Tag:Jameer Nelson
Posted on: January 22, 2012 6:22 pm
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Jameer Nelson affected by Dwight Howard chatter?

Posted by Royce Young

Just by judging the standings, the noise around Dwight Howard hasn't really affected the Magic's play on the floor. Orlando is 11-4 and third in the East.

But just because they are winning doesn't mean some of the players on the roster have completely tuned out the chatter. For example, Jameer Nelson hasn't forgotten when Howard said a few months ago that he'd like to play with star point guards like Deron Williams or Chris Paul. Via the Orlando Sentinel:
"I'm here to play basketball and I can't worry about what anybody says. I'm here because I'm a winner and they want me here. I know if they didn't want me, I wouldn't be here," Nelson said. "I'm human and a lot of things affect you. We're basketball players, but we're also human. A lot of the stuff that came out about other point guards being here was basically months ago, so if I was hurt, I'm over it."
General manager Otis Smith agrees with Nelson and doesn't blame him for feeling a bit jilted saying that Nelson hasn't played well this season because Howard "indirectly threw him under the bus."

Nelson's numbers are pretty much down across the board, but regardless, the team is winning. But that's never really been a major problem with the Magic in the regular season. Where things have unraveled is in the postseason, where players like Nelson haven't supplemented Howard quite well enough.

But you can't blame Nelson for feeling it a bit from Howard's comments. Everyone is human and everyone wants to be wanted. So when Howard basically says openly he'd rather have another point guard rather than the guy he has, you know Nelson hears and feels that. How could you not? Yeah, everyone knows what Howard means and wants, but still, the so-called right thing to say would've been, "I'm here and these are my teammates and I'm happy to play with them." Or something like that.

Instead, Nelson has to play knowing that deep down -- or maybe not even that deep -- Howard would happily ship Nelson out of town in exchange for a point man like Paul or Williams. Has to at least be something that's in his mind.

The fact the team is winning says that the trade stuff isn't a distraction, but it has to weigh on the team to some degree. Some have to be wondering if their time in Orlando is about to be up or if their franchise cornerstone is about to be exchanged for draft picks and some new faces.

Posted on: January 18, 2012 1:01 pm
 

Knicks targeting Steve Nash this offseason?

Posted by Royce Young

There have been a whole lot of Steve Nash to New York rumors over the past few years with his former coach Mike D'Antoni running the show and former teammate Amar'e Stoudemire playing in the Big Apple.

Every time, that rumor has been squashed without anything all that substantial coming out of it. I'm sure the Knicks have called the Suns and made inquiries over the past couple seasons, but that happens all the time, all over the place.

This time though, there might be a little more steam behind it. Because it makes a whole lot of sense. According to the New York Post, the Knicks plan on targeting Nash this summer using their mid-level exception.
That’s why The Post has reported the Knicks plan to target Nash (along with Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton) with this summer’s $5 million mid-level exception.
Shocking news: The Knicks, a team that need a point guard like Boris Diaw needs a donut, are planning on targeting available point guards. I know, I can't believe it either.

But the thought of Nash is what makes it more intriguing. Right now, Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas are splitting duties with Baron Davis likely to take over the full-time role once he's healthy. And though Nash is 37, he is still Steve Nash and would be a terrific addition for the Knicks. Especially considering he could pull back a bit on having to do so much like he does in Phoenix.

My question is, and I posed this in my thing ripping the Knicks point guard situation, why not go hard after Nash now? Yeah, I suppose you could just wait until the offseason and sign him without giving up anything in return, but that just means the Knicks have to hope and pray Baron Davis gives them something. Otherwise, it's just another mediocre season at MSG and wait until next year when Nash is a year older.

I understand waiting on Nelson or Felton. But Nash does genuinely seem like a terrific fit. The problem is that the Knicks have gutted themselves getting Carmelo Anthony that there isn't much left to deal for Nash. Nash has said he won't request a deal, but if at the deadline the Suns decide they want to deal him and Nash says, "I'll only go to New York," and the Knicks come calling offering up Shumpert, Landry Field and Douglas plus a spare part pick, maybe that's enough to make Phoenix bite. Maybe the Suns decide they'd like to get back three rookie deal players in exchange for Nash. Or maybe the Suns would rather preserve cap space and be players in the 2012 market.

