Orlando Magic

March 23, 2014 — 6:30 PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

In what could become the worst season in Lakers history, the Lakers will try to gain a victory tonight vs. Orlando Magic (11-32) in a dual between the two teams which lost C Dwight Howard. Both teams will be in the upper echelon of the upcoming NBA draft as they have two of the worst records in NBA this season.

The Lakers, who suffered another loss vs. Wizards on Friday, got solid contributions from a few returnees from injuries. F Nick Young returned from injury to score 21 points, leading the team in that category with SG Jodie Meeks. PG Steve Nash dropped 11 assists despite only playing in 18 minutes, while F Jordan Hill looked excellent. Although Hill was ejected for getting involved in a scuffle with Wizards C Drew Gooden, he still managed to grab 14 rebounds and be a spark plug off the bench.

Former UCLA Bruin G Aaron Afflalo leads these young group of Magic players, scoring 19.3 PPG, grabbing 3.9 RPG, and dishing out 3.5 APG. He has a very solid all around game, playing both ends of the floor well, and seeks to be one of the key players that will stay on the Magic roster after they finish rebuilding their team.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / Victor Oladipo [Advantage: Magic]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Aaron Afflalo [Advantage: Magic]
SF - Wesley Johnson / Mo Harkless [Advantage: Even]
PF - Pau Gasol /Nikola Vucevic [Advantage: Lakers]
C -  Robert Sacre Kyle O’Quinn [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Magic: F Tobias HarrisG Doron LambG Ronnie Price, C DeWayne Dedmon

Lakers: G Nick Young, PG Steve Nash, F Jordan Hill, Kent Bazemore

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Magic: GTD-PG Jameer Nelson 

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant,  Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Doubtful-PG Steve Nash,

Bottom Line

Hard to believe the Lakers finally can match-up vs a team with as bad of a record as the Lakers over the last month. However, the Lakers received help from Hill, Young, and Nash’s return, hoping they can help salvage their season as it winds down the homestretch. The match up actually favors the Lakers tonight, so they should be able to come away with a victory tonight.

Prediction

Lakers: 115-108

January 24, 2014 — 4:00 PM (PST)
Amway Center, Orlando, FL
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Now suffering from a two-game losing streak, the Lakers (16-27) seek to gain a victory tonight vs. Orlando Magic (11-32) to get to .500 on this Grammy’s trip. The Lakers played well at times vs. Heat, but once again could not play good defense, allowing 109 points last night.

Pau Gasol once again performed very well and seems to be in peak shape despite all the losses the Lakers have been piling up. Gasol scored 22 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, playing very effectively from the post, shooting 9-15 in the first half. Tonight, the Lakers need to continue to run the offense through him to finish tonight’s game unlike last night when the Lakers got away from their post game.

The Magic have been playing worse than the Lakers actually, losing 12 of their last 13 games, as they continue to find the right pieced to field a competitive team 2 years after C Dwight Howard left them for the Lakers.

Former UCLA Bruin G Aaron Afflalo leads these young group of Magic, scoring 20.2 PPG, grabbing 4.5 RPG, and dishing out 3.8 APG. He has a very solid all around game, playing both ends of the floor well, and would be a very good asset for a title contending team, but not as a go-to guy.

Projected Starters

PG - Kendall Marshall / Jameer Nelson [Advantage: Even]
SG - Jodie Meeks / Aaron Afflalo [Advantage: Magic]
SF - Wesley Johnson / Victor Oladipo [Advantage: Magic]
PF - Ryan Kelly / Tobias Harris [Advantage: Magic]
C - Pau Gasol / Glen Davis [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Magic: C Kyle O’QuinnG Doron LambC Mo Harkless

Lakers: G Nick Young, G Manny Harris, F Jordan Hill

Bench Advantage: Lakers

Injury List

Magic: Out-C Nikola Vucevic, Out-PG Ronnie Price

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar

Keys for Lakers Victory

Rebounding: I know I am kicking a dead horse at this point. However, the Lakers really have to to find a Magic player to box out and then crash the boards to not allow extra possessions. The Lakers gave up 12 offensive rebounds to a Heat team which already average last in the NBA grabbing offensive rebounds per game. Momentum in a game can swing against the Lakers quickly if they allow extra possessions and have to play defense for more than one possession.

