Thursday, December 18, 2008

At Center Court with Ben Q. Rock

This is the first post under the new tag At Center Court with...which is intended to be a quick interview with the best minds who cover the opposition. Nothing deep. A few quick, somewhat random questions that allow us to explore another team from a Spurs perspective.

Ben Q. Rock works miracles over at Third Quarter Collapse, the best place for an Orlando Magic fan to spend his working hours. Yesterday I was intrigued by his take on Dwight Howard's knee. Today I have the opportunity to pick his brain about the state of the Magic. Happy little world, isn't it?

TV: So long as Dwight Howard remains healthy the Magic should contend for the title. As someone who fears Howard, I take solace in the Rashard Lewis contract. I don't think the Magic could ever move him, and I don't think his performance will ever match his dollars. In other words, if the current roster can't make it over the hump, the Magic will have a difficult time reshuffling the deck. A year and quarter in, what do you think of his contract?
BQR: I'm less pessimistic on the Lewis contract than you are. Yes, he's overpaid, but he's still a great player. I really doubt the Magic will run out of use for Lewis. Even as he ages, he's not going to forget how to shoot... and as long as Dwight Howard is in the middle, he'll get his share of open looks. If the Magic decide they'd be better off without him, they can try unloading him when there's only a year left. A $22 million expiring contract is bound to bring some quality young talent.
Hopefully, it won't come to that, though.
TV: Courtney Lee is a keeper. Where do you see his ceiling?
BQR: I'm hard-pressed to describe Lee's ceiling. He looks like a lock-down defender--Stan Van Gundy has already said Lee's the best perimeter defender on the team--so it's just a question of what he'll do offensively. This month he's shown aggressiveness in the halfcourt and in transition, and as David Thorpe pointed out he's finishing with his left hand when the defense forces him to.
He'll never be an All-Star, but he'll stick around.
TV: In your season preview, you thought a reasonable expectation of the Magic was to make the Eastern Conference Finals. Is this still the case? If not, what must change between now and the playoffs for the Magic to get past the semifinals?
BQR: I'm not still sure that the Magic are conference-finals material, which is frightening because I think they're playing about as best as they can given their current roster. The Celtics and Cavaliers are just so far ahead of everyone else in the East that it's going to be tough to pass either team to make the conference finals... unless the Cavs and Celts meet in the second round, in which case the Magic have to like their chances. It's also tough to get a read on the Magic, since they'll probably tighten the rotation in the playoffs.
If you'd like an across the aisle game preview of tonight's Spurs/Magic contest, point your browser to Third Quarter Collapse. They've got you covered. Otherwise, Graydon will be around this afternoon with his usual Match Up of the Night.

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