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Not much magic in Orlando


Not much magic in Orlando

The once proud foundation of Orlando is crumbling. Center Dwight Howard is holding Orlando hostage and is bringing down the franchise. The all-star center doesn't want to be there, and he has no interest in playing for the Magic anymore. The team is desperately trying to move the imposing 7-footer, but so far they haven't been able to swing a deal with anyone because the value of Howard -- a double-double machine -- is through the roof.

The future of Orlando relies solely on how they handle Howard this off-season. Once they can figure out how to deal Howard and for what, then they can get a better idea of what they have and where they are headed.

Howard was selected by Orlando with the 1 pick in the 2005 draft and led the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals but the relationship has soured significantly in the last year. Strangely, Howard could have become a free-agent this summer but inexplicably waived an early termination clause that keeps him around under contract with Orlando for another year. Howard averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds a game last season but hurt his back late in the season and missed the playoffs as the Magic were ousted by Indiana in the first round.

Once the Howard dust is settled, Orlando has another issue to resolve and that's finding a new a coach after they fired Stan Van Gundy who Howard reportedly wasn't happy with.

If you look at what Orlando did this off-season to improve it's hard to find any positives. They lost the stroke of Ryan Anderson to New Orleans in a sign and trade for forward Gustavo Ayon. The 6'-10 Anderson averaged 16 points and 7 rebounds for the Magic last season. Letting him go didn't make much sense as he was one for the few bright spots for the Magic.

In the draft, the Magic took Andrew Nicholson out of St. Bonaventure with the 19th overall pick. The 6'-10' Nicholson averaged 18 points and 8 rebounds a game in his senior season with the Bonnies. The Magic also took another center with their second round pick, selecting Kyle O'Quinn out of Norfolk State.

Orlando has to figure out what to do at the point guard spot because long-time starter and one-time all-star Jameer Nelson is a free agent. Guard Chris Duhon has two years left on his deal so he could be the starter if Nelson does not return.

The Magic still have in the fold aging guard Jason Richardson and forward Hedo Turkoglu who are both coming off sub-par seasons. Both could be possible trade bait for a contender at next season's trade deadline. Veteran forward Glen Davis also returns and he was decent in his first season with Orlando, averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds, mostly off the bench. Shooting guard J.J. Redick is back and he provided a spark off the bench, scoring 12 points a game.

After Howard, the talent level drops off considerably so they must get some value when and if they can trade Howard. Until they can deal Howard, the Magic are in a holding pattern. It is a tough time in Disney World.

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Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Markieff Morris set tone for Wizards, who finally got back to 'Death Row mentality'

Perhaps Toronto and their fans would disagree, but through two games the first round playoff series between the Wizards and Raptors had been relatively uneventful, maybe even boring to the casual observer. For those who have watched the Wizards in recent years, something just seemed off with them.

Not only were Bradley Beal and Otto Porter struggling to score, but the energy and grit we're used to from the Wizards in the postseason just wasn't there. Three minutes into Game 3 on Friday night, that all changed.

Wizards forward Markieff Morris got tangled with Raptors rookie OG Anunoby and fell to the ground. He rose up, shoved Anunoby and gave Serge Ibaka a push for good measure. It cost Morris a technical, but he wasn't ejected. From there, the tone was set.

This was to be a physical game and the Wizards were going to make sure of it. That's how they prefer to play and that nastiness had been missing thus far in this series.

"I think OG [Anunoby] did not know the scouting report because he did not know that Keef is one of the people you do not mess with in this world," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He will learn.”

The fireworks didn't end there. Beal and Jonas Valanciunas got into it and so did John Wall and Anunoby, and then Wall and Ibaka.

The Wizards made a name for themselves in the 2016-17 season when they won 49 games and were one win away from the conference finals as a team that would instigate contact and talk trash. They prided themselves on being old school in that regard and were praised for it by former NBA tough guys like Paul Pierce and Stephen Jackson.

This season, they just haven't been able to do it as often.

"We have been there at spurts throughout the year, we just have not been there consistently," Oubre said. "Now it is do or die. We just need to bring that Death Row mentality.”

Oubre also joked that rapper Drake started it all by sitting courtside in Toronto and talking trash. Truthfully, their backs were against the wall and they had no choice but to punch back.

The Wizards entered Friday's game down 0-2 to the Raptors with Game 2 a dispirited blowout. If they went down 0-3, they would essentially have been dead in the water. No team has come back from that deficit in NBA history.

This time, they weren't going to go down without a fight.

"It sounds crazy, but sometimes we need that. The crazy part is that it's always [Morris]," center Marcin Gortat said. "If you see your teammate fighting, I'm going to fight with him. That's the bottom-line."

"We came out tonight with an edge about ourselves," Beal said. "Keef is a bully... we are physical team." 

As for Morris, the enforcer himself, he let his actions speak for themselves. He didn't take the bait on most questions, but did wear a 'Death Row D.C.' shirt during his media availability. Morris came up with that nickname last season to convey the toughness he wants the Wizards to play with.

"We need some physicality," Morris said. "I feel like when we were in Toronto, they were doing everything too freely. This kind of set the tone for the whole series... we need to keep our same mean mentality. If they wanna fight, we will fight."

The Wizards fought the Hawks and Celtics last year tooth-and-nail and often used physical play to their advantage. It worked in Game 3 against the Raptors. Now the Wizards will have to counter however Toronto chooses to respond.




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Physicality, the spark from Oubre; 5 must-see moments from Wizards Game 3 win

Physicality, the spark from Oubre; 5 must-see moments from Wizards Game 3 win

The Washington Wizards wasted no time in their playoff return to Capital One Arena to jump back into this series. Now behind 2-1 to the Toronto Raptors, Washington is back in the series. Here are the top moments from the 122-103 win:

1. It got physical early.

Is it bad luck to bring back #DeathrowDC? It only took the Wizards and Markieff Morris three minutes to get into a shoving match with OG Anunoby and the Raptors. Double technicals were both issued after this scuffle but it set the tone for the remainder of the game. From here the Wizards exerted their physicality.

2. Kelly Oubre providing the spark off the bench

Early on it was creeping toward another outstanding Raptors offensive performance, like we saw in Game 1 and Game 2. They were up 27-18 with two minutes left in the first quarter. Once the bench got their first opportunity to get into the game, Kelly Oubre Jr. provided that spark to get back the Wizards into it. In the midst of a 14-2 run from the first going into the second quarter, Oubre had four of his 13 points, including a monstrous dunk off of a loose ball.

3. Beal to Wall, back to Beal

For those that do not believe that John Wall and Bradley Beal are two of the best passers in the league, look no further than this play. Not only does Beal thread the needle, but Wall has the wherewithal to get the ball back to Beal for the lay-in.

4. A fire was lit under John Wall

It wasn’t just the double-double (28 points, 14 assists), playoff John Wall is officially back. He made that evident with countless hustle plays especially on defense to turn this game around. Moments later, the Wizards pushed the lead up to 20 for the first time and had Capital One Arena rocking.

5. Ty Lawson’s buzzer-beater

When playing the Raptors, you can never rule out a comeback. Throughout the third quarter Toronto kept nipping at the Wizards’ lead, but newly acquired Ty Lawson shut down any threat of that heading into the fourth.