Orlando Magic

Dwight Howard is going to suck the oxygen outta the building on Saturday

Everybody and their mother knows Dwight Howard was robbed at last year’s slam dunk competition. Luckily, he’s getting another shot at the crown this year and according to his practice sessions, he’s gotta be the favorite.

If you think those are some sick dunks, can you imagine what the kid could do if he actually got to raise the rim to 12 feet? Unfortunately, we might never know because for the second straight year the NBA has denied his request to raise the rim an additional two feet.

Orlando Magic

Around the Rim: Poof!! The Magic make Boston disappear

1. Hedo to the rescue
Kevin Garnett strained an abdominal muscle during his reunion with the Timberwolves on Friday night and on Sunday the Orlando Magic took advantage of the injury. The Big Ticket missed his first contest as a Celtic, giving the Magic a perfect opportunity to beat Boston for the second time this season; which they did thanks to a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu. Orlando survived a fourth quarter Celtic rally to escape with a 96-93 victory on their home court. Turkoglu led all scorers with 27 points while Dwight Howard finished with 18 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. With K.G. sidelined, Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 24 points and nine rebounds. Ray Allen scored 17 as Boston suffered its second loss in three games, bringing their once insurmountable lead over the rest of the league down to just 3 ½ games.

2. When All-Stars collide

When it comes to scoring, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant are the absolute best the NBA has to offer and the duo didn’t disappoint under the Staples Center lights on Sunday afternoon. LeBron James, the league’s top scorer, finished with 41 points, including 14 in the fourth, to lead Cleveland past the Lakers 98-95. Kobe Bryant, No. 2 in points per game, scored 33 points to go with 12 rebounds and six assists, but the Lakers fumbled away an opportunity to tie the game as they failed to get up a shot following a timeout. After briefly grabbing the top record in the Western Conference, the Lakers fell into a tailspin, losing their third consecutive game and four of their last five games. The Cavs, on the other hand, are rolling, winning 10 out of 12 games.

3. Unfamiliar positions
Before the season, somebody would have slapped you silly if you said Utah and Houston would be on the outside of the playoff race looking in when the end of January rolled around. Nonetheless, that’s where the two clubs are currently sitting. When they hooked up on Sunday, Utah took advantage of Yao Ming’s absence (upper respiratory infection), beating the Rockets 97-89 to win their eighth game in nine tries and taking one more step toward entering into the postseason picture. Carlos Boozer (13 pts, 10 reb) and Deron Williams (17 pts, 12 ast) both finished with a double-double while Andrei Kirilenko finished with 17 points. Tracy McGrady looked like an All-Star even though the fans left him off the Western Conference’s starting five, scoring 21 points to go with nine assists and six rebounds.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: Al Jefferson vs. New Jersey 42 min, 40 pts (FG: 13-21, FT: 14-17), 19 reb, 3 ast, 1 stl, 2 blk

Monday’s Game to Watch: Denver (26-17) @ New Orleans (26-17)
Nobody is playing better right now than the Hornets and point guard Chris Paul is starting to get some serious MVP love because of it. The Bugs’ biggest win of the season came on Saturday night when they destroyed the Spurs by 24 points, 102-78, in San Antonio. The victory further solidified the Hornets as the best in the West, giving Nawlins its eighth consecutive. Since Dec. 19, they are on a 16-2 roll with Chris Paul averaging 20.6 points, 10.5 assists and 2.59 steals for the season. The Nuggets are still without Carmelo Anthony (sprained left ankle), but have played extremely well without their superstar. Before losing to the Mavericks by five points on Sunday, Denver won two straight without Anthony. Losing Melo is huge, but the Nuggets are stacked with talent and if Allen Iverson starts rolling, they can hang with anyone in the league.

