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Nicholson Scores 14 Points; Canada Defeats Dominican Republic

2015 July 21
by Adam Papageorgiou

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Canada began their Pan Am Games campaign on Tuesday in a positive manner, defeating the Dominican Republic 105-88 in Pool B action. Orlando Magic big man Andrew Nicholson tallied 14 points and 5 rebounds on 6-of-11 shooting, including draining his only 3-point attempt on the night. Brady Heslip led the way for Canada with 24 points while Anthony Bennett dropped 15 points in the win. Magic Summer League player Melvin Ejim added 12 points.

LOOK AT THOSE HOPS!

 

 

 

‘Drew started, scoring 7 of Canada’s first nine points to open the contest, taking an early 9-6 lead. Nicholson did most of his scoring in the first half. The 25-year-old had 12 points by halftime as Canada had a comfortable 54-37 at the break.  

 

Coach Jay Triano’s squad shot 55% from the field, including a solid 8-of-21 from 3-point range. Canada continues Pool B play as they take on Argentina on Wednesday night.

Here’s a clip from Andrew’s basketball camp that occurred last week:

 

 


Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

 

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Andrew Nicholson Makes Final 12-Man Canada Pan Am Games Roster

2015 July 20
by Adam Papageorgiou

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It’s that time of the year, international play! Orlando Magic big man Andrew Nicholson is seeking to have a lengthy summer playing for the Canadian national team. The 25-year-old has made coach Jay Triano’s final 12-man roster for the Pan Am Games, that is being hosted in Canada. The goal is certainly to win a medal.

There wasn’t much doubt about the Mississauga, Ontario native making this team. However, Andrew is going to have to play well if he wants to lock up a roster spot for September’s FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament in Mexico. Andrew WigginsTristan ThompsonKelly OlynykCory Joseph are all missing. They all may play at the FIBA Americas competition. I’m getting ahead of myself though.

Here’s the full 12-man Canada national team Pan Am Games roster below:

  • Anthony Bennett, PF (Minnesota Timberwolves), Toronto, Ont.
  • Sim Bhullar, C (Sacramento Kings), Etobicoke, Ont.
  • Dillon Brooks, SF, Mississauga, Ont.
  • Junior Cadougan, PG, Toronto.
  • Aaron Doornekamp, SF, Odessa, Ont.
  • Melvin Ejim, SF, Toronto, Ont.
  • Carl English, SG, Paradise, Nfld.
  • Daniel Mullings, SG, Scarborough, Ont.
  • Jamal Murray, PG, Kitchener, Ont.
  • Andrew Nicholson, PF (Orlando Magic), Etobicoke, Ont.
  • Kyle Wiltjer, SF, Portland, Ore.
  • Brady Heslip, SG, Burlington, Ont.

Nicholson has been playing for Canada since the 2013 FIBA Americas tourney. Last year, ‘Drew was with Canada on their tour of Europe. That type of commitment to country will always make you a coaching staff’s favorite. After his disastrous ’14-’15 Magic campaign, Andrew needs to put together a confidence-boosting performance at the Pan Am Games. It might raise his trade value too as he’ll be a free agent in 2016.

Monday’s practice wasn’t a good sign of things to come for Team Canada. Their bus broke down following Monday’s practice, and the players were forced to hail cabs. I feel really bad for Sim Bhullar trying to wedge himself into a taxi.

Canada is in Pool B of the 8-man tournament and plays the Dominican Republic Tuesday, Argentina on Wednesday, and conclude group play with Mexico on Thursday. Finish top 2 in the pool, and the team on Friday plays in the semifinals. Medal round is Saturday. So potentially, a grueling 5 games in 5 days to get on the podium. All contests will be played at the Ryerson Athletic Centre in Toronto. All 3 of Canada’s pool play games will occur at 6 p.m. EST.

