My Farewell to MBO and Basketball Blogging

Since the days when I could piece together thoughts and memories, I’ve been an Orlando Magic fan. I was 8 years old the first time I went to a Magic game. It was Game 3 and Game 4 of that first round series against the Miami Heat. Penny Hardaway will forever be my basketball idol.

Chip Caray, Goose Givens, David Steele, Matt Guokas, Jeff Turner, Dennis Neumann, and Richie Adubato may as well all be considered relatives if I were to think how many hours and days of my life I’ve watched and listened as they called Magic games over the decades.

Between the ages of 11 and 23, I off-and-on assisted my family to park cars on properties we owned near both the old O-rena and the Amway Center for Magic games. I remember that first winter, surprisingly chilly for Florida weather stands. In between monitoring vehicles, I’d hop into my dad’s old Chevy Blazer and tune into the radio play-by-play as much as possible. Dennis Neumann never fails to entertain by masterfully calling contests.

Through that parking business though, I was able to net some pretty sweet free tickets to games here and there. In the middle of those years, I can’t calculate how much my father, uncle, and mother spoiled me with Magic tickets and merchandise. I have relationships and friendships that were created or made stronger because of the Magic. I attended more games during the infamous 2003-2004 debacle of a season than I ever care to admit.

I’ve seen some amazing things on that Orlando parquet floor in person from the stands: Penny, Darrell Armstrong’s steal and buzzer-beating game-winning lay-up, Tracy McGrady’s 62-point game, An enormous amount of Dwight Howard double-doubles, the first Magic playoff series win in a dozen years (2008), Hedo Turkoglu game-winners, Rashard Lewis game-winners. I’m leaving plenty out. I was in the Atlanta stands for Game 4 in 2010 when we swept the Hawks to cruise into the Eastern Conference Finals.

Game-winners, playoff victories, ridiculously outstanding crowd atmospheres, smashed clipboards, superb individual performances, thrown elbows, miracle moments, poetic team basketball, and a whole lot more.

Wanting to extend my Magic fandom to other levels, I started posting on fan forums. ESPN – before it sucked – while in high school, MagicMadness (R.I.P.) in college, and RealGM at and after my UCF days where I’ve spent way too much time perusing and posting. I never thought I’d go from sending Dante Marchitelli and George Galante questions during Summer League broadcasts they called to actually covering Summer Leagues and seeing those guys in person.

First person I ever interviewed as a media member was DeQuan Jones in the 2012 preseason campaign. There have been a lot of great dudes that I’ve had access to in that Magic locker room. Naming a few: J.J. Redick, Maurice Harkless, Kyle O’Quinn, Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and more. Numerous unique characters. Many great one-liners.

I always told myself that the day blogging felt like a job or an obligation – more so than a fun hobby – then I would stop. Unfortunately, that time has arrived. It hit me a few days ago that I needed to adjust my personal priorities in order to improve my life. I have given a lot of time and resources to blogging and covering the Orlando Magic. I can’t do that any longer. And I try my best to never half-ass anything. If you want to succeed in this business, you have to be able to do it 24/7.

I’ve blogged for 4+ years at MBO, including almost 2 ½ as the site’s owner. I’ve blogged for about 8 years total if you include Orlando Magic Greek. I want to thank Brian Serra for reaching out to me to write for MBO back in 2012, and for handing the reins of the site over to me a few years after that. This site is Brian’s baby. The site is almost up to 2,000 posts. Over 1,200 of those are mine. I’ve dedicated a large portion of myself to this.

I’m a 28-year-old who for two years now has balanced a full-time HR career that I fully enjoy combined with the responsibilities of running a basketball website while trying to convey my Magic knowledge. People have all sorts of hobbies: cooking, building, alcoholism, running, gaming, etc. Mine was blogging. I also enjoy traveling, movies, and other things that blogging just took a lot of time from.

I’m in front of a laptop 40+ hours a week for my full-time career, and who knows how many extra hours per week in my personal time where the vast majority of that time is spent on MBO in some capacity. That’s not ideal. It’s only recently where I’ve realized I don’t like that my social and vacation schedule was always dependent on if there was a Magic game or event during that time.

