The January 2011 Hottest Team in the NBA Debate… Magic Returns to Orlando

January 13, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

When LeBron was in Cleveland (and that seems like EONS ago, doesn’t it?) it was not the Boston Celtics that were his greatest foe, it was the Orlando Magic. Dwight Howard seemed as popular as him. The Magic were more balanced than his Cavaliers, and though the Magic were beaten soundly by the Lakers in the Finals, it was the Magic that seemed to have the continual momentum necessary to be good every season in the NBA.

Then, something happened. Hedo Trukoglu walked away from the Magic in free agency, and the team scrambled to patch a team together around Howard again. Vince Carter was brought it, among some other fill in players, and the Magic were again shooting for the stars.

Only, with Carter’s age came more than experience – slowness. The speed that defined the Magic’s success against the Cavaliers and other teams disappeared and the team began to struggle again, both in the playoffs last season and in the early part of the 2010-2011 season. Something needed to be done to recapture the swagger and talent that Orlando was again starting to build. So, general Manager Otis Smith made some shrewd trades that turned the Magic into what is now the hottest team in the NBA, and the team any opponent would least like to play.

December 18 the Magic got an Extreme Makeover, NBA edition. Rashard Lewis was gone and Gilbert Arenas was now in the locker room (presumably without a gun). An aging, albeit talented, player was now gone in favor of a perimeter shooter with some point guard experience.

Smith remarked at this point that his team needed “more punch.” He went and got it in the form of Jason Richardson, Earl Clark, and Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu is one of the toughest matchups in the NBA, and Richardson – like Arenas and Turkoglu – was being relied on for a boost to the offense.

It took two games and two straight losses immediately after the trade, but the Magic then cranked off eight straight wins. The promise of added offense was realized, though each added player has understood the role of Dwight Howard as the team’s focus and fallen into place, playing a role the team needs to be successful.

Since the trade, Dwight Howard has gotten 17.2 percent of the shots. He is the offensive focus, so that makes good sense. Richardson has taken 12.1 percent of the shots, Arenas 10.9 and Turkoglu 10.7 to round out the new additions.

When the Magic were playing on the same level – or really a level above – the LeBron-led Cavaliers the team has a balance unlike any other in the NBA. These new additions have helped achieve that balance again, making the Magic an extremely tough team to win over.

The Miami Heat are definitely good, but the schedule the team has played has not been terribly difficult. More, the offense is likely coming from one of three players. The Magic are far less predictable, exhausting opposing defenses because of the strength of the perimeter shooting game and power of Howard inside.

The Magic are just beginning to round into form. The Magic are only four games back from the Heat in the Southeast division. The real struggle for the Magic this season has been on the road, where the team is just 9-7 compared against Miami’s 14-5. This is an obvious and correctable flaw that coach Stan Van Gundy can no doubt address.

The Magic have one of the smartest coaches in the NBA and one of the most balanced offenses. Even after a huge roster redo, they are still the team in the NBA I would least like to play – even more than the Miami Heat.

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The 2009 NBA Worst Free Agent Move Debate – It Really Is NBA “Silly” Season

July 20, 2009

Read Sports Geek’s argument that the worst move is the Rockets signing Trevor Ariza and Bleacher Fan’s argument that the worst move is the Cavaliers re-resigning Anderson Varejao.



Here we are on July 20, with the baseball second half just starting and NFL training camps opening across the country for in the next couple of weeks. But, the NBA has stolen a lot of headlines this summer with a flurry of transactions through trades and free agency. Some of the moves are legit, while others are just plain “silly.”

The Sports Debates has decided to take a look at all the moves that have taken place so far this offseason and determine the three worst moves. We’re not going to debate the best moves because quite frankly, that’s just too boring.

Sports Geek will argue that the Houston Rockets signing Trevor Ariza was the worst move to date while Bleacher Fan will argue the contract the Cleveland Cavaliers gave Anderson Varejao is a terrible deal for them.

Meanwhile, I am arguing the worst move involved Orlando and the Polish Hammer! Marcin Gortat was drafted in 2005, but didn’t play his first game until March 1, 2008. So, for the sake of this argument, let’s call him a two year “veteran.” He played an average of 12.6 minutes per game this past season. He averaged 3.8 points per game. At 7-feet tall, he’s the backup for center Dwight Howard. But, after a solid postseason in which he played big minutes for the Magic as they made their run to the NBA Finals, Gortat was signed to an offer sheet by the Dallas Mavericks.

Now, judging by everything I just told you, you are probably thinking something along the lines of, “Dallas probably signed him to a three year deal worth about $15M.” Hah! You’re wrong!

