Dear Santa —
WHERE THE HECK ARE YOU?
WHY IS TIME MOVING SO SLOWLY?
I, for one, am tired of waiting. This feels a lot like the stupid and pointless dead week in the NFL that they have some years between the wrap-up of the Conference Championships and overblown circus known as the Superbowl. The only people happy about that extra week are innkeepers, ladies of the evening, and purveyors of alcoholic beverages. The real football fans hate it.
Well this is not the NFL and I don't want to wait —I want to get started with the fun stuff NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW.
It's so unfair having to wait.
So hurry up, Santa. I want the boatload of goodies which I so richly deserve. I've been a pretty good boy, all things considered.
You've seen my list, don't forget: I want a 50 point game from Kobe, and I want Bynum to dunk in Dwight Howard's face. I want Pau to be 20-and-15 every night and I want to see My Man Mbenga maim and mash...
I want Jameer to be rushed back and for Orlando to degenerate into a pucker-faced angst festival as they squabble about rotations and minutes and who's hogging the ball and overanalyze every shot and every turnover. I want Rashard Lewis to show us what we all know already, that he is WAY, WAY, WAY overpaid...
I want Phil to laugh and Jordan to fly and Trevor Ariza to set a new series record for blocks by a forward...
But most of all, I want a championship. And I want a presentation ceremony. And I want that #24 Mamba fellow to give a shout-out to his good buddy Shaq, preferably in the form of a freestyle rap.
Wouldn't that be hilarious???
Instead, we've got media types hanging out in the warm California sun, swigging fruity alcohol drinks on the company credit card while churning out pablum, drivel, and pap on such riveting topics as Lamar Odom's sucrose addiction or the fact that Kobe Bryant likes to play in big games or the Really Bigness of Dwight Howard and the way he is capable of scoring many points on Charmin-soft middle-aged Lithuanian big men...
By the way, diid you catch this column yesterday, Santa? There was a link to an Orlando Sentinel story on how Dwight Howard wants to stay in Orlando — and he still has FOUR YEARS left on his contract!!!
THAT'S how bored we all are, Santa.
(Click through for some stuff from the Orlando orbit...)
by Mike Bianchi, Orlando Sentinel
Phil Jackson has nine NBA championship rings.
Stan Van Gundy has one — and he doesn't even know where it is.
That's because he doesn't really consider it his ring. To him, it's more of a token gesture given to him by Miami's Pat Riley after the Heat won the championship in 2006 — the same season in which Van Gundy curiously stepped down as head coach early in the year and Riley took over the team.
"I'm not sure where it's at," Van Gundy says of the ring. "I think it's in storage somewhere. It was nice of them [the Heat] to reach out and give me one, but the ring has no meaning to me. I didn't have anything to do with the championship. I wasn't a part of it."
What more do you need to know about the differences between the two coaches who will be vying for the NBA championship? One is considered basketball nobility and has as many titles as anybody in history. One is considered basketball utility — a hard-hat, lunch-bucket coach whose only chance for a ring was prematurely and mysteriously ended by either his own absence of ego or Riley's abundance of it.
If there truly are sports gods up there in hoops heaven, Van Gundy will vanquish Jackson and win his first real championship ring after the NBA Finals commence Thursday in Tinseltown.. A victory for Van Grumpy is a victory for the blue collars. A victory for Phil is a victory for the blue bloods.
Come on, America, who do you want to win this championship — the aloof, arrogant master of Zen or the grunting, sweating master mechanic who is cursing underneath your car at Tire Kingdom because he can't get the lug nuts off your left front?
Are you rooting for the guy who dates the owner's daughter or the guy who opens up a postgame news conference stumping for his own daughter to win the student council election at her high school? * * *
by Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Magic point guard Jameer Nelson looks to be closer to playing in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers as observers said he was flying down the floor, running with the second team in Tuesday's practice.
Teammates are convinced that Nelson is making a return after missing four months of the season.
Nelson has been trying to come back early from Feb. 19 shoulder surgery and the club is using practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, in Los Angeles, to evaluate whether he can play. * * *
Johnson might be losing playing time to Nelson. "I'll support whatever decision is made," Johnson said.
He said it was up to Coach Stan Van Gundy. Van Gundy said after Tuesday's workout that Nelson "looked good" and that he'd make a decision after Wednesday's practice in Los Angeles. * * *
by Brian Schmitz and Hal Boedeker, Orlando Sentinel
Pietrus said he has worn a pair of basketball shoes that Bryant endorses during games but will not do so for his NBA Finals match-up against the Lakers.
