The Magic Demolish the Hornets

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Published: October 10, 2010

When High School and College teams schedule their Homecoming games, they often place a sacrificial lamb on the schedule in order to guarantee an enjoyable weekend for their fan base. Tonight the Orlando Magic had a Homecoming of sorts as they played their first game ever in the brand new Amway Center, and the Hornets played the role of sacrificial lamb, losing by a score of 135-81.

It got ugly pretty early as the Magic led 34-17 after the first quarter. The Magic were able to get practically any shot they wanted, shooting 14 for 19 in the opening period, including an astounding 11 for 12 on their two point attempts. Joe Alexander started the game for David West, who was held out because of a sore wrist, and the Magic attacked him immediately. Rashard Lewis posted Alexander up on the first play, and when the Hornets doubled, Lewis kicked it out to Q Rich for an open three. It was a sign of things to come.

When the Hornets ran out on shooters, the Magic exposed the Hornets inability to protect the paint. When the Hornets helped out to cut off penetration, Orlando kicked it out to its open shooters. And when the Hornets tried to play straight up defensively, the Magic ate them alive. Though it was just a preseason game, it would be hard not to have thought of the 58-point debacle while watching this game if you are a true Hornets fan. It was that bad.

The Hornets were better on the offensive end than they were on the defensive end, but not by much. Truth be told, after the first quarter the Hornets just seemed to be going through the motions because it was apparent that the game was already over and the primary objective had become to avoid an injury.  To start the game, the Hornets seemed determined to get Belinelli involved, much like they did the previous night in Memphis. I assume Monty believes that doing this will serve two purposes: One, it will give Marco incentive to be active defensively and; Two, it will serve as notice to teams that they must account for all five players on the court, rather than focusing on West and Paul.

On this night the strategy did not work as Belinelli hoisted 3 three-pointers in the first four minutes of the game and missed them all. In addition, Ariza started off 1-5 in the first quarter and Joe Alexander had two of his first three shots rejected by Dwight Howard. On a positive note, CP3’s stroke looked as sweet as ever and Okafor was aggressive offensively as those two scored 11 of the Hornets 17 first quarter points on 5-6 shooting.

Thornton entered with about 4 minutes left in the first and played two minutes with the starters, hoisting up brick after brick in the first half. Thornton has absolutely no interest in getting any of his teammates involved offensively- which is fine when he is on- but tonight (like last night) he was not. Thornton finished with 5 points in 22 minutes, going 2 for 13 from the field and 0 for 2 from three-point range.  And if Thornton is not scoring, then he is not contributing as is evidenced by his 1 rebound, zero assists, 1 turnover and 3 personal fouls. I do not want to get on the guy for two bad preseason games, but it makes me laugh when people say they would be hesitant to make this guy part of a package for Melo. I’ll leave that for another day, another time.

This was a preseason game and we have to remember not to take too much from these games- good or bad. But it is clear that there are elite teams in this league and the Hornets simply are not one of them, and like D West said last week they have to be fine with that right now. This team is trying to build towards something- something that teams like the Magic have built over the past few years. It is going to take time and patience, and for now they are going to have to be satisfied with making progress each and every game. And on that note:

Player Notes:

Emeka Okafor- You can tell Emeka has been working on his free throws this offseason. He actually finishes and follows through on his shot now and that will lead to him being more consistent at the line.  In this game he finished 3 of 4, but even if he hadn’t made the free throws, I would have been pleased with the new stroke. I expect him to jump up t 68-70 percent this year.  Defensively, the effort was there but the cold hard truth is that Okafor just doesn’t have the length to effect shots the way that an elite defender can. The Magic had no worries about taking it right into the paint when Okafor was on the court and Okafor did not register a single block.

