Friday, April 10, 2009

Shu ba da du ma ma ma ma

Tonight the Magic take on the New York Knickerbockers and their frontman David Lee Roth. Enjoy the game folks, and we'll see ya on Monday with some big news!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Rookie Assessment: Courtney Lee

With only 4 more games to go before the end of the regular season, I think it's safe to give a fair assessment of our 22nd pick of the draft. Courtney has surprised many of us, and has exceeded almost all expectations we had for him going into the season. Being the 22nd pick doesn't usually guarantee you playing time on a title contending team, much less being a starter.

For a position that had the likes of Keith Bogans and journeyman Maurice Evans starting last year for the Magic, FA acquisition Mickael Pietrus all but had the starting 2 spot locked up. However after getting off to a strong start, Pietrus battled injuries and inconsistent play all throughout the year, eventually succumbing the starting position to the rookie. Lee embraced the starting role, and never let it go.

Courtney has been more then just a fill in, or a "good enough" type of player. Lee has come in and provided defense, scoring, and all around hustle for the Magic. Lee just doesn't quit. Take a bad shot? That's ok, he'll go and alter a shot on the other end. Turn the ball over that lead to a fastbreak? He'll chase down the player with the ball and either strip him or steal the ball right back. Miss a ton of shots? I'll get to that later....

He hasn't been named Rookie of the Month, nor will he be Rookie of the Year, but what do those awards really mean anyhow? They are usually given to the rookie who scores the most points on a bad team, rather then the rookie who significantly made his team better in some or all aspects of the game.

I've compiled a list of highlights, stats, and other miscellaneous information on Courtney that he has accumulated throughout the year. Let's take a look....

Favorite Courtney Lee moment: There are alot of games that come to mind where Courtney really showed me something, but my favorite had to be the game against the 76ers on February 28th. Courtney was missing shot after shot, blowing some defensive assignments, and was just having an all around poor game. The Magic were down, as the team collectively didn't look too sharp that night. Someone had to step up and change the outcome of the game. That someone was Courtney Lee.

Lee, despite his poor effort earlier, continued to fire away, eventually hitting big shot after big shot. The Magic eventually won the game by 6, with Lee being a big part of the reason they won. Lee finished the game with 18 points on 6 of 18 shooting, 4 of 12 from downtown. He also took the most shots out of anyone that night.

I remember losing all hope for that game, as Courtney was being left wide open to continue jacking up those shots. But when he started hitting them, I sprung from my chair, and knew this rookie was making a statement. Leave me alone, and you are going to pay. And pay the Sixers did.

Best statistical game: March 23, 2009 against the Knicks. Lee finished with 22 points with a cool 75% FG, 2 for 3 from downtown, and a perfect 8-8 from the line. He also chipped in 3 boards, 3 steals, and only 1 turnover.

Did you know? The Magic are a whopping 25-5 when Courtney scores 10 points or more.

Favorite "Wow" moment: I'll let the video speak for itself.

09-10 Outlook: Depending on whether or not the Magic resign Hedo Turkoglu, I foresee Courtney holding onto the starting position, and possibly becoming an even bigger part of the offense. Without Turkoglu and with the addition of Jameer Nelson coming back from injury, the Magic will still be lacking a 4th scorer. Lee will immediately be put into that position, especially on a team like the Magic. I'd also like to see more plays ran for Courtney, as he often spends too much time camping out in the corner, and rarely cuts as much as he should up until recently. If Turkoglu isn't resigned, Mickael Pietrus becomes the starting SF by default, unless the Magic pick up a legitimate 4 and slide Rashard back to the 3. This would all but guarantee Lee continues to be the starting SG as well. Despite what his role will end up being, Courtney will only improve if he continues to display a strong work ethic and a desire to win games.
Predicted line: 30 mpg, 44% FG, 38% 3pt, 13ppg, 4 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 spg

Courtney still has flaws. He can sometimes disappear on the offensive end, and he isn't exactly a lock down defender just yet. However, GM Otis Smith really picked a winner this year, and Magic fans are thankful to have Courtney on their team for a long time to come.

