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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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Maurice Harkless Has Reportedly Been Traded to Portland

2015 July 12

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If it’s coming from Yahoo! Sports‘ Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s most definitely true. The Orlando Magic have reportedly traded Maurice Harkless to the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for a future second round pick.

Why deal the 6’8″ Small Forward now? For such a low return too when you got have gotten the same return back in January or February? I had high hopes that Harkless would be able to find a new role with the Magic in the ’15-’16 season under Scott Skiles. He’s got the defensive and 3-point shooting abilities to be an effective bench player.

Harkless is only 22 years old. He’s also an expiring contract, set to make about $2.9 million in the ’15-’16 campaign. If it wasn’t going to work out with Skiles, they could deal him during the season and still get a similar return. Harkless was the 15th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, selected by the Sixers who would then deal him to the Magic as part of the elaborate Dwight Howard trade.

This makes me think another move is on the horizon, whether it be through free agency or via a trade. Tobias Harris and Jason Smith have not yet been officially announced as signings by the Magic. Once those two are signed, Orlando would have 13 players under contract and about $4.7 million in salary cap space to fill their two final roster spots.

 

 

Harkless was in Jacque Vaughn‘s doghouse last season, and only played 45 games while averaging 3.5 ppg and 2.4 rpg on 39.9 FG% in those contests. We wish Moe nothing but the best going forward. He’ll definitely have an opportunity to earn minutes considering Portland is low on wing depth. The Blazers are going to look completely different from this past season.

 

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

 

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Orlando ‘Blue’ Completes Summer League By Beating Pacers

2015 July 10
by Adam Papageorgiou
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The Orlando Magic ‘Blue’ squad ended their Summer League on a very high note. Friday saw ‘Blue’ blow the doors off the Amway Center practice gym and crush the Indiana Pacers 98-74. ‘Blue’ led for all 40 minutes, with their highest lead reaching 27 points. The Magic shot 13-of-27 from 3-point range and out-rebounded Indy 47-27.

Joe Young had 28 points for Indiana, but got little help from anyone else on his team. The Magic got balanced productions all around. Nnana Egwu posted an 11-points, 11-rebound double-double. Jordan Sibert had 18 points on 5-of-7 from deep. Tyler Harvey tallied 12 points on 4-of-7 from three-point range. Jabril Trawick added 16 points while Maurice Walker contributed 10 points.

 

Below is the full game recap.

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‘White’ Squad Finishes Runner-Up at Orlando Summer League

2015 July 10
by Adam Papageorgiou
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

The Orlando Magic ‘White’ squad ended up finishing in second place at Summer League. It was in a heartbreaking fashion, losing 75-73 in sudden death double overtime to the Memphis Grizzlies in the title game. Russ Smith had the game-winner, just like against Orlando ‘Blue’, to go along with 15 points and 9 assists.

‘White’ only managed to shoot 36.9 FG% in the contest. Keith Benson had 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Chris Singleton poured in 16 points and 4 steals off the bench. Keith Appling was the only other Orlando man in double digits with 15 points and 6 assists.

 

Below is the full game recap.

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Orlando ‘White’ Beat Nets; Advance to Championship Game

2015 July 9
by Adam Papageorgiou
Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

It doesn’t matter if it’s ‘just’ Summer League, I’m excited to see the Orlando Magic ‘White’ squad make it to the championship game on Friday. It wasn’t pretty, but ‘White’ punched their title contest ticket by taking down the Brooklyn Nets 65-58 on Thursday. Orlando got the job done by holding the Nets to only 30.6 FG%.

Keith Appling came up big and led all scorers with 19 points. Scottie Wilbekin was the only Magic man in double figures with 11 points. Keith Benson notched 9 points and 8 rebounds. Brooklyn was led by Ryan Boatright’s 13 points. Former Magic man Earl Clark was held to a rough 1-of-7 from the field. Nets fell to 0-4.

Orlando ‘White’ not only are 4-0, but they have the #1 seed entering the title game thanks to their 27 points in the standings. That +40 is glorious.

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Below is the full game recap.

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Harvey and Marble Impress in Orlando ‘Blue’ Loss

2015 July 9
by Adam Papageorgiou
AP Photo/John Raoux

AP Photo/John Raoux

The Orlando Magic ‘Blue’ squad may have lost 91-85 to the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, but #51 pick Tyler Harvey, and last year’s #56 pick Devyn Marble both looked outstanding. Harvey had 24 points and 5 assists on 8-of-13 shooting (4-of-7 on 3s). Marble notched 22 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals on 5-of-9 three-point shooting.

Indiana won the fourth period 32-22 to claim the victory behind 28 huge points in 31 minutes from Joe Young. Former Magic man Romero Osby tallied 12 points and 6 rebounds. Orlando shot 48.5 FG%, but conceded 50.0 3PT% (14-of-28) to the Pacers. Indy attempted 19 more free throws than Orlando.

 

Below is the full game recap.

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