Or maybe Nash just wants to stay with the Suns. I guess that could happen too.

Via PBT
Posted on: December 1, 2011 10:04 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2011 10:36 am
 

The Magic Gambit: Orlando should trade for Paul



By Matt Moore
  

Here we are, once again. A small market team reportedly held hostage by their franchise player All-Star and his desire to be traded to the specific team he wants, or else he'll simply depart the home team in free agency, leaving them with nothing. Carmelo Anthony hijacked Denver's season last year, and now Chris Paul is reportedly in a position to do the same to New Orleans. Except when Anthony applied extortion to get his way to Broadway, the Knicks actually had assets to trade to Denver, including Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, and Raymond Felton (who eventually became Andre Miller and a pick).

The Knicks now? Not so much.

The Hornets face an impossible position shold they elect to trade Paul. The teams that have the kind of assets to make the trade worth it if Paul elects to state he will only sign with the Knicks (which as Ken Berger notes, he has not done yet) have the kind of market cache to not need to make such a desperate move, or have no shot at a championship and therefore no reason to risk it all.

A team with young players and picks won't waste them to rent Chris Paul for a season, only to watch him walk out the door. After all, there's only one New Jersey Nets out there. (Kidding, Nets fans! D-Will says you're still under consideration!) And teams with superstar talent like Boston or Los Angeles don't have to gamble to win a title. They can just wait on the next superstar available (or just go after Dwight Howard).

So as it stands, the Hornets have no alternative. They'll just have to take whatever the Knicks are offering. There's talk of just letting Paul walk to avoid the embarrassment of taking on the Knicks' garbage heap, but that's nonsense. You don't accept a loss when you can have a gain. Chauncey Billups and Toney Douglas and a pick in 2045 is better than nothing at all.

But... there is another option. It's outside the box. You're going to think I'm nuts. And I'm not prone to posting about trade ideas. There's another site with a trade machine. You can fill your day with moving every player in the league. Everyone partakes from time to time. But this concept? It's the best possible move for both teams.

Orlando needs to trade for Chris Paul.

Hear me out before you close this browser as fast as humanly possible.

The Magic have every reason to trade for Chris Paul without the promise of an extension. With no consideration of the extension, there's nothing to hold up a deal. The Magic are facing the same cliff the Hornets are, staring down the barrell of Dwight Howard's big-market shotgun. They are burdened with pieces which hold no value once Howard is traded. If Howard leaves, they will wind up with a huge amount of salary and no superstar, a terrible team with a supporting structure holding up nothing. They have two options. Win a championship this year or give up and trade Howard for nothing now. Even a move for Andrew Bogut as Berger has said will be discussed won't keep them in title contention. That's what Howard means to a team. That's what an MVP candidate means.

So the only thing left, as the movie quote goes, is to win the whole friggin' thing. (OK, that's not the line, but it's a family site.)

The Magic would trade some combination of Brandon Bass, J.J. Redick, Ryan Anderson, Daniel Orton, and Jameer Nelson to the Hornets for Paul, along with a first-round pick in 2012. That's right. The Magic could lose both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul for 2013 and have no first-round pick. Disastrous-sounding, I know. Here's why they do the deal.

Here's the best case scenario. Howard and Paul,playing with another star, the best at their position, along with the supporting pieces in Orlando which would still be better than what the Knicks are likely to trot out onto the court (I'd like to remind you that Jared Jeffries started at center in the playoffs for the Knicks), would likely have the best seasons of their careers if healthy. Versus the trio in Miami or the duet in New York, Howard and Paul are a combination of players who actually mesh together. The best pick and roll center in the league with the best pick and roll point guard. A hyper-efficient perimeter shooter with a center who draws doubles every time on the block. A ball-hawking point guard who can create steals and the best defensive presence in the league. It may not be better than Miami or L.A., but it would be a force to be reckoned with. One season to make a run at the title.

