Horford, Hawks top new-look Magic 91-81
By JOHN MANASSO
Dec. 20, 2010
ATLANTA -- It seemed like an exaggeration before the game when Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy referred to the 27th game of his team's season -- but the first with four new players after two blockbuster trades -- as more like Oct. 1.
"It's basically the first day of training camp, is what it is," Van Gundy said, "so, I really don't know what to expect. Again, my only expectation here in these first few games is that guys go out and work hard and play with some energy and try to learn as we go.
"This is a challenging situation, no question."
Well, Van Gundy wasn't exaggerating. The Magic shot 25 percent in the first quarter and weren't much better thereafter (35 percent for the game), looking every bit the team that had not practiced or even participated in a morning shootaround together -- which was exactly the case. They lost on Monday for the seventh time in eight games, this time by a 91-81 score to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena -- the Hawks' second straight win over their division rival after last season's ignominious second-round playoff sweep at the hands of the Magic.
After the game, Van Gundy called the night a "major struggle" and of the new players he said, "none of them played well." Combined they were 6 for 23 and scored a total of 27 points.
"We struggled tonight putting the ball in the basket," said Gilbert Arenas, one of the newly acquired players making his debut who made his first shot and then went 1 for 10 the rest of the way. "You know, a little lackadaisical on some of the rotations, but, for the most part, being together for a couple of hours, we did all right."
The reason why the Magic could not conduct a practice or have the new players participate in the morning's shootaround was that the NBA did not officially certify all of them involved in the trades until less than an hour before tip-off. As a result, under league rules those players could not participate in such team-sanctioned events. Instead, the Magic had to improvise with a walk-through in a ballroom at the team hotel. Hardly a substitute.
Of the three key players Orlando acquired in the past few days, only Arenas, who bought his own plane ticket from Washington to his new city -- that's how excited he was to depart his former city where he had put himself through so many trials (almost literally) and tribulations -- looked comfortable early on with eight points at halftime. But Hedo Turkoglu, who started along with Jason Richardson, failed to score by half and Richardson had two points at the break.
Turkoglu, in his second stint with the Magic, was asked how different it was being back.
"It was a lot," said Turkoglu, who didn't get his first field goal until 7:23 remained in the third quarter in the form of a flick-of-the-wrist 3-pointer from the baseline. " . . . It's totally new for me, too. Got a lot of new guys I've never played with. Got to learn about them. Try to figure out the best way to bond and play together."
At least one Magic mainstay took the long view.
"We'll be fine," said Dwight Howard, who had 19 points on 6-of-14 shooting to go with 20 rebounds.
Before the game, Van Gundy had spoken of his team's "experience deficit" in comparison to Atlanta.
"I said to my assistant coaches, 'The Hawks have been together for six years and we haven't even been together for six hours yet, so we have a little bit of an experience deficit,' " he said. "Yeah, it's going to be crazy between today and tomorrow. We don't get a chance to -- tomorrow [against Dallas in Orlando] we'll actually get in a gym, but it will be right before the game. So we're not going to get any time together until Wednesday and that's going to be limited because we're coming off back-to-backs. It's going to be a crazy time here for quite a while. We're playing six games in nine days right after the trade so it's going to be crazy."
Depending on how the trades ultimately work out, from the perspective of Orlando's division-rival Hawks, they might have the unintended consequence of making a matchup problem a bit less of a severe advantage. That advantage, of course, is in the middle where Howard often dominates the Hawks. When he was not in the game, Orlando had Marcin Gortat, whom the Magic traded to Phoenix, to do the same. In some situations, they were on the court at the same time against the undersized Hawks.
On Monday, the Hawks -- led by the trio of Al Horford (11 rebounds), Josh Smith (10) and Marvin Williams (9) outrebounded Orlando 51-38. Van Gundy noted that his team got "crushed on the glass."
Hawks coach Larry Drew, speaking before the game, did not at all seem upset by Gortat's departure.
"In losing Gortat, who I really like, we'll see what happens with that as far as the backup center position," Drew said. "To me, you're almost trading apples for apples as far as what each guy can potentially bring to the table."
He continued, in reference to Gortat, "He always played well against us. I just thought it seemed like he got better and better. He played with physicality. He was very energetic. He can make a shot from the outside, he can post. I thought he was a solid defensive player. So he brought some good things to the table. It will be interesting to see how things work out."
After the game, Drew sounded confident about how things worked out for his team.
"I think what has happened is that we've found a way to certainly play them and sometimes it works and other times it doesn't work so well," he said of his team's 2-1 record against Orlando, the one loss being a close game on the road. "What we've done has certainly worked for us, and we've had some really good play from our centers versus Dwight."
At least in the short term, Orlando's mentality seems to be to forget this one and get back to work Tuesday against Dallas.
"We clearly didn't do anything well tonight either, so there's really not anything good to take away from it," Van Gundy said. "You've just got to let it go and every day you've got to try to get better.
"We're starting from scratch."