NBA AM: Magic Completely Collapse
The Collapse: At one point last night the Orlando Magic had a 27-point lead on the Boston Celtics, most of which was obtained with Dwight Howard sitting on the bench in early foul trouble. Then, just when it seemed the game was put away, the floor fell out from under them in the second half.
After the game, the Magic locker room was a ghost town with just Larry Hughes, Quentin Richardson, Glen Davis and Jason Richardson dressing – the rest of the team grabbed their things and bolted for the door.
To say the Magic were embarrassed is an understatement, especially with all of the chaos surrounding the team and star Dwight Howard.
The Magic set a franchise record for lowest points in a game earlier in the week in Boston and appear to have set another one last night with the largest halftime lead lost.
“We just didn’t execute down the stretch,” explained Richardson, one of the few Magic players still around after the loss. “We didn’t do what we did in the first half, we didn’t come out with our energy, and it is what it is.
“We didn’t seem like we gave in and just stopped playing. They put some more pressure on us and we didn’t respond right.”
Magic reserve Glen Davis took the loss especially hard, and blamed himself several times for letting his team down.
“We lost composure and we didn’t do what we needed to do when it was time to really nut down and play,” explained Davis. “The Celtics showed perseverance and we didn’t. I feel like in situations, different situations, different players have to step up. I was out there and I didn’t do what I needed to do and play.
“First half, I had a lot of energy and made some good things happen. In the second half, I was nowhere to be found. At the end the of the day, you can say whatever, you can blame whoever you want to blame, but I’m looking at myself first instead of those around me. Myself, I didn’t come to play in the second half.”
Davis commented when he arrived in Orlando about the Boston mentality, saying that the Celtics walked into every game expecting to win. That’s something the Magic did not do, and needed to do to win a championship.
“They played the way they needed to play to win the game,” said Davis. “That’s point blank. Whatever they did, they did it and we didn’t do anything to adjust. We didn’t do anything to counteract what they brought to the table. If we’re going to win here, we’ve got to stick together.
“I’ve watched a lot of games from the sideline and been a part of a lot of comebacks with those guys. I knew that they were going to make a push and they did and they won the game.”
It’s rare that the Magic locker room clears out after a loss; most guys still dress and go through their routine, but last night was unusual.
“Guys are mad at themselves,” said Richardson. “We’re mad. We didn’t come out the way we were supposed to in the second half to give up a lead like that. We’ve got to figure out a way to maintain stuff like that and not get blown out. To have leads like that or when teams put pressure on us and just start folding like that. We don’t want to get that reputation that we’re soft and that’s the thing we’ve got to figure that out.”
So where do the Magic go from here?
“Go win tomorrow,” deadpanned Richardson. “That’s one thing about the NBA. You cure everything like this when you go win tomorrow, the next game, so that’s what we’re going to do.”
One game does not make a season, but the emotional letdown from last night can and often does have a carryover effect.
With the hapless New Orleans Hornets on deck tonight, the Magic have a possible cure-all coming…or it could be the beginning of a nasty downward spiral?
The Lakers’ Future Point Guard? The Los Angeles Lakers have needed a new young point guard for some time. Under Phil Jackson, the team never needed a true point guard because most of the plays started with Kobe Bryant and the point guard was more about bringing the ball up the court.
With the 41st pick in the 2011 NBA Draft the Lakers drafted Darius Morris out of Michigan and for the first time in a long time might the Lakers may have a point guard worth talking about.
The 6’4 Morris is a prototypical point guard in almost every way. His three-point stroke could use some work, but he is a big physical guard with a striking resemblance to Denver’s Andre Miller – he swears they are not related.
Morris played just two years at Michigan, and likely could have used another, hence why his draft stock slid on draft night. The thing you notice almost immediately about Darius is he is wildly inconsistent.
Morris is from L.A., so he truly is a hometown kid. He was twice selected as a first-team All-State player in California. Morris led Windward High School to the California Division V state title. Morris also established a Michigan single-season assist record logging 235 dimes in 35 games last season – he has the résumé and now he is a Laker.
“It’s good to be a part of a championship organization with all of these great veterans around to help you out,” Morris told HOOPSWORLD. “I just thank God that out of all the teams on draft day that could have picked me that I got picked by the hometown Lakers. I can’t really express it in words, especially when I first ran out that tunnel at the Staple center, just awesome.”
