[Daniel Orton receives coaching instruction on his shot from Magic assistant Brendan Malone.]
Friday night after the Orlando Magic defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers, 111-100, Coach Stan Van Gundy was very upset about the brand of defense his team had played. The Magic led by as much as 18 points in the third quarter, but they allowed that lead to whittle away to eight points, and they never truly put the Cavs away despite the victory. Here’s what Van Gundy had to say after that game:
“I saw very few good things defensively. We were terrible. Another 47-percent game. It’s the same old thing. With us right now, when the scoring is easy, we won’t guard, and that’s why we can’t put games away. We play one end of the floor at a time. So, we’re going to be in these challenges all the time.”
Last night against the Wizards, the Magic found themselves in a similar situation. They jumped out to yet another big lead of 14 points, but in third quarter the Wizards shot 53-percent, and they even took the lead from the Magic. If it weren’t for a big Dwight Howard putback toward the end, and a last second missed shot by Gilbert Arenas, the Magic could have easily lost the game.
Still, Van Gundy’s post-game comments (comments the media waited outside the locker room for over 30 minutes to hear I might add) were a lot more positive than they had been the previous night:
“We absolutely stole a game. I thought they played with a lot more energy than we did in the second half. First half, they were all over the boards, I thought they played very, very hard, kept themselves in the game just by rebounding the ball. And then (Gilbert) Arenas and Nick Young took us apart in the second half. Their defense was good. But on a positive note with our guys, we’ve had several of these and I think the one thing we have shown is great resolve. We were down five with three minutes to go, no panic, our guys hang in there. I think the key to becoming a great team is you have to learn without losing. I think we have to be realistic about the last two nights actually. Very happy to have the wins.”
Van Gundy also had nothing but high praise for his center, Dwight Howard. Howard finished with 32 points, 14 rebounds and he kept Wizards’ centers JaVale McGee and Hilton Armstrong in foul trouble through much of the game. In Van Gundy’s mind, Howard is definitely playing MVP-caliber basketball right now:
“He was obviously tremendous tonight. I don’t think there’s anybody in the NBA playing better basketball than he is. For some reason, whatever it is, people always with Dwight like to focus on whatever the negatives are, but just look around the league and tell me who’s playing better basketball and who’s doing more to lead a team and at time carry a team to victory. We’re only 16 games into the year now, but if you stopped it right now and he wasn’t the MVP right now, then something is seriously wrong.”
Other notes from the Magic locker room:
Quentin Richardson had a solid game last night with 20 points, which included some clutch shots in the fourth quarter when the Magic were down by five. Toward the end of the game, he seemed to be jawing with the Wizards bench and then again with some fans. Then at the end of the game, he and Arenas had a brief, but friendly conversation. He was asked about both after the game.
Richardson clearly did not want to address the fans and how he felt about them while the camera was running; however, off camera while he was being whisked away for an NBA TV interview he let his real feelings show, while talking to a Magic team official:
“Just because you buy a ticket close to the floor, and I hit a big shot against your team, doesn’t mean you can just talk[trash]to me. It doesn’t work like that homie.”
Someone should tell Mr. Richardson that’s exactly how it works.
Finally, I was able to have a short pre-game conversation with Magic rookie Daniel Orton. Orton, who played one year at Kentucky with John Wall, has yet to appear in an NBA game and has been battling an injured knee. He has been participating in more full court drills as of late, and before the game, he could be seen working on his post moves with Patrick Ewing.
I asked Orton about his rookie year, John Wall and the teaching of Ewing and Dwight Howard.
Not even five seconds after that interview, Magic forward Brandon Bass, who’s locker was right next to Orton’s, starting laughing and said, “It must be nice to get an interview when you haven’t done a damn thing.”
The good times for Orton continued after the game when both Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard asked him to bring lotion and towels to their respective lockers. To Orton’s credit, he did not pull a Dez Bryant, he did as he was told with a smile.