Buzzer Beater: The Timberwolves were one of the laughingstocks of the NBA just a few weeks ago. How quickly things can change. On the ever growing shoulders of Al Jefferson, the T-Wolves took another step toward respectability with a 98-95 win over New Jersey. Jefferson recorded a career-high 40 points to go with 19 rebounds and suddenly Minnesota is on a mini hot streak, winning three of their last four. Minny might technically hold the worst record in the league (8-35), but there is no way anyone can argue they are currently worse than doormats like the Heat (losers of 14 out of 15) and the Sonics (lost 14 straight).

Orlando Magic

Around the Rim: It’s no illusion, the Magic are for real

1. Road warriors
It took an extra five minutes to get the job done, but the Magic continued their winning ways by outscoring the league’s highest scoring team in an East vs. West track meet. 240 total points were scored as Orlando downed Golden State 123-117 in Oakland. Dwight Howard almost cost his team the game when he picked up a technical late in the game, but he still gets `Beast of the Game’ honors for collecting 18 points, 23 rebounds and seven blocks. Jameer Nelson almost had himself a triple-dip as he finished with 22 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists. Orlando is still giving Boston a run for their money in conference race. The squads are currently tied for first place, but the Celtics (14-2 – .875) have a better statistical record than the Magic (16-4 – .800)

2. TD’s knee screen is clean

Gregg Popovich felt his heart sink into the pit of his stomach when Tim Duncan crumpled to the parquet on Sunday and was subsequently carried off the floor by his teammates. Well, Pop’s heart started beating again on Monday afternoon when doctors discovered no significant damage to the two-time MVP’s right knee or right ankle. There’s still no concrete timetable for when Duncan will return to the lineup for the silver and black, but the team spokesman confirmed that TD would miss the rivalry game against the Mavericks. We’re figuring that the Spurs are going to sit Duncan until he’s absolutely, undoubtedly, 100 percent healthy. Popovich ain’t no fool; he’d much rather take the extra losses than rush his goldmine back on the court too soon and risk further damage.

3. Score one for the Americans
By many accounts, Steve Nash is just about the best thing to happen to basketball since the shot clock went into effect. Other people can’t believe he has more MVPs than guys like Allen Iverson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Garnett or David Robinson, to name a few. Either way you look at it, he’s about all Canada’s got when it comes to international competition. Correction: `he’s about all Canada had.

On playing for the Canadians in the 2008 Olympics, should they qualify:

I would say no, but I can’t really talk about it until the situation arrives and this season’s come to a conclusion,” Nash said. “But in my mind right now, I’m not going to play for Canada anymore. I just can’t do both.

Okay, can someone talk Manu Ginobili out of playing now?

Monday’s Player of the Day: Carlos Boozer vs. Miami 40 min, 24 pts (FG: 10-18, FT: 4-6), 15 reb, 5 ast, 4 stl, 1 blk

Tuesday’s Game to Watch: Phoenix (13-4) @ Indiana (9-9)
Phoenix’s three All-Stars have been playing accordingly all year long, but now they’re benefiting from a former All-Star who’s looking a lot like a youngster who use to dazzle in a Detroit uniform. Grant Hill might be 35 years old according to his birth certificate, but 28 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals certainly doesn’t sound like the production of someone who should be using the Clapper and watching The Peoples Court according to young NBA standards. On the other side of the court, the Pacers are sporting a crew of anti-Hills. They’re young and wild and you never know what you’re going to get, good or bad. This has the potential to be a nail-biter or a blowout, just depends on which crew shows up next for coach Jim O’Brien.

Buzzer Beater: We’re seriously starting to worry about Gilbert Arenas. The guy has always been a little loopy, but now that he’s injured and without the mental drain of basketball, there’s a lot of crazy stuff backing up in his cranium. Not only is he pushing a shoe that comes with a dry erase marker so you can write messages on your kicks, but he’s also devoting his time to a project known as GilTV. It’s an interesting endeavor to say the least. Still, those aren’t the oddest tidbits of information that Agent 0 reveals in his blog.

So, Gilbert, why don’t you like to take pain pills?