Bottom Line

Hard to believe the Lakers finally can match-up vs a team with as bad of a record as the Lakers over the last month. However, the Lakers, notably Gasol, have been playing much better in the last 4 games and need to start building multiple-game winning streaks before all of their injured guards return to the line up. Expect the Lakers to compete well tonight and get a much needed victory tonight.

Prediction

Lakers: 109-104

 

Dwight Howard is a seven-time NBA All-Star. Dwight Howard is a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. Dwight Howard is five-time All-NBA First Team player. Dwight Howard is not the future of the Los Angeles Lakers.

There have been many superstars throughout the history of the NBA. None of them have been as indecisive and immature as Dwight Howard.

As is often times the case in a results-driven league, Howard’s talent has caused many to dismiss his lack of maturity on the court, his child-like behavior off of it, and his overall lack of self-awareness in his constantly changing mindset.

Howard wanted out of Orlando, then he wanted to opt-in, then he wanted out again. He also only wanted to go to Brooklyn, then he was happy to be a Laker, then he was frustrated, and now according to ESPN, he wants to run away from difficulty again and head to Texas. But not before putting the blame on the Lakers, like he did to the Magic.

Howard’s major problem with the Lakers is the system that coach Mike D’Antoni employs… Howard also does not want to be second fiddle to Bryant for several more seasons.

Dwight is blaming the coach and the system for his shortcomings, this sounds familiar doesn’t it? D’Antoni in no way has done a good job with the Lakers, and his system is very much to blame for the short-comings we saw all season long, but for that to be the reason Howard leaves Los Angeles is ridiculous.

This is especially true when you consider the fact that Howard is looking at Houston as an option. You know, the team who launches three’s at a record-pace and runs exactly none of their offense through the low-post. Yet that system doesn’t seem to be an issue to Dwight.

imagesThe Dallas Mavericks also seem to be an option. A team with an aging star in Dirk Nowitzki that will be Howard’s team to call his very own a year from now. And to a self-centered man like Dwight Howard, being handed the keys to a franchise without delivering any results sounds like the perfect deal.

It’s time for Laker fans to face some realities. Dwight Howard is not the type of player to lead you to a championship, and in a city where success is measured by titles do we really want to hitch our fortunes to him? When someone shows over and over again that they refuse to accept responsibility for their decisions, that they refuse to grow up and act like the professional they are expected to be, they are not the type of player you want leading you into the future.

Do the Lakers as a franchise want to commit over $100 million to someone who has shown no commitment, and to some extent only shown disrespect to the greatest franchise in sports today? Howard’s contract will determine the immediate and long-term future of the Lakers, and could end up being one of the most important decisions the franchise ever makes. Do you really want to risk all of that on someone who you can’t trust to stick to a single decision?

Los Angeles has been spoiled with Kobe Bryant for the last decade and a half. Bryant is a superstar who takes challenges head on, who enjoys overcoming difficulty and who only wants to win. Howard is the complete opposite of that. He runs from challenges and criticism. Howard wants nothing but adulation from his fan base, regardless of the results he brings.

Dwight Howard wants all the praise that comes with being a franchise player, while playing like a secondary All-Star and acting like a child who is never at fault.

Even if he regains his pre-injury form, Howard will never be the type of player to lead you to a championship. The Lakers should let this spoiled brat tuck his tail and run to Texas.

Good riddance.

Belal Abdelfattah is a sports addict, sneaker junkie and Laker Nation contributor. You can follow him on Twitter at @ItsBelal_A

The Los Angeles Lakers walk into the Amway Center tonight winners of four out of their last five games and tied with the Utah Jazz currently for the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs race. However, with all due respect to the attention that the story line have received, it fails in comparison to what will take place tonight. ESPN First Take correspondent Stephen A. Smith said Orlando Magic front office personnel Nick Anderson stated in relation:

“Dwight Howard has no idea what he is in for.”