"I have some at my house, but I'm going to play with Michael Jordan shoes," Pietrus said.
Pietrus, who helped defend Cleveland star LeBron James in the East finals, cautions anyone who thinks he can stop Kobe cold.
"The only thing I can do is try to minimize his touches in the fourth quarter," Pietrus said. "He's a tremendous player and those guys you can not stop them. So maybe I can say, 'Hey, stop, Kobe! Yo! Stop!' Maybe that's the only way I can stop him. 'Stop for a minute!'"
Pietrus, who has starred coming off the bench this postseason, said he admires Bryant's killer instinct and tried to emulate that character trait when he first came into the league. * * *
by Brian Schmitz, Orlando Sentinel Magic BasketBlog
Dwight Howard is apparently somewhat cozy with the president, even attended Barack Obama's inauguration.
Think how disappointed Howard will be when he hears this:
Obama was asked by a reporter on Tuesday while on his way to the Middle East for his pick to win the NBA title.
"Lakers in six, I think," the prez said.
Obama, a big hoops junkie, did correctly pick North Carolina to win the NCAA title.
Magic fans can only hope that is not an Obama omen.
by Andrea Adelson, Orlando Sentinel Magic BasketBlog
Jeff Van Gundy has a difficult assignment for the NBA Finals. He has to call the games for ABC with Mike Breen and Mark Jackson featuring his brother, Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. Jeff Van Gundy discussed how he will handle his role in a conference call yesterday. * * *
Here are some...snippets of Jeff's comments from the call. And yes, he is rooting for his brother to win. * * *
Q: You called a lot of Lakers games. Would you give Stan advice on the Lakers?
A: If he asks I'd have no problem but I'd have no problem talking to any coach about any of that stuff. He hasn't asked and why would he? He's got his team in the finals and I think I've lost 4 straight in the first round so I'm not really sure why he would ask me. Unless he wanted to lose, which I know he doesn't.
Q: What was your reaction to Shaquille O'Neal calling your brother "The Master of Panic?"
A: I don't think Stan is the first or the last to be demeaned by O'Neal. It's what he does. To me it doesn't really single him out. I was disappointed in how the media handled it and perpetuated the demeaned statement. Instead of researching if it had fact they kept repeating it and I thought that was unfair but that's part of the business. Frankly, I didn't really talk to Stan about it. I don't think he thought about it a whole lot.
The one thing I'm not going to do is defend his coaching. It doesn't need any defending. This is a result oriented business. They had to play a lot of pressure games to get here. His team has performed extremely well in tight games and I'll let everyone else analyze that. The only thing I can say is I think the guy is a remarkably good coach. Unfortunately some demeaning comment has for some people at least obscured that fact.
Q: Is it harder to coach in these games or watch your brother?
A: I found coaching or playing not nearly as stressful as watching whether it was my dad's games or my brother's games. The actual coaching part once you get into the game is great. I saw the last 1:49 (of Game 6 against Cleveland) and I saw Rashard Lewis bring the ball down after a rebound up 17 and get tied up in a jump ball and I thought I was having an aneurysm. I went to see rice play Kansas State in baseball so that passed some time, then I took a long walk, watched that last 1:49 and had great pride in what he's been a part of. * * *
by Kyle Hightower, Orlando Sentinel Magic BasketBlog
Courtesy of the folks at StubHub, check below for the latest data for Finals tickets that is useful if you are looking at using a secondary outlet to snare some tickets:
Orlando tickets are coming in over $220 less on average and there are 1500 tickets available right now starting in the $200's. Interestingly, Orlando has a bit wider of a fan base, drawing people in from 32 states as compared to 29 states for L.A., and fans have purchased just 10% more tickets to L.A. than Orlando. * * *
And here are the average ticket selling prices for each potential game in the series:
- Game 1 Thu 6/4 in Los Angeles $659
- Game 2 Sun 6/7 in Los Angeles $668
- Game 3 Tue 6/9 in Orlando $439
- Game 4 Thu 6/11 in Orlando $413
- Game 5 Sun 6/14 in Orlando $427
- Game 6 Tue 6/16 in Los Angeles $625
- Game 7 Thu 6/18 in Los Angeles $602 * * *
Magic's Top 10 Plays from the 2008-09 Playoffs
link found on Third Quarter Collapse
by Zach McCann, Orlando Magic Daily.com
* * *
Here are some misconceptions I've seen repeated by several blogs and national media members.
