ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic likely won’t win any national praise for the changes that they made to their roster this offseason what with division rival Miami Heat adding all-stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh.
But Magic coach Stan Van Gundy feels that those changes will make the Magic significantly better this season – and that’s saying something considering that Orlando won 59 games last season and almost got back to the NBA Finals for a second consecutive spring.
By signing veteran swingman Quentin Richardson and backup point guard Chris Duhon, drafting rookies Daniel Orton and Stanley Robinson and inking Malik Allen to a make-good camp contract, the Magic have adeptly filled in the holes around their talented core of players. And even though the Magic explored the true availability of unhappy all-stars Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony this summer, they like their chances to win a championship with a talented nucleus of Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, J.J. Redick, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson.
In Richardson, Van Gundy feels the Magic made an upgrade at small forward, especially in the 3-point shooting department. And Duhon gives the Magic a smart and steady player capable of being a reserve or a starter should Nelson suffer an injury. Those might seem like minor changes, but Van Gundy feels those two additions could have a huge impact.
``We only made a couple of additions, but they were really key additions,’’ Van Gundy said. ``(President of Basketball Operations) Otis (Smith) has been wanting to get a younger, long-term solution to the back-up point guard for a couple of years and Chris does that for us. And we really like what Quentin brings to the team as well.’’
The Magic will conduct Media Day on Monday at their new practice court at Amway Center in downtown Orlando. Training camp then begins on Tuesday with several two-a-day sessions before the preseason opener Oct. 5 against the Houston Rockets in Hidalgo, Texas. The Magic then play in Indiana on Oct. 8 before opening the dazzling $380 million Amway Center on Oct. 10 against the New Orleans Hornets.
Smith went hard after Duhon two seasons ago only to see him sign with the New York Knicks because of his desire to be a starter. This time around, Smith got his man, and Duhon said the lure to win a championship has him happy in Orlando. Van Gundy said he likes the security net of having a starting caliber point guard behind Nelson just in case of injury. And the Magic also retained veteran point guard Jason Williams this summer, giving them arguably the deepest point guard rotation in the NBA.
``Jameer is a smaller, very tough point guard who challenges people and as a result he has injuries. Chris is a guy capable of playing big minutes,’’ Van Gundy said. ``He’s not only a great player, but he’s also a great complement to Jameer. He can really run pick and rolls and defensively he can be great.’’
The Magic chose not to re-sign scrappy small forward Matt Barnes when his demand for too much money and too many years on his contract rose too high. But while Barnes was a scrappy defender and an emotional leader for the Magic, Van Gundy thinks that Orlando improved itself by adding Richardson, one of the game’s most feared 3-point shooters. Whereas Boston routinely sagged off Barnes in the Eastern Conference Finals, they won’t be able to do the same with Richardson because of his proven ability to stroke the 3-pointer. He also gives the Magic a stronger, tougher defender to face the likes of James and Paul Pierce in the playoffs. Pierce torched the Magic in the playoffs last spring, paving the way for the Celtics’ defeat of Orlando.
``Quentin is a tough, rebounding wing who gives us range shooting and he can play in the post,’’ Van Gundy said. ``With both Quentin and Chris, we really added to our competitive edge. Chris has always been a great competitor, and Quentin is one of the most tough, physical go nose-to-nose perimeter guys in the league. They added what we thought we needed to have with the continuity that we have back.’’
Van Gundy said the combination of losing and playing poorly in the Eastern Conference Finals last spring mixed with the much-hyped additions by the Heat this summer have fueled his Magic throughout the offseason. Van Gundy said the Magic had more players than ever stay in Orlando all offseason to work out and the entire team has been back at the team headquarters for weeks working out on a voluntary basis.
``I think it’s been an extra sense of motivation for our guys, but it’s not just Miami. Boston handed it to us last year. We have to rise to that challenge and all of the other teams getting better,’’ Van Gundy said. ``But guys like that, they want to play in those types of big games and they want to be challenged. I’m sure what happened in Boston and what Miami has done has made our guys work a little harder.’’
This fan site is dedicated to the 49ers and their fans. It is in no way affiliated with the NFL or any of its teams. All teams and players mentioned on this site are registered trademarks of the NFL. The use of any team names, words, trademarks, logos or photos have been used for descriptive purposes only. The content and information from other sites is the property of their respective owners. Player and team photos used with permission from USA TODAY Sports Images.