Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mass Hysteria Interview Series: My Insanely Long Interview With A Magic Fan

Having gone to school in Florida, I happened to meet the very rare lifetime Magic fan in my friend Alex. Here was our conversation about this series. Note that it's very long, and filled with actual insight, with sadly, little in the way of dick jokes:

GHABB,Y: Your thoughts on the Magic fans. I know you're basically a lifetime fan, but is that the case for most of the people who are attending the games? Given that a lot of people in FL are from somewhere else, combined with the fact that the team didn't start till '89 makes me think that a diehard such as yourself would be somewhat frustrated with the on/off support that the team has had over the years. Who would you say is the average Magic fan - someone in their mid-20s such as yourself, or an audience that skews older/younger?

Alex: I think it would be difficult to qualify the de
mographic of the "average" Magic fan. There are fans like me, mid 20's, then you also have fans like the iconic "Fat Guy", a 50 year old lawyer in town, so it really varies. You are 100% right in your assessment, the Magic have only been around 20 years, so a lot of the Florida transplants have held firm to their old teams. Let me give you an example, since we are talking about the current playoff series.

A few weeks ago, March 25th to be exact, I went to one of the last regular season games of the year, where we hosted the Boston Celtics. Going into the game I expected to see a sea of blue and white t-shirts in support of the Magic, as we were fighting to get the #2 seed from you guys. What do I end up seeing? Half blue, and half green. Thousands of miles away from Boston, the Celtics managed to garner enough fan support to swallow half of Orlando's own arena. Now, teams like Boston and L.A are special examples, as they are both old and storied franchises with fans around the world, but I mention it to make the point that yes: it absolutely frustrates me to see the fan support waiver year in and year out, and irritates me to no end when an opposing team can walk in with as much support as the home team.

Orlando has been fortunate to make it to the semifinals for two straight seasons, so a lot of fans have begun to jump on our wagon, but before last year we hadn't made the second round since Shaq was around, so we lack that consistent support that a team truly needs to have a home court advantage. The one thing I will say that Orlando fans have been good about, it is their ability to show up for the playoffs. Any playoff game I have ever gone to, and I have gone to a lot over the past few years, the fans have managed to turn the Amway Arena into the I am interested to see if we can keep that up when a team like Boston comes here during the playoffs instead of the regular season.

GHABB,Y: Are you more pleased by Monday's outcome, or worried? Your boys did take a win from the defending champions on the road, but conversely, the Magic also nearly blew a 28-point lead to a clearly gassed team that had their two star guards shoot a combined 4-24 from the floor. Does last night's game leave you pleased or terrified?

Alex: I can't say that I'm really pleased with how the end of the game went down, but I'm content. Sure, I have to admit that I'm worried slightly, but it has nothing to do with the Celtics, it has to do with the fact that the Magic have a problem closing out games. Take a look at our 6 game series against the 76ers, up until game 6 we had a difficult time closing things out. The first game of the series we were up by more than 10 in the last quarter and ended up losing on the last shot of the game. I'm not worried at all by the two star guards shooting a combined 4-24, because if one thing is true, it's that statistical anomalies like this do not hold true for very long. The fact that we won and brought the home court advantage back to Orlando means far more than how the win actually happened.

GHABB,Y: I've been trying to figure this out for years now, but is the Magic's resistance to throwing the ball down low to Howard more a reflection of a limited offensive skill set from Howard, or bad coaching/selfish playing? It utterly mystifies me how Howard doesn't touch the ball on every possession, especially in this case with KG out and Perkins being a player that very easily gets into foul trouble, with little depth behind him. Do you see Howard getting more offensive touches as the series goes on, or do you think they're going to stick with the perimiter-oriented offense they've used all season.?

This is definitely a question that has plagued Orlando fans as well. I think it partly has to do with how the Magic like to run their offensive sets. I believe Stan likes to use the "threat" of Dwight Howard to take pressure off of the perimeter and open up our shooting game. I believe we had the most 3 pointers shot and made in the regular season, with Rashard Lewis leading the league in both categories as well. However, Stan usually does this to setup the next game. He'll run the offense through the perimeter one game, and then the next game after the defense adjusts he will run it through Dwight. There have been games where he has put up some monster offensive numbers, so its definitely a possibility. I just think right now that he is still young and his offensive skillset isn't entirely fleshed out, so Stan isn't comfortable completely running an offense through him yet.

