The Time is Right…
Only the true Talib Kweli fans appreciate the power of this track off Liberation. Short, sweet and when the initial beat goes boom…instant gratification.
Wednesday night, a Rashard Lewis shot went bang precisely when his team needed the rock to knock. His three was the game-winner in a nationally televised contest. The Magic went up early, the Sixers took the lead late and the Magic finished what they started.
Andre Miller’s desperation shot fell short at the buzzer.
The Magic came out hot at the start. Lewis had 19 for the Magic, and his game-winner was a continuation of the three he began the game with. Don’t start none, won’t be none.
After being down much of the first half, the Sixers fought hard to get back against an Orlando Magic team with talent and length all over the place. Because of the constant double on Howard, there was always an opportunity for a corner three. Down the stretch, the Magic couldn’t buy one and missed shot after wide open shot until Lewis’ game-winner bailed the Magic out with 3.1 seconds left.
Because of their shooting ability, the Magic are going to be a tough out in any game against any opponent. The Sixers—specifically Theo Ratliff—played very good defense on Dwight Howard (21 and 14) but couldn’t close out the good effort. The Wachovia Center crowd was left stunned. Howard was a man inside and was very efficient. He attempted only seven field goals—making four—and was 13-18 from the line.
Tony Battie scored 20 seemingly quiet bench points on 9-9 shooting.
Rashard Lewis matched up with Elton Brand for much of the contest. The Sixers’ inability to get the ball to Brand early might have been the difference. Brand led the Sixers with 21 points and he and Andre Iguodala (17 points, 7 assists and 6 rebounds) made big plays down the stretch to put their team in position for huge win, but it was just not meant to be.
Rookie Marreese Speights is making the most of his minutes lately with confidence growing by the minute. He had 12 off the bench and threw in a three just inside half court at the intermission buzzer which sparked the Sixers second half run.
Cheeks commented on the Sixers stellar bench play: “Theo guarded Howard extremely well. I thought Marreese Speights played extremely well for the time that he got. I thought Willie (Green) and Lou (Williams) also, when they came in the game, gave us that life that we needed. Again, I just thought that was winning basketball; it was unfortunate we didn’t win the game.”
I caught up with Tony Battie as he was leaving the locker room. His points were a major factor in the victory: “Open shots. They doubled the big and left me open.”
The guy who made sure the Time is Right with his true dagger three is next up.
SLAM: Rashard, from a team standpoint, there were shots available because of the double. As a team you went cold in the second half until the fourth quarter and then, Bang!
Rashard Lewis: The Sixers played a lot harder in the second half. We turned the ball over and since they are a fast break team, they ran out and killed us on the glass with second chance points. Finally we began to execute a little more and get the ball into Dwight. He got to the free throw line and knocked down a couple of shots.
SLAM: Is that corner three available to all NBA players?
RL: It depends on how the defense plays it. On the game winning-shot, they ran a pick-and-roll toward me in the corner. When the defender collapsed to help on Hedo’s drive and it left me open in the corner. Our defense is designed that you don’t help on the strong side—you let the big man come from the weak side to come and block that shot.
SLAM: Your length and talent positions this team to be among the League elite. What is going to be the difference as you challenge for an NBA Championship?
RL: We have to rebound better. We obviously play small with me playing the four. Sometime we can go big with Tony Battie at the four and leading Dwight at the five. We have to continue to be a good defensive team and become a better rebounding team. Those are the two keys to being an elite team. That’s what Boston did and they got a championship out of it.
SLAM: Mentally, what’s going to be the difference from this year and last year?
RL: We have a lot more experience. Playing that first year together with Stan Van Gundy—his first year on the team, my first year on the team—we learned how each other plays. We had that one year, so now it’s hold yourself accountable and know we have to go out and get the job done and play our roles.
SLAM: Obviously there are plays called, but does your coach let you go because of your talent and length? You can get any shot you want at any time.
RL: It all depends on if we are getting stops and running out. He then lets us go because we spread the floor by having a lot of shooters on the team as well as having a dominant big man inside. You want to continue to give the ball to the guys inside, but when they start to collapse and hang around then we move the ball around the perimeter. I’m a big, but I’m knocking down threes.