Gortat signed an offer sheet for five years and $34 MILLION DOLLARS with the Mavericks. That’s an average of almost $7M dollars per season. Surely, Orlando wouldn’t match that, letting Gortat walk. Notice that Magic general manager Otis Smith said he would not pay more than $5M per year for a guy who will back up Howard. The Magic had seven days to match the offer, and all indications were that Gortat could pack his bags and head to Dallas, where he would have a chance to compete for a starting position.

Something happened on Gortat’s way to the Lone Star State. To the amazement of many experts in NBA circles, and to the shock of Loyal Homer, the Magic matched the offer sheet!!!!!

“You’ve got to be kidding me!!!!” That was my reaction when I first heard the news!

In a time when the NBA market is considerably down due to the economy, the Magic gave big money to a permanent backup. There are starters who don’t make anywhere close to that money. As I stated earlier, this is after “flourishing” this past year to the tune of 3.8 points per game. I think this is an example of someone cashing in on a team’s postseason success. Just imagine the deal he would get if he averaged double figures in points!!!

Kudos to Gortat and his agent for getting this amount of money. I hope everyone involved knows what they’re doing! On the surface, it appears they don’t!


The 2009 NBA Worst Free Agent Move Debate – Three Reasons the Rockets Blew It on Trevor Ariza

July 20, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan’s argument that the worst NBA free agency move was the Cleveland Cavaliers re-signing Anderson Varejao and Loyal Homer’s argument that the Orlando Magic matching Marcin Gortat’s offer sheet is.



It’s silly season in the NBA – that part of the off-season where teams jockey for position trying to sign the best free agent available, the one player a team was missing that could mean the difference between finishing ninth and eighth in the regular season, or the season ending in the Conference Finals or the NBA Finals.

For me, NBA free agency is not about making a splash with a big name player, it is about finding the right missing piece to put a team over the top. Finding the right player can mean re-signing a valuable player, correctly passing on a tantalizing opportunity, or finding a player who is that diamond in the rough who no longer fits into his former team’s strategy, but is perfect for another team. Those are examples of how free agency is supposed to work. But, sometimes teams sign players that are not a good fit.

This off-season, the single worst free agent move belongs to the Houston Rockets for signing free agent forward Trevor Ariza.

Skeptical? Consider three reasons.

First, the Rockets chose to use the money from an injury exception (about the same as the mid-level exception, $5.7M) for Yao Ming – who will miss the entirety of next season with a fractured foot – to sign a forward. Yao’s injury leaves a very weak center position on the roster. The Rockets have the following players under contract who could play center next season: 6-8 Joey Dorsey, 6-9 Luis Scola. Despite the lack of great center’s out there in free agency, the Rockets needed to explore a way to fill that gaping hole in their roster. Even though they lost forward Ron Artest to the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency, the more glaring need to fill on the Rockets is the center position given that a great deal of the current roster and offensive approach is designed around that position.

Second, and even more exasperating for Rockets fans, Ariza was signed very quickly in the free agency period. The quick signing is bewildering because many other players were available at the forward position that could help fill the role Artest filled. Rather than waiting out the off-season a bit, the Rockets made an aggressive offer (five years $33.5M) to a player with questionable NBA experience. Ariza is being paid as a big time player who can be the focus of an offense, not as the type of player he is – a journeyman with complementary skills… which brings us to reason number three.

Trevor Ariza is overrated. Granted, he played wonderfully in the 2009 NBA Finals (you’d think the Orlando Magic would have learned to look for him on in-bound plays after his second steal and dunk), scoring 11 points a game, grabbing six rebounds, and averaging nearly two steals a game. Ariza averaged less than nine points a game in the regular season, and has averaged less than seven points a game for his career – yet, he’s being paid as a major offensive contributor would be. For his career is shoots below 30 percent from long range, and only 66% from the free throw line. These are not the type of stats that usually fetch nearly $35M.

Ariza is a good complementary player, he is not the all-around player his contract figures may lead you to believe he is. Kudos to Ariza’s agent, David Lee, who has been criticized by some. He landed Ariza a contract that is far more valuable than the player. But, Ariza better enjoy his money – it’s the last big contract he’ll ever sign.

A great deal has happened in this off-season already, and it appears August is poised for a lot of off the court action, too. But it will be hard to top such a peculiar, rushed move with the remaining crop of free agents (depending on who signs Allen Iverson!).

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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.