1. Dwight Howard is an overrated defender. I've heard several sources say that Howard is a great weak side defender and shot blocker, but struggles in one-man post defense. This is absolutely not true. Howard is a great defender on the block, at the rim and all the way out to 18 feet. He's not just a great shot blocker and daunting presence in the paint — he's an aggressive, fundamentally sound defender that will give any opposing team problems.
2. The Magic haven't been tested like the Lakers have. For some reason, the general sense is the Lakers have been through more this postseason by outlasting the Rockets and taking it to the upstart Nuggets. The Magic, meanwhile, barely beat a KG-less Celtics team and exposed the Cavaliers' myriad weaknesses. This is nonsense. Did you know the Magic are trying to become the first team in postseason history to defeat three 60-win teams? Did you know the Magic are the sixth team in NBA history to beat both the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds on their way to the NBA Finals? I think the Magic are a victim of — and you won't hear this said very often — an East-coast bias.
3. Rashard Lewis is a liability in the post. According to some statistics, Rashard Lewis is the best defending power forward in the NBA... While that's a little over-the-top, Lewis is certainly not a weakness on defense. Saying Rashard Lewis can't play defense is so 2007. He did an admirable job last season on Chris Bosh in the playoffs, and he carried that momentum into this season, where he's been an integral part of the NBA's best defensive unit. Like it or not, Lamar Odom isn't going to back down Lewis and outmuscle him down low.
4. Andrew Bynum can provide any resistance to Dwight Howard. Because Bynum starts at the center position, he will begin games alongside Howard and has inevitably drawn comparisons to the Defensive Player of the Year. But make no mistake - At this point, Bynum is a backup. He's averaging less than 17 minutes per game this offseason, and he's struggled with inconsistency when he has been on the floor. Bynum has the natural ability to be a star, but a sharp regression this season has him well short of that mark. Frankly, Bynum should be drawing comparisons to Marcin Gortat instead of Howard. * * *
by The Nickel Steak, The Puns Are Starting to Bore Me
Some Orlando Magic fans, and a whole lot of non-Magic fans likely don't realize this, but Orlando's upper management has been known, in the past, to do somethings that were, to put it bluntly, bafflingly insane. This is a team after all that traded Anderson Varejao and Drew Gooden for Tony Battie.
But the team has never done anything quite as bafflingly crazy as deciding, as some sort of bizarre celebration of being a team for almost 10 years, to release a greatest hits album. No seriously, that happened:
Most people would struggle to believe that this really existed.
To put into perspective how stupid this idea was, notice the bottom right corner. "Rockin' the O-rena!". This is important, because the album was released in 1998. The building stopped being called the O-rena in 1999.
Back on point, at the ripe age of 13 years old, I received this CD as a gift for Christmas, and because you can't give Christmas gifts back to your grandmother because she knows how much you like the team even though even 13 year old you realizes this gift sucks, I put it in a box and never touched it.
I was in Orlando for Memorial Day weekend to visit with family and friends, and I stumbled across the box and the aforementioned album. I brought it back up to Maryland with me out of a kind of morbid curiousity. I've listened to it all the way through now exactly once. I will be writing the remainder of this post as I listen to it for the second time, providing in depth analysis of just how inhumanely bad an album can be. * * *
Zach McCann of Orlando Magic Daily.com on ESPN's NBA Today podcast
by Black and Blue Jor, The Howeva Files
While a lot is being said about the grudge match that will ensue between Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant, no one really seems to be talking about the fact that the two were really, really good friends on the court during the Olympics this past year. While Lebron was looking for the cameras, Carmelo was looking to prove himself as a scorer, and Jason Kidd was looking to prove he didn't need to walk with a walker, Kobe and Dwight were hanging out and giving each other tips.
Here is a video showing a glimmer of them interacting:
* * *
posted by "MagicLive" to Magic Madness message board
...I think the 2-3-2 format favors the away team more. If we steal one of the first two games, we can finish the series without going back to LA. The point of the 2-2-1-1-1 format is to allow the team with the home court advantage to always be tied or ahead in the series. With the Finals format, if home court plays out, the team with home court advantage will be down 3-2 going into game 6. I don't agree with a format that puts the team with the better record in a 3-2 hole. I don't know about you guys, but I would love our chances if we had two games to finish off the series.
I understand why they use this format for the Finals, but I don't agree with it at all. These players fly on world class planes. It's really not that draining to sit on a private plane for several hours. Just give the teams two days off after flying and everything would be fine.
The Bottom LIne:
1. Two words: quietly confident.
2. This season has been a great run. Orlando was the 3 seed and beat the 1 and the 2 — they've earned the trip to the finals.
3. America — meet Dwight Howard!!!