I’ve entered my fifth season as a credentialed media member. You can count the amount of preseason and regular season games I missed on two hands be it due to vacation, work travel, or illness. It’s been a fun run. I’m forever grateful to the Magic’s Public Relations and Communications staff. They treated me with great respect and kindness from the beginning.

I’ve saved a lot of money by receiving free dinners and a free spot to sit and observe Magic contests. Either in the media loge, or on really lucky occasions when I would get to sit courtside on those baseline tables. I don’t have the bank account to sit that close. Only when my friends and I won the Magic Scavenger Hunt last year have I ever sat that close for a Magic contest as a non-media individual.

I’ve been able to interact with some great folks, many leaving an ever-lasting impact on me. Many who I know that when I run into them we’ll continue having engaging conversations.

I’m looking forward to being a full-on Magic fan again. I don’t have to quell my energy or enthusiasm for the team I love any longer, even if on rare occasion you could hear and see me bang the media loge table with my fist or drop an expletive when I knew a national media member wasn’t looking as I became unhappy about a play or referee’s decision.

There were times after games over these past few years where I’d walk into the locker room and be so dissatisfied with a Magic performance that I’d want to yell at players to check their hearts to see if they were still beating. That’s just the Greek fire in me. I’m not dumb, you obviously can’t do that and expect to be able to return ever again. That’s why there would be many games where I didn’t ask a single question to any player inside the locker room. I’d film the interviews and get out to post them. If you don’t have something nice to say/ask, it’s probably not wise to say/ask it.

I can’t wait to watch games again with friends and family without me having to constantly stare at my computer and/or phone. I’ll get to savor everything that made me adore this game and the franchise to begin with. It’ll be sweet hitting the road and watching the Magic play in other arenas again in my future vacations.

It was fun doing the Penny and Pops Podcast with my best friend, Spenser Strode. It really added extra excitement to the site. It’s cool to see listeners and Magic fans subscribing from places like: Malta, Taiwan, Micronesia, Australia, Korea, Sweden, Peru, Denmark, Hungary, Mexico, South Africa, Jamaica, Estonia, India, Pakistan, and many more. Fantastic.

Thank you to anyone that heard our voices or read any amount of MBO site posts. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the MBO site at this time. It might be transferred over, it may remain quiet until the domain expires. I tried to grow MBO as much as I could. I’m extremely proud of all that we’ve accomplished here, and how the site never ever got bogged down with too many advertisements and unwanted pop-ups. This was never about money. Whatever little revenue was made went right into paying for the site to continue running.

To the reigning Magic blogger row, good luck. Keep living the dream. I consider Philip Rossman-Reich (Orlando Magic Daily) and Zach Oliver (Orlando Pinstriped Post) friends. If you’re entering the realm of Magic blogging, those are two guys who can show you the ropes. If you’re looking for more of a traditional media route, there’s no one better than Josh Robbins (Orlando Sentinel). Josh always treated me as an equal even when his access and writing quality are far superior.

I may be ending my blogging, but you’ll still find me online. I’ll be tweeting, but obviously not as frequently as you’re used to. Heck, if I’m in a big venting mood and Twitter doesn’t have the character capacity to contain it, the RealGM Orlando Magic board may be seeing more of me. If anyone wants me to provide my verbal or written opinion on something, you know I’m always up for contributing.

The Magic’s win-loss record has nothing to do with this decision. Even if they were undefeated right now, I’d still be walking away. Even had the Magic made the playoffs last season, it would only have been a short-term delay of the inevitable. This day was going to come.

Will I have second thoughts or regrets? Probably. Especially when the Magic make the playoffs finally. I got in right when Dwight Howard left, and I’m leaving without covering a postseason. That’s okay though, that means I’ve improved this ’16-’17 Magic squad’s chances at finally getting the franchise back into the playoffs.