The Fire Mike Brown Debate – Nobody Rides For Free

June 12, 2009



Rumors abound right now regarding the future of Mike Brown as head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Cavs are smart, they’ll pull into a gas station, ask Brown to run in and ask for directions, then take off while he’s inside. I would get as far away from him as possible, and fast. Sticking with Brown may cost the Cavs LeBron James.

Sure, Mike Brown has coached a successful team. His record as a head coach is very strong, sitting at 211 wins to only 117 losses. It’s hard to argue those numbers. But, let’s realistically consider where those numbers came from – LeBron James.

LeBron is, without question, one of the best players in the game today. In a game where you play only five people at a time, having 20% of your on-court staff qualify as “one of the best in the game” gives you a distinct advantage. Basketball, unlike baseball or football, creates an environment where a team can be carried by a single player. In no way does a single player guarantee a championship; but, he can single-handedly take credit for many wins along the way. Therefore, I challenge anyone to prove to me that the Cavaliers’ success is due to anyone other than LeBron James.

“But Bleacher Fan,” I hear you say, “Mike Brown was named coach of the year! The Cavs CAN’T fire him.”

I argue, having watched the Cavaliers falter quite embarrassingly against the Orlando Magic, that Mike Brown did not win Coach of the Year because of his coaching ability. He won Coach of the Year because his team had the best record in basketball. To recap, WHY did the Cavs have the best record in basketball? Everyone say it with me… LeBron James!

Now, why did the Cavaliers lose the Eastern Conference Finals to the Magic? Because of Mike Brown’s coaching. Sure, the Magic were able to capitalize on mismatches created in the line-up, but those mismatches were manufactured by a superior coach, Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy out-coached Brown to the point that the Cavs actually looked like they didn’t belong in the Eastern Conference Finals.

To give Brown some credit, his strategy coming into each game was relatively strong. The Cavs were able to run up a quick (and rather large) lead in several of the games. Where Brown failed, though, was his inability to anticipate or respond to the adjustments made by Van Gundy, a much better coach. The end result was that Brown got schooled, despite having better talent on the court.

The 2009 Eastern Conference Finals, though, is not the first time this problem has popped up. The Cavaliers were outscored in the third quarter in 50% of their games this year (although the problem has been ongoing since Brown came on board). Mike Brown is incapable of making any type of a half-time adjustment. Think about it. The Cavaliers were one of the top two teams in first half scoring all year. Yet, somehow, during the halftime break, they became sub-standard. It is because the opposing coaches make adjustments during halftime that Brown is incapable of handling. This is something that can be overcome when playing teams like the New York Knicks or the Washington Wizards. When you are playing teams with superior coaches, such as Stan Van Gundy, the stakes get raised and overcoming that obstacle becomes a little more challenging.

Getting back to my original point, why should the Cavs fire Mike Brown? Because in pressure situations, against the better teams and better coaches, Mike Brown will always come up second best. Under Mike Brown, the Cavaliers will NOT win a championship, and LeBron will seek greener pastures as a result. If Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert REALLY wants to promise Cleveland an end to their championship drought, then he should begin with the taking care of the problem, and fire Mike Brown!

Read the debate intro and Sports Geek’s opinion.


The Fire Mike Brown Debate – Should The Cavs Fire The Coach of the Year?

June 12, 2009

Read Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek’s opinion.



The 2009 NBA Finals is in full swing, and that should be the focus of NBA fans right now. But, rather quietly, Mike Brown’s status as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers has been called into question by some.

Congratulations Coach Brown. After winning 66 regular season games this past year, you have to fight for your job?

There are conflicting reports about Brown’s status.

Reportedly, several “sources close to the situation” are saying that the front office is divided on the status of Brown’s future. Others are saying that Brown’s job is safe. If the reports about a divided front office are true, what should Cavaliers General Manager Danny Ferry do?

Brown’s record after four years is an impressive 211-117. That’s a .643 winning percentage. Not too bad, huh? How about a 66-16 record this past season, including 39-2 at home. And, oh yeah, he is the reigning NBA Coach of the Year!

That’s the good news. Now, the bad news.

Brown’s team (or maybe LeBron’s team?) made the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals as the odds on favorites over the talented Orlando Magic. But, they were upset by the Magic in six games. King James is due to be a free agent after next season (in case you haven’t heard… and if you haven’t, where have you been?).

The question posed by Loyal Homer, and by a good portion of America’s sports fans, is:

Does Mike Brown deserve to lose his job as coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Bleacher Fan will argue that Brown hasn’t taken this team to the next level and more is expected by the coach of LeBron James’ team.

Sports Geek will argue that Mike Brown has done enough to keep his job.

Present your case to me so I can make one of you happy and one of you mad!