Detroit Pistons vs. Orlando Magic 10/17/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Detroit Pistons looked to continue their strong preseason on Friday against the Orlando Magic. Stan Van Gundy’s new squad has looked sharp all preseason, but faced a tough test from the young Magic squad. 

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Flamengo vs. Orlando Magic 10/15/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Orlando Magic looked to score a big win on Wednesday when they took on Brazilian squad Flamengo in a preseason clash. Though the Magic are in full rebuilding mode this year, they hoped to knock off the Brazilian powerhouse prior to the start of the regular season.

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Orlando Magic vs. Indiana Pacers 10/10/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Indiana Pacers looked to score a preseason win Friday when they faced the Orlando Magic. The Pacers were looking to jell despite the absence of injured star Paul George, and their clash with Orlando’s rebuilding roster provided a good chance to do just that.

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Harris leads Orlando to 96-93 win over Pacers (Yahoo Sports)

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - OCT 10: Lavoy Allen #5 and Chris Copeland #22 of the Indiana Pacers battle for position against Nikola Vucevic #9 of the Orlando Magicat Bankers Life Fieldhouse on October 10, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tobias Harris scored 16 points, Nikola Vucevic had 12 and the Orlando Magic held on for a 96-93 preseason victory over the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.


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Orlando Magic vs. Miami Heat 10/7/14: Video Highlights and Recap

Life without LeBron James started on Tuesday night as the Miami Heat played their in-state rivals, the Orlando Magic.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh stayed behind in South Beach and began to gear up for a campaign that will be closely scrutinized following James’ departure.

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Channing Frye Injury: Updates on Orlando Magic Star’s Knee and Return

Forward Channing Frye was a key addition to a young and talented Orlando Magic roster this offseason, but the veteran leader may be forced to miss some time.

According to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, Frye suffered a sprained MCL during Thursday’s practice:

Although it remains to be seen how long that will keep him out of action, John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com is reporting the positive news that there was no structural damage to the 31-year-old star’s knee:

Per Robbins, Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn believes that Frye’s injury isn’t as serious as it could have been:

Since Orlando will lean heavily on youthful players such as Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and others during the 2014-15 campaign, Frye’s presence is hugely important. The Magic could have as many as eight new players on their roster this season, which makes the preseason more vital than usual, according to Robbins:

The University of Arizona product has a wealth of experience and he is a versatile player as well. Frye can man the power forward and center positions, and he is an ideal stretch big who has hit nearly 39 percent of his career attempts from three-point range.

In addition to that, Frye knows how to overcome adversity. He missed the entire 2012-13 season due to an enlarged heart, which truly put his career in perspective, according to Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel:

Not being able to play basketball … I don’t want to say that when you’re an athlete, you take things for granted, but you do. We’re supposed to go out and think we’re invincible. We’re not. … Going through this made me appreciate the game more, appreciate the opportunities I have to get better. I’ve learned to be addictive to the game now.

While an MCL injury shouldn’t be taken lightly, it pales in comparison to what Frye has already been through. Because of that, one can only assume that Frye will work his way back eventually.

Frye has averaged at least 10 points and five rebounds per game in each of the past four seasons, and that is production that could really help the Magic vie for a playoff spot in the shallow Eastern Conference.

If Frye isn’t ready for the regular season, though, Orlando’s youngsters will have to come of age quickly.

 

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Knicks sign forward Orlando Sanchez (Yahoo Sports)

NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Knicks signed former St. John’s forward Orlando Sanchez on Wednesday.

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Orlando Magic’s Victor Oladipo Reflects on Proving Doubters Wrong

So much of the excitement surrounding the NBA lies in predicting who within the game’s rookie ranks stands the best chance of achieving superstar status—those who reach the promise bestowed upon many but met by few. 

Amongst last year’s surprisingly productive crop, few showcased quite the superstar ceiling of the Orlando Magic’s Victor Oladipo, who finished a close second to Michael Carter-Williams in the league’s Rookie of the Year race.