Playoffs. I’ll be fully enjoying that once those days return to O-Town, be it in the arena as a paid spectator, at my house, or out on the town soaking in the moment of potential championship glory.

Let’s Go Magic.

 

Adam Papageorgiou was Owner/Editor of MBO.

Epilogue

by: Brian Serra

The Magic finally broke Papageorgiou. He may not admit it, but I know it. This hobby that we called blogging is a tough gig. Anyone can open a free wordpress site, I did it, and write nonsense (I also did that). But not everyone can turn it into a credentialed, semi-respected site that could deliver not only behind the scenes locker room access but also capology breakdowns. Why the hell did I study the nuances of the CBA? Because it allowed the illusion of expertise. I found myself in the middle of the Dwight Howard trade saga and cultivating (and sometimes stumbling into) actual real life sources. I went from playing “media” to being the media. With that comes pressures that are taxing – especially on those working full-time jobs as Adam and I both were. It’s hard to explain the annoying level of stress that came from continuously telling people, “sorry… can’t do X with you because I have to write a recap of this 20-point Magic loss to the Bucks in the middle of February.” Today Adam is coming to the point I reached a few short years back – not so much a breaking point, but a self-actualization point. It was my very selfish dream that he would never get there and would continue rocking his blue-and-white-and-rose colored glasses for eternity. This site was indeed my baby and I knew Adam would treat it with the respect it deserved – and he did so with even more gusto than I ever expected. I thank him for continuing my “legacy” for as long as he could. He rocked it.

God Bless Adam Papageorgiou. God Bless Magic Basketball Online. And God Bless America.

The Magic Are in Dire Need of a Quality Hype Intro Video

The Orlando Magic are about as popular as burnt toast within their own Central Florida market currently. Casual sports fans just don’t seem to desire to watch or get invested in this franchise. It doesn’t help that we have so many transients in Orlando, many of whom either don’t care about sports or have allegiances elsewhere. Even locals and those who grew up in the area have a ‘meh’ mentality.

That just seems wrong considering the Magic are only seven years removed from their last NBA Finals appearance. It’s been a gloomy past 4 years in particular, and the fifth season of the Rob Hennigan GM era is off to a shaky 0-3 start.

That got me thinking after Wednesday’s opening night home contest at Amway Center: Can the franchise be doing more to inspire fans and non-fans to see their product, aside from just roster and personnel improvements?

After the national anthem and Pulse nightclub tributes during that home opener, player introductions were done. The Orlando Magic came out to their new video:

Orlando Raises Energy Level, Still Lose to Champion Cavaliers

The Orlando Magic actually looked like a promising product on Saturday. Yes, Orlando lost 105-99 to the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. However, the Magic were finally in a close contest late with a chance to win for the first time under Frank Vogel’s reign.

Orlando was down by 22 points on a few occasions during the contest, but almost completed an amazing comeback by scoring 37 points in the 4th quarter. Some clutch J.R. Smith 3-pointers prevented that from happening.

Orlando shot 45.2 FG% including 8-of-28 on 3s (28.6 3PT%). The coaching staff will look at the 20 turnovers they coughed up along with the bad 15-of-26 free throw shooting. Orlando won the rebound battle, 50-40.

Evan Fournier led with 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting. Serge Ibaka woke up and looked spry, notching 19 points and 7 rebounds. D.J. Augustin sparked the comeback with the bench, scoring 10 of his 13 points in the fourth period. DJ had a team-high plus-minus of +11. Nikola Vucevic contributed 11 points and 9 rebounds, but wasn’t on the floor in the final quarter. Elfrid Payton contributed 10 points, 5 assists, and 4 boards. Jeff Green only shot 2-of-9, but added 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

Cleveland shot 40.9 FG% including 11-of-37 on 3s (29.7 3PT%) as the Cavs went cold in the second half. LeBron James had 23 points, 9 assists, and 6 rebounds. Kyrie Irving chipped in with 20 points. Kevin Loved added nineteen. It was J.R. Smith that was the difference late as he had 16 points on 4-of-10 three-point shooting.