This is the reality of the new NBA. If you want to win a title as a small-market, you have to find lightning in a bottle. Maybe there's no way to even that gap thanks to the inherent draws of bigger markets with more flashbulbs, television appearances, parties and endorsement offers. But if you don't have a once-in-his-lifetime talent and get absurdly lucky along the way, this is your best shot. Mortgage everything on one season.

If it works, and the Magic take home the title, the Paul and Howard will have gone through the transformitive process of winning a title together. Fans in Orlando will worship them. Howard will have done what Shaq never has. And they'll be staring at the possibility of not playing together next year. Even if that's not enough to get them to stay, it'll make them think twice. It's Orlando's best shot. There can be no more "really, Dwight, we'll get it right next time" with Howard. His patience has run out. If they don't win the title, there's no chance he returns. There's little chance even if they do, but it's their best shot, and if they win the title, they get that forever. You can't take that title away from the fans, away from the franchise, away from the team.

And if it doesn't work, if they don't win the title? That's over $34 million in cap space expiring for Orlando. Along with the amnesty of Gilbert Arenas, that's $54 million. That's nearly the NBA salary cap they would be gaining in cap space. The typical response to that is "what does it matter, no one will sign there." From that point on, the objective is not to bring in free agents, it's to rebuild through the draft. That 2012 pick missing is a problem? Not really, because Paul and Howard could give 50 percent effort (something they would never do) and still win 40 games, even in the East. The Magic won't have a lottery pick regardless. Which means the pick holds no value to them, but quite a bit to New Orleans. The Magic would be in premium position to tank in 2013, then rebuild through the draft. It's not appealing. You know what's less appealing? Trying to rebuild with Andrew Bynum's decision making, knees, contract, and nothing else. The key when your title run is over is to start over as completely as possible, as quickly as possible. This plan lets them out.

But what about New Orleans? Jameer Nelson, with $15.6 million remaining over two years? Brandon Bass with $8 million? J.J. Redick with over $12 million? What's the upside for them, along with a pick that won't be good? For starters, it's better than what they'll get from New York. It lets them avoid being bullied by the Knicks for nothing. And it's not about what those players give the Hornets, it's what they bring individually on the market. A team in need of a power forward who can score? Bass is a great pickup for a cheap draft pick and an expiring. Teams in desperate need of a shooter? J.J. Redick. Starting point guard gone down with an injury? Call up the Hornets. Jameer Nelson is on the block. It's a flip project. You don't get the pieces to start over, you get the pieces you can use to get the pieces to start over. It's the best way to do exactly the same thing the Magic would be doing. Tanking to start over and hopefully get that All-Star Hall of Famer who doesn't adore the bright lights.

This lets them both out of the pain, it gets the gun off of them. It gives them the dignity. Orlando gets to contend for one more year, the Hornets get to start moving forward now. The Magic go all-in, the Hornets fold and save their chips for a time when the flop doesn't come down so wretched.

Big markets are squeezing the talent out of small markets. But those small markets get to decide how it goes down.
Posted on: August 5, 2011 6:45 pm
Edited on: August 6, 2011 1:14 am
 

The EOB Elite 100, 71-80: Young and old alike

Posted by Ben Golliver

grant-hill-old

This is the third segment of the CBSSports.com Eye on Basketball Elite 100, counting down the top-100 players in the NBA. 

Check out the earlier installments: 100-91 | 90-81

If you can play the game of basketball, the NBA will find a place for you, and this segment of CBSSports.com’s Elite 100 underscores that point in fine fashion.

This might blow your mind: Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins, ranked No. 77, was born in 1990, just weeks before Phoenix Suns wing Grant Hill showed up on campus for fall semester as a freshman at Duke University. By the time Cousins was in kindergarten, Hill had won two titles as a Blue Devil and was a highly-touted pro prospect, drafted No. 3 overall in 1994. As Cousins finished up elementary school and entered junior high, Hill looked like another talented NBA player robbed of reaching his potential due to injuries. By the time Cousins emerged on the national scene as a highly-ranked high school prospect, Hill was finding rejuvenation in the desert, extending his career and re-inventing his game as a member of the Phoenix Suns. A month or so before Cousins was drafted with the No. 5 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Hill was a key piece on a Suns team that made the Western Conference Finals.