In less than a month, Oladipo will be headed to Magic training camp as one of the franchise’s unquestioned cornerstones. With a core that includes promising fourth-year players Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic (“He can get you 20 and 20 on any given night”), veteran sniper Channing Frye and rookie point guard Elfrid Payton (“He’s going to be awesome for us”), Orlando’s future is bright indeed. Even if rebuilding remains the name of the game.

In third-year coach Jacque Vaughn, the Magic have a skipper whose offensive principles—cultivated during Vaughn’s tenure under San Antonio Spurs maestro Gregg Popovich—have the potential to inspire one of the game’s elite attacks. Last season’s 29th-ranked efficiency notwithstanding.

“I think we have a good variety of players,” Oldapio told Bleacher Report in a recent phone interview. “Everyone is capable of doing more than just one thing. I think we have more shooters now, which sounds crazy because Arron [Afflalo] is gone. But we’ll be better at the offensive end, especially with our efficiency.”

The loss of Afflalo, the journeyman swingman who very nearly notched his first All-Star appearance as Orlando’s on-court leader a season ago, can’t be discounted. Between his lockdown perimeter defense and ever-blossoming offensive repertoire, Afflalo—who was dealt to the Denver Nuggets on June 26 in exchange for Evan Fournier and the draft rights to Roy Devyn Marble—will be near impossible to replace.

It’s a fact that doesn’t escape Oladipo, who credits Afflalo with imparting upon him one of the most valuable lessons a young NBA player can learn: treating each and every game like Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

“I think the one thing that sticks out is how [Afflalo] had the same approach every night,” noted Oladipo. “When there’s so many games, it’s easy to lose focus. He taught me to bring that same hunger every game, night in and night out. So I’m fortunate he helped bring that to my table early—it didn’t take me a long time to figure out how important that is.”

Truth be told, it’s an ethos that’s come to define Oladipo’s very basketball being dating back to his days as a skinny, under-recruited standout at the legendary DeMatha High School in Maryland.

Four short years later, Oladipo has officially arrived—a two-way talent as adept at handling the ball as he is locking down opposing small forwards, with an offensive skill set that grows more versatile with each passing game.

Watching him lope and glide about the floor, it’s impossible not to conjure this flattering player comparison—one even Oladipo admits has for years served as perhaps his biggest basketball beacon.

Dwyane Wade is definitely a big one. Growing up, I could relate to him because we were the same height,” Oldadipo said of the 10-time NBA All-Star, with whom he shares a common coach in Indiana University’s Tom Crean. “When I was younger, I felt like, just in case I don’t grow to be 6’9”, I might as well watch someone who’s successful who’s not necessarily the tallest guy even at his position. That was D-Wade for me.”

Owing to the arrival of Payton, Oladipo—who spent 51 percent of his rookie-year minutes as Orlando’s floor general, per 82 games.com—will likely go back to logging a majority of his minutes at his more natural shooting guard position. Still, Oladipo is quick to acknowledge his crash course in Point Guard 101 is one that’s bound to pay lasting dividends.

“It helped me out a lot—to see the floor in different ways, not just playing off the ball,” he said. “Just having the ball in my hand was huge for my development. I feel like I can play both positions, but learning to play point guard more just makes me more of a threat.”

“A threat” probably isn’t how most would describe this year’s Magic; the team, for all its palpable promise, is still at least a year or two away from legitimate conference contention. But as last year’s Charlotte Hornets proved, in an East this weak, authoring an upstart playoff appearance is by no means out of the question.

“I think we can [make the playoffs]. You have to play really well on a lot of nights, but it’s something we’re capable of, “Oladipo Said. “The East isn’t as lopsided any more; it’s pretty even all around. It’s going to be competitive every night, which means we have to bring it every night.”

With Afflalo’s departure, Oladipo will be the one tasked with sounding that mantra, in the process helping forge an even deeper camaraderie in the service of what he calls “a great franchise in a great city.”

“Orlando’s eager for something to cheer about,” he said, “and that’s what we want to give them.”

