Aaron Gordon

30 teams in 30 days: Management makeover for Magic

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30 teams in 30 days: Management makeover for Magic


We’ll take a look at all 30 teams in the next 30 days as they prepare for the 2017-2018 regular season, which is when the real fireworks begin! Today's team: The Orlando Magic.

The Orlando Magic by no means would be considered NBA royalty or a perennial juggernaut, but the past five years have literally been the worst in the franchise’s history.
 
So it wasn’t all that surprising to see (now former) GM Rob Hennigan sent on his way.

The players, for the most part, are the same as the ones from a year ago, but the Magic are banking on a more seasoned front-office being exactly what’s needed in order to make those losing ways for so many years, disappear.
 
The Magic brought in Jeff Weltman as their president of basketball operations and John Hammond as the GM.
 
Both worked together in Detroit as well as Milwaukee, although with the Bucks it was Weltman reporting to Hammond.
 
The two bring more than familiarity to the table, but also a track record of success in building lottery teams into legit playoff contenders.
 
One of the first challenges they will face is trying to make sense out of a roster that on many levels, doesn’t fit in with today’s NBA landscape.
 
Orlando paid big money to land Serge Ibaka after having already signed Bismack Biyombo who joined a front line featuring Nikola Vucevic.
 
Like most of the Orlando roster, the Magic’s Big three big men never meshed on the floor with any kind of consistency.
 
And in their efforts to make it work, it to some degree stunted the growth of promising forward Aaron Gordon, who is one of the more athletic players in the NBA.
 
Still, one thing we know about teams assembled by Hammond is that he loves length, athleticism and versatility.
 
That’s why the Magic didn’t hesitate to go out and sign former San Antonio Spur Jonathan Simmons to a three-year, $20 million contract.
 
Simmons, 28, had a solid season with San Antonio, but really made a name for himself  (and a few dollars along the way) by the job he did at both ends of the floor when Kawhi Leonard was hurt and he had to contend with Houston’s James Harden.
 
No one would put Simmons in the same class as Leonard as far as being a two-way talent, but there was no mistaking how well Simmons held his own against the always-explosive scoring of Harden.
 
And the Magic, which picked sixth in the June NBA draft, once again looked to add a player with tremendous length and versatility in selecting Florida State’s Jonathan Isaac.
 
It was a no-brainer pick for a front office that while in Milwaukee, surprised some in selecting Giannis Antetokounmpo at a time when many felt the Greek Freak would take a number of years before making an impact. And in Hammond’s last draft with the Bucks, he selected Thon Maker with the 10th overall pick.
 
Like previous skinny-as-a-rail picks, Maker showed promise as a rookie that he can, in fact, be an early contributor who can improve with more time and experience which was instrumental in Milwaukee’s steady improvement.
 
But can they replicate that success in Orlando?
 
It remains to be seen but one thing is clear: It’ll be difficult for them to sink any lower than where the franchise was when they assumed their current positions.
 
Key free agent/draft/trade additions: Arron Afflalo (Sacramento); Mo Speights (Golden State); Jonathan Simmons (San Antonio).
 
Key losses: Jeff Green (Cleveland); Jodie Meeks (Washington)
 
Rookies of note: Jonathan Isaac; Wesley Iwundu.
 
Expectations: 37-45 (Fourth in the Southeast Division, 10th in the East)
 
 

Celtics win fierce contest with Magic, 117-116

Celtics win fierce contest with Magic, 117-116

BOSTON – There would be no 30-point thumping by the Boston Celtics of the Orlando Magic, as was the case in each of their previous two meetings this season. 

The only thing the Celtics truly wanted from this game, was a win. And that is essentially all Boston came away with as they somehow managed to squeak out a 117-116 win. 

Orlando’s Elfrid Payton drove into the lane with a couple ticks on the game clock, but his shot was off the mark and was rebounded by Al Horford as time expired. Boston (49-27) remains atop the Eastern Conference with the win.

Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 35 points while Jae Crowder chipped in with 18. Jaylen Brown, who was starting in place of Avery Bradley (stomach flu), had 12 points.

This was a tightly contested game, but one in which Orlando led most of the night. 

But the Celtics hung in there, making all the plays when it mattered most to get a much-needed, hard-earned victory. Trailing 86-83 in the third, Boston went on a 9-2 run capped off by a pair of Crowder free throws to lead 92-88 and wound up taking a 92-90 lead into the fourth quarter. 

Boston usually has Thomas start the fourth quarter on the bench and enter the game after a few minutes. But head coach Brad Stevens, sensing his team needed a bit of an offensive spark at the start of the fourth, began the fourth with Thomas in the game. 

It’s well-documented how well the Celtics have played with Thomas on the floor, and that would indeed be the case in the fourth as Thomas guided Boston to a 7-2 start which put them ahead 99-92. 

But the Magic responded with a 13-6 spurt capped off by a Jodie Meeks 3-pointer that tied the game at 105. 

Thomas soon put Boston back on top with a pair of free throws at the 7:02 mark to make it a 107-105 game in favor of the Celtics. 

Orlando regained the lead with a pair of free throws by Aaron Gordon who was having a career night for the Magic. Gordon finished with a team-high 32 points.

Stars, studs and duds at halftime: Aaron Gordon showcases refined game

Stars, studs and duds at halftime: Aaron Gordon showcases refined game

BOSTON – Having blasted the Orlando Magic by 30 points in each of their first two meetings this season, you had to expect the Magic would put up a better fight tonight right?

Orlando did just that, playing with a lead most of the first half which ended with them ahead 64-57.

The Magic were led by Aaron Gordon showcasing more than just an above-the-rim game. He led Orlando with 20 points in the first half which included a pair of 3-pointers. 

Orlando led by as many as 13 points in the first half, benefiting from the Celtics missing a lot of open shots as well as those the Magic did a nice job of contesting. 

Boston’s second quarter struggles in many ways resembled those experienced in the first quarter.

The Celtics deficit in the first quarter reached the eight-point plateau, but Boston gradually cut into it before eventually taking a 31-29 lead with Gerald Green scoring the go-ahead basket just before the end of the quarter. 

That would be as good as things would get for Boston in the first half.

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half oftonight’s game. 

STARS

Aaron Gordon: Showing off a much-improved perimeter game, Gordon had 20 points for the Magic to go with six rebounds.

Isaiah Thomas: As usual, Thomas was leading the way for the Celtics offensively. At the half, he had 16 points to go with four assists.

Terrence Ross: He got off to a bit of a slow start, but began to heat up in the second quarter. At the half, he had nine points.

STUDS

Evan Fournier: He was active getting to the rim and knocking down shots, tallying 13 points on 3-for-6 shooting at the half.

Jaylen Brown: Starting in place of Avery Bradley, Brown didn’t waste any time looking for his shot, taking five of Boston’s first 10 shots from the field. He had eight points at the half. 

Bismack Biyombo: His size and strength were very much a problem for Boston, as was the way he scored with relative ease in the first half. He had a near double-double with eight points and seven rebounds.

Gerald Green: He gave Boston a nice spark in the second quarter, scoring six points which included a go-ahead basket to end the first quarter.

DUDS

Boston’s rebounding: While being out-rebounded 26-20 may not seem like that big a deal, it has been a huge factor in the game thus far. Those rebounds have led to Orlando scoring nine, second-chance points compared to just two for Boston. That’s a 7-point difference which just so happens to be the difference in the score at the half.