Magic Conclude & Reflect on 2-6 Preseason Campaign
Jacque Vaughn’s first exhibition season as Head Coach of the revamped Orlando Magic is over. Although the 108-92 defeat at the hands of the Houston Rockets may have been the team’s toughest defeat, Magic fans should feel very optimistic about the near future. Kevin McHale’s Rockets spread the court beautifully and shared the scoring load with six players contributing in double digits. JJ Redick got the night off as he was resting a sore right hip. No one is concerned about his Opening Night status. The Magic went on a 13-3 run late in the first period to obtain a 23-18 lead at the 2:45 mark. Then the wheels fell off as Jacque Vaughn displayed a regular season-like 9-man rotation for the first 24 minutes. At one point in the second quarter it was 41-26 as Kevin McHale’s Rockets went on a 13-1 run. Thanks to some great two-way hustle and finishing by Vucevic, E’Twaun, and DeQuan to answer with an immediate 8-0 Orlando run. The Magic still trailed 55-41 at halftime as Vucevic had nabbed 14 rebounds at the break. The second half was kind of a blur of pain. Houston at one point was up by thirty points with Vaughn doing all he can to keep guys fresh and call timeouts to chip at the lead. Tonight was one of those losses that the Magic will just have to forget and move on. They have a week until the Nuggets come to Amway Center to begin the franchise’s 24th season of existence. Not much went well for Vaughn’s crew other than rebounding and E’Twaun Moore having a game-high 18 points. Kyle O’Quinn won’t score, but 10 rebounds is a great showing for the rookie. Ish Smith made his preseason debut and produced a very entertaining 6 points off the bench. “I am just happy to be back”, Smith would grin after the game. Ish looked eager to weave in and out of the paint and open up lanes for his teammates. Smith wasn’t afraid to show off a new and improve jumper.
Head Coach Jacque Vaughn on Orlando’s 1st half defense: “I think the most glaring weakness that we showed was transition defense. Make or miss, they were able to get the ball up the floor and create scoring opportunities.”
Looking back on the preseason, I believe Magic fans should be encouraged at all the positives this ball club is showing. Constant hustle, better free throw shooting, phenomenal ball movement, better than expected rebounding, less 3-point chucking, and quickly developing chemistry are just a small list of encouraging signs of a franchise that won’t be a bottom feeder this 2012-2013 campaign. Now stay healthy and improve that help defense and an 8th seed may actually be attainable. The 2-6 preseason record is indicative of nothing. Orlando easily would’ve beaten the Hornets and Sixers to kickoff October basketball.
Arron Afflalo on the team’s chemistry: “We have to continue to play together obviously and understand each other’s strengths and positions on the floor so we can stay out of each other’s way. We have an offense where it kind of runs through everyone. I think we’ll be ok.”
Now the focus for the next 24-48 hours is on roster shrinkage. Earlier in the week, the Magic went from twenty to eighteen players as GM Rob Hennigan said goodbye to Armon Johnson and Christian Eyenga. There are three more lockers to be cleaned out. It’s down a pool of 5 guys who are at risk of losing their Orlando pinstripes: DeQuan Jones, Justin Harper, Quentin Richardson, Chris Johnson, and Josh McRoberts. Chris Johnson (no offence) is an afterthought, so that’s one down. Justin Harper is most likely to be paid his guaranteed money and may be shown the door to Europe to improve his defense and shooting. Though in the Richmond alum’s defense, Justin did put up a solid 6 points on 3-of-5 shooting tonight. Overall, it may have been Harper’s best game in Orlando. Sadly, for a man with a lot of potential, I think it’s his last. So that leaves us with DeQuan, McRoberts, and Q-Rich. Magic fans around the globe are screaming for the rookie out of Miami to make it. If nothing else, DeQuan can prove most worthy as a dunk contest asset. But Jones has done everything asked of him by coaches as far as defending and drilling his fair share of jumpers. DeQuan had 16 points Friday night and was one of the few bright spots. It’s all on Hennigan’s end now to make the numbers work. That would mean that another guaranteed money man (Josh or Q) would have to be let go. Q-Rich was the only active man on Vaughn’s bench who didn’t see court time. Meanwhile, McRoberts had 5 points, 3 boards, and 2 assists. Also, you can’t teach height in this league. McRoberts’ athleticism and size may be enough for Rob to get rid of the veteran Q-Rich. Richardson’s style of play, other than a cheerleader, just has no space on this squad. Keep an eye on DeQuan’s left leg/knee being examined in the next day or so. Cross your fingers that it won’t be a determining factor on if Hennigan retains him or not. One way or another, Rob gave his last fist bumps to three men tonight as Orlando hit the locker room for the final team in this preseason.
Coach Vaughn on what he’s seen from DeQuan Jones: “Offensively, just being able to get to the rim, his athleticism, right hand-left hand finishes, his ability to put pressure on the defense by just filling the lane. He’s done a good job of just maximizing his skill set and defensively we all have our challenges and he’s grown as a basketball player. He’s done a good job.”
Adam Papageorgiou writes for Orlando Magic Greek and is a proud MBO contributor.