Nikola Vucevic

30 teams in 30 days: Management makeover for Magic


30 teams in 30 days: Management makeover for Magic

We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Orlando Magic.

The Orlando Magic by no means would be considered NBA royalty or a perennial juggernaut, but the past five years have literally been the worst in the franchise’s history.
So it wasn’t all that surprising to see (now former) GM Rob Hennigan sent on his way.

The players, for the most part, are the same as the ones from a year ago, but the Magic are banking on a more seasoned front-office being exactly what’s needed in order to make those losing ways for so many years, disappear.
The Magic brought in Jeff Weltman as their president of basketball operations and John Hammond as the GM.
Both worked together in Detroit as well as Milwaukee, although with the Bucks it was Weltman reporting to Hammond.
The two bring more than familiarity to the table, but also a track record of success in building lottery teams into legit playoff contenders.
One of the first challenges they will face is trying to make sense out of a roster that on many levels, doesn’t fit in with today’s NBA landscape.
Orlando paid big money to land Serge Ibaka after having already signed Bismack Biyombo who joined a front line featuring Nikola Vucevic.
Like most of the Orlando roster, the Magic’s Big three big men never meshed on the floor with any kind of consistency.
And in their efforts to make it work, it to some degree stunted the growth of promising forward Aaron Gordon, who is one of the more athletic players in the NBA.
Still, one thing we know about teams assembled by Hammond is that he loves length, athleticism and versatility.
That’s why the Magic didn’t hesitate to go out and sign former San Antonio Spur Jonathan Simmons to a three-year, $20 million contract.
Simmons, 28, had a solid season with San Antonio, but really made a name for himself  (and a few dollars along the way) by the job he did at both ends of the floor when Kawhi Leonard was hurt and he had to contend with Houston’s James Harden.
No one would put Simmons in the same class as Leonard as far as being a two-way talent, but there was no mistaking how well Simmons held his own against the always-explosive scoring of Harden.
And the Magic, which picked sixth in the June NBA draft, once again looked to add a player with tremendous length and versatility in selecting Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac.
It was a no-brainer pick for a front office that while in Milwaukee, surprised some in selecting Giannis Antetokounmpo at a time when many felt the Greek Freak would take a number of years before making an impact. And in Hammond’s last draft with the Bucks, he selected Thon Maker with the 10th overall pick.
Like previous skinny-as-a-rail picks, Maker showed promise as a rookie that he can, in fact, be an early contributor who can improve with more time and experience which was instrumental in Milwaukee’s steady improvement.
But can they replicate that success in Orlando?
It remains to be seen but one thing is clear: It’ll be difficult for them to sink any lower than where the franchise was when they assumed their current positions.
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Arron Afflalo (Sacramento); Mo Speights (Golden State); Jonathan Simmons (San Antonio).
Key losses: Jeff Green (Cleveland); Jodie Meeks (Washington)
Rookies of note: Jonathan Isaac; Wesley Iwundu.
Expectations: 37-45 (Fourth in the Southeast Division, 10th in the East)

Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's length could pose problem for Boston

Celtics-Magic preview: Orlando's length could pose problem for Boston

BOSTON – Playing with an edge has been an issue for the Boston Celtics at times this season. But not when playing the Orlando Magic, a team that the Celtics have absolutely crushed in their first two meetings this season. 

Boston (48-27) won each game by a decisive 30-point margin which has been the Celtics’ largest margin of victory this season. 

Another blowout tonight would be nice for the Celtics, but they would be just as content with adding another victory to the stack as they try to build on their lead in the East following Cleveland’s 99-93 loss at Chicago on Thursday night which put the Celtics (48-27) 0.5 games ahead of the Cavs (47-27) for the best record in the East. 

And let’s face it. 

You have to feel good about Boston’s chances of building upon that lead tonight in a game in which winning means more at this point to Boston than it does the Magic (27-48) who have already been eliminated from the playoffs for what will be the fifth straight season.

For the Magic, more losses can only improve their chances at landing the number one overall pick in June’s NBA draft. Orlando currently has the fourth-worst record in the NBA, just ahead of Brooklyn (16-58), the Los Angeles Lakers (21-53) and Phoenix Suns (22-53).

Despite their struggles, Orlando should not be overlooked. 

One of the factors in Boston’s loss to Milwaukee was the Bucks’ length at several positions. The Bucks have a starting five that has length, athleticism and size (6-foot-4 point guard Elfrid Payton is the smallest starter for Orlando) but also lots of youth (all Magic starters are 26 years old or younger) which has been a major factor in their struggles this season.

Magic big man Nikola Vucevic is a rebounding center with a nice touch around the basket as well as a decent face-up game. He's the kind of player Boston has had trouble dealing with all season. Vucevic, who has 33 double-doubles this season, is averaging 14.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game.

One way Boston may look to neutralize him and an Orlando team with lots of youth and athleticism, is to play more small-ball lineups. While it didn’t lead to a win against the Bucks on Wednesday, the Celtics going with a smaller lineup seemed to be their most effective unit.

The Celtics lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Al Horford was on the floor for 10 minutes against Milwaukee. As a group, they shot 52.9 percent from the field – the best of any unit that played five or more minutes together – in addition to being +11 together which not surprisingly, was tops among the 19 different lineups head coach Brad Stevens played against the Bucks. 

“I felt like our small group was probably our most productive group (against the Bucks),” Stevens said. “But at the same time, it’s pretty significant in what you’re giving away in length.”

That’s not as big an issue against Orlando, although the Celtics know they can’t afford to take any team for granted – not even the Magic who truthfully have more to gain with a loss than the Celtics. 

But as the Oklahoma City Thunder recently discovered, the Magic aren’t just going to roll over for teams when the two met on Wednesday in what ended with a 114-106 overtime win for Oklahoma City. 

“We didn’t make enough plays to win the game,” Magic coach Frank Vogel told reporters after the loss. “You’ve got to play 48 minutes, and you’ve got to hit big shots. You’ve got to hit timely shots. You’ve got to make your free throws. You’ve got to take care of the basketball. And you’ve got to get whatever threat’s coming at you on their offensive end under control.”

Often when Boston loses, many of those factors come into play. While there are lots of contributing factors to Boston’s success, success ultimately comes down to one thing.

“Being consistent. That’s what we have to be,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “If we’re consistent and play like we know how to play, we’ll take care of business with these last … games. If we’re not, we’ll be up and down. Everybody is realizing what’s at stake and guys are locking in.”

Will the Celtics have a difficult decision to make about Isaiah Thomas contract?


Will the Celtics have a difficult decision to make about Isaiah Thomas contract?

Listen to a jam packed episode of the "Celtics Talk" podcast with Kyle Draper, A. Sherrod Blakely, and special guest Steve Kyler from Basketball

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Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely are back with another episode of the "Celtics Talk" podcast. This week, we start things off by discussing Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier - what their minutes should be...what their TRADE VALUE might be, etc.

Basketball writer Steve Kyler calls in to discuss where the Celtics fit in the East, how the incident DeMarcus Cousins got involved in at a bar in New York City might effect his trade value,  and would the Magic trade Nikola Vucevic.

Finally, a heated debate on will and IF the Celtics will pay Isaiah Thomas max money when his very affordable contract is up in a couple years. Should Brad Stevens limit his minutes to guard against injury?