With the much anticipated rematch against the Orlando Magic finally here I decided to exchange some questions with Ben Q Rock from Third Quarter Collapse. Don't hesitate to head over there for more information on the Magic in general and its recent struggles in particular. Go Celtics.
Green Bandwagon: Orlando has gone 9-8, including 6 losses in its last 8, since defeating the Celtics. However, the combination of quality opponents (Suns, Spurs, Hornets, Lakers and Mavericks to name several) and the amount of time spent on the road has to make you feel pretty good about the team's 18-10 record. What are your thoughts on the team's play thus far?
Third Quarter Collapse: At the beginning of the season, if you told me the Magic would be 18-10 after 28 games, I would have been pleased. But considering our hot 16-4 start, I'm disappointed in our effort over the past several weeks. 5-6 at home is inexcusable (0-4 in December), especially for a team that expects to contend for a title for the next several seasons. And it's not like we're losing at home to good teams; although the Pistons and Suns handed us our hats at Amway Arena, we've also lost to Atlanta, Memphis, and Indiana there. Most recently, we lost to Utah, a good team that had nonetheless been in a bad slump until it came to town. I mean, 18-10 and the division lead, I'll take it... but we should really 22-6, based on those awful home losses.
Green Bandwagon: Rashard Lewis recently received good news regarding his neck injury. That said, has his play suffered with the constant discomfort?
Third Quarter Collapse: Some Magic fans have joked, perhaps unfairly, that Lewis is suffering from -- how can I put this delicately? -- feminine issues rather than a sore neck. I can't tell whether his neck is affecting his shot or not, but it must be affecting his defense. He was assigned to guard Paul Millsap on Friday night and proceeded to allow the former second-round pick to score 28 points and grab 7 rebounds. He said earlier this week that he couldn't turn his head to the right. If the team weren't in such a bad slump, he'd probably take a few games off to get his neck back in shape. But I guess he feels like he needs to be out there. We'll see. Another 12-point stinker, which included just two points after halftime, like the one he put up against Utah and I'll advocate a trip to the inactive list.
Green Bandwagon: Some people think of Hedo Turkoglu as "the other foreign guy from the good Sacramento teams" with Vlade Divac as the more recognizable international player. And by some people I mean me. But Turkoglu is quietly putting up some big numbers - 19 points, 6 rebounds and a couple of three pointers a game. The last time these two teams met I came away impressed by his clutch shooting and willingness/ability to take it to the rack. And he's not even 30 yet. Are people around the league missing out on how well Turkoglu has played?
Third Quarter Collapse: Turk really has been great this year, hasn't he? There's no question that he's second only to Dwight Howard to Orlando's success. Before the season started, some people called for Turk to be traded because he was a poor-man's Rashard Lewis; they're both soft, sweet-shooting, 6'10" forwards who don't rebound or play much defense. But Turk has shown a willingness to attack the basket and get hammered, something that Lewis is loathe to do. He's also a great passer and has a good rapport with Howard, often finding the big fella for alley-oops. He's having a career year across the board. But as far as people missing out on him... I don't think so. Jemele Hill wrote that Turk, not Howard, is the team's MVP. While I don't agree with that assessment, I do think the fact that Hill picked up on it shows that people are noticing Turkoglu's fine season. I hope the coaches find a spot for him on this year's All-Star team. He's really putting it together.
Green Bandwagon: Have Maurice Evans and Brian Cook made an impact? More importantly are there any other moves you would like to see the Magic make?
Third Quarter Collapse: Evans and Cook really haven't done much since we acquired them. Cook has recorded DNP-CDs in each of the Magic's past 3 games, losing his spot in the rotation to Pat Garrity, whom he was supposed to replace. He's been disappointing, and expectations weren't even that high for him. Evans is playing more often, and playing hard... but he's just not shooting well at all: .396 from the field, .267 from three-point range, and .421 from the free throw line. His defense is okay, and he's good in transition, but his jump-shot is awful. I don't know if it'll ever get better. I can justify the trade by thinking that Evans is playing whereas Ariza wasn't, but Ariza was a better defender. I want to give the two new guys more time, but a month has past and it already looks like the trade was a lateral move at best and a blunder at worst. As far as other moves go, it's painfully obvious that we need a rebounding- and defense-oriented big to complement Dwight Howard -- someone like David Lee or Udonis Haslem -- but I can't think of anyone we could trade. Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling have expiring contracts, but they're both playing well this year. Pat Garrity also has an expiring contract, but he's not good enough to trade on his own. Turk is probably our only trade asset right now, and he's our second-best player. So as much as I'd like to get a good rebounder on the team, there's just no one left to trade. We're stuck with this roster unless Otis Smith wants to roll the dice and trade Hedo, whose value has never been higher.