Detroit Destroys Orlando to Drop Magic to 0-2 Record

This is an awful first eight quarters to an Orlando Magic season. There’s no way of avoiding how terrible they’ve looked on both ends for extremely long stretches in contests. Detroit clobbered the Magic 108-82 at the Palace of Auburn Hills on Friday night. The performance was way worse than the final score.

Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo were both horrendous, combining for just 6 points, 6  rebounds, and very little defense. Detroit shot 50.5 FG% in the contest. Stan Van Gundy’s former Magic men Tobias Harris, Ish Smith, and Beno Udrih all had fantastic performances. Harris had a game-high 18 points. Ish dropped 16 points and 8 assists. Udrih poured in 13 points off the bench. Andre Drummond had a bad 5-of-14 shooting game thanks to Nikola Vucevic‘s great defense, but still racked up 12 points and 20 rebounds.

Orlando shot 34.7 FG% including a rocky 8-of-26 on triples. Speaking of Vucevic, the Montenegrin only shot 3-of-12 because he’s still slumping with his jumper, but gave the effort and finished with 7 points and 14 rebounds. Elfrid Payton had another solid showing with 15 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds. Aaron Gordon notched 17 points and 7 rebounds. Jeff Green (10 points) and Mario Hezonja (13 points) scored in garbage time.

It was another beyond frustrating contest to watch as Frank Vogel has his hands full early this ’16-’17 season.

 

Magic lead assistant coach Chad Forcier at halftime: “Well, spoiler alert: We were not very good in the second quarter.”

Coach Vogel Unfortunately Already Owns a Team Record

Frank Vogel is going to be a great coach for this franchise. It’s just too bad his reign as the 12th Head Coach in Orlando Magic team history is off to a very sluggish start. The 43-year-old is already the owner of a not-so-great record: Worst points differential 2 games into a Magic coaching career.

With the 12-point loss in the home opener against Miami, and the 26-point loss in Detroit, that puts this ’16-’17 Magic squad at a -38 point differential two games in.

That dethrones Johnny Davis. Davis took over for Doc Rivers after he got canned with a 1-10 record to begin the eye-gouging 2003-2004 season. After two games and losses in the head chair, Davis’ team was at a -37 point differential.

So it’s not just you if you feel like this Magic season has oddly gotten off to a disastrous 0-2 beginning.

Rewinding a bit, the 12-point opening defeat for the Frank Vogel era was almost the worst for a Magic head coaching debut. Doc Rivers’ 1999-2000 Heart ‘N Hustle group lost by 14 points in Charlotte to open that campaign. That’s the worst point differential so far for a new Orlando coach.

Looking ahead, the Magic are in Cleveland on Saturday. I’m going to be pretty honest, it would take a minor miracle to beat the defending champion Cavaliers. The Magic are staring at an 0-3 start. Others to begin their Magic coaching career with that record and the point differentials:

  • 2003-2004: Johnny Davis at -48 point differential (was 0-9 before first coaching win)
  • 2015-2016: Scott Skiles at -9 point differential (won fourth game)

 

That’s it. In Brian Hill’s second head coaching stint in the 2005-2006 regular season, the Magic were also 0-3. That point differential was -29 before that squad won their 1st game in their fourth contest of that campaign. B-Hill’s team lost that first contest on November 2, 2005 at home against the Indiana Pacers by 12 points, tying Vogel’s opening night defeat. But since we’re not talking about B-Hill’s first stint as coach, the ’05-’06 days can’t technically be counted in this discussion.

Here’s to this current Magic bunch getting out of this funk very fast.

Magic Drop Home Opener to Heat on Pulse Tribute Night

It doesn’t matter if nine of the fifteen members of the current 2016-2017 Orlando Magic roster weren’t part of the team 4 months ago, they needed to know about the sunshine state rivalry. Entering the season opener, Miami had won 15 of the previous 17 regular season meetings. On top of that, the Magic had not won a season opener since 2012, and a home opener since 2013.

