NBA / Dec 15, 2009 / 1:48 pm

Orlando needs an enforcer

Dwight Howard (photo. Mannion)

Dwight Howard (photo. Mannion)

Dwight Howard is going to snap. I don’t know when it’s going to happen, exactly what it’s going to entail, or which sad soul will take the brunt of it … but it’s coming.

Last night, Howard made 22 trips to the free-throw line in a win over the Pacers, three days after he shot 17 free throws in a loss to Phoenix. In both games, the defensive strategy was clear: Don’t let Dwight dunk on you at a 98 percent clip when you can send him to the line and take your chances 50/50.

Dwight is used to that part. He knows that until he becomes a reliable free-throw shooter, teams will hack him. His issue — and the issue of Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy — is with how he’s being hacked. As one of the Magic’s announcers said last night, Howard is “getting sick of the neck fouls.” When