Credit for the photo

Petty, but Pretty

Ok, I admit up front that this is a rather petty thing to be happy about, but today I am celebrating “Suns Elimination Day” in honor of the Dallas Mavericks clinching the Western Conference’s final playoff spot last night, which simultaneously eliminated the Phoenix Suns from the post season.

I have nothing against the Phoenix Suns. In fact, prior to last season, they were one of my favorite teams in the league to watch. I still like players such as Steve Nash, Leandro Barbosa, and Amare Stoudemire. The problem is, and I’m sure you all know where I’m going here, is that the Suns currently employ the two largest purveyors of Orlando Magic destruction, and fan misery, in the franchise’s short history.

How ironic that Grant Hill left the Magic two seasons ago because he wanted to play for a contender. Well, while we could argue whether the Magic even took an on-court hit from his departure, what can’t be argued is the sweet justice this fan feels by watching the classy, but disloyal, Hill’s fortunes fall when he left us. After all, our fortunes fell from the moment when he came to us.

And what more needs to be said about Shaq? Shaq, in his second to last season in the league (according to him), will be missing the playoffs for the first time since his rookie season with the Magic back in 1992-1993. I guess he forgot that you don’t fake the funk on a nasty dunk.

As if there weren’t enough Shaq-related issues in Magicland, Shaq has turned things up a notch this season with his back-and-forths with Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. Of course, Shaq will never be a player that can just straight up give a compliment to a rival. His back handed “compliments” of Dwight Howard this season actually seemed to bother the younger Superman. It is one thing for Shaq to leave the Magic franchise like he did in 1996. That was bad, for certain. But it is another thing entirely for him to attempt in any way, shape, or warm-up, to mess with the one man capable of making us forget Shaq and even take us to places that Shaq couldn’t and wouldn’t.

So, allow me my moment of being petty. Allow me to get a quick feeling of satisfaction that two players who were so instrumental in the direction our franchise took will now be sitting at home watching us achieve greatness without them, and despite them.

Photo credit: Charlotte Observer.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You are what's wrong with the world

Going to a Magic game is a fun thing to do. Instead of sharing the thrill of a game winning shot with your cat Fluffy, you get to share the experience with thousands of fellow Magic fans. Also, there is usually plenty of ladies around, which is always a good thing considering the same can't be said for your apartment. Still, it's not all good.

Every game I attend I am sure to run into a handful of people who require me to close my eyes and take a deep breath. They are, undoubtedly, what is wrong with the world.
  • You are sitting in front of me, which isn't that big of a deal. I'll accept you standing up to cheer throughout the game because a) it shows that you are really into the Magic, and b) it gives me an excuse to stand up and cheer too. However, you don't stand up and cheer during a pivotal moment of the game. No, the only time you get up to make noise the entire game is when you want a silly, stupid, meaningless t-shirt. You would think this person is devoid of clothing and shelter and this was really a big deal. No, they just want something because it's free.
  • There is five minutes left in the 4th quarter and the Magic are up 8. You get up and leave. You "want to beat the traffic." Good, go home.
  • We are halfway through the 2nd quarter. You walk up to my row and look down at the row letter, then you gaze back at your ticket, then back at the row letter, then back at the ticket. You are clueless. Now, I don't mind getting up and letting people in and out of the row. My problem here is that you have missed a quarter and a half of basketball.
  • You cheer louder for JJ Redick than you do for any other player.
  • You bring your children to a game. It's a great thing. I remember going to Magic games when I was a youngster and they were amazing. Kudos to you, mom and dad. However, you don't control your children. Those thunder sticks your 7 year old boy is using? Yeah, those. They are constantly hitting the head of the guy in front of you. And at what point does your little girl's screaming like she just saw Justin Timberlake become too much for you to put up with?
  • The MVP chant. Serenity now. Where did this fad start? Dwight Howard is at the line in the 4th quarter of a close game. As I hope you know, he struggles with his free throws. Here, let's throw him another distraction by chanting "MVP," like it will actually change the mind of those who vote for the meaningless award. You watch too much SportsCenter.
  • You drink Bud Light. Yuck.
  • You might be wearing your Dwight Howard jersey to the game, but at home you have a Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Kobe Bryant jersey. Let me guess, you probably have matching shoes for each one too. I'd bet you like Stuart Scott.
  • It's the national anthem. The lady is doing a decent job, even though she thinks she is Christina Aguilera. For some reason, you decide to yell out a rather silly cheer right after she says "O'er the land of the freeeeee." Why not just wait until she finishes?
Alright, I have to go. There are some kids on my lawn.