GHABB,Y: You mentioned that SVG likes to use the "threat" of Dwight Howard as much as Howard himself. But with such a sizable advantage down low, do you think that the Magic will get him the ball more often for the rest of the series? Does the threat become more of a reality? And when, exactly, do you expect his offensive game to fill out? It's his fifth year at this point - I'd like to see him develop at least one reliable post move other than "Dwight go Dunk." That dude would put up 40-20s every night if he had a reliable shot outside of 2 feet or learned a fucking head fake or two.

Alex: I think they will use Dwight more throughout the rest of the series. I think what could happen is by opening up the perimeter game on Monday, the Celtics will be more wary of the longshot and defend accordingly. When this happens, it can give Dwight a 1-on-1 matchup, which is a mismatch with just about every other player in the league. Part of his lack of offensive performance Monday stems from missing game 6, as he said that he felt as if he had been out of action for a month. Sure the rest was good, but when you go from a dominating victory over the 76ers without Dwight the team wasn't quite sure how to get him back in the mix of things for his first game back. As far as the rest of his game, I really don't think he's going to develop a midrange shooter. He's never been a shooter, so I find it hard to believe that he will ever develop that. I think what you will see is maybe an attempt to develop a short range baby hook so that he isn't so reliant on just dunking the ball. Sure, this is his fifth year in the league, but he came to the NBA as a scrawny high schooler. His first two years were basically his "beefing up" years, so he's only really had a couple of years with his bigger frame, so he's still learning how to use it.

GHABB,Y: Your impressions of Skip To My Lou as your new PG? Would you be better/worse off with Nelson? Are you concerned about Nelson's injury history at this point, or do you just see his injuries as a series of fluke events?

Alex: The first thing I have to admit before answering this question is I'm an avid "aNd 1 MiX TaPe TouR" fan. Skip to my Lou has always been one of my favorite NBA players, and I always thought that he was underutilized on the Raptors and Rockets. With this being said, I think he is a much better PG than Jameer. I know Jameer was having an All-Star caliber season, but Rafer is a much truer point. He sets up the offense and dishes the ball where he sees a weakness, using his shot as the alternative. This is what a PG should do. Jameer on the other hand uses his shot as his primary weapon, and only dishes it as an alternative. I think Jameer would be an awesome 2 with Rafer as the 1 in an ideal world. As far as his injuries go, I'm not too concerned with it. He's a young and durable guy, and proved himself to be one of the toughest college players in the game, I think he has just had a bad run. He's definitely not a Grant Hill case, and he should be back and healthy next season...the question is what do we do with Rafer when he does.

GHABB,Y: Do all the Magic fans share your high opinion of Skip, or is it just you? Is his performance this year and this series constantly going to be measured against what fans believe that Nelson would have given them?

Alex: I think a lot of the smart Magic fans would agree with me about Skip. If we didn't have him, we wouldn't be in the semifinals, it's as simple as that. Sure, we could have made it this far with Jameer, but not with Tyron Lue or Anthony Johnson starting at point. Where opinions may differ is a lot of fans may think Jameer is a better point, but I would say that a lot of those people don't understand what a PG is. I think if we lose, then people will say "we could have done it with Jameer." But if we win, I think everyone is going to be torn on what to do with Rafer when Nelson comes back next year.

GHABB,Y: Who's The one Magic player who may be most key to this series. I say it's Skip, especially on the defensive end. Agree or disagree?

Alex: I agree. We both saw how Rondo completely willed Boston to beat the Bulls in the last series, and I think Rafer is the answer to him in this series. Look at what happened towards the end of the game, Rondo loves rolling the ball to half court but Skip made him work for it and left that seed of doubt in his mind for the next game. He doesn't get nearly enough of the defensive acclaim that he deserves, but he is a solid threat to steal the ball at any moment and is a difficult guy to guard with his great ball handling skills. He held Rondo to his worst game of the playoffs. He is also incredibly streaky on the offensive end, when he's on it's like playing NBA Jams circa early 90's. He just brings that extra zing to the Magic's already strong perimeter game.

GHABB,Y: What player on the C's has you most worried? Which player do you think the Magic can shut down the easiest?