Trevor Ariza- There is something about Ariza’s game that will be very familiar to Hornets fans. On three separate occasions, Ariza caught a ball in position to shoot wide open but pump faked instead, jabbed in toward the defender, stepped back and then shot- and missed. Sound familiar? This is a disease D West contracted in 08-09 and apparently it is contagious. Look, Ariza is going to fit in with this team eventually but he has to know that he is not on the floor to create his own shots or try to lead a fast break (which was almost unwatchable). He needs to slash to the basket or spot up- that’s it, that’s all. No 3rd option, no “but what if…”, NOTHING.  The ball belongs in CP3’s hands and when he gives it to you, it will either be on a back door cut where you are attacking the rim or it will be when you are spotted up, in which case you just shoot. Don’t over think it.

Oh yeah and on a side note, you can almost always tell the second the ball leaves Ariza’s hand if it is going in or not. On his misses from outside, he always pushed the ball rather than released it fluidly at the top. For some players the difference is miniscule, for Ariza it is not. Just something to watch out for.

CP3- His shot is as fluid and beautiful as ever. I really think this might be the best version we have ever seen of CP3 and I just hope he is not wasted on a lottery bound team. As for negatives, I did catch him just standing around and watching when the ball was not in his hand. I would prefer if he were more active and playing the roll of a decoy.

2nd unit- The Hornets came out with a 2nd unit of Green, MT5, Pondexter, Peja, and Gray which I actually saw suggested here by some members the other day. Green brought the ball up in this unit, but Marcus was responsible for creating the offense in the half court. The problem was that all he looked for was his own shot and as I said already, that shot was off tonight. Peja hit some open shots and looked like he could fill the role that Dell Curry used to fill years ago- a shooter who can get hot and stretch defenses in spurts. I am not saying that Peja can be as consistent as Dell, but I still think he scares defenses more than a guy like Thornton when he is on. The question is whether Peja and Thornton can play on the same unit due to the fact that they both need shots to be effective and they are both below average defenders. Something tells me that we will see a hybrid unit with CP3, Green, and Peja during stretches of games and that Thornton will mesh better with Belinelli and either Ariza or Pondexter.

49 comments
JCS
JCS

Talk about an EPIC FAIL. Wow. The Hornets looked so bad out there, I thought Bowser and Tipper Floyd were back on the bench. Myyy goodness. I think I'm going to church twice this week, because it appears Dan Gilbert's hex landed in NOLA instead of South Beach. Face. In. Palm.

JCS
JCS

I can only presume the person who gave my comment a thumbs down worships the devil or practices voo doo. Well guess what you devil dog, I just got back from church. Take that!

L_Reazy
L_Reazy

First of all, I'd like to say my prediction sucked! I predicted: Hornets would make the playoffs, Ariza would prove he could "D-up" anyone, Thornton would be money off the bench, Green would be money off the bench, Joe Alexander would prove that he is actually a good player, Pops would be aggressive, Aaron Gray would prove he's effective with the weight-loss, and the Defense would be improved. I didn't see any of that yesterday against the Magic ... and oh yea, for those of you who believe the reason for the Hornets 54-point loss was attributed to David West's absence or because they played the night before against the Grizzles, your wrong. This loss was attributed to bad line-ups and not enough fire power. I still believe Belinelli is good enough to start at the SG spot, however, he might need to come off the bench based on Willie Green's inept abilty to play the point. The back-up PG spot should go to either Belinelli or DJ Strawberry, who actually proved to be a good defender against PGs and SGs last night, and was a better attacker to the rim than all of our guards. DJ Strawberry should get a look after last night's game. Did you see him give Vince Carter problems defensively, out jumped him for a 'jump-ball', and stole the ball from Chris Duhon at mid-court. I didn't watch him much when he played for Phoenix ... but I was impressed yesterday. Nevertheless, I've made up my mind in regards to a few other players now that I've seen them play: Joe Alexander - was lost and overmatched last night, and still sucks! Pops Mensah-Bonsu - he's very athletic, but also very erratic ... he'll foul out before the second quarter starts. Aaron Gray - he'll foul out before the game starts! ... sad truth ... he's our best back-up big man Jason Smith - see Joe Alexander! Peja Stojakovic - until he is traded, he'll need to play back-up PF behind West ... he flourished their last night ... PFs had trouble chasing him around screens, hence the offensive output. Marcus Thornton - one dimensional ... if he can't score, well, you know the rest! ... sad truth ... he may start, because Belinelli might have to play back-up PG. Willie Green - one dimensional, and probably cost Belinelli a starting job! Quincy Pondexter - I got excited too soon ... he's still too young to have impact. DJ Strawberry - might be the best perimeter defender we have other than Ariza! OUR BEST ROTATION AT THIS POINT BASED ON WHAT I SAW YESTERDAY: F-West, F-Ariza, C-Okafor, G-Strawberry, G-Paul F-Stojakovic, G- Green, C-Gray, G-Thornton, G-Belinelli THESE FIVE BELOW ARE NOT READY YET! F-Mensah-Bonsu, F-Alexander, C-Smith, G/F-Pondexter, G-Shakur