I didn’t take the pills for two reasons:

1. I’m against pills in general. I think it’s a coward’s way to deal with pain. You take some pills, then the pills get you sleepy.

2. The main reason is though that it blocked my stomach up last time and I couldn’t use the restroom. I couldn’t use the restroom for like five days, and I didn’t want to go through that pain again.


Orlando Magic

Around the Rim: Celtics streak snapped

1. Orlando really is “The Most Magical Place On Earth”
It must be an early Christmas miracle because we were certain the Celtics had 82-0 all wrapped up. Guess they’re looking at 81-1 now because the Magic just ripped the bow off that idea. Sorry ESPN.

Boston made a valiant effort to keep their pursuit of perfection intact but Paul Pierce’s miss at the end of regulation left the Cs two points short of forcing overtime. Pierce had 28 in the game, Ray Allen put up 19 and KG went for 14 and nine rebounds. The Magic were anemic in the fourth, going four minutes without a basket as the Celtics made their run to come back from 20 down. Still, all five Orlando starters finished with double-digit points, led by Dwight Howard’s 24 and Rashard Lewis’ 22. But the Magic failed to crash the boards in this game, getting outrebounded by 13, 41-28. Howard inexplicably finished with six despite ranking second in the league with 14.2 per game.

2. S-Jack is back

Golden State finally got off the schneid on Friday when they picked up their first win of the season by thumping the Clippers 122-105. On Sunday, Stephen Jackson returned to the floor after serving a seven-game suspension and helped his boyz grab their second consecutive victory. Jackson led the team in scoring with 17 points and collected a couple of blocks in the 106-100 win over the Raptors. The return of the team’s bad boy couldn’t have come at a better time. The Warriors start an east coast road trip on Tuesday, playing games at New York, Boston, Washington and Philadelphia before hosting Phoenix next Monday.

3. Stars struck
The All-Star 2008 ballots are out and thanks to some realignment of positions, Tim Duncan and Amare Stoudemire are getting screwed. Arguably the West’s two most dominant power forwards got plopped into the “Centers” classification on the ballot. So, obviously we can remove their names from the West’s starting five for the February 17 superstar showdown because the Chinese population will ensure Yao Ming gets the nod. We know that they will both find their way onto the team barring any major injuries, but it is a shame that they won’t get the honor of being voted in because the league is unfairly categorizing them. Sure, both play some center, but we all know they are 4s at heart. And the league listed them as such in years past. This is like throwing Kevin Garnett into the “Guards” because he brings the ball up the court a handful of times each game.

Sunday’s Player of the Day: TJ Ford vs. Golden State 33 min, 29 pts (FG: 12-22, 3FG: 0-1, FT: 5-5), 6 reb, 9 ast, 2 stl

Monday’s Game to Watch: Orlando (9-2) @ New Orleans (9-2)
The Magic are coming off the biggest win of their young season after taking out the Celtics in Orlando. Now the Magic must take their unblemished road record (6-0) into N’awlins against the cream of the Southwest Division. Chris Paul leads the Hornets’ attack, averaging 19.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 10.8 assists per game while Tyson Chandler is pulling down a double-double of his own every night with 11.4 points and 11.5 boards. But you can’t mention the phrase “double-double” without bringing up Orlando’s Dwight Howard. The 21-year-old accomplished the feat in nine of 11 games this year. Howard is really starting to develop some chemistry with point guard Jameer Nelson and the off-season addition of Rashard Lewis has paid dividends immediately.

Buzzer Beater: The NBA is truly losing one its legends with the imminent retirement of Gary Payton. The Glove had a great career and even though Michael Jordan kept him from putting on an ornate, diamond-clad band in the 90s, D-Wade gave him the title of champion that he earned over his 17 years in the Association. Payton’s all-time rankings are as follows: 21st in points, 8th in game played, 6th in assists and 3rd in steals. Needless to say, we all have our favorite memories of the guy. Unfortunately, as much as it pains us to admit this, ours is the same as J.A. Adande’s. Lord help us.

