The Biggest Early Surprise of the NBA Debate – The Magic May Actually Be Better

November 2, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument and Bleacher Fan’s argument for which early season developments are the most surprising to them.

It is definitely early in the season, and there is still plenty of time, obviously. Perhaps the biggest early surprise of the 2009-2010 season is Manu Ginobili being able to knock this bat down during the Spurs-Kings game on Halloween night! Kidding! Seriously, I know everyone thought the Orlando Magic, along with the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, would be a threat in the East. However, I thought the Magic might struggle in the beginning of the season for a variety of reasons, and that is why I believe the Magic are the biggest early surprise.

Now, I know what you are saying. I hear you loud and clear. You are saying, “Loyal Homer, have you gone crazy? How can the Magic be a surprise when the team made the NBA Finals last year?”

As you probably know, forward Rashard Lewis is suspended for the first ten games for testing positive for an elevated level of testosterone. The other impact forward from last season’s version of the Magic, Hedo Turkoglu, has taken his show north of the border to wheel and deal for the Toronto Raptors. That is two postseason stars that are not in the lineup for the Magic right now.

Also, new addition Vince Carter has essentially played only a game and a half due to an ankle injury he suffered against the Nets on Friday. Add all of that up and there is a team that is playing short-handed and should be playing out of rhythm, right?


The Magic have been very much in rhythm. Check the scoreboard. The team is lighting it up, averaging over 113 points per game to this point. Two of the Magic’s first three games have been on the road… and did you see who scored 27 points yesterday? Do not laugh like I did, it is none other than former Duke shooting guard, and one of Loyal Homer’s least favorite players of all-time in any sport, J.J. Redick. Big props go out to him, though. And how about the play of Ryan Anderson, another player who came over in the Carter trade from the New Jersey Nets? He is averaging 16 point per game after averaging 7.4 PPG last season. Do not forget about Jameer Nelson, either, who missed extensive playing time last season. He scored 30 points in the win over Toronto yesterday. All of these guys, combined with the usual solid play of Dwight Howard, have kept the Magic undefeated despite not having Lewis and adjusting to life without Turkoglu.

I know the Magic are the defending Eastern Conference Champions. I know it is a team that still has Superman in the middle. But with many changes in the lineup at this point of the season, I do not think anyone could have expected the Magic to look so good, so early!

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The 2009 NBA Draft Debate – A Magic 2009 Draft

June 26, 2009

Read Sports Geek and Bleacher Fan’s opinions.

Most analysts are saying that this was a weak NBA draft. I think Bleacher Fan, Sports Geek, and I all concur with that assessment. I strongly agree it was a weak draft. In fact, I strongly believe it so much that I am not even going to touch the draft. I am not convinced there are real winners in the draft. Or as Sports Geek basically said, there are no sure things.

I am saying the real winner of ‘Draft Day 2009’ is the Orlando Magic because of the acquisition of Vince Carter.

Orlando, coming off a very successful season that ended with a loss in the 2009 NBA Finals, is not standing still. Not long after it was announced that new rival Cleveland acquired center Shaquille O’Neal, Orlando made the trade for the eight-time All-Star.

Orlando had to give up Rafer Alston and promising rookie Courtney Lee, but it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Alston was certainly to lose playing time now that Jameer Nelson has returned from injury. The Magic lose a solid young player in Lee, but gain Carter who gives them another scoring presence.

It looks as if Hedo Turkoglu won’t play for the Magic next year. But, with Dwight Howard and Rashard Lewis, the Magic have three dynamic players. Carter also brings something else to the table – he can create his own shot. That’s something the Magic were missing, and it’s something that makes Orlando a serious threat once again next year.

No one had as good a day as Orlando yesterday. It’s not even close. And if the Magic win the NBA Finals next June, they will look back on yesterday as the day that put them over the top.

The Fire Mike Brown Debate – In Defense of Mike Brown

June 12, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s opinion.

We’ve all had a bad day at work before, right? Somebody says something snarky in a meeting, or grates on nerves, or steals credit for a project. Instead of just letting it go, what do you do? You vent. You might vent to a co-worker in a back room or call a friend in a hallway. When you vent you don’t think about being politically correct, or taking everyone’s feelings into consideration. You just want to vent… you want to get those negative feelings out of you. Who’s to say having a front office job for a major NBA franchise doesn’t have the same situations taking place? My guess is that’s all that happened – in contrast to the “reports” that surfaced Thursday stating the Cleveland Cavaliers were considering firing reigning Coach of the Year, and owner of more pair of fashionable glasses than any other grown man, Mike Brown. The sports media is, once again, making a big deal out of nothing. Plus, Mike Brown does not deserve to get fired.

How does a guy get a prestigious award like NBA Coach of the Year? Coaching a team that went 66-16 in the regular season, and 39-2 at home, is a good start. Brown has been credited far and wide for inspiring his star LeBron James to put in the same effort on the defensive end of the floor as he always has on the offensive end. Mike Brown has made LeBron James a better defender and a more complete basketball player. In fact, James has grown so much as a player in the 2008-2009 regular season that he earned his first NBA MVP award this year. Mike Brown is good for LeBron James.

Mike Brown has also improved as a coach each year he’s been in the NBA, despite the fact that he has really only had one consistent contributor on the roster since he started coaching – LeBron James. Brown, like James, has suffered from a lack of talent and depth on the roster. It’s hard to install elaborate motion offense if the other players on the team cannot hit an open shot. Which leads me to my next point…

The Cavaliers do not have abundant talent on their roster, Bleacher Fan. How can Mike Brown be asked to create a championship team with only one championship player? The Cavs have no dominant big player (a must for any championship-quality team in this era of the NBA). They also lack depth in the backcourt. For Bleacher Fan to claim the Cavaliers had superior talent to the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals is completely false. The Magic have 4-5 players who can take a game winning shot – the definition of a true team. The Cavs have one, which they proved.

Those realities make it unfair to place all of the blame for the Cavaliers unlikely demise at Brown’s feet. Name any championship coach in NBA history – Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach, Pat Riley, Greg Popovich – and it’s easy to see they all had more than one championship caliber player on the roster who performed well on a consistent basis. It’s unfair to expect championship quality teams from Brown, but not give him the tools to live up to those expectations. The mismatches Bleacher Fan talks about were not manufactured by a coach. Stan Van Gundy didn’t make Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu grow to 6’10.” He didn’t sign them to contracts, either. Their General Manager Otis Smith did. Mike Brown is in a difficult situation because the lack of talent, height, and depth on the Cavaliers roster.

Brown’s job as a head coach is to formulate a philosophy that will win championships. He chose defense – a proven path to the Larry O’Brien trophy. The players even bought into that philosophy and played hard for him – another proof point that Brown is an effective coach.

Not only should the Cavs not fire Mike Brown, they can’t act unilaterally. It’s also important to note that LeBron is in a position in Cleveland where all decisions regarding coaches and personnel must be approved by him. You can’t fire the coach for the best basketball player on the planet and not consult him… unless you want zero chance of resigning him when his contract expires in 2010.

The key to helping Mike Brown fully realize his potential as a coach is getting him more good players that perform consistently and fit his philosophy. Zydrunas Ilgauskas is not an athletic, tough center. Neither is Anderson Varejao. Or Joe Smith. Or JJ Hickson. Mike Brown’s success is in part tied to Danny Ferry’s ability to surround the franchise star with more talented players. Even good coaches can’t make something out nothing.