Morris has been seeing consistent minutes off the bench for the Lakers, although he did not play last night versus the Clippers, but he is getting a chance to learn the game under Laker coach Mike Brown, something that rarely happened for rookies under Phil Jackson.
The Lakers have played 19 games in 33 days, so it’s been a lot for the Lakers’ rookie to take in.
“At my position, being a point guard and coming in with the new system with Mike Brown, just a lot of opportunity,” Morris said of the Lakers. “I strive to work really, really hard and try to learn every day. Try to learn on the fly but if I can continue to work hard I feel like it’s a great fit. “
Morris also has the benefit of veterans like Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher have not taken it easy on Morris.
“We were going hard,” Morris said of the training camp battles with Fisher. “He definitely was competing. We both were… that’s why he’s been in this league so long because of his ability to bring it at a high level every year no matter what, so he’s definitely a competitor.
“He’s been through a lot. He’s won a lot of games too. He’s also a winner so that’s the most important, learning from a winner. It’s not by accident that he’s won those championships and been a part of those winning seasons, so I definitely try to pick his brain and try to get all I can from him.”
Kobe, on the other hand, has demanded more from his rookie and you can see it on the floor, but it’s even more intense in the locker room.
“He definitely motivates me when we come into that locker room,” smiled Morris. “In the second half, he has something to say. It just gets your focus up even higher than it already was and just reminds you what the goal is and just remind you how mentally how tough that he is and that’s how you’ve got to be.”
Morris says he has no regrets about coming out of college early, even though he didn’t get the first round status or guaranteed money he thought when he entered the process.
“I prayed a lot before I made my decision,” explained Morris. “So when I first made it, I believed right off the bat I made the right decision. I think although I would’ve probably experienced success in college my last year, I feel like going through this and learning through this is making me better as a person and a player. I feel like learning on the NBA level, not a lot of people get that opportunity, so you can’t really take it for granted and I’m really just cherishing it. I think I made the right decision.”
Being a Laker however, especially for a kid from L.A. is a little different simply because of the sheer volume of Lakers fans and the passion they have for their team.
“After the draft, true Laker fans knew,” Morris said of being recognized away from the game. “But after my preseason game, my first preseason game for the Lakers, it started to happen a lot in public and then also recently when I started playing again. When I walked out of my apartment building everybody in my apartment was like ‘hey, good game last night’ so, it’s a little weird. You just appreciate that they like you and it just gives you more motivation to work hard so that you can continue to contribute to the team and also continue to impress.”
Morris also has to deal with impatience from fans that covet a better guard yesterday.
“No, it’s expected,” Morris said of the comments from fans. “There are so many people that are fans… you can’t take it personal. A lot of fans just want now, now, now and are not really interested in the long term. You can’t really focus on that or get down on that or be mad at them. You really just appreciate their support and appreciate their attention.”
Morris’ view on the fans is refreshing, but he also understands how much he didn’t know coming to the NBA.
“I mean obviously I didn’t know anything at all,” Morris said frankly. “Not playing one game. You and can’t assume that you know it all or anything like that, especially on the highest level. There’s a lot of things that you’re not going to know, that’s why I’m always listening to everybody, to everything and just trying to learn… this is a totally different game and the quicker you adjust to by gathering the information the better off you’ll be.”
With so many games and so little practice and prep time between games, Morris is just trying to keep up.
“It’s tough but everybody has to do it though so you can’t make any excuses” said Morris. “You just have to go out there every day and battle tough and be ready for the competition that you’re about to go against and in my case, just keep proving myself. I look at it as an opportunity to keep proving myself every game. “
The Lakers are 11-8 on the season and in a logjam tie with five other teams in the West, 4 ½ games behind Oklahoma City.
Championships are the only prize in L.A. and even the rookie understands how things need to play out going forward.
“A lot of people are seeing us right now and honestly with the lockout we haven’t even had that much time together,” explained Morris. “It’s kind of different for us because we have a new coach, a new system, so everybody’s still trying to figure each other out in terms of the star players and the coaching staff. So I feel like as the season keeps going, and it’s starting to show a little bit, we’re learning from our mistakes. We’re going through some tough times, but I think come playoff time we’re going to be ready to compete.”
Laker fans may want a new point guard yesterday, but the truth of the matter is a little patience with Morris might yield more dividends than anything the Lakers can get in trade, unless they part with a core chip and that’s not very likely.
