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Friday, December 15, 2006

May Day: Bobcats Make Magic Disappear, 99-89

It was billed as a battle between Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor but Sean May stole the show, scoring a career-high 32 points to lead the Charlotte Bobcats to a 99-89 victory over the Orlando Magic. May, who shot 9-15 from the field and 14-17 from the free throw line, also grabbed six rebounds despite playing only 31 minutes in a reserve role. Rookie Adam Morrison, who has struggled mightily in home games (9.9 ppg, 29% field goal shooting, much worse than his 17.1 ppg and 44% field goal shooting in road games), had 22 points and seven rebounds, one of his best performances in Charlotte so far. Okafor had a solid, if unspectacular, performance--13 points, 11 rebounds, three blocked shots. Keyon Dooling led the undermanned Magic--who were without the services of injured starters Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson--with 20 points, while Howard had 10 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots.

To say both teams got off to a slow start is an understatement; at the 4:26 mark in the first quarter Orlando led 8-4 and I wondered if this would be like a pickup game in which the first team to 12 wins. Fortunately, the pace picked up a little in the closing minutes of the period and Orlando led 18-15 after 12 minutes of play. May scored six points on 3-4 shooting and Howard had six points and eight rebounds; he would be curiously silent for the rest of the game.

TNT's Doug Collins made a couple interesting comments during the first quarter. Noting Morrison's poor shooting numbers at home and the fact that Morrison missed long jumpers on his first two attempts of the game, Collins--a four-time All-Star in the 1970s as a 76er--said that every game he tried to score 20 points by getting four layups, four free throws and four jumpers. He suggested that Morrison should go to the hoop and not just try to shoot himself out of his troubles from the perimeter.

Collins also noted that Magic Coach Brian Hill loves Darko Milicic's passing ability. Milicic had a team-high five assists, including a gorgeous touch pass to Bo Outlaw for a layup late in the first quarter. I have not heard a lot of analysts mention this aspect of Milicic's game but I was immediately impressed by his court vision when I saw him play in person last season.

Charlotte took the lead early in the second quarter and never looked back, going ahead by as much as 16 in the second half. This was a nice win for the Bobcats but they still have the worst record in the East and the Magic are still fighting for the best record in the East. Without further ado, I'd like to switch gears from a conventional game recap to something I'll call...

Chronicles of Redick

Magic lottery pick J.J. Redick played 20 minutes, his most extensive court time in his injury plagued rookie season. I have expressed my opinion about Redick's NBA prospects on numerous occasions (Thoughts on the NBA Draft, Eastern Conference Preview and March Madness, Part I). Collins noted that it is difficult for a rookie to adjust to the NBA on the fly after missing so much time due to injury (an experience that Collins went through in his rookie season)--but the bottom line is that this is a performance oriented league and if you cannot perform then you will end up pursuing a different line of work.

Redick first entered the game at the start of the second quarter with Orlando up 18-15. His first field goal attempt came on a wide open jumper on the left baseline after Morrison was late getting around a pick. Redick missed. Redick made his next shot, a wide open three pointer with 8:46 left that tied the score at 23. About a minute later he nailed a pullup jumper in the lane to bring Orlando to within 27-25. On Orlando's next possession the Magic ran Redick off of a double screen but he missed a wide open jumper. His off the dribble game is suspect but he did manage to draw a foul on Morrison by driving to the hoop (of course, Morrison's individual defense may be even more suspect that Redick's off the dribble game). Trevor Ariza came in for Redick at the 3:15 mark with the Magic trailing 37-30. Orlando was outscored 22-12 with Redick on the court. He made two open shots, missed two open shots, drew a foul and also committed a foul that resulted in two made free throws. Obviously, one player is not responsible for all the good (or bad) that happens while he is on the court. On the other hand, a player who is a lottery pick should, in theory, be able to have a significant positive impact on games at some point.

Redick returned to action with 3:49 left in the third quarter and the Magic trailing 66-55. He failed to box out Morrison, who grabbed an offensive rebound; the Bobcats eventually scored as a result of that extra possession. Redick did not attempt a shot until the 1:22 mark, when he pump faked Morrison but missed an open jump shot. Collins commented that Redick is pump faking too much and should just shoot the ball in rhythm when he receives it. The problem is that Redick is not able to create his own shot and has to rush to make sure that his catch and shoot chances are not blocked. Morrison is 6-8; how many 6-8 guys guarded Redick in college? Maybe Redick will get into a groove in which he catches and shoots the ball with good rhythm but in the NBA there is just a small window of opportunity to get your shot off. On the next possession, Redick strayed too far away from Morrison, who nailed a jumper to put Charlotte up 72-62. Redick ended up with the ball at the top of the key as time ran out in the quarter. He pump faked and missed a jumper as the buzzer sounded. Redick did not attempt any more shots during his remaining time in the game and when Carlos Arroyo replaced him with 5:54 left in the fourth quarter the Magic trailed 87-75. Redick returned for the last 99 seconds of garbage time, during which neither team scored.

Orlando's Travis Diener provided an interesting contrast to Redick. The second year guard scored a career-high 16 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter. He is listed at 6-1, 175, while Redick is listed at 6-4, 190, but Diener showed that he could create his own shot off of the dribble--albeit with the help of a screen, but Redick's attempts came from curling around picks without the ball or simply catching and shooting; he never used a live dribble in a pick and roll situation. After Diener quickly pulled the trigger on a three pointer that brought Orlando to within 87-75, Collins contrasted Diener's approach to Redick's by noting, "He's not pump faking. He's just letting it fly."

This could prove to be Diener's best game of the year and one of Redick's worst. I realize that--but if you just watch the two of them play, watch how they handle the ball, how they catch and how they shoot, can you really tell which one is a lottery pick and which one is a second rounder? Redick is a good enough shooter that he may get hot one game and put up 20 points--but can he consistently get his shot off, night after night, in the NBA? Even if he can, who will he be able to guard? The Magic are a team on the rise and the lottery pick that they used to draft Redick should be the last one that they have for a while; at some point they will regret that they did not make better use of that selection.

posted by David Friedman @ 12:39 AM


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At Friday, December 15, 2006 8:17:00 AM, Blogger illest said...

Redick is a college player. Thats it.

At Saturday, December 16, 2006 2:11:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I agree but the Magic thought highly enough of him to use a lottery pick to draft him. Of course, they previously used a lottery pick to draft a European player who had no intention of coming over here, so maybe researching lottery picks is not an organizational strength--I don't count drafting Howard because they were going to get a good player whether they drafted Howard or Okafor; they would have had to try really hard to mess up with that pick.


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