Left feeling April foolish, worst NBA deals of 08-09

April Fools day may be over but this season has left several NBA franchises feeling foolish due to poor choices made in player acquisitions this past year. We at “The Puns” have put together a list of the five worst player signings/trades that have left their teams wishing someone would yell APRIL FOOLS in hopes that it never happened.

5. Allen Iverson / Detroit Pistons – Denver gladly took Billups and his all-star caliber PG play and leadership off the hand of the Pistons for team chemistry killer AI, whose skills have diminished but ego has not. The only redeeming feature of this deal is Iverson’s expiring contract that will allow Detroit to be a major player in this summer’s free agency market.

4. Corey Maggette / Golden State – While Maggette is a solid player, I question why a team already loaded with SG/SF’s would spend $49 mill. over five years on another while ignoring glaring needs at PG and PF.

3. Jermaine O'Neal /Raptors and Heat – The Raptors were so happy with their trade for O'Neal that they traded him before the trade deadline for Shawn Marion and his expiring contract. Even in Miami where Oneal is filling a huge need at center the Heat are only one game over .500 since the trade. O'Neal is a long way from playing anywhere near his salary which is the 4th highest in the league.

2. Elton Brand / Sixers – The Sixer’s will make the playoffs this year but have little to show for spending their precious cap space on the player they hoped would help them to compete with the Eastern conference elite. Another injury plagued year for the veteran low post scorer that struggled when he was healthy trying to find space in the paint. The Sixers are the worst three point shooting team in the league allowing teams to collapse into the paint. The Sixers need a healthy Brand AND to make moves to improve their outside shooting if this signing is to pay dividends down the road.

1. Baron Davis / LA Clippers – Brand stunned the Clippers by bolting for Philly after believing they had their dream All-Star PG and Center combo ready to sign. Baron kept his word and signed into what turned into the most dysfunctional team in the league. Davis showed little of the leadership and fire he had displayed at Golden State the last few years and as always missed a good number of games from injuries.

Next week we will look at the top five veteran player acquisitions for the season

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dwight Howard: Team Leader

Alot can be said about leadership and where it comes from. Are people just born with natural leadership qualities or if they are blessed enough with great talent in their particular arena can they then learn leadership and guide others.

This question is especially prevelant in basketball because for the most part we hear that the best player on the team needs to be the leader of the team and for the most part it is true. There is no doubt that Kobe leads the Lakers and Lebron leads the Cavs, etc. Heck I remember when Tracy McGrady played here he took a leadership class at Rollins College so he could try and become a better leader. He was not necessarily born with that quality nor has he developed it over time.

The leader of the Magic this season definitely became Jameer Nelson as he not only elevated his game to that of an all-star but you could see he was taking the reigns and making the team his own. When he went down Rafer Alston stepped in with brilliant results but something else has occured to me that I think alot of people are missing which is Dwight Howard has decided to become the leader of this team.

After the Hawks game on Saturday he eluded to the fact that the Magic did not have the energy or effort they needed and that they need to bring that every night to be a championship contender.
After the Raptors loss he called a team only meeting which usually fall on deaf ears but it was a brilliant strategy for him because when he spoke the players listened as evidenced by the boat racing that was handed to the Cavs on Friday night.