Orlando Magic

The Magic land Rashard Lewis; take that Billy Donovan!

After Seattle drafted Kevin Durant and then traded for Jeff Green last Thursday evening, it became crystal clear that the Sonics were gently nudging Rashard Lewis out the free agent door. Okay, so it was more like a running shove, but Lewis looks like he might have found his way into a perfect situation because of it.

Lewis has agreed to a “maximum contract” with the Orlando Magic and will round out a trio of budding superstars with Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson. No terms of the deal can be announced until July 11, but it will either be a five-year deal as a free agent or it could become a sign-and-trade to allow for a sixth year with an expected income of $15 million per season. While the money is an incredible perk, the real signing bonus for Lewis will be the fact that his seasons will now extend well beyond the 82nd game of the year. No more struggling to stay afloat out west amongst all the elite big men that continually take Seattle’s lunch money. In the Eastern Conference, on a young team overflowing with potential, Lewis’ Magic will be consistently in the running with powerhouses like the Pistons, Bulls, Cavs and Heat.

If other superstars have any desire to compete for a championship, they’d be smart to follow Lewis’ lead and head for the land of opportunity. In the Eastern Conference, guys like Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett could dominate on a yearly basis with just a little help from the front office in assembling some complimentary pieces. Out West, if you’re not playing for the Spurs, Mavs, Suns, Jazz or Rockets, you’re playing against them and the odds are you’re not getting past all of `em come playoff time. Seattle and Portland might think they have a bright future ahead of them and they do have a brighter future for sure, but they still have a long way to go before they catch any of the conference’s elite (SA, DAL, PHO). Put Greg Oden or Kevin Durant in Boston, Atlanta or Milwaukee and they could almost immediately compete for a conference crown.


[]: Lewis headed for Orlando
[]: Lewis agrees to maximum contract with Magic

Orlando Magic

Billy Donovan can go stuff his sorrys in a sack, mister

Read your contract

Billy Donovan apologized to just about everybody yesterday and explained his decision to sign a five-year $27.5M contract with the Magic as a huge mistake. He’s expected to sign a 6-year $21M contract with Florida instead. The Orlando Magic must be the worst organization in sports if someone is willing to pass up $6.5M and work an extra year instead of coaching the Magic.

There was no words, there was no pressure by anyone to come back. It was what was in my heart. You realize you made a mistake and you go forward. I think sometimes people think, ‘Well what happened? What was the reason?’ There really wasn’t one. It had nothing to do with the Magic, my wife, the University of Florida, it was a process I went through myself that I’m sorry for.”

Translation: The Magic don’t suck, I’m not whipped, Florida is ok, I’m just a weenie who can’t keep his word.

Despite bolting for the NBA and then backing out of his deal, Billy boy doesn’t think trust will be an issue when recruiting players. OK. Billy Donovan – a man you can trust! Someone should ask the Orlando Magic executives about that, who go so screwed they had to hire Stan Van Gundy.

[AP]: Donovan apologizes to Magic and Florida

Orlando Magic

The state of Florida is split on Billy Donovan’s decision indecision

It was fun while it lasted.

What’s up with the NBA and all this flopping that’s going on?  Well, we should really be more specific about what we’re talking about; we’re talking about the flip-flopping that is going on off the court, not the kind of flopping that Steve Nash perfected when Robert Horry gave him a lil’ pop.  Turns out that Kobe isn’t the only big name in the Association to wanna weasel out of something he said.

Billy Donovan reportedly wants out of the five-year, $27.5 million deal that he signed with the Magic on Friday to return to the Florida Gators.  And it looks like he just might get what he wants.  Apparently, Donovan heard blowhards like Dick Vitale over the weekend while they flapped their gums about how Donovan could have been the next Coach K. or John Wooden but instead chose to leave his college legacy behind for the big bucks.  Or maybe he just realized that college guys don’t fare too well in the NBA.  Either way, it doesn’t really matter because the two time champion signed the dotted line at the bottom of the Magic’s stationary, putting his future in their hands.