SLAM: You’ve been in the League 10 years. You seem to always be on the cusp of becoming something special every year since you’ve been in the league. Now, you seem to want to add to the team dynamic with the sole purpose of winning a championship.
RL: That is exactly what it is. I’ve been in the League for 10 years, averaged a lot of points and played on All-Star teams. Now it’s all about winning big games on the way to a championship. The window of opportunity opens and closes real fast. Dallas had that window and Boston has it now. Detroit had it. You never know when you get that chance, but you better take advantage of it right away because anything can happen during the year—injuries, trades and guys not resigning with the team. That’s taking one step back while other teams are constantly taking one step forward.
SLAM: You want what Ray Ray has.
SLAM: Did you talk to him after he won the championship?
RL: Oh yeah. Still do. We communicate a lot. I was more happy for him because he’s been in the League for a long time. He’s put a lot of work in. At first it was just him and Paul Pierce—K.G. wasn’t there yet. He was really upset about being traded out of Seattle. His family was there and he had a house where his family was being raised. Then later that summer it kind of worked out for him didn’t it?
SLAM: How do you describe this team? You have teams that are serious. You have teams that are loose. How would you describe the Orlando Magic locker room and on the floor?
RL: We spend a lot of time together off the court; we hold each other accountable. We know what we can do. We go out there and lolly gag and play around but we know it’s not personal. Stan does a good job making sure we get the job done. I give a lot of credit to him even though he’s a nag. It pays off in the long run.
SLAM: Pregame there seems to be much team loyalty and unity. There are not a lot of teams that can truly say that.
RL: I think that starts before the season. Jameer Nelson has a little mini camp and invites all his teammates to come out here (He’s from nearby Chester, Pa. for those who don’t know) and work out for a week as a unit. No coaches are involved. A lot of guys show up. I think we have pretty much the whole team except for Dwight (Olympics). That’s where it all started. Building relationships off the court while working out together is what did it.
Dwight Howard was next. I wanted to see where his head is regarding the sport in Indonesia. He has a huge following over there. He called me security when Anthony Gilbert and I walked up during his impromptu autograph session. There are few athletes today who look like super heroes and Dwight Howard is definitely one of them. After the game I asked him about the security comment, and he broke into a five-minute Friday impression. Deebo was on the block, and he had whoever was left in the locker room laughing. This was after he handed a young fan his court-worn kicks—and signing them. Good dude he is. The NBA is fortunate to have someone like him.
SLAM: Dwight, I get a lot of reader comments, but it seems like you have sparked something with some kids in Indonesia. There’s one kid in particular, Raz-q Damopolii, who has some lofty goals inspired by your play. Do you know anything about Indonesian basketball?
Dwight Howard: I really don’t know much.
SLAM: What would you say to fans who say you are the most popular player in their country?
DH: Man, I appreciate it. It’s an honor to tough people’s lives all across the world. I would love to go there, play basketball and meet the fans. I’m a big people person.
SLAM: Another specific question he had was what was going through your mind at the age of 14?
DH: When I was 14, I was thinking about becoming the first pick in the draft. I set high goals for myself. I push myself. I wanted to come in and dominate every game. I wanted to be one of the best rookies when I came into the league. I wrote all my goals down and to this day, I try to meet all my goals.
SLAM: Raz-q is attempting to be the first Indonesian player in the NBA. What does he need to know as he pushes forward on such a lofty goal?
DH: Well, you know it’s going to be tough. The thing is, the more you put into basketball, the more you are going to get out of it. If he’s in the gym everyday working on his game, watching tapes of the great players and even good players and sacrificing, then anything is a possibility. There are certain things you have to sacrifice to get to this level. In high school, I had to sacrifice going out to the movies and you know, just chill with your friends everyday. I woke up early and went to the gym to try to get better. You have to sacrifice the little things. Thanks, Raz-q.
SLAM: Straight up. Do you feel unstoppable on the court? Do you feel there is anyone in this league presently who has anything for you?
DH: When I walk on the floor, I have one thing to say to myself and that is: Dominate, dominate, dominate and not let anyone stop me on either end of the court. If I dominate, no one is going to be able to stop me.