The March 15th NBA trade deadline is 49 days away and the Lakers do hold an $8 million traded player exception, so the odds they shop are good, but is there really a guard out there that can help improve the Lakers today?
That’s the burning question.
Dwight Hints At Boston: Dwight Howard’s so-called list of preferred teams has never included Chicago or Boston, even though both franchises would love a crack at the NBA’s best center.
Dwight opened the door this week regarding the Celtics, who have just $35.5 million in salary commitments next season, leaving them almost $20 million in cap space, hinting that he’d have to listen to a team like Boston, if they came calling.
“Always. Always,” Howard told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “I’d always listen to a team like that.
“My thing is I want to win. It’s not something like I’m doing this for money. I win. I want to do it my way.”
Howard has sung virtually the same song about his future since the start of Magic training camp.
“The first thing is basketball,” he said. “I want to win a championship, and it takes a certain type of team to win a championship. You know, there’s a lot of teams who are great during the regular season. They play well, but it’s different once you play in those playoffs, you know? It’s gut-check time.
“Like I told the Magic, I just want to win. I don’t want a team that doesn’t know how you have to win in the playoffs. I want a team that’s going to go out every night and forget about stats; forget about who scores the most points or who is ‘the fan favorite’. Just go out and play, play for each other and play to win. That’s the only thing.”
“You know,” said Howard, “you look at a team like Boston and look at a team like LA who’s won . . . especially Boston. Man, those guys came together and they didn’t care who scored all the points. They had done all the individual stuff.
“You know, for me, I’ve done a lot of things individually, but I want a championship. All those accolades that I’ve got over the years, they mean a lot, but it’s just different watching teams hold up that trophy and knowing how hard you have to work to get it.
“They have the championship mentality,” Howard said of the Celts. “It means a lot. Like I said, I like the team. They play hard and they go after it, and that’s what I like.”
Magic fans continue to wonder why Howard continues to want out of Central Florida – as if last night’s collapse to the Celtics wasn’t proof enough – he again made it clear where is thinking is at.
“What people don’t understand is that this is a business, and at the end of the day you always have to take care of yourself,” Howard said. “People just say, ‘Oh, these guys are prima donnas. They want this and they want that.’ But this is life. You’ve got to go and take it, because nobody is going to give it to you. And I just go out and do my thing. I’m just going to play basketball.
“I told the Magic how I felt at the beginning of the year. They decided they weren’t going to do anything, so I said, ‘OK, I’m here. I’m going to play until I can’t play no more.’ You know, I don’t have no problems with being here. I want to win. That’s what I told them. So as long as I’m here — as long as they keep me around — I’m going to play hard every night and try to win a championship.
“I want to win, and I want to do it different from how everybody else did it or how everybody expects me to do it. I work extremely hard to be the best.”
The Magic face the Celtics tonight in Orlando after recording a franchise record for the least points scored in a game on Monday.
It will be interesting to see how Dwight’s team responds to the subtle shots from Dwight suggesting that maybe his guys don’t know how to win in the post-season.
At least he is staying consistent in his story right?
What Were They Thinking? The Minnesota Timberwolves reached a contract extension with star forward Kevin Love yesterday inking him to a four-year, $62 million deal.
Timberwolves fans have likely heard by now that Kevin would have signed a five-year deal and are puzzled as to why the Wolves only did a four-year deal… the quick answer is they needed to.
“The five years was something I felt very strongly about, but I can always extend on this deal when it’s done,” Love said during a teleconference yesterday. “I want to see where the organization is heading, and right now it’s heading in the right direction. I just want to see how things improve.”
Love’s camp wanted the Timberwolves to use their one-time franchise designation to get Love the additional year and more guaranteed money, but the Wolves smartly understand that before Love’s contract expires they will have to complete a similar dance with Ricky Rubio, and the only way Minnesota keeps Rubio is to offer him the world, meaning Love didn’t get his fifth year.
The other wrinkle in the Love deal is it now lines Kevin’s deal up with that of head coach Rick Adelman.
Adelman’s deal now expires when Love’s deal does, giving Kevin the flexibility to jump ship if Adelman, who will be 66 this summer, decides to retire or is fired.
It’s not a Max deal and it’s clear that’s what Love was expecting, but it is clear that the Wolves still got Love signed without compromising their future. There are not many teams that have pulled that off.
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