And while weights and hardwood reps have been foremost on the combo guard’s mind, he’s still found time to take on another routine near and dear to his heart: community service.

Oladipo’s latest initiative: teaming up with Allstate’s Tom Joyner Family Reunion in Orlando to create superhero capes for cancer patients at the Florida Hospital for Children.

“It’s something I feel I’ve always been about, changing lives in any way I can,” Oladipo said. “There’s nothing like giving up your time and energy to kids like this and changing their lives.”

Asked to reflect on the past three years, a span that saw his rise from scarcely-recruited-but-still-serviceable freshman to two-way NCAA standout to the vanguard of the NBA’s youth movement, Oladipo can’t help but invoke a higher power.

Which, whatever one’s beliefs on the matter, speaks perfectly to Oladipo’s well-worn humbleness. Even when such modesty is occasionally tempered by a stronger, more assertive stance—one captured by a passage with which this burgeoning star is doubtless familiar: “From he who has been given much, much will be demanded.”

“It’s been a blessing from God, man,” he says. “Coming out of high school, I didn’t really get a lot of attention. I just always tried to play with a chip on my shoulder. I think that’s what’s helped me take my game to the next step. In the end, I want to be one of the greatest to ever play the game.”

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How Good Can Elfrid Payton-Aaron Gordon Combination Be for Orlando Magic?

With Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon, it’s all about potential.

What an annoying term—potential—given the uncertainty attached to it. 

But for what it’s worth, Payton and Gordon each have plenty of it. And if it hits four or five years down the road, the Orlando Magic will look back at the 2014 draft as the source for their likely success. 

Generally speaking, we could be talking about two long-term starters and cornerstones in Orlando. And together, they can help build and expand on this team’s identity. 

With ball-stopper Victor Oladipo already in place in the backcourt, Payton and Gordon give the lineup two additional strong defensive assets. 

Payton was named the 2014 Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year while racking up 2.3 steals a game in the process. At 6’4″ with long arms and excellent quickness, he’ll match up with just about any point guard physically.

If you’re a Magic fan, you have to like the perimeter security Payton and Oladipo might be capable of providing. 

On the other hand, Gordon finished No. 1 in the country at Arizona this past season in defensive win shares, per sports-reference.com. He ranked first at the NBA combine in the shuttle run, which measures how fast a player can change directions. And at 6’9″ with a near 7’0″ wingspan, Gordon has the size and length to guard bigs and the foot speed to stay with wings.

Gordon’s defensive versatility is likely his current core strength and something he’ll lean on early while he sharpens the rest of his game.

“But what I’m most looking forward to is defending,” Gordon told Jack Winter of Dime Magazine (via Zach Oliver of prestointhepaint.com). “I want to be able to defend the greatest players in the world and see how I stack up.”

Ironically, for Gordon to really take off in Orlando, he’ll need Payton to help make the game easier for him. 

Because at this point, his offensive skills just aren’t there. And until he polishes them up, Gordon might find himself stuck in between positions, without the post game of a 4 or off-the-dribble game and jumper shared by most small forwards. 

If the Orlando Summer League was any indication of what to expect early on, we’ll probably be looking at a bumpy and lengthy transition. 

Still, chances are he’ll never become a go-to guy down low or isolation threat outside. That’s just not his game, which is what makes him one of the more unique high-profile prospects from the 2014 class. 

Gordon will make his money off his world-class athleticism and intangibles. It’s a valuable blend you just can’t teach or develop with time and reps. Gordon possesses a combination of strengths that most players will never add, no matter how hard they work or how skilled they become. 

From his 39″ max vertical and wide receiver-like coordination to his basketball IQ and instincts, Gordon projects as the type of contributor who can make plays without needing his number called. 

Backdoor alley-oops, interior touch passes, putback slams, weak-side blocks, coast-to-coast takes to the rack—Gordon’s energy and nose for the ball lead to easy buckets, rebounds and defensive activity. 

