Game Notes: Magic at Bulls
JJ Redick lets me down. Again.
Back when I was blogging full time, I wrote a post on how much I hated Duke but how I was such a big fan of JJ Redick. Call me crazy, but since he’s been in the League I’ve had such high hopes for him and have been patiently waiting for him to have a breakout season to prove all of his haters wrong. So at last night’s Chicago Bulls game against the Orlando Magic at the United Center, I have to admit that I was kind of pumped to get to see him in action. Especially since it was a preseason game and I knew that he would get a chance to play.
I arrived to the arena early as I always do and hit the court to watch both teams go through pre-game shootaround. After chatting with Derrick Rose for a few minutes after he went through a series of sprints up and down the floor, combined with some work that the Bulls athletic trainer had him doing with the heavy ball in an attempt to strengthen his ankle and get him ready to go for the season opener, I looked down on the Magic end of the floor and saw that JJ had come out. I told Derrick that I would holler at him later and made my way down to watch him take warm ups.
As I sat and watched him shoot, I couldn’t help but admire what a thing of beauty his shot is. Perfect in almost every way, he made what seemed like a hundred jump shots. Set shots, coming off curls, coming off screens, no misses. It was impressive. After watching him for almost 25 minutes, I had a feeling that it was going to be a special night for him. Boy was I wrong.
JJ Redick absolutely stunk it up last night. It became very clear why he gets no burn in Stan Van Gundy’s guard rotation. He scored 3 points last night, all from the free throw line and was 0-7 from the field. He also couldn’t guard anybody as it seemed like John Salmons, Kirk Hinrich, and Jannero Pargo all had their way with him and it seemed as if their eyes lit up when he was matched up head to head with one of them on D. His lone highlight of the night was a block on a Luol Deng shot attempt (yes, you read that right), a Duke-on-Duke crime midway through the 4th quarter of a close game which led to a Jameer Nelson fast break and a wide open three point for Redick on the elbow, which he promptly missed. Coach Stan Van Gundy pulled him after that and his night was over.
I mentioned to another writer that I came to the game just to see Redick play and that he’d let me down. He told me, “Get in line.” JJ is still my guy because he is one of the greatest college basketball shooters of all-time to go along with being one of only four players from Duke who I actually like. But when I got home from the game last night, still a little upset, I re-upped my membership in the Duck Fuke fan club.
Although JJ didn’t show up, I did make an unexpected discovery last night, and that was of Ryan Anderson. The 6-10 forward who came to Orlando from New Jersey via the Courtney “If I hadn’t missed that layup in the Finals, I’d still be here” Lee trade had a magnificent shooting night. In a very sloppy game on both sides that included 23 lead changes and 32 turnovers, Anderson’s play was very strong. He was 5-9 from the field, 4-7 from deep, 4-4 from the free throw line for 18 points to go along with 2 rebounds and 3 steals. Even more impressive was when his team needed him most Anderson came through with clutch shots down the stretch in the ball game. Another case of a guy whom I knew nothing about (see my write up on the Bulls/Timberwolves game), impressing me with his play in an otherwise meaningless, preseason exhibition game.
Anderson’s was a solid performance to go along with strong games from Dwight Howard (18 points, 10 rebounds), Jameer Nelson (12 points), and Vince Carter (17 points) who can still dunk, by the way. He caught a nasty lob in the 1st quarter, and almost baptized Tyrus Thomas on the break in the 3rd.
All told, Stan Van Gundy’s Magic had eight players in double-figures last night but in typical SVG fashion, he was a little less than pleased. When asked if he was happy with his team’s play, he responded, “No, not even close. We were awful… I want to see better play on the defensive end and for us to take better care of the ball. We didn’t do that and I hope my guys are not satisfied with their play.”
Dwight Howard echoed his coach’s sentiment: “Our defense wasn’t there. We made a lot of good plays toward the end of the game, but for 48 minutes we didn’t bring the effort we needed to be a championship caliber team. That’s what we’re working for and we need to get better.” But in an otherwise serious assessment of his own and his team’s play, in true comedic fashion when asked if he was ready for the season, Dwight Howard gave a spot on impression of Jack Jenkins, the fictional boxer from the movie Harlem Nights.
When Sugar Ray (played by Richard Pryor) asked Jenkins if he was ready for the fight with Kirkpatrick he replied, “Ready? Shoooot yeah, I’m re-re-ready!” Dwight nailed it. It was a hilarious moment that had everyone in the Magic locker room laughing hysterically.
From what I saw last night on the make-up of the Orlando Magic and the camaraderie they all seemed to share in the locker room after the game as they gorged themselves on a buffet of barbecued ribs and watched Monday Night Football together, you can almost certainly expect the Orlando Van Gundy’s to make another deep run into the playoffs, possibly repeating as Eastern Conference champions and making it to the NBA Finals again. Especially with the addition of Vince Carter and a healthy Jameer Nelson. There’s something to be said for a team that gets along and who genuinely like each other. This year’s Magic team certainly seems to have that going for them.