JCS
JCS

I actually think this was a fair assessment, but Shakur didn't play and Smith wasn't that bad. Perhaps in the next game Monty will bench Willie and Gray, and give Shakur and Watkins some PT. The only way they could do worse is if Shakur gets less than 1 basket, rebound, and assist, and Watkins fouls someone 5 seconds after he's subbed in versus Gray's consistent 10.

Eman5805
Eman5805

You are way overreacting, pal. Tone it down a notch and exercise patience. Things are not as bad as they appear. I know, another huge loss and it upsets people. I hate losing like that too, but big picture here, man. BIG picture. Team with new coach, still feeling things out, and players are being asked to step into new roles. It wasn't going to click right away. Besides, a bad preseason could be a blessing in disguise. We very well could become one of those teams that gets better with each passing game as they find and address their deficiencies.

42
42

Ignore the margin of victory. It's meaningless since we weren't doing what we could to minimize it and they weren't doing all they could to maximize it. Remember, Monty has to adjust, too. It's not just the players. They are puppies, most of them. They need Monty to be the big dog and he's still growing too. Here are some things to take home, neither of which are yummy in the tummy: A 34-17 loss was basically what the starters did sans D West. Just like we are capable of at least splitting a 4-7 game series with the Grizzlies based on our starter play, the Magic have the edge on us, and they probably aren't alone, at least with our current construction. Us getting into sync could close the gap, but it's looks like we'll need something more than all finding page 217 to take them in 7. I'd leave it at that, at least for the sake of mental health.

rm
rm

I am puzzled. I saw pops in the summer for GB and he was awesome, even more stand out then Luol Deng. Why is he not doing it in the NBA? I know the talent is not the same but the standard is good if not excellent. When i see him in a GB vest he looks like he is NBA stuff so I am puzzled what is his short comings, why can't he make it?

JCS
JCS

I never followed Pops, but a lot of heads on this website did, so I was really looking forward to see him play. After watching him for just 5 minutes, I was really looking forward to him riding the pine and never coming back in a game. Ever.

hewhorocks
hewhorocks

To pick up on one of Michael's thoughts I hope Ariza comes to the realization that he cant be depended on to create his own offense consistently. I see him pressing issues far too often and making poor choices. Ariza seems to be very good at hitting the open shot and cutting to the hoop. I dont want to watch him try to break down defenders with his penetration/ ball handling because I'm not sure thats an efficient use of his talents. On offense as a whole I see far to many "comfort dribbles," Isolation plays, and not nearly enough movement without the ball. I understand the concept of "spreading the floor for Paul to penetrate and Kick" but it seems that when the whole offensive philosophy is geared to the unique talents of one or two players (Paul and to a lesser extent West) when either of those players is on the bench the team becomes one dimensional and entirely predictable. The second team seems to be especially lacking in focus with a whole lot of "Me, Me, Me..I need to show what I can do." and not enough "Lets work together." Part of that may be the nature of the Preseason but if the pattern is going to be "The starters keep it close gain a lead and the second string gives it away," the Hornets will have an especially rough time when a starter misses a game or a the Hornets face quality opponents.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