Whether Gordon hits his offensive upside might come down to just how well he improves as a shooter, as he’ll need a jumper in the arsenal to maximize his potential. He hit just 16 three-pointers in 38 games as a freshman, and he shot a disastrous 42.2 percent from the line. From a glass-half-full perspective, he did look capable when left open, and he’s still just 18 years old (turns 19 September 16).

I love the Shawn Marion comparison in terms of what type of two-way forward he can be. Marion was a four-time All-Star despite never owning much of a one-on-one game. 

If I’m projecting Gordon’s ceiling and most realistic outlook, Marion is the guy I’d expect him to eventually resemble most. 

Payton’s appeal stems from his playmaking ability, both as a scorer and facilitator. He averaged 19.2 points and 5.9 assists this past season, when he finished No. 2 in the country in free-throw attempts, a stat that highlights his crafty attack game. 

Between his size and athleticism, we’re talking mismatch at the point guard position, where he’s a natural. Payton has a dangerous first step, while his height and instincts allow him to make plays over or through the defense, whether he’s finishing or dishing. 

ESPN.com’s Michael Wallace notes how Payton’s physical characteristics should “help ease his transition from unheralded star at mid-major Louisiana-Lafayette to a potential impact player at the NBA’s toughest position.”

But like it will be with Gordon, it’s going to be a process for Payton, who’s played the last three years in the Sun Belt Conference. Against Baylor and Louisville in 2013-14, two NCAA tournament teams, he shot a combined 9 of 30 from the floor.

And until his jumper improves, Payton’s scoring output might suffer. In three years at Louisiana Lafayette, he’s hit a total of 30 three-pointers, never finishing a season above 32 percent from downtown or 65 percent from the line. 

But he’s a pretty good decision-maker with the ball, and if a shot isn’t there, chances are he won’t take it. Payton really does a nice job of picking and choosing his spots with regard to knowing when to attack versus knowing when to give it up. 

The fact that Payton could shoot 50.9 percent from the floor without a jumper as a junior tells you all you need to know about his scoring prowess around the key. 

If Payton ever learns how to shoot, he’ll start looking like a steal 10 picks deep in the 2014 draft.

However, though just 20 years old, we’ve seen Payton fail to improve as a shooter in three years at the college level, leaving less room for optimism and perceived room for growth.

I like the Devin Harris-in-his-prime comparison for Payton, when you take into account Harris’ playmaking ability inside the arc and career 31.8 percent three-point stroke.  

While there’s a lot to like about Orlando’s two incoming rookies, each are looking at significant learning curves. And without much talent to play off, the trial-and-error process might take longer than most would hope. 

Still, the potential reward Magic fans are looking at should be worth the wait and chase.

Nobody can really predict whether Payton’s jumper will eventually start falling or how far Gordon’s offense will come. We can just project what each prospect will look like if they do improve in the areas that are currently holding them back. 

And if these guys do hit their strides and settle into their respective roles, Orlando will likely have found itself two big-time franchise building blocks.

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Breaking Down Orlando Magic’s Small Forward Position for 2014-15 Season

The Orlando Magic have question marks all over heading into the 2014-15 season, and the small forward position is no exception. The departure of Arron Afflalo is bound to have an impact. Can the additions of Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon make up for it?

Do they actually need to?

Each team adjusts its playing style according to the personnel available. In this case, losing Afflalo and signing Channing Frye implies a paradigm shift. Orlando now has Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic and the aforementioned Frye. All are able—and expected—to play a substantial part on offense, which suggests the small forwards will take a step back.

However, that will be a tiny, even minuscule step.

Players like Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris possess too much talent to lock them away behind a rigid system focused on two or three players to provide points.

To understand the importance of the Magic’s wing position, it’s probably a good idea to first take a look back at last year.

 

Grading Orlando’s Small Forwards for 2013-14

Obviously, Afflalo was the most efficient offensive player the Orlando Magic had at the 3, where he spent 50 percent of his minutes. Frankly, he was their best weapon regardless of position, period.

The veteran shot an impressive 42.7 percent from downtown and averaged 18.2 points per game in 35 minutes. Not only that, but his 3.4 assists per outing were good enough to place him third on his team in that category.