Today’s game against the Magic marks the return of Dwight Howard to his former residence of eight years. After a tumultuous last season in Orlando and demands to go to Brooklyn he returns as the Lakers new centerpiece with playoff aspirations on his mind. Orlando Sentinel writer Brian Schmitz has already named the buzz around his return to the arena the “Dwightmosphere” as all eyes are on Howard and how he will react to the fans, media, and his former teammates. When originally asked the question, via Mike Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the LA Times, Dwight responded,

“I’ve thought about it. I think it’s going to be crazy,” said Howard, who played his first eight NBA seasons with the Magic. “I don’t know how I’m going to handle it.

“I remember the situation with LeBron [James] when he went to Cleveland for the first time. After the game, those guys were talking about how they were just trying to be there for him because they know how emotional it was. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be very emotional for me. Even just to talk about it just brings back a lot of emotion, but we’ll see how it goes.”

Yet as the day got closer Dwight began to approach the question in all seriousness.

“I’m just looking forward to being back in Orlando. It’s a place where I spent my life up until now,” said Howard, who played his first eight NBA seasons there. “It’s going to be difficult to see things, but I’m happy that I’m in a better place now than I was the beginning of the season.”

Dwight is doing all he can to prepare for the game. He’s even stated that he will “listen to boo tapes” so that he is not too bothered by the reception he will receive. Yet Howard’s teammates have noticed a change in him. Earlier today Steve Nash joked with the media and Dwight about his preparation for the game.

Recently Howard has taken heavy criticism from the Orlando media and his former teammates after he shared his views about his time as a Magic player. Dwight was known as the big fish in a small pond back then and discussed how he took pride among his teammates not being the best.

Howard inadvertently provided the prologue for Tuesday with a recent TV interview in which he said his teams in Orlando were “full of people nobody wanted.”

Howard quickly sought to clarify his comments, saying he merely meant to call his former teammates “underdogs.”

“Everybody overlooked us for the whole time I was there in Orlando and I hated that,” he said.

His former teammates did not take too kindly to those words as they responded hastily. Schmitz reported that Jameer Nelson, drafted the same year as Dwight and a center piece of the Magic franchise said,

“At some point, when are you [Dwight] gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner?” Nelson told the Sentinel after Wednesday’s shooatround in Miami.

Glen Davis even chimed in saying he was “shocked” by his friend’s quote:

Davis responded: “I’m really, really shocked. You know, amazed how he’s approaching this. I would think [it’d be best for] him to focus on his team and what he’s doing. You know, I’m going to let Dwight be Dwight. Everybody sees what he’s going through and how he’s feeling. I’m an Orlando Magic, and I love my guys that I play with, and that’s what I focus on. So, you let his comments be his comments, but his comments speak for itself.”

Dave McMenamin reported how Kobe Bryant said he would respond if in a similar situation:

“Just go out there and bust their [rear]. Show them what they’re missing. Save the emotional [stuff] for when you retire. Please”

The Orlando Magic are towards the depths of the eastern conference with a record of 18-46 and no real playoff hope. This game has been circled on their calendar all season long as this is the closest to the “playoff atmosphere” as they will get. The Magic have no true NBA star but have a very balanced offensive attack as four of their starters average double digit numbers.

With the hype surrounding the game the Lakers need to stay focused and take care of business. The playoffs are already looming and having confirmed that they are “scoreboard watching” a loss to Orlando will let the air out of the team and only cause for a tougher fight for the eight playoff seed. The Lakers have an easier schedule ahead of them in comparison to the Jazz, who own the tiebreaker between the teams. Post Orlando, they face a majority of opponents whom are below .500 while the Jazz must face a number of the NBA’s elite. Outside of Utah, the Lakers are also battling with the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are 1 game ahead of both teams for the seventh seed in the playoffs and also face an easier schedule while trying to retain their position.

Dwight Howard can assert his dominance as he will be matched up against second year player Nikola Vucevic for majority of the night. It’s been speculated and widely assumed that he will receive a lot of early touches to get into a good rhythm offensively. There’s no telling how Dwight will react once the game begins. Regardless of the outcome, Dwight is a Laker and will have to put all the baggage behind him.

“All that stuff is over with now,” Howard said. “Today is a new day. Whatever happened in the past, I”m going to leave it behind me. Like I said, I have nothing but love for the fans here. They treated me well. It didn’t end right. It didn’t end the way we all wanted it to end, but I’m in a better place and everybody has to move on.”

Laker Nation network