"The Magic are gonna struggle to play above .500 while Jameer Nelson is out."
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Jeff Van Gundy: Prognosticator Extraordinaire
Early in Friday night's Boston Celtics-Orlando Magic contest, Jeff Van Gundy dropped this nugget on us:
Come again? The only reason I didn't immediately make a twitter/blogspot/facebook post about it was because I was watching the game on rerun and didn't want to risk seeing the final score (I've got Boston fans as facebook friends and blog followers, and a Magic feed on my twitter). I can't imagine why none of his co-commentators didn't question this particular prediction, especially Mark Jackson, who usually loves to pounce on any of Jeff's comments he deems questionable.
.500 Jeff? Seriously? Are you confusing this team with the roster from last year? There is a major difference between the Magic's point guard rotation this year and the one they fielded last year: Jason Williams >> Tyronn Lue. Last year, when Jameer went down, the Magic made a move to pry Lue (tongue-in-cheek) from the Bucks to shore up the position. At the time, it seemed like a good move, and I actually thought he would help out; Lue was shooting a hefty 47% from 3-pt range, just the type of outside shooting Jameer brought to the team.
However, for Lue, it simply did...not...work...out. In his first 3 games playing meaningful minutes, he shot at paltry 5-16 -- 2 of 8 from downtown -- and the Magic continued trading wins and losses. It became apparent that both he and Anthony Johnson were best suited as backups, and the Magic went out, nabbed Rafer Alston, and the rest is NBA-Finals-appearance history.
Fast forward back to the present. By Friday night, we'd already gotten some small glimpses into what Jason Williams would look like given a heavier workload. He's played well -- almost surprisingly so -- and had actually played more minutes than Nelson in 2 or 3 games this year. He's been posting an NBA-best assist-to-turnover ratio, and his play had essentially relegated Anthony Johnson to 12th-man status.
This doesn't even touch upon the other upgrades the Magic have made in their roster this past offseason, with guys like Vince Carter who can share some of the playmaking duties. But it's fairly safe to say that a Jason Williams/Anthony Johnson rotation is significantly better than AJ/Tyronn Lue. It's starting to look even better than Rafer Alston/AJ combo that the Magic settled on for the rest of the 2008-09 campaign.
Perhaps I'm being a bit hard on ole Jeff, but it just seems rather silly to think this Magic team will struggle to hold their head above water in Jameer's absence, as important a player as he is. In any case, I can't help but keep a while-Nelson-is-out counter for the old ex-Knick coach turned announcer, so for those of us counting at home: that's 3 wins against 0 loses in the J-Will/AJ era.
With games against the Bucks, Warriors, Clippers, and a home-and-home versus the Knicks in the near horizon, that prediction is starting to look a bit shaky. Call me cynical.
* Another Vince Carter visit, another quality game, another win:
Hey Toronto Raptor fans, they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting to receive different results. D'ya think maybe the booing and the taunting is, I dunno, not working?
* Celtics needed overtime and a buzzer beater to take down the Knicks today. Would it be safe to say they're going through a bit of a rough patch (4-4 after a 6-0 start)? From the sounds of it though (I can't watch, blackout rules apply), the Knicks are playing a little bit better ball lately. (When they're shooting at their own bucket that is).
* Those poor Nets. Four games from tying an ignominious record, and an upcoming 4-game road trip where none of the matchups look particularly favourable. The Kings have been playing better, so at best you can hope that they stub their toe (quite possible with a young team: see: Thunder, Oklahoma), or that Denver continues their recent swoon (any loss to the Clips at this point for them is a swoon). Or you can just hope that the return of Devin Harris will continue to pay dividends (remember, he didn't start against the Knicks). Either way, injuries and all aside, they're not looking very attractive to LeBron, Bosh or anyone in Brooklyn at the moment.