That’s a lot of red in recent years. I guess you’d be happy with that if this was an election chart and you were a Republican. Not so great if you’re a Magic fan. However, there was (and still may be) a feeling that a shift in the balance of Florida power was on the horizon. It didn’t occur on Wednesday night.

Orlando – despite seemingly everything lining up in their favor – managed to lose 108-96 in front of their Amway Center supporters. It was a baffling result as the Magic got out-hustled just about the entire evening. I’m not telling you to panic about the season, but this was an awful loss considering the scene.

Miami took control of the contest once they won the third period 30-16, and that was after the Magic were up 3 points at halftime. The Magic got bludgeoned in the paint. On top of giving up 74 points in the paint to the Heat, Orlando shot an awful 18-of-51 inside as well. Orlando got out-worked everywhere. Miami took rebounds 52-44, second chance points 23-18, and fast break points 15-8. The Magic shot 38.6 FG%. It’s extremely difficult to win a game that way if you’re Frank Vogel’s coaching staff.

The Magic just didn’t sync defensively, and their offense got bogged down too often. Miami had six players reach double figures. Hassan Whiteside led the way with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 4 blocks. He had as many blocks as the entire Magic team. Whiteside’s impact was immense as usual. Goran Dragic chipped in with 16 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds.

Orlando got 20 points on 7-of-19 from Evan Fournier as well as 4 assists, 4 boards, and 2 steals. Nikola Vucevic was 7-of-14 from the field and had 17 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 assists. Elfrid Paytontallied 16 points, 5 assists, and 4 boards. Serge Ibaka notched 14 points and 7 rebounds. Aaron Gordon rounded out the starting five with 12 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists. It’s a really frustrating loss that needs to be instantly forgotten.

Orlando Exercises Team Options on Hezonja, Gordon, and Payton

The Orlando Magic announced on Tuesday that they have exercised their 3rd-year team option on Mario Hezonja, as well as exercising 4th-year team options on Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. All three players are now signed through the 2017-2018 season. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but still important news.

The 21-year-old Gordon played in 78 games – starting 37 of them – last season with the Magic, averaging 9.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and 1.6 apg. The 6’9″ forward will be making about $4.35 million in ’16-’17, and about $5.5 million in ’17-’18. Originally selected #4 in the 2014 NBA Draft by the Magic, Aaron has appeared in 125 career regular season games (45 starts) with averages of 7.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, and 1.3 apg.

The 21-year-old Hezonja played in 79 games – starting 9 of them – in his rookie campaign, averaging 6.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg, and 1.4 apg. The 6’8″ wing will be making about $3.9 million in ’16-’17, and about four million dollars in ’17-’18. Mario was chosen 5th overall in the 2015 Draft by the Magic.

The 22-year-old Payton played in 73 games – starting 69 of them – last season with the Magic, averaging 10.7 ppg, a team-high 6.4 apg, 3.6 rpg, and 1.2 spg. The 6’4″ point guard will be making about $2.6 million in ’16-’17, and about $3.3 million in ’17-’18. Originally selected 10th in the 2014 NBA Draft by Philadelphia, Payton was acquired that same evening by Orlando in exchange for Dario Saric, a 1st round pick, and a 2nd round pick. Elfrid has appeared in 155 career regular season games (132 starts), averaging 9.7 ppg, 6.5 apg, 3.9 rpg, and 1.5 spg. EP was named to the 2014-2015 NBA All-Rookie First Team, and finished fourth in voting for Rookie of the Year.

No word yet on offseason acquisition C.J. Wilcox. The Magic have until October 31st to make a decision on his team option.

MBO Roundtable: 2016-2017 Part 1 Orlando Magic Preview

We are on the doorsteps of an immensely critical 2016-2017 Orlando Magic regular season, and the path of the franchise is very difficult to foretell. I’m Adam Papageorgiou, and joining me for this terrific trio of a Part I chat are Brian Serra and Spenser Strode. Before we venture into actual predictions in Part II, we preview some thoughts and questions about this current squad?

 

What have you been most happy about in regards to Frank Vogel so far? It can be character or game-style related.