As of last season, Cousins was the sixth-youngest player in the NBA at 20 years of age; Hill became the second oldest, one day younger than Chicago Bulls forward Kurt Thomas, after Boston Celtics center Shaquille O’Neal retired earlier this summer.  

The two players contrast in so many ways. Hill graduated from Duke; Cousins went one-and-done at Kentucky. Hill has won sportsmanship awards; Cousins required a babysitter with the Kings and was suspended for fighting with a teammate. Hill hangs with United States President Barack Obama; Cousins has palled around with rapper Drake. Hill no longer has the explosive athleticism that was his calling card but has mastered every last veteran trick; Cousins possesses an incredibly rare combination of size, strength and quickness but has yet to harness his full potential.

Despite those differences both players have found their way to the NBA and to this list. Let’s take a look at who accompanies them here.

80. Grant Hill, F, age 38, Phoenix Suns

2011 Stats: 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, .8 steals, 48.4 FG%, 14.8 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 78, 73, 87 

The only modern equivalent for Grant Hill’s agelessness is Halle Berry. About to turn 39, Hill has missed just three regular season games in the last three seasons, a remarkable achievement considering he played just 47 combined games from 2000-2002. Hill never achieved his full potential as a player because of injuries, but his legacy won’t be stained because of that. His resolve, resourcefulness and consistency have made him a model teammate and league ambassador for as long as anyone can remember.

Hill still contributes in a variety of ways: scoring fairly efficiently, defending multiple positions and chipping in on the glass. His game is mostly floor-bound these days but that fact makes him potentially productive into his 40s.

79. Tyrus Thomas, F, age 24, Charlotte Bobcats

2011 Stats: 10.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 47.1 FG%, 18.25 PER

Composite rankings (random order):  95, 82, 61

Thomas is a bit of a forgotten man. That can be said for anyone that plays for the Bobcats but is doubly true in his case because he missed a fairly long stretch of last season with a knee injury.

A one-time high lottery pick, Thomas is a guy who is perpetually trying to figure it out. That fact didn’t stop the Bobcats from committing big dollars after acquiring him in a trade from Chicago and it hasn’t stopped him from being an excellent contributor on defense, where he blocks shots with abandon and uses his length to its full advantage. The Bobcats have cleared the decks for next season so Thomas should have every possibility to earn minutes and touches. Remarkably, he’s still just 24 and his best days are certainly ahead of him.  

78. Roy Hibbert, C, age 24, Indiana Pacers

2011 Stats: 12.7 points, 7.5 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 46.1 FG%, 15.96 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 92, 91, 52

Hibbert is one of the last of a dying breed: A true back-to-the-basket center whose hulking frame and stiff game would probably have been a better fit in the 1990s. As is, he’s a solid, productive player who does what’s expected for a guy his size: rebounds, blocks shots and finishes plays around the rim.

Last season, Hibbert’s third, wasn’t all smooth sailing. He struggled with his shooting and confidence, and performed much better after Jim O’Brien was replaced as head coach by Frank Vogel. His lack of lateral quickness will likely remain an issue for the rest of his career. It’s unlikely Hibbert will ever develop into a star but he’s an excellent cog for a young, developing team like Indiana.

77. DeMarcus Cousins, F, age 20, Sacramento Kings

2011 Stats: 14.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, .8 blocks, 43.0 FG%, 14.62 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 84, 76, 72

Cousins was a top-10 knucklehead last year. He was benched for making a choke sign at an opponent during a free throw attempt. He was thrown off the team plane for fighting with a teammate. He was kicked out of practice. He was fined for undisclosed reasons. He was ejected from a game for shoving Martell Webster during a fracas. The list goes on and on.