And we have to remember that we have a new "offensive coordinator" of sorts in Malone and he is just getting to know these guys. It takes time to figure out your parts and implement a system that can be effective night in and night out, that doesn't have to rely solely on matchup advantages. It is going to be a long process and the only thing the players can control every night is their effort. That is what I will be measuring, personally. I want to see them play like Scott Skiles coached teams, who are almost always outskilled but rarely outhustled. If they can do that and move Peja or another expiring in February for a big, I think 7th or 8th seed is realistic, and if healthy I think they can have a puncher's chance against any team outside or LA or OKC if CP3 is on top of his game and the players have meshed by that point.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Yeah, I agree that we can't take a lot from this game and I probably wouldn't take a lot from this even if it were a regular season game because it is such a small sample size and the starting 5 looked great just one night before. However I do think that we can see that moderate improvements are the best we can hope for. Okafor is not going to become a defensive player of the year candidate just because he has some better wing defenders. Ariza is not going to be the wing player we have been dying for- the one who can create his own offense consistantly. Thornton is not going to elevate his game to the 22-25 PPG level. In the offseason fans let their imagination run wild, but last nights game was a dose of reality. Small improvements will be made- like Okafor's FT shooting, Ariza's perimeter D, Belinelli's ability to handle on occasion, etc. But for the most part, this is still a fringe playoff team with a top 5 player and a rookie coach. If people go into the season expecting it all to mesh quickly, expecting Okafor to blossom in his second year, and Thornton to be an elite scorer game in and game out, then they will be extremely disappointed. Moderate improvement and building a culture that is all about effort, toughness, and defense is all that I want to see- anything else will be gravy.

MaxALM
MaxALM

While it is true our "minds ran wild" during the offseason, the case can be made that it is equally unreasonable to assume all of the negative factors you say. I think we all knew that Ariza couldn't create his own shot, but he will still be more effective than any SF we've had in years. And I think Thornton can still be a 20ppg threat once we iron things out in the rotation. He can't be responsible for all offense in the 2nd unit. That's unfair. I think he is aware of the responsibility given to him as a bench player, so maybe he feels like he has to throw up those shots. But as you say, we shouldn't take too much out of this game.

TopherPrice
TopherPrice

I agree with almost all above. The interesting thing for all of those who like moving West in a trade for Melo, need to pay attention to this game. And really any game where he is off or not putting forth full effort for whatever reason, be it injury or just David being David. If this wasn't a glaring example of how much he brings to the table, I don't know what would be. I bag on him for his defensive intensity, but it is now obvious just how much worse it could be without him. It is nice to be reminded that even though CP3 may elevate his game, he is still pretty special. I will be one of those people setting myself up for disappointment though, as I still believe when and if he is given the chance to be a SG and not have the offense run through him, Marcus will be a 20+ ppg scorer for the Hornets. I am giving up on the Manu references though, as he can run an offense. Buckets will just be Buckets.

DownUnder
DownUnder

The Suns lost by 51 to the Raptors on the second night of a back to back but they beat Dallas after a 2 day rest. Lets not forget that even though these guys might have only played 25 minutes the previous night the whole experience creates a lot or carry over fatigue with the plane rides and timezones. Combine that with the quality of Orlando, their (sorry...) new arena's atmosphere and the 24% of retained offence from the new system (42 will know what I mean) then we had a big disadvantage from the beginning. I'm finding excuses for some pretty poor play tonight but I still have hope for the season and some key trades.

42
42

Good points. Of course, I have to agree since you cited me . . . clever trick there to get a thumb up from me ;)

SK
SK

Too early to judge.

billybob
billybob

Wow. That was hard to watch. We need West healthy and a big trade that doesn't involve CP3 or West. I don't know if it's because the Magic are insanely awesome or we just didn't care tonight but it was a pathetic display. The Magic also have a sick arena. I think I spent more time lookin at their background than the game.