 

Brian Serra: My favorite part of Coach Vogel so far is the simple fact that he seems to be an actual sane, normal human being. After the coachspeakrobotic Jacque Vaughn and the liveuptoyourreputation Scott Skiles, it is nice to just have a coach that sounds and acts like a basketball coach. In a shocking revelation, that seems to have given rise to actual respect from the players on his team. I don’t think we have personally seen enough of the game-style related adjustments or rotation maneuvering to make any definitive statements, though I will throw out kudos for trying to get Mario Hezonja some much needed confidence with plentiful, arguably undeserved, preseason minutes.

 

Spenser Strode: The thing that has struck me most thus far about Frank Vogel, is his ability to empower his players. This season should truly illustrate the difference between a person in a position of authority, and a leader. Frank Vogel is creating buy-in, and he’s empowering individual players to play with confidence, belief in their ability, and belief in Vogel’s trust and confidence in their individual skills.

 

Adam Papageorgiou: You guys definitely have Vogel’s character and personality down. I’m just happy that he’s actually allowing the main ball-handler – in this case Elfrid Payton – to actually dribble the ball around. Skiles didn’t want that, and we were sold on the PG’s wings being clipped supposedly being efficient for the offense. As we found out, it just keeps you out-of-sync. Also, this team is actually playing fast and not letting the shot clock go to waste. I’ve haven’t seen this much backdoor cutting per game in ages.

 

 

What are you pleasantly surprised or concerned about when it comes to the overall on-court product you’ve seen on display in preseason?

 

Spenser Strode: The concern is not really all that surprising, it’s the offense. Evan Fournier has become the de-facto number 1 scoring option, and his consistency over the course of an 82-game season has been up for debate over the last few years. There are potential bright spots up and down the roster, but can the Magic generate enough points to win as many games as we think they should? The concern is whether the team can generate enough space to operate on the perimeter and attack the basket, and if they will get enough production out of their paint-touches to make the post-entry worthwhile.

 

Adam Papageorgiou: The spacing question may be answered by the second unit. We have a more than respectable bench for the first time since ’10-’11. Heck, probably ’09-’10. You have a defensive beast and firecracker of energy in Bismack Biyombo. Jeff Green is going to average double figures and could be in the hunt for the 6MOY award as he’s seeking a long-term payday. If Elfrid Payton suffers injury setbacks again, you’ve got capable PG options in both D.J. Augustin and C.J. Watson. Augustin isn’t afraid to attack the rim, and Watson is showing off his quickness again now that his hamstring has healed. If Mario Hezonja doesn’t make a sophomore leap you’ve got two guys in Jodie Meeks and C.J. Wilcox who are capable of shooting 40% from deep. Orlando went from a team that couldn’t shoot, to now the 13th man off the bench – Damjan Rudez – is going to be able to spread the floor.

 

Brian Serra: I am pleasantly surprised by the offensive production from the starting (and pseudo starting) unit. I was thoroughly expecting it to be a major struggle to score with lineups consisting of Payton/Gordon/Biyombo all on the floor together. Whether it was Biyombo or Vucevic on the floor, the team seemed to move the ball well and generally be getting good shots when they weren’t throwing the ball out of bounds. Defensively, the hopeful strength of the team, seemed to be well behind where it was expected they would be. While it doesn’t seem to be a lack of effort, the discipline and cohesion was well out of whack. Elfrid Payton is still struggling to keep guards in front of him and the hope of switching Gordon, Ibaka and Biyombo at will still requires a ton of work. While the flashiness of steals and blocks was on display at times, players that shouldn’t even sniff the court in the regular season were getting great looks for themselves and their teammates against the core Magic group all preseason.

 

 

Give me a Magic player you have been impressed with over the past few weeks OR one you may be disappointed in.

