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Old 10-14-2009, 09:14 AM   #3
Skyscraper
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Default Re: ESPN Insider Magic Stuff

Five observations from Magic camp:

1. The other guy

A surprise among the names Stan Van Gundy offered as possible starters was Ryan Anderson, the "other" guy the Magic got from the Nets in the Vince Carter trade. The 21-year-old forward started 29 games for New Jersey as a rookie last season while posting a solid 13.63 player efficiency rating and figures to improve on that in his second pro season. Additionally, his long-range shooting (36.3 percent on 3s last season, 41 percent in college) makes him a good fit for the Magic's system.

"Lights-out shooter, offensive rebounder" was Carter's scouting report. "Especially the first 10 games [without] Rashard [Lewis], he's going to stretch the floor. I think he'll take some of the pressure off Dwight [Howard] down there with his rebounding."

"He was an overlooked part of that trade," Van Gundy said. "Yes, he can start those first 10 games. He's a guy who can really stretch the floor out, which fits in with the way we play. He's got good instinct of moving the ball and playing the game. He can pass the ball. He's in the mix as much as any of those guys."

2. Drawing a line

Van Gundy set the bar Everest-high when talking about Howard's free-throw shooting. Howard led the league in attempts last season but converted only 59.4 percent and is at 60.1 percent for his career.

That won't cut the mustard for Van Gundy this season. Not even close.
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"I think a realistic free throw percentage for him is probably 75," Van Gundy said. While the assembled media exchanged stunned glances, he quickly revised his estimate to something a bit more, um, realistic.

"I think he can shoot free throws. But if he can shoot over 70, I think he's in very, very good shape. I would be quite frankly disappointed with anything below 70. I think he's very capable of doing that. It's a matter of work, and then it's a matter of confidence, and staying with his same routine and his same shot all the time. When he misses a couple, staying with it instead of being all over the place."

Because of how often Howard gets to the line, a jump in free throw percentage to something in the low 70s would be huge for the Magic. Take his 10 free throws a game and increase the accuracy by .12 or so, which Van Gundy is implying, and that's an extra 1.2 points per game for the Magic. Spread that over 82 games, and it creates about three additional wins --- marginal wins that become enormous, given the likely closeness of the race for the East's top seed between Orlando, Cleveland and Boston.

That says nothing of the follow-up effect Howard's making free throws would have -- removing the incentive to foul Howard in the first place, and making him more of a threat in late-game situations.

"If he makes free throws ... you can't just grab him and handle him all the time. He becomes pretty difficult to guard," Van Gundy said. "He's pretty difficult to guard as it is."

3. A little respect

Perhaps no team played the "no respect" card more than the Magic last season. They had a point -- few people took them seriously as contenders until they had their party hats on at the end of the Eastern Conference finals.

This season, they haven't taken the bait -- probably because they know there's a target on their backs already. Nobody I talked to would anoint their team the favorite in the East.

"We're just going to take it day by day," Jameer Nelson said, doing his best to be as inoffensive as possible.

"In the end, " Van Gundy said, "all those things are fun for fans, but they're irrelevant. Those things in the long run don't matter. By halfway though the season, nobody cares about preseason predictions. I know this: We have enough talent to contend."

4. Texting points

One thing Carter let us in on was his new coach's habit of sending frequent text messages to players.

"It doesn't bother me," Carter said. "It's like day and night, I get a text message --'Who's that? Oh, it's Coach.' Coach [Lawrence] Frank was every other day, so anything more or less than that doesn't bother me; I'm used to it."

"He has moments, though," he said with a laugh.

As for what Van Gundy might be texting Carter, we got a few ideas of possible topics Tuesday. Although Van Gundy said he won't have to plant his foot in Carter's rear the way he did with the departed Hedo Turkoglu when he arrived two years ago, he still sees areas in which Carter slacks off.

"The only thing I talk to Vince about is -- it happens at times with the better players as they go on in their career -- they start to take the routine plays for granted. Maybe throw a one-handed pass a little off target when you don't need to instead of putting two hands on the ball, [or] getting straight up and down on your jump shot when you have time to get your balance and really following through and drilling it. Things like that, just making those routine plays. He's a great, great player, and he can do lots of different things. I think he has to be a little more solid on making routine plays."

5. Fish out of water?

Last season in Dallas, Brandon Bass played as much or more as a center than he did at power forward. That seems unlikely to happen this season. With Howard locked in as a starter and Marcin Gortat arguably the league's best backup center, Bass will see little time in the middle.

Van Gundy didn't seem wild about the possibility of Bass even as a third center. "With Tony [Battie] we had a guy who could play the 4 and was also a third center, and we don't really have that now," he said. Instead, the third center appears to be Adonal Foyle, although it's hardly encouraging to see that he missed the first day of practice to get treatment on his knees.

Instead, Van Gundy wondered whether the 6-foot-8 Bass could be used as a small forward playing with Anderson on the second unit -- with Bass defending 3s while Anderson operates more as a 3 offensively.

"One question I wonder about, too, is if I can play he and Ryan together as our forwards with Ryan's ability on the perimeter. I'm not sure how much time we'll spend [on it]. Brandon moves his feet pretty well; if you could have him guard 3s, could they play together? I don't have an answer for that," Van Gundy said.
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