HiMyNameisSteven
HiMyNameisSteven

ok to put this in reality.... i love the hornets and think they have a chance to be good and i know this is only preseason, BUT... we looked awful tonight and our second unit is going to be terrible absolutely awful... when the second team came in we resorted to letting marcus dribble out the shot clock and force a bad shot EVERY time. Peja did look good but only when chris came in since he got him open looks on some nice passes by the team. after tonight i am very worried.. its early but we are 6 maybe 7 players deep with talent and that is it

okijeff
okijeff

How about A.I. at starting SG? He can slide in at PG with the second team and Marcus can play the two. I got him on my Bee's team in NBA 2K11 and I beat the Magic : )

Hornet
Hornet

By the way is it me or is the NBA getting really, really soft with some of these foul calls and rule changes? Emeka had about 3 fouls in 6 minutes and Dwight had 2.

Forever504
Forever504

The NBA always had a dumb foul system to me like how JJ got marcus to jump then he leaned into him WTF

QueenBee
QueenBee

Some of us were happy that the Hornets finally decided to try out a few d-leaguers. Something they've never done before. Are we ready to abandon this idea already?

Hornet
Hornet

No because it does no harm since we can just cut them and there is no effect on the salary cap to my knowledge. If we get one or two solid players from the system it's a successful one because they're also cheap.

QueenBee
QueenBee

LOL! Before these games began most seemed so optimistic about the youth that was influxed into this team. Now we're asking if its the best we can do. LMAO.

Eman5805
Eman5805

Fickle ain't they? I'm not even close to worried. And am anxious to see what happens against Miami. Most probably think we'll get mudhole stomped. We'll see the mettle of our coach and our players. Let's see if they have any pride.

Forever504
Forever504

yup thats true but the bench was always me concern for this team and its only preseason

StefanC
StefanC

Marco Belinelli has a simple skill that many Hornets' guards have not had in the past. He can put the ball down on the floor, penetrate for a few feet, and throw the ball to an open player. It's a simple skill, but our guards and small forwards have just been either allergic or inept in that skill over the past 5 years. Butler, Peterson, Mason, Stojakovic, etc. *Sigh. I would love to see Marco playing the point, but I like him more as a complimentary shooting guard who can penetrate next to CP. We need to trade for a real point guard, fast!

42
42

The offense was off to start and never really got hot hot. The defense was never there. Never. I'm not sure what the issue is. I assume it has to do with the Magic being much better than Memphis and with D West not playing. Maybe we are experimenting. Pops looked like he is continuing to lose ground to Alexander. I can't compare Strawberry and Shakur. Can someone help me there? Green is not getting the point guard thing. Marcus isn't either, but I don't expect it from him. Emeka is playing better than last year, so far. At least there is that. Also, the Magic announcers are unapologetic sycophants. It's tiresome.

MaxALM
MaxALM

I think they need to have CP play more with Thornton. All last year, Thornton was playing with either CP or Collison, both great playmakers. Thornton can create his own shot, but not the whole game. He needs to get set up a little more so he'll have more room to score on his own. If Belinelli can handle the ball and assist on plays like we've been seeing, then he should take more minutes playing the point when CP isn't. Willie Green won't do jack. And on that note, I think this whole influx of D-Leaguers and untested young players is a joke. I don't buy it. Strawberry, Shakur, Alexander, Watkins, and whoever else are just bodies to fill the spots, and nothing else. Is that really the best we can do?

cindy
cindy

watkins and shakur didn't play so maybe if they did they couldn't do worse than those on contracts

StefanC
StefanC

Yes. It's not like we were offered better players and said no. I REALLY hope that hard cap is implemented REALLY soon!

BRballboy
BRballboy

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. Have mercy on CP3 and let him go. Take it back if you were thinking of buying this stinking pile. Come back much later if you want to see competitive basketball. I wish I hadn't seen it cause I was looking forward to this season. Oh well, there's always next decade.