Team USA is in this competition, in Pool A. There are not a lot of well-known players on that squad though. Ryan Hollins, Bobby Brown, and Damien Wilkins to name a few. So America can definitely get beat. There are a lot of big names missing from all 8 countries. It’s really anyone’s tournament to win. Here’s to Andrew being one of the best performers out of all competing nations.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

 

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Croatian National Team Coach Says Hezonja WILL Play at EuroBasket

2015 July 18
by Adam Papageorgiou

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I just love the fluidity of sports news sometimes. Despite what was previously reported on Saturday – by multiple reporters in multiple countries and languages no less – Orlando Magic 5th overall Draft pick Mario Hezonja WILL apparently be playing for the Croatian senior men’s national team at EuroBasket 2015 in September.

The source? The Croatian national team coach himself, Velimir Perasovic. It comes in the form of a public statement.

 

 

 

 

 

Wait, Mario had a minor injury in Summer League? That’s a new revelation as well I guess.

The Croatian basketball federation says Mario is playing, as does the NT coach. Looks like it’s happening. As the statement mentions, the silence from the coaching staff, Croatian basketball federation, and Hezonja’s representatives may have fueled media confusion. The Magic, Hezonja, and the Croatian federation were spending the past days negotiating – which is typical with NBA teams but can get complicated – a proper scenario that eventually is leading to Mario competing in EuroBasket.

So it seems as if ‘Super Mario’ will begin training camp with his Croatian teammates on August 1st. I’m happy that Hezonja supposedly wanted to play at EuroBasket 2015 all along, and I hope Coach Perasovic will give the 20-year-old more court time than his managing predecessor in the 2014 FIBA World Cup.

I anticipate this being a beneficial experience for Mario. It’d be pretty nice if the 20-year-old entered Magic training camp having helped win his country a major basketball tournament medal for the first time in two decades.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

 

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Mario Hezonja Won’t Play for Croatia at EuroBasket 2015

2015 July 18
by Adam Papageorgiou

croatiamario

Multiple reporters are confirming that Orlando Magic rookie Mario Hezonja will not be playing for the Croatian national team at this September’s 24-team EuroBasket competition.

 

 

 

Hezonja made his senior team debut for his country last year at the 2014 FIBA World Cup. The 20-year-old only played in two games in that competition, averaging only 6.5 minutes per contest. He had only one shot attempt in each contest (making both), one of them being this dunk against Senegal.

Croatia got knocked out of the World Cup in the quarterfinals, falling to Evan Fournier‘s France squad. Mario didn’t see action in that contest. Croatia was coached by Jasmin Repesa last year. Now, for EuroBasket, it’s Velimir Perasovic.

Not since 1995 has the Croatian senior national team won a medal (bronze at EuroBasket), but took 4th place at the 2013 EuroBasket competition. I actually consider Croatia a dark horse to reach the podium this year. Spain and France are the favorites to hoist the trophy, but Croatia could make an argument that they’re the 3rd-best team. The top 2 finishers at EuroBasket earn an automatic qualification to next summer’s 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Croatia is hosting the Group C stage in Zagreb. In their group are Greece, Slovenia, Netherlands, FYROM, and Georgia. Top 4 in the group advance to the 16-team knockout stage and Croatia – if they avoid catastrophic injuries – would easily utilize their home crowd advantage and progress past the group.

Could Hezonja use the rest? Sure. As previously mentioned, Mario practiced and played for Croatia last summer. He played 60-70 games last season for FC Barcelona when you tally up Euroleague, ACB Spanish league, and domestic cup matches. But he wasn’t playing heavy minutes, and he’s only 20 years old.

I’ve always been a strong supporter of professional athletes playing for their national teams, as long as the coaching environment is positive for experience and development. Again, the group stage would be in front of home fans. Hopefully Hezonja not participating doesn’t cause a supporter backlash against the 6’8″ wing player.