 

Brian Serra: Let’s get this out of the way, because I think it will be unanimous… Mario Hezonja. It definitely doesn’t seem to be a lack of confidence, because he is firing away, but it is absolutely a lack of execution. Turning the ball over on offense, gambling for steals on defense – and putting up brick after brick. His play is certainly not indicative of his potential or his expectations. Meanwhile, the alpha-dog assertiveness on offense from Evan Fournier is quite refreshing. He no longer is sharing any role with Victor Oladipo and he seems to be reveling in it.

 

Spenser Strode: The answer for me is Mario Hezonja. It’s a small sample size, and he played some nice basketball this summer for Croatia during the Olympics, but he hasn’t shown anything during the exhibition season that would indicate he has taken a step forward in his development. The team needs shooting, and he’s a shooter, but if he can’t take good shots, or make the ones that he takes, he’s still a defensive liability at this point in time. Unfairly, Hezonja’s development, or lack thereof, will point towards Rob Hennigan’s inability to cash-in on early lottery selections, especially with Victor Oladipo already traded away.

 

Adam Papageorgiou: I’ll lay off Mario for now and give the Croatian kid some time. Plus, you know I prefer positive thinking. I almost went with Jeff Green or Serge Ibaka, but I’ve honestly been most impressed with Bismack Biyombo. Does he have Rony Seikaly hands and the most inconsistent touch around the rim in basketball? Oh yeah. But that doesn’t matter, because that’s why Biz isn’t going to be on the floor much in critical offensive moments of games. He’ll be the fan favorite this season. Biz is going to play his 25-30 minutes, cause havoc to his opponents, fly around the floor, swat 2-3 shots, wave a finger here and there, and he’s going to do it with a big smile and more charisma than can be contained within the arena.

 

 

What’s the Magic’s best 5-man lineup, and what makes it so good? Also, you’re down 1 point with 4 seconds left: Who are you giving the ball to?

 

Adam Papageorgiou: I’m going to go a little crazy here. Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Vucevic. No one is shorter than 6’7″. For what may be lacking in recovery speed you more than make up in size and length. Defensively, it’s a solid group. Offensively, you eliminate the free throw shooting concerns you would have if Elfrid and/or Biyombo were on the floor. Both Evan and AG can handle the ball. Here are some fun 3-point percentages from the preseason: Fournier (50.0 3PT%), Ibaka (45.5 3PT%), and Green (42.1 3PT%). AG and Vooch are capable if you give them an open look. You have great cutters. You can open up the middle of the lane by putting Nik and Ibaka on each side of the paint.

I’m giving the ball at the end of the game to Vucevic if he’s 1-on-1. If Nik’s being doubled, then it’s all Evan.

 

Brian Serra: Payton/Fournier/Hezonja/Gordon/Ibaka. This may surprise you, and I am a bit surprised myself, this is the best VERSION of a 5-man lineup the Magic can produce in crunch time minutes. Noticeably absent, the player best able to score in the paint and the player best able to defend the paint. The Hezonja wild card, after I just called out if she could even be getting minutes or not, offers the best chance to create spacing and, in theory, shooting on the offensive end while providing the length and speed necessary to switch on defense. The best alteration of this unit is to sub out Elfrid Payton, inserting Vucevic/Biyombo on the respective offensive/defensive end and letting Fournier and Hezonja alternate as a “point guard” for limited stretches. CJ Watson and Jeff Green could theoretically be useful for their versatility, but I just can’t bring myself to consider this a reality.

Fournier gets the shot.

 

Spenser Strode: The best 5-man lineup for the Magic in a vacuum is: Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, Jeff Green, Serge Ibaka, and Nikola Vucevic. The problem is that Jeff Green isn’t always good Jeff Green, and you HAVE to start Aaron Gordon. My concern is that playing Gordon at the 3 creates a problem of diminishing returns as he shares the floor with both Ibaka and Vucevic/Biyombo. That being said, the Magic have a ton of lineup flexibility and should be able to mix and match accordingly throughout the course of a game and season.

I want the ball in Fournier’s hands in crunch time, with time for a big to tip-in a miss.

 

Be on the lookout for Part II of our preview as we put on our prediction hats. 