I have never been one to question how much money my athletes make or what they do in their free time but I do want to know they care as much about the team winning as I do. It sounds so absurd to think that a NBA player does not care about winning but sometimes all the joking and jovial stuff has led me and others to believe that they may shrug off these losses easier than we do. Dwight is quickly teaching me that this is not the case and when he says he wants this team to win a championship he means it. It has been his message all season.

Actions have always spoken louder than words and trust me Dwight's actions have been so clear I think we might take them for granted. But if the best big in the NBA wants to voice his opinions then I am pretty darn sure his team will continue to listen.

Music Monday... On Tuesday

Yeah, so we forgot to do Music Monday yesterday. Deal with it. So here is a special Tuesday edition of Music Monday, with Mr. William Shatner.

She packed my bags last night pre-flight
Zero hour nine a.m.
And i'm gonna be high as a kite by then
I miss the earth so much i miss my wife
It's lonely out in space
On such a timeless flight

And i think it's gonna be a long long time
Till touch down brings me round again to find
I'm not the man they think i am at home
Oh no no no i'm a rocket man
Rocket man burning out his fuse up here alone

Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids
In fact it's cold as hell
And there's no one there to raise them if you did
And all this science i don't understand
It's just my job five days a week
A rocket man, a rocket man

And i think it's gonna be a long long time...

Thanks to lyricsfreak for the, well, lyrics.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Putting all your eggs in one basket

Word on the streets is that Easter is coming up. Apparently when you are going around and collecting eggs for some reason or another this Sunday, you shouldn't put all of them in the same basket. For if you do so, there is a chance something happens to that basket, and you will lose all of your eggs you worked so hard for. Even that one your cool Uncle Bill hid in the gutter.

The reason we are talking about Easter eggs is because this is exactly what professional sports does, especially the NBA. They have chosen to forgo marketing the entire league, and instead decided to, well, put all their eggs in one basket. A vast majority of games on either ESPN, ABC, or TNT include either the Boston Celtics, the Cleveland Cavaliers, or the LA Lakers. Take this last week. Last Sunday Cleveland took on the Mavericks on ABC, then D.C. Tuesday on TNT, then Orlando on Friday on ESPN, then ended the week on Sunday against the Spurs on ABC. That's 4 times in one week.

Now I'm not whining and complaining and saying that the Magic should get that much exposure, etc. Understand that.

The problem is that other than the hardcore basketball fan, no one knows what else the league has to offer. Believe it or not, good basketball is played in Portland, and Atlanta, Philly, and even Orlando. Just not Memphis.

As TV ratings are more important than pretty much anything else these days, when we reach the NBA Finals in a few months there will certainly be a discussion about said ratings. Last year, with their eggs in the same basket, the NBA hit the lotto with a Laker/Celtic matchup. The Finals scored a 9.3 Nielsen rating (does anyone actually know what these numbers mean?), up from a 6.2 the year before.

That said, who's fault will it be if Atlanta takes on San Antonio this year? Or how about Orlando vs. Utah? Obviously the ratings would be down. But wouldn't the league and ABC be better off it they had actually showcased a larger amount of the league during the regular season so if they didn't get the matchup they wanted in the Finals they would still have a product people were at least somewhat used to?

This goes beyond TV ratings. Teams that struggle in attendance often have their best draws of the year when the Lakers or Celtics come to town. Obviously Boston and LA are big towns and have teams that have been around forever but at the same time are the teams that everyone sees on TNT and are first up on SportsCenter. However, these teams don't need the help as they are already popular teams. If more teams received national coverage wouldn't that help drive attendance a bit when Chris Paul and the Hornets come to play the Bobcats?

In summary, it might be nice for the ratings and the pockets of Stern and Co. and ABC right now for only a select few teams to be on display, but for the overall health and longevity of the NBA, they would be better served to display their entire product.

Powers Rankings

Today is one of my favorite sports days of the year. Baseball season is beginning and the culmination of the biggest legal gambling ring in our country concludes this evening with UNC taking on Michigan State.