Last year, Croatia had the likes of Dario Saric, Bojan Bogdanovic, Damjan Rudez, and Krunoslav Simon ahead of Hezonja on the depth chart. Even if Mario was to come off the bench again, I view the experience as very valuable. But, according to reports, Mario won’t be playing. At least there doesn’t seem to be any anger coming from the Croatian basketball federation, so I expect to see Mario playing for Croatia again in the future. Hezonja will be fresh and ready to begin his Magic rookie campaign come training camp in late-September.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

 

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Aaron Gordon Has Surgery to Fix Fractured Jaw

2015 July 17
by Adam Papageorgiou

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Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon has suffered a freak injury that will impact his offseason activities. The 19-year-old suffered a fractured jaw while apparently ‘horsing around’ with his 25-year-old brother Drew Gordon. Both men are 6’9″. Aaron had jaw surgery on Tuesday – so you figure the injury occurred not long before that – and his status for training camp and the start of the regular season is unknown at this time. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel was first to report on the situation.

 

 

Drew is also an NBA player, and he was playing with the Miami Heat Summer League team in Las Vegas. Drew was reported to have departed the squad on Monday July 13th – the day after Drew’s birthday – for ‘personal reasons’. Aaron’s surgery probably had something to do with Drew leaving.    

 

Aaron was coming off a fantastic Orlando Summer League too, so who knows how much this broken jaw will impact his 2015-2016 campaign. The details of the brotherly ‘horsing around’ are not known yet, but Drew in a series of tweets has expressed his remorse for the incident.

 

 

 

 

We wish Aaron a speedy recovery. #00 was setting himself up to have a strong chance at starting. Aaron already had the fractured foot that disrupted his rookie season. Hopefully we don’t see an injury trend developing with A.G.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

 

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NBA Game in Africa to Include Nikola Vucevic

2015 July 16
by Adam Papageorgiou

ellispark

Orlando Magic big man Nikola Vucevic will help make history in Africa next month. The NBA and NBAPA announced on Thursday the player rosters that will participate in the first ever NBA game on that continent. Nik is playing for ‘Team World’. They’ll go up against ‘Team Africa’.

The exhibition will take place August 1st at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa. The contest will air live on ESPN at 9 a.m. EST. Magic athletic trainer Keon Weise will also get involved. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel was first to report.

 

 

 

The full rosters and game details below:

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Oladipo and Harris to Participate in Team USA Summer Activities

2015 July 16
by Adam Papageorgiou

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They got their first taste of Team USA senior national team action last year, now the Orlando Magic’s Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo will be back in Las Vegas yet again this summer representing the red, white, and blue. ESPN‘s Marc Stein reports that the two 23-year-old Magic men will take part in a Team USA mini camp that will occur August 11th through the 13th. This will be in preparation for the 2016 Olympics that will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil next summer.

It won’t be as competitive as last year, apparently:

USAB managing director Jerry Colangelo, meanwhile, tells ESPN.com that next month’s camp will actually serve as more of a “reunion” for various players who have worked under Colangelo and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski in the past two Olympic tournaments and the past two world championship-level events. As opposed to the full-scale practices and the intrasquad scrimmage that Team USA would typically hold in preparation for a major competition, Colangelo said Tuesday that next month’s gathering will instead feature two days of non-contact workouts and “an all-star game of sorts” on Aug. 13 that will feature the various marquee players in attendance who are healthy enough to play.

There’s expected to be 40-50 players who will show up. The U.S. won last year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain, so they are exempt from needing to participate in the August-September FIBA Americas competition down in Mexico. So there’s no reason for strenuous activity when there isn’t a tournament to play in this year.

The odds of Tobias or Victor making the 12-man Team USA squad next year for the Summer Games are very slim. But again, it’s an honor to be in the program, and it puts both players in a strong position to potentially be selected for the 2019 FIBA World Cup squad and/or 2020 Olympic team when both players will be 27 and 28 years old and in their primes.

 

Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

 

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Which Areas Does Tobias Harris Need to Improve to Help the Magic Reach the Playoffs?

2015 July 15
by Juan Toribio

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Earlier this month Tobias Harris decided to turn down more money from other teams to re-sign with the Orlando Magic on a four-year $64 million dollar deal. The move was a smart one for the Magic as they secure a young player who is on the cusp of being a star player.

