Game Four overtime win and an energy-enthused Game Five victory in the last basketball game at Amway Arena.
In Game Six, the Celtics unleashed Nate Robinson and his energy permeated throughout the TD Garden as the Magic bowed out in six games.
The offseason did not feel like one that should come after a 59-win season. What should have been a championship parade or at least a Finals appearance, became a summer of questions. Questions with few answers so far. Orlando may not be able to answer those questions until the teams meet for the first time this season.
The series between the Magic and the Celtics in the playoffs were a lot closer in the playoffs than the 3-0 lead or the 4-2 end result indicated. But it was a defeat nonetheless and Orlando has been stewing all offseason.
Boston is not going away any time soon -- especially with the addition of Jermaine O'Neal and Shaquille O'Neal. This is a team the Magic are going to have to worry about. And the Celtics expect to be back in the Finals once again.
How the Celtics will beat the Magic: Boston did beat Orlando and that counts for something. Much of that team is back and it all still centers around Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. But the Celtics added some bulk in the O'Neals. Not since Antonio and Dale Davis roamed the paint in Indiana has there been a scarier pair of same last-named non brothers.
But this should be a much bigger concern for the Magic. Howard struggles against both Jermaine and Shaquille. Howard had his issues defending Shaq while he was with Cleveland and he surprisingly had issues against Jermaine O'Neal while he was with Miami.
Add on top Kendrick Perkins, who could be out the entire season, and Boston has more "Dwight Stoppers" than the rest of the league combined. And that is not good news.
What the Celtics did well last year play Howard one on one and force him to either carry the team offensively and convert from the foul line or get some offense initiated from the perimeter. The Magic could not do that successfully enough and the team bottled up. Luckily, Orlando has a good enough defense still to compete and have a chance at victory.
How the Magic will beat the Celtics: like with all things it starts and ends with Dwight Howard. But more than that, the Magic NEED Vince Carter (or Jameer Nelson) to become the perimeter scorer Hedo Turkoglu was when they beat the Celtics (barely) in 2009. Orlando won a couple of those games last year on the back of Carter. Carter single-handedly kept Orlando in the Christmas Day lump of coal (or gift to defensive aficionados) and played a big part in the two wins at Boston.
But in the Eastern Conference Finals, Carter disappeared. He averaged only 13.7 points per game while shooting an icy 36.7 percent from the floor and 21.1 percent from beyond the arc. That likely made every Magic fan cringe just repeating those numbers.
Somehow, someway, Carter has got to become the offensive initiator Orlando envisioned when the team acquired him. Or someone else has to be able to score from the perimeter and loosen the Boston defense to take some pressure off Howard. As mentioned above, Superman is going to have his hands quite full.