Stan Van Gundy is being questioned now about guys I am sure very few people thought much of before the year began. Orlando Magic injuries this season have resulted in the Magic diving deeper and deeper into their bench, with the results mixed, but mixed up enough to lead to questions.
Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu, Ryan Anderson, Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, Quentin Richardson, Chris Duhon, and now perhaps Glen Davis have missed time this year, forcing Stan Van Gundy to juggle his lineup and rotation.
Fans of every team love talking about who should and shouldn’t be playing. Orlando is no different. We talk about it on the radio, and fans talk to us about it. Sometimes who we talk about gets to be amusing though.
The two latest cases are two guys who weren’t given much of a thought and no thought before the season began.
Daniel Orton never played last year, his rookie year, and many Magic fans had already labeled him a bust.
Ish Smith wasn’t with the Magic when the year began, and was just stopping in for a cup of coffee in Orlando replacing an ineffective Larry Hughes.
Now, both players are the focus of Magic fans upset that we haven’t seen more of them.
As for Orton, let’s pump the breaks a little bit. First, he looked pretty good. Quick hands, quick off his feet to block shots, played under control for the most part on both ends. I get it. It’s encouraging. But. Yeah, you saw that coming. But, it was against Cleveland. That can’t be understated. Also, he played 29 minutes and grabbed 4 rebounds. He is a center, right? So let’s not go hammering Stan for leaving the big man on the bench just yet.
The bigger issue, smaller player, that is causing more waves is Ish Smith. Smith has played 14 minutes or more on 5 different occasions this year for the Magic. He has been pretty productive in his time on the floor. The former Wake Forest guard likes to push the tempo and his young legs and his above average ball-handling are quite the contrast to Chris Duhon. When Duhon was suspended a couple games back, fans thought that opened the door for good for Smith to takeover as the backup point guard. We found out yesterday at Cleveland, that wasn’t the case when Smith didn’t get off the bench and Duhon played.
Reality is, no matter how loud Magic fans get on the subject, neither is a great option. Whatever you think of Jameer Nelson, both are far off what the starting PG brings to the table. Ish Smith is exciting, he speeds up the pace, and is aggressive. Watching Duhon is like hoping you don’t have a bowl movement while walking to the restroom. I get that.
Smith can be sloppy too, but it’s more accepting for your player to turn the ball over trying to get to the basket than it is while trying to get past half-court. Duhon, does understand the offense, and directing it better. He also is one of the top five 3pt% shooters in the NBA this year, so he brings that threat to the table.
While I don’t necessarily think Duhon should continue to play over Ish Smith, I also don’t think Stan Van Gundy is dope for doing it. He knows the Magic players better than I do and understands the game better than I do. I do think if he does play the vet over the kid though, it should be a very short leash.
We’ve been down this road before with Earl Clark and Von Wafer. And then you see more of them and realize why they weren’t playing much to begin with. That happens more often than not in this league. Lester Hudson set the world on fire for 3 straight games in Cleveland, and you wouldn’t know it less than a week later, last night in the Magic’s thrashing of the Cavs, would you?
Either way, it won’t determine if the Magic win or lose in the playoffs. Getting healthy and having all your key guys playing regular minutes will.