With Harris back in the mix, Orlando retains a young core that is looking to break into the Eastern Conference playoffs, which is always possible. Elfrid Payton has already blurred out that this team should and needs to be in the playoffs as early as next season. And this is after just one summer league game.

However, if the Magic look to make the playoffs next season, they’ll need a step in the right direction from their new 64-million dollar man.

In 2014-2015, Harris averaged 17.1 points per game, 6.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.5, all while shooting 46.6 percent from the field. However, his biggest improvement last season was his ability to consistently knock down the three-pointer.

Harris shot 36.4 from three last season, which is a significant improvement from his 25.4% clip during the 2013-2014 season. Harris was most efficient shooting the ball from the corners as he shot the ball at a 42.1 percent clip from that spot, which is well above the league average.

Another area where Harris excelled last season was his ability to get easy buckets on cuts to the basket. When cutting to the basket, Harris made 68 of his 93 attempts (73.1 percent), putting him amongst the league leaders with a 1.49 points per possession average in such plays. New head coach Scott Skiles needs to get Harris some easy looks in where he’s making hard cuts towards the rim.

While Harris has shown some flashes of his outstanding potential, Orlando will still need some more as they look to take the next step in the Eastern Conference.

One area that Harris must unquestionably improve on is his defense.

Harris proved to be a competent defender on the block, but has shown some struggles when he’s put in isolation, and he particularly struggles when he’s tasked to defend a pick-and-roll.

With Harris celebrating a birthday on Wednesday, the now 23-year old has improved his game every year since coming into the league, but improving his defense should be his focus this offseason.

Besides his defense, Harris needs to continue to work hard on his offensive game because that’s where he’ll likely earn his money. His best position, much like Carmelo Anthony (who he’s often compared to), is as a stretch-4. For Harris to continue to thrive there, however, he’ll have to continue to work on his three-point shooting and work on his spot-up opportunities. In 2014-2015, Harris scored 1.0 point per possession while spotting up. And while that’s above the league average, the Magic need him to be a deadly spot-up shooter, which would free up the lane for all their other players, especially Nikola Vucevic.

A key area where the Magic will definitely look for some improvement from Harris this season will be his rebounding. Since he’ll be responsible with playing the stretch-4 at times, Harris needs to get his hands on some more rebounds. He pulled down a respectable 6.3 rebounds per game last season, but I think for him to take the next step, he’ll have to try and bring down 7-8 rebounds per game. Harris recovered 64.1% of the rebounding chances he got in 2014-2015, which was in the 26th percentile.

Orlando is going to need all of their young players to take a leap forward this summer in order to make the playoffs, but big responsibility comes with the big money, and that’s something that Tobias Harris will have to deal with moving forward.

If Harris can improve his defense and his rebounding, all while continuing to harness his offensive gift, the Magic will not only be looking at a potential playoff run next season, but will also have a perennial all-star candidate in their hands.

 

Juan Toribio is an MBO Contributor and is Editor at Canes Warning.

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MBO Roundtable: Post-Summer League Edition

2015 July 14

The Orlando Summer League has concluded. The next time we see Magic players at Amway Center and competing will be at training camp in the Fall. Let’s break down what we saw in person and on NBA TV in early July. Welcome to another edition of MBO roundtable. I’m Adam Papageorgiou and joining me for this tripod chat are Brian Serra and Spenser Strode.

 

How freakin’ great did Aaron Gordon look? With Tobias Harris being retained, can you see Aaron starting come October?

Brian Serra:

Aaron Gordon looked pretty freakin’ great. Confidently great. Summer League MVP type of great. But let’s remember, Summer League. With that being said, the things he was doing are the exact things he needed to do to take the “leap”. While he probably just needs to take a “hop” after missing so much of his rookie season, the shot-making is what makes next year so intriguing. I would like to see Gordon and Harris starting together. Coach Skiles has an entire offseason and training camp to implement a defensive scheme where the 3/4 can switch every time and the same with the 1/2 and Elfrid/Oladipo. It’s time for the team to use their versatility to their advantage and take a unique approach to attacking the league. Position-less basketball is a popular catchphrase for a reason. When you have two 6’9″ freakish athletes, you need to use them to your advantage. Yes, there will be size disadvantages at times – but in those cases, the same size disadvantages should be advantages on the offensive end. The real question to if this can work lies in the ability of Gordon and Harris to understand and stick to the nuances and responsibilities of covering each other (as well as the entire team obviously).