There were two bigger concerns than all of that immaturity: turnovers and efficiency. Cousins committed 3.3 turnovers in just 28.5 minutes per game and shot just 43% from the field. It’s not unusual for young big men to deal with those issues, though, and improvement in both categories going forward is a virtual certainty, as Cousins learns how to adjust to the NBA game, NBA officials and figures out how to best use his huge frame and excellent instincts around the basket. Despite his many flaws, Cousins’ size and skill give him a chance to be a top-25 NBA player far more quickly than you might expect. The talent and potential are there, lurking beneath the surface.

76. DeMar DeRozan, F, age 21, Toronto Raptors

2011 Stats: 17.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 46.7 FG%, 14.52 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 80, 49, unranked

We’re supposed to keep the rankings anonymous but in this case I feel compelled to confess: I did not rank DeRozan in the top-100 nor do I think he belongs here. He was an inefficient scorer with no range playing on a terrible team last season, one of the least valuable things you can be.

Still, his presence on this list speaks to his upward career trajectory. DeRozan used his ridiculous leaping and finishing abilities to double his scoring average from his rookie year last season, putting up 17.2 points per game. He also boasts the physical tools – size, length, quickness – to be a plus-defender. He’s really held back by his lack of three-point range, though, and he will continue to be an incomplete offensive player until his spot-up shooting is at least passable. His highlight reel capability, solid personality and pure marketability make him a bright spot on a roster that needs them. His hard-working, positive approach on a day-in and day-out basis make him especially intriguing to watch develop over the next 3-5 years.

75. Shawn Marion, F, age 33, Dallas Mavericks

2011 Stats: 12.5 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.4 assists, .9 steals, 52.0 FG%, 17.09 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 67, unranked, 58

2011 was such a dream season for Marion that he will forgive us for vastly underrating him on this list. A do-everything forward long known best for his unorthodox and downright hideous jumper, Marion was a crucial piece to the Mavericks championship puzzle.

Marion was big on both ends, using excellent shot selection and an underrated post game to get his points, while rebounding at a solid clip for his position. He shined brightest defensively as he was part of a corps of Mavericks defenders that limited some of the league’s elite scorers during the posteason: Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James, to name a few. His unwavering confidence was crucial, too, especially when the Mavericks fell behind the Heat in the Finals. He never gave up and neither did Dallas.

74. Anderson Varejao, F, Age 28, Cleveland Cavaliers

2011 Stats: 9.1 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.2 blocks, 52.8 FG%, 15.21 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 76, 56, 92

Varejao became a permanent starting player for the first time in his career after LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Shaquille O’Neal departed during the summer of 2010. He rose to the challenge nicely, posting career highs in points, rebounds and blocks until a foot injury prematurely ended his season.

Best known as an energy guy, Varejao has double-double potential now that he’s in his prime age years and playing on a roster that needs every ounce of production that he can provide. Just about everyone would like to see him traded to a contender so his hustle, defense and heady play can impact postseason games. The Cavaliers, to their credit, realize the asset they have and seem to be hoping he can help lead their rebuild.

73. Danilo Gallinari, F, Age 22, Denver Nuggets

2011 Stats: 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.7 assists, .8 steals, 41.4 FG%, 15.71 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 99, 37, 86

The young Italian was a key piece in the package that landed All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony in New York. He’s a long, silky perimeter player with shot-making ability and a desire to deliver in the clutch. Given his height, 6-foot-10, his rebounding contributions are not overwhelming and he’ll need to continue improving to approach his ceiling as a player.

Gallinari is tantalizing, more than anything, given the fluidity of his play at his size. There are plenty of questions to be answered in Denver – especially concerning the future of Nene and J.R. Smith – but Gallinari’s youth provides hope should there be widespread defections in free agency. He won’t ever replace Anthony but he won’t cost nearly as much, won’t demand as many shots and he is unlikely to hijack the franchise for the foreseeable future. That package is worth something, for sure.

72. Devin Harris, G, Age 28, Utah Jazz

2011 Stats: 15.2 points, 7.1 assists, 1.0 steals, 42.2 FG%, 17.22 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 66, 69, 86

A big guard with a solid skillset, Harris needs to shake the “loser” label and questions about his durability that developed during his time in New Jersey. He was perceived as the best player on a 12-win team and that’s never, ever a good thing for a player’s legacy and reputation.