Alex: The player that worries me the most is of course Ray Allen. Simply said, he got game. I've seen Ray make some absurd shots from way behind the line with two hands in his face. He is one of the most clutch shooters in the league and is nearly impossible to stop when he is at the top of this game. Combined with the Magic's propensity to let big leads slip, he is the one person that can make that difference and swing the game back into Boston's favor. As far as the one person that has me the least concerned, it's Rondo. I know Rondo is coming off a great season and a great series against the Bulls, I just don't think he can defend Rafer or exploit our defense the way he has done with other teams. He's young and immature and is easy to frustrate, and once he gets on tilt his game is shot. I mean come on, an NBA player airballing a freethrow? He lacks the composure to be a great player.

GHABB,Y: Do you think the C's/Bulls marathon series helped or hurt the Magic's chances in this series? Personally I think it left the C's absolutely gassed, especially their older players like Pierce and Allen. Then again, some might say that the long series built playoff confidence in players like Davis who may not otherwise have had it. Your thoughts?

Alex: I was incredibly thrilled that the Bulls series went as long as it did. I watched game 7 and hoped that it would go into overtime to wear out the Celtics even more. That long and grueling series absolutely helped the Magic's chances. I think if the Celtics were more rested they probably could have completely erased the 28 point lead and won game 1, they were just too drained by the end to get over the hump. I would argue that the long series didn't build confidence, it actually erased it. Sure, maybe some bench players got some exposure to high pressure situations and it helped their game. But let's look at the fact that the Bulls are a .500 team and took the Celtics to what can be considered an 8 game series. This should never have happened. I'm sure you can argue the same thing happened last year with the Hawks and the C's came back to win it all, but that should have never happened either. When a 2 seed and supposed dominant team has trouble sealing the deal on an overmatched 7 seed, something is wrong.

GHABB,Y: What happens tonight? You've gotta expect that Rondo and Allen eventually get their shots back, but you also have to think that the Magic learned from blowing the lead. Honestly, I'm torn, with a slight lean towards the C's, if only because I just don't see them going down 2-0 heading into Orlando.

Alex: In the final half of the last game the Celtics undoubtedly gained an enormous amount of momentum. I don't think the Magic will sweep the series, so I have to say that Boston will probably take it tonight. I don't think Rondo will deliver for you guys, I see Allen basically carrying the game himself. The key to this game is going to be whether or not Perkins and Davis can stay out of foul trouble. With the threat of Dwight, and hopefully the actualization of that threat, they are going to be hacking him a lot down low. If they can't manage their fouls, as we saw with Davis fouling out last game, then it is going to create a ridiculous mismatch down low for Dwight to exploit.

GHABB,Y: Do either of our teams have ANY shot in hell against the Cavs? Jesus Christ do they look scary.

Alex: I don't know how well I can comment on the Celtics' chances against the Cavs, but I am 100% confident about the Magic's chances to beat the Cavs. We are 2-1 against them this season, and the last time they came to Orlando back at the beginning of April we beat them by almost 30 points. I was watching 1st and 10 the other day and heard an interesting comment from Skip Bayless (who I hate immensely). He compared the Celtics, the Magic, and the Cavs to a game of rock, paper, scissors. One can beat one, but not all. I think this is a good analogy, and I think Dwight (the rock) can beat Lebron (the scissors). We just first need to throw the fucking rock through the paper, because we all know that game is bullshit and paper could never beat a rock.


A Pimp Named DaveR said...

Don't confuse Lebron "Doesn't Give A Shit About Some Damn Orlando Game In The Middle Of The Season" James with Playoff Lebron "YOU ARE ALL FUCKING WITNESSES, YOU HEAR ME????" James, please.

If the Magic -- who I think will just wear down a beat-up and overtaxed Celts squad -- do manage to squeak out a game 1 or 2 against the Cavs, it will only serve to anger Him. Which means that the next game will be a 275-4 Cavs win, and Duh-wight Howard's face will look like the "before" picture of Face Transplant Lady due to having the rock repeatedly rejected into it for 48 minutes....

And if you think the NBA would ever let Orlando beat the Cavs this year, you're high. If the Cavs went down 3-1, the next game would feature the first-ever instance of five players fouling out on double technicals for "lookin' at that guy funny" in the first two minutes of the game.

What, you think this shit isn't fixed?

/hysterical laughter

SmartyBarrett said...

Bottom line: if the Cavs go down a game or two, LeBron just stops passing.