It is also almost time for the NBA playoffs so with that said lets dust off some power rankings.

Championship Material

1. Cleveland: 62-15- I think it’s okay to be cavalier with your pregame intro when you have only lost 1.5 game at home.

2. Los Angeles: 61-16- I think the Bobcats have overtaken smog for ownership of Los Angeles.

3. Boston: 58-19- I’ve heard of home cooking but the Bobcats had 7 free throws on 102 field goal attempts. Now that is the luck of the irish.

4. Orlando: 57-19- When Marcin Gortat makes a 3 you know you have capped off a Magical night.

If the Lakers somehow all come down with mono

5. Houston: 49-28 -On paper this team should be awful but they continue to soar without Me-Mac.

6. Denver: 52-26- No Rocky Mountain High for the Nuggets as they enjoy their best season in years and all anyone can talk about is Jay Cutler.

7. Spurs: 49-27- They always spur the regular season with about 20 games to go and just get ready for post-season battle and world domination.

Could be frisky but not to much is expected

8. Portland: 48-28-Everything seems to be roses for the Blazers as they prepare for their first playoff series since the JailBlazer days.

9. New Orleans: 47-29- Hornets are feeling the sting of the 2 game losing streak as they are creeping a little closer to the 8 seed.

10. Atlanta: 43-34- The Hawks have already flown into the playoffs and are locked into the 4 seed so now so who really cares.

11. Utah: 47-30- Get on the saxophone the Jazz won a road game against a winning team.

12. Miami: 41-36-Wade is scorching right now but is finding out its not fun being the guy on a mediocre team.

13. Philadelphia: 40-36- Maybe the Sixers will try and declare independence from Elton Brand this summer as they appear to be a much better team without him.

First Round Fodder

14. Chicago: 37-40-No bull here. MJ has given his endorsement for the Olympics in Chicago.

15. Pistons: 37-40: This baby is sputtering to the finish line as Allen Iverson is now complaining about playing time and is “out” for the regular season.

Still in the hunt but no way they qualify

16. Phoenix: 42-35-Time has set on the Suns and it will be the first Floptus team to miss the playoffs since his rookie season in Orlando.

17. Charlotte: 34-43- The Bobcats are still scratching and clawing as they continue to own the Lakers.

18. Bucks: 32-46: No pun here. I just want some cheese curds.

19. Pacers: 33-44- Well Brandon Rush is doing his part picking up his scoring pace considerably.

Please let us get Blake Griffin

20. Toronto: 30-46- A home loss the Knicks on Sunday left their playoff chances extinct.

21. New Jersey: 32-45-I guess Allen Iverson on the bench Nets victories for everyone.

22. New York: 30-47: The flowers in this garden are finally showing signs of blooming.

23. Minnesota: 22-55: The Wolves are letting their pray feast on them as they only won 3 games in the month of March.

24. Oklahoma City: 21-55: Add Blake Griffin to the electric trio of Durant, Green, and Westbrook and this team could be on the fast track to big things.

25. Golden State: 28-49: I know Stephen Jackson makes love to pressure but the warrior instinct of this team left with Baron Davis.

26. Memphis: 22-55: Break out the blue suede shoes as the Grizz have won 4 in a row.

27. Washington: 18-60: Is anyone more of a Wiz at self-promotion than Gilbert Arenas.

28. Kings: 18-60: Royalty was retired on Tuesday as Vlade Divac's Jersey is now hanging in the rafters at Arco.

29. Los Angeles: 18-59: If this team ever wants to move forward they need to cut ties with Mike Dunleavy and hire Isiah Thomas.

Still bitter about Jameer but his suits are very dapper

30. Dallas: 46-31: Jason Kidd sure had the six shooter loaded as he handed out 20 assists in 3 quarters on Sunday to make playoff wishes set on the Suns.

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Credit "Sebi" from the Orlando Magic Message board for the title graphic.

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