Still, Harris gets a fresh start in Utah, as he was traded to the Jazz in the deal that sent All-Star guard Deron Williams to the Nets. Utah is clearly in a rebuilding, find-itself phase now that Williams is gone and it’s no guarantee that Harris, who is theoretically entering his prime, is necessarily their point guard of the future. We will learn a lot about Harris in 2011-2012.

71. Jameer Nelson, G, Age 29, Orlando Magic

2011 Stats: 13.1 points, 6.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 44.6%, 15.47 PER

Composite rankings (random order): 72, 82, 66

Nelson has a lot going for himself. He’s tough, scrappy, productive, has three-point range and is on a reasonable contract. Nelson can beat his man off the dribble for the drive-and-kick or stretch the defense as a knock-down shooter. He isn’t a star, though, and that’s what Orlando needed last year. Indeed, a second star is what they need next year too if center Dwight Howard is to remain in town.

Nelson's turnovers and his lack of size and elite athleticism prevent him from really serving as a game-changer offensively and occasionally make him a liability defensively. Right now, Nelson falls into the fairly wide category of “too talented to dump, not good enough to get real value in return.”

Posted on: June 23, 2011 1:01 pm
Edited on: June 23, 2011 1:26 pm
 

NBA Rumor: Blazers, Magic to swap Miller, Nelson?

The Portland Trail Blazers and Orlando Magic are reportedly discussing a trade involving Andre Miller and Jameer Nelson. Posted by Ben Golliver. andre-miller

The Portland Trail Blazers are clearly looking for an upgrade at point guard. The Orlando Magic are always looking to shake things up, especially after the team bounced out of the NBA playoffs in the first round and now feels the pressure to do whatever it takes to keep franchise center Dwight Howard from skipping town.

Could the two teams find a deal that satisfies their mutual interest? DraftExpress.com reports that they are working on it: "Hearing Portland and Orlando are talking about swapping Andre Miller and Jameer Nelson, with the #21 pick going to Orlando." 

Miller is on the books for $7.3 million while Nelson's contract figure is at $7.8 million, so the two players could be swapped for each other without other contracts being thrown in. Nelson is on the books through 2012-2013 while Miller can either be waived before June 29 for salary cap relief or can be paid $7.8 million next season. The Blazers would have no issue taking on the additional salary because the team lacks depth at the point guard position and realizes Miller is not the long-term solution. The Magic, meanwhile, would likely keep Miller or flip him for another point guard rather than waive him, as Gilbert Arenas represents the only available option at the one. 

Miller is 35 years old while Nelson is 29, so the interest from Portland's side would come from getting younger at the point guard position. Nelson boasts an NBA Finals appearance on his resume and has actually played in the same number of playoff games (39) as Miller, despite being six years younger. He also is a career 39.0% 3-point shooter, a significant upgrade over Miller (20.4%). For years, the Blazers have repeated a desire to improve their outside shooting.

What he lacks in range, Miller makes up for in basketball smarts, consistency and play-making. In 2010-2011, he averaged 12.7 points and 7.0 assists -- compared to Nelson's 13.1 points and 6.0 assists. He is also one of the league's most durable players, and has not missed a game due to injury in eight seasons. He's also one of the league's best lob passers, an excellent weapon if he were to be paired with Howard. He has yet to win a playoff series in his 11-year career, though, a potential red flag or sticking point for a team like Orlando which is desperate to win now to appease Howard.

The Magic currently only have one pick, a second round selection at No. 53 overall. 

Given the difference in age between the two players, it feels like Orlando should be able to siphon off additional, minor assets if a Miller-for-Nelson swap were to go through. The No. 21 pick in a relatively weak draft wouldn't seem to make up for the difference in future productivity between the two players, especially given the affordable nature of Nelson's contract.
 