While it would be pointless to keep a guy around if he’s not fully committed to the job, we are really hoping that Orlando forces Donovan to stay.  After all, that is how a contract works, right?  You had a good thing going in Florida Billy, you really did but when you shook the hand of the Magic’s owner and put the pen to the paper, your Gator days became priceless memories.  And anyways, how would you feel if Joakim Noah had pulled out of his commitment with Florida before ever taking to the floor for a single practice.  Well, Noah probably isn’t the best example but you get the point.

[]: Orlando Magic will allow Billy Donovan to return to Florida

Orlando Magic

Odds and Ends: I should’ve called him a chimpanzee instead!

what ball?

Just a quick follow up to the story we had last week about the fan banned from NBA arenas for calling Dikembe Mutombo a monkey. Hamzehloui says that the entire incident was blown out of proportion because he chose the wrong word.

I just used a poor choice of words. If I said he looked like a chimpanzee or like a gorilla, none of this happens.

Cause uh… you know.. there’s no racial undertones to calling someone a gorilla or a chimpanzee.

In other news…

[ABC 7]: Dementieva: Model ball boys shouldn’t focus on players

[BBC]: David Beckham to the LA Galaxy?

[]: Paterno has surgery to repair broken leg, will coach against Temple

[Newsday]: Paul Azinger named captain of next U.S. team to be humiliated by Euros in Ryder Cup

[Yay Sports NBA]: Shaq does whatever he wants

[Costco]: Ummm… can someone lend us $11k?

Orlando Magic

Now why would you call Mutombo a monkey?

The NBA season starts with two games tonight but Orlando Magic fans have already jumped out to an early lead in the “obnoxious/racist fan” standings. A Magic season-ticket holder named Hooman Hamzehloui has been banned from every NBA arena this season because he called Mutombo a monkey. By all accounts, Mutombo is a good guy who builds hospitals in his homeland and happily mangles sayings like “it’s no walk in the cake”, so why would you mess with him?

Hamzehloui sent Mutombo a letter of apology and promised $5,000 to the charity of Mutombo’s choice.

I am by no means a racist, and if you only knew me better you would never begin to have those thoughts. What I am guilty of is poor judgment in the use of words while doing what I do to many of the visiting team’s players, ‘heckle them.’

I thoroughly respect you as a player and as a human being and my only motivation when I have my fun at the games is to ‘get under the player’s skin’ no matter what color that skin happens to be.

Hamzehloui also said he would not attend any NBA games until Mutombo gave his blessing. Uhh… jackass, you’re not allowed to attend any NBA games this season anyway. Mutombo, for his part, said he has already forgiven the man. He also added, “C is for Cookie!”

[SI]: Magic fan banned for racial slur

Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic execs got jacked by political consultant

The Orlando Magic today confirmed that they paid $200,000 to Doug Guetzloe, a radio host and leader of Ax the Tax, a grass roots group that opposes tolls and tax increases for “consulting”. And by consulting, they mean hush money so that Guetzloe’s activists didn’t speak out against a campaign for a new arena.

If the Magic didn’t hire him as a consultant this year, [Magic COO Alex] Martins said, they feared someone else would pay him to attack the projects.

“We were told there was an offer by those in the small minority that opposed the venues to hire him if we did not. And we felt pressured to hire him because of that fact. In hindsight . . . it was an error in judgment on our part.

Orlando Magic fans must be thrilled to find out that their ticket dollars are being used to pay a guy to shut up so the Magic can get more tax dollars out of their pockets to build an arena and jack up ticket prices. We haven’t seen anything like this since Stringer Bell paid Clay Davis $250,000 to open the faucet. (Semi-obscure allusion that should be a lot less obscure.)

[Field of Schemes]: Magic paid hush money to activist
[Orland Sentinel]: Magic: We paid Guetzloe, too