Zwie
Zwie

i kinda like what you said joe... Except instead of the trade.. just move okafor to the 4 and put gray at the 5. CP, bellinelli, Ariza, Okafor, and Gray.. And WEst and thorton and peja coming off the bench.. although i dont think theres enough shots for all of them.? so that might not work out....

JCS
JCS

I cosign with Steven. Gray got PWNED by Superman and the Polish Hammer. He looked so bad that I'm starting to question if he'd even be good enough for the D-League?

HiMyNameisSteven
HiMyNameisSteven

gray looked horrible we cant have him starting let alone play the 10 min a game he will get and more

cindy
cindy

watkins should have played he coldn't do no worse than the big men we had out there

Eman5805
Eman5805

I resent the hesitate when trading Thornton for Melo remark. I wouldn't hesitate to pull the trigger. I'd pull the trigger begrudgingly. Anyway. I wouldn't hate on this game too much. Something about playing the Magic in Orlando leads to this kind of game. I can't explain it and it's annoying, but we get smoked when we play them there. But when they come to New Orleans, we'll play them stronger. Anywho, this is our 2nd preseason game in a back to back in a team still feeling itself out. We'll be a team that will play better and better as the season goes on. Also, whenever the inevitable next move, probably involving Peja, gets done.

TopherPrice
TopherPrice

I am beginning to think that Marcus should come in for CP3 & Marco slide to point. His passing skills have looked pretty good, and he does play some point for the Italian national team. Then when CP3 has had his rest let Belli take his breather for the second quarter. It just seems like we are trying to make the square peg of Willie and Marcus fit in the round hole of the PG spot and it just isn't working.

Hornet
Hornet

I really, really like that idea. Anything to not have Willie Green running the point is a good gameplan.

Joe
Joe

Thanks for the great write up. After hearing all offseason what an up-and-comer Thornton is, it's good to get back to reality and not think of him as untouchable. Average skill (and undertall) 2 guards are the most plentiful type of player in the league. West, Thornton, Peja's contract, and change for Melo? Yes please, and welcome to playing the 4 spot, Oak. I know fantasy time gets old, but starters CP, Ariza, Melo, Oak, and Grey would be a playoff team. Probably. Again, great recap. I can't wait for the real games! Go Hornets!

TopherPrice
TopherPrice

Okafor can not play the 4. End of conversation. He has slightly higher than zero jump shooting ability, and his post up skills are suspect against a center so how is he's gonna do anything on a real 4? Name 1 starting 4 he could outplay. David West would eat his lunch and then tap his mom on the chin for making such a crappy lunch in the first place. If we made that trade and played that lineup we would be a lotto team. We would be poised for some nice moves and be good to go next year, but remember if Marcus is really just an average "undertall" 2 guard, Denver would never make that trade anyway. I'll hold onto the fact that Marcus was a 20 pp36 player for 3 months last year and not worry about two bad games where he is being asked to play point. I'm sure Monty will nip that mess in the bud after enough pre-season failure and just let him be a SG again and all will be fine. This is what pre-season is for during multi-year rebuilding, figure out what works and doesn't work. Well we now have a good idea of some "doesn't works" lets move onetime finding the bench "works."

George
George

Any notes on D.J. Strawberry's pre-season debut, or the extent of D-West's injury?

QueenBee
QueenBee

So far this is all I've gotten about West's injury. "New Orleans Hornets forward David West missed Sunday's game because of a sprained right wrist. But the Hornets said the injury is not serious enough to force him to be sidelined for an extended time."

JCS
JCS

Strawberry went 5 for 5 from the stripe for a total of 11 points, along with 2 steals and 3 offensive rebounds. It is only the pre-season now, but so far he has definitely outplayed Willie G.

Forever504
Forever504

o and if i have to hear about their new arena one more FREAKING time

QueenBee
QueenBee

OMG! I had to put them on mute!

Forever504
Forever504

peja played great ball tonight I'm worried that buckets didn't get any buckets and its not fare we have to watch willie green its like devin brown all over again sigh

usufruct
usufruct

That game was disturbing. A depressing wake-up call.