The Blazers have also been linked to San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker, as recently as last night.
Posted on: April 29, 2011 2:01 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 2:20 am
 

Grading the Series: Hawks topple Magic in 6

Grades for Hawks-Magic. Hawks' toughness passes, Magic's composure fails. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Atlanta Hawks

Josh Smith: Smith, by himself, could have probably made this series a sweep if he'd played like a guy with his size and athleticism. Instead, Smith opted to hang out on the perimeter, settling for jumper after jumper. Pull-up, spot-up, the works, while Hedo Turkoglu managed to get past him. Smith has so much potential to take over the game, and has the results when he drove or posted up to prove it. But he continued to waste time with his stubborn obsession with the mid-range and perimeter shooting. That said, he got his production, made some huge defensive plays, and helped the Hawks inside. 

Grade: C-

Joe Johnson: You can't really blame Johnson for being who he is. He goes isolation too often, and it's a huge detriment to the Hawks' overall offense. It was one thing when they didn't have other options. They do now. But he's such an entrenched part of the team that you can't really be surprised. Still, his defense was actually pretty terrific against the wings, and he did average 19 points per game. And he did on just 18 shots per game. Johnson is who he is. We can't grade him well because he wasn't good, we can't grade him too terribly because he didn't kill his team. 

Grade: C+

Al Horford: You can't run every possession through Horford. But, if you could, and he could keep his production, what a different Hawks team it would be. Horford wasn't brilliant, he was just very good, and typically a step above the rest in terms of decision-making and defense. He should have been able to back down Brandon Bass easier, should have been able to shoot over 40 percent more than four times in this series. But he averaged over 5 assists per game the last three games and helped space the floor. His flurry to start Game 4 set the tone. Horford will be the barometer for the hopes of the Hawks going forward in these playoffs and for this franchise. 

Grade: B-

Larry Drew: Benching Al Horford for a half with two fouls. Failing to get his team to focus on ball movement. Failing to close out the Magic in Orlando in 5. Giving up layups late. The list goes on and on. If you're ranking the eight coaches left in the NBA playoffs, Drew has to be dead last. 

Grade: D+

Atlanta's Toughness: Atlanta will get no credit for this as all the attention will be on the Magic's 3-point shooting woes, the Hawks' inconsistent offense, and their slim chances against Chicago. But the Hawks slammed the door on a veteran playoff team in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead, and that ended the series. The Magic took Game 5 in a shooting flurry, but it was over after Game 4. They scrapped, they challenged, they ran off the 3. They deserve credit for that. 

Grade: A-

Orlando Magic:

Dwight Howard: His Game 6 is supposed to, in some way, tarnish his MVP legitimacy. Yeah, because 25 points and 15 rebounds with 3 blocks is a terrible game in a series where he dominated in rare form. Howard defined dominance in every aspect of this series, and the fact that the Magic couldn't get it done with what he did says worlds about their roster and, yes, pushes him towards the door. 

Grade: A+

Every Magic player who touched the ball on the perimeter and shot: Geometry lessons. Feng shui. Exorcisms. The Magic should literally go to the gym tomorrow morning and shoot until they go back to hitting their correct percentages. They lost this series for the Magic, point blank.

Grade: F-

Orlando's composure: They couldn't adapt, they couldn't adjust, they couldn't get past the reality that the Hawks were outplaying them. Yeah, the shots weren't falling. But at some point in the playoffs you have to make the extra plays to give your team some momentum until the shots start falling. Orlando didn't do that. 

Grade: D-
Posted on: April 29, 2011 12:12 am
Edited on: April 29, 2011 2:27 am
 

Series in Review: Hawks defeat Magic in 6

Hawks take care of business... kind of... in a way. A messy series results in the end of the Magic, with a future in doubt. 
Posted by Matt Moore




An MVP season from the franchise player. A huge midseason trade to upgrade their roster. And the Magic are eliminated in six games by the 5 seed Atlanta Hawks. This is where the sad trumpet plays. You have to give it to the Hawks, though. Despite, you know, the offense, their decision-making, and their coaching, they advance to face the Bulls. Here's how they got it done. 