 

Spenser Strode:

Being that we were simply watching Summer League action, the operative word is ‘LOOK’…and Gordon looked spectacular. Let’s face it, the raw stats mean next to nothing but back-to-back possessions in one game seemed to serve as a microcosm of his off-season efforts. First, Gordon stroked an effortless three (hat tip to hours of working with shooting guru Dave Love), then he leveraged the new-found long-range confidence into executing a pump-fake on the perimeter and making a tremendous dribble-drive and spin-move finish at the rim. If that’s what we consistently have to look forward to this fall–Coach Skiles might be hard-pressed not to slide Tobias up to the 4-spot and start rangy Gordon at small-forward.

 

Adam Papageorgiou:

When that other Summer League in Vegas concludes, Aaron Gordon will have still had the best summer out of all of the hundreds of players that have competed in July. I’m pleasantly stunned at what #00 did in a few games. He turns 20 when training camp begins, and I think he should be the favorite to start. If healthy, Channing Frye, Dewayne Dedmon, Jason Smith, and Andrew Nicholson are not overthrowing this kid. A.G. is the squad’s best defender. He can block shots, rebound, and defend all five positions. Now that Gordon has shown glimpses of an offensive game, it’s a no-brainer for him to start. Aaron can defensively protect both Vucevic and Tobias, and I really think Skiles can turn him into a Shawn Marion-type Phoenix Suns prime forward where you really can’t peg one position on him. As you mentioned, Brian, the switching potential Orlando has needs to be transformed into a strength. Only way I don’t see a healthy Aaron starting is if Hezonja and Harris develop a phenomenal on-court chemistry.

 

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Orlando Announces Harris, Smith, Watson, Hezonja Signings

2015 July 14
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The Orlando Magic on Tuesday officially announced the signings of Tobias Harris and Jason Smith. This goes along with the July 9th signing of C.J. Watson, and the July 10th signing of #5 overall Draft pick Mario Hezonja. The Maurice Harkless trade in exchange for a Portland second-rounder was also announced today.

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Let’s break down GM Rob Hennigan’s moves.

First, after striking out on Paul Millsap, the Magic were wise enough to retain Tobias’ services in the terms of a 4-year, $64 million contract. The 6’8″ forward turns 23 years old July 15th. Again, not a bad birthday present. As the highest-paid Magic man on the roster, much responsibility has been placed on Harris’ shoulders.

Jason Smith is getting a 1-year deal at $4.5 million. The 29-year-old won’t be a starter, no matter how optimistic he may be, but he does bring nice veteran depth to the young Magic squad. At 7 feet, Smith can block enough shots to be a Center, while being mobile enough and displaying jump shooting abilities to play minutes at PF.

Orlando has a solid backup PG for the first time in years as 31-year-old C.J. Watson comes to O-Town. The 6’2″ Tennessee Volunteer product is signed to 3-year, $15 million contract. The third and final year of that deal is only partially guaranteed. If waived prior to the ’17-’18 season, Watson would only see $1 million of the $5 million for that year.

The ‘Super Mario’ hype is slowly beginning to spread across Central Florida. The 20-year-old Croatian gave folks a taste at Orlando Summer League of what’s to come from the 6’8″ wing player. Don’t be surprised if Head Coach Scott Skiles has the former FC Barcelona product contributing for much of the season off the bench. Hezonja may have spent many years as a professional overseas, but there will still need to be an adjustment period as he acclimates himself with the rigors of the NBA.

 

 

Orlando’s offseason isn’t complete, they’re under the salary cap and currently have 2 open roster spots, but these 4 men will play vital roles in determining whether or not the Magic are a playoff team in ’15-’16.

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Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO and Founder of Orlando Magic Greek

 

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