Magic Keep Rudez and Onuaku, Waive Johnson and Galloway

The Orlando Magic on Saturday announced that they waived Nick Johnson and the recently signed Ramon Galloway. The team is expected to retain Damjan Rudez and Arinze Onuaku. It will be a 15-man roster – the NBA’s maximum – for when the regular season begins on October 26th as Frank Vogel’s Magic will host the Miami Heat at Amway Center.

The 30-year-old Rudez being chosen as the fourteenth man on the squad should surprise no one. ‘Damo’ was fantastic during the preseason. In 6 games, the Croatian PF averaged 5.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, and 1.7 apg on 55.6 FG% and 57.1 3PT% in about fourteen minutes per contest. He looked more like the 28-year-old NBA rookie as part of Vogel’s Pacers squad two years ago, than the struggling player he was in Minnesota last season.

The 29-year-old Onuaku has been a pleasant surprise ever since the center played for the team at Orlando Summer League. In 4 preseason contests with the pinstriped patrol, Onuaku averaged 4.0 ppg and 2.3 rpg on 63.6 FG% in about eight minutes per contest.

Still, I didn’t think GM Rob Hennigan would occupy the 15th roster spot. Part of that could be that Bismack Biyombo is expected to serve his 1-game league suspension opening night. Also, rookie big man Stephen Zimmerman may not be ready to play NBA minutes. Onuaku is a large body who can bring some post-up offense.

Nick Johnson came into training camp as the biggest known name among the six total training camp signings. The former Houston Rocket and Arizona Wildcat never made much of an impression. In 4 games played, the 23-year-old Johnson averaged 4.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, and 2.0 apg on 31.3 FG% and 14.3 3PT% in about ten minutes per contest.

Johnson, Onuaku, and Rudez were summer non-guaranteed training camp signings. Onuaku and Rudez now are on the team payroll, but their full season contracts won’t be fully guaranteed until January 10, 2017.

Galloway – who was just signed on Friday by the Magic – is expected to be heading to Erie and the D-League. Johnson very well may be joining him with the BayHawks.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO.

Magic Beat Pelicans in Overtime, Finish Preseason with 2-5 Record

The Orlando Magic concluded their 2016 preseason action with a 2-5 record. They looked awful for about the first 40 minutes of Thursday’s contest, but they took down the New Orleans Pelicans 114-111 in overtime. 23-point comebacks are wonderful, even when they don’t officially count.

Despite trailing by 10 entering the fourth quarter Orlando turned on their defense, winning that period 30-20 to force overtime. Some key stops and a crazy Elfrid Payton banking 3-pointer tied the ball game at 105-105 with thirty seconds remaining in regulation. Payton had himself quite the stat line, and saw good and bad moments with him dominating the ball late. EP finished with 17 points, 12 assists, 2 steals, 6 turnovers, and 4 rebounds on 7-of-14 shooting (2-of-5 on 3s). Overtime would soon follow.

The Magic didn’t take their first lead of the contest until Nikola Vucevic opened the OT with a made jumper. Nik finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds, but continues to see his open jumpers not fall as he was 4-of-13 from the field. Evan Fournier had 24 points, but his 4 steals in the fourth and OT were immense in leading the charge.

Anthony Davis led all with 33 points and 13 rebounds in 37 minutes. Terrence Jones is proving to be a great sixth man as he notched 24 points. For the victors, Serge Ibaka tallied 18 points and 9 rebounds, while Aaron Gordon had 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. AG will hit another gear once the ankles fully heal up. Jeff Green had an efficient 12 points. He took 4 field goals attempts but was 7-of-8 at the charity stripe.

 

Aaron Gordon: “That was big. It was definitely a spread of scoring throughout the whole team and just to go into the season on a high note is big. We need to be able to rally from down. It’s part of the game. We did it tonight. That’s a step forward for us.”

 

Both teams shot just under 43% from the field. Orlando won the assists battle, 27-23. After giving up 7 turnovers, the Magic only coughed up eight the rest of the way. The Magic won the fast break points sprint, 18-11.