He was arguably the most important player for Orlando.

Harkless played 24.4 minutes per game and was a more defensive-minded option at small forward. He might not have been a prolific scorer with 7.4 points per game, but that was a direct result of not being used as a main weapon on attack.

In his second year at the pro level, the former No. 15 pick displayed solid shooting, connecting on 38.3 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc. Sadly, his free-throw shooting lacked in quality with a meager 59.4 percent success rate.

Harris, while officially playing as power forward for the majority of his time on court, was also a big contributor from the 3. His aggressive style of play led to 4.7 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes, of which he converted a solid 80.7 percent.

Overall, the Orlando Magic definitely had an above-average rotation at small forward in 2013-14.

 

Changes During the Offseason

The most important change was sending Afflalo to the Denver Nuggets for Fournier and the No. 56 pick, Roy Devyn Marble.

Orlando lost its high-scoring veteran and will now rely on others to step up. Frye’s addition means more firepower from the 4, but who can fill in at the 3?

Harkless and Harris are the first who come to mind.

They are used to head coach Jacque Vaughn’s system and showed a lot of potential last season. Both are still very young and will continue to improve with consistent minutes.

The Magic’s No. 4 pick, Gordon, will likely see some time at small forward, despite having been a power forward during his collegiate career. His 6’9″, 225-pound frame and athleticism place him somewhere between those positions—he will be a 3.5 if you like.

The team also acquired Fournier, who is nominally a small forward but can bring the ball when needed. He is a good shooter and can spread the floor, but his size and athleticism are not up to par with the other three candidates.

 

Orlando’s Small Forward Position 2014-15

Harkless and Harris seem set to fight for the starting spot at the 3. Both can be efficient small forwards, but they play very different roles. With Victor Oladipo and Channing Frye being the main weapons on offense, Vaughn will likely want to start Harkless for his defensive skills.

The 21-year-old can drain the open shot, but his main focus will be on the other end of the floor.

Harris can play as a small forward or a power forward, and he brings explosive offense with his reckless drives to the basket. Last season, this translated into a team-leading 33 and-1 opportunities, of which he converted 25. He would be perfect as a sixth man, providing lots of energy.

This brings us to the rookie.

Gordon will have a hard time adjusting to the NBA. He was able to dominate the paint as a power forward in college but seems more likely to succeed as a small forward at the pro level, unless he puts on more weight. The No. 4 pick certainly has a tough job ahead of him, getting used to a new position, a new system and a much more intense style of play.

The Orlando Magic will be happy if the 18-year-old manages to become an efficient player off the bench over the course of his first campaign.

Fournier, on the other hand, could turn into a valuable player very quickly.

His versatility and lack of size, however, mean that he will spend more time at the 1 and 2. If Elfrid Payton can’t get into a rhythm early on during his rookie season, the Frenchman may well end up bringing the ball up frequently.

Likewise, if Ben Gordon can’t produce, Fournier will be the main backup behind Oladipo. The 6’6″ athlete provides consistent shooting from three-point land (37.6 percent last season), and his tender age of 21 implies he still has room to develop. If he can improve his athleticism, he will eventually become an important factor for the team, regardless of position.

Despite losing Afflalo, the Orlando Magic have good options at small forward.

Effectively, three players will be able to contribute right away, even if Fournier seems somewhat undersized. Gordon will still need time to develop, but the Magic can afford to wait for him to mature.

One of the main advantages Coach Vaughn has at the 3 is the different style of play each of these three athletes can offer. If he wants aggressive defense, he can bring in Harkless. For the same aggression on the offensive end, Harris is the perfect choice. If in need of a good ball-handler who can spread the floor with his shooting, on comes Fournier.

The small forward position may have lost some punch with Afflalo‘s departure, but Orlando’s fans don’t need to be concerned.

The young guns are ready to take over.

 

All stats and info taken from NBA.com or Basketball-Reference.com unless stated otherwise.

You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic in particular.

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