Series MVP: Jamal Crawford. Crawford averaged 20.5 points per game off the bench. The Magic could sustain the damage done by the Hawks' starters, but Crawford was too much. On top of the desperation knock-out punch in Game 3, Crawford just keep dropping bombs the whole series. Crawford shot just 6-16 in the elimination Game 6, and 3-10 from the perimeter. That terrible performance dropped his 3-point percentage in the series all the way to... 47 percent.  Nice shootin', Tex. 

Best Play: Crawford's buzzer-beater. It wasn't pretty. He didn't call glass. But it's the kind of shot the Hawks seem to hit all series, and Magic never could get a lock on. 



Best moment: Josh Smith blocks the Magic's last desperation shot in Game 6. Josh Smith struggled through most of the series by not committing to his athletic talents and playing too much on the perimeter. Then Smith turns around and blocks the shot at the buzzer to seal the win, and the series, for the Hawks. If that's not the story of Josh Smith's series, and/or career, I don't know what is. 

Worst moment: Zaza Pachulia and Jason Richardson decide to get to know one another. 




Most disappointing performance: The entire Orlando Magic team outside of Dwight Howard. The Magic rely on the perimeter shot. Going cold is one thing. Failing to make the extra pass is another. Not adjusting and forcing the ball inside, especially when the Hawks opened lanes for them to do just that, is a whole other level. Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson, J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu, and yes, Gilbert Arenas; the whole lot of them failed to live up to their contracts and their responsibilities. Big ol' Fail for them.

Making a name: Kirk Hinrich? We know the Hawks. They've been together. But Hinrich showed that he can still put in buckets and play defense. His injury may be the biggest story going into Hawks-Bulls. 

Theme of the Series: The Offense from Hell. There were some good games in this series. Some legitimately great defense. But there were also entire quarters defined by Hawks isolation after Hawks isolation and missed Magic 3-pointer after missed Magic 3-pointer. If the Hawks had managed ball movement with any consistency they could have ended this in four. If the Magic had actually landed a few shots, they could have made it out of the first round. There's good defense, and then there's bad offense. We saw both in this series. 
Posted on: April 28, 2011 9:53 am
 

Playoff Fix: Magic have to live by the 3

Hawks try to close the Magic out, but if Orlando can stay warm from the outside, they'll force a Game 7.
Posted by Matt Moore

One Big Thing:  The Magic have to stay hot from the perimeter. This series really does come down to shooting percentages. Everything else evens out, even Dwight's impact inside, marginalized by the work of Josh Smith, Al Horford and the Atlanta bigs. It just comes down to whether the 3-point barrage from Orlando can hold up. That's what this game, and this series, will be decided on. Seems simple, because it is. Make shots, and Orlando's going to push this to seven. 

The X-Factor: J.J. Redick wasn't bombing from deep in Game 5, but he was doing work off the dribble. Yes, little J.J.'s all grown up. The Magic need a ball-handler who can score off the bench whose name isn't a grill and whose knees haven't been through multiple surgeries in four season.  Redick was hampered by injury at the end of the regular season and start of this series. He looked back to his old self in Game 5. That holds up, and that takes the sting out of Jamal Crawford, the real eternal X-Factor in this series. 

The Adjustment: The Hawks have to get back to what worked in the first four games: running off 3-pointers, doubling, and recovering. All the damage the Magic did inside compounded the outside and vice-versa. The Hawks aren't going to improve on offense. They're going to have more bad possessions than good. But defensively, they spark fast breaks, which is where their best ball-movement comes from. Letting the Magic fire away will guarantee the Hawks suffer the ignominy of losing a series they were up 3-1 in. 

The Sticking Point: The Magic really showed they were a better team when the shots were falling in Game 5. That has to put the fear of God into Atlanta. If the Hawks don't get a break and have the Magic miss a few early ones, Atlanta could come undone. This is a deciding game in this series, and not just because the Magic remain on the edge of elimination. A loss and the Hawks enter full-on meltdown mode. Just like that, a series that looked to be theirs can wind up firmly in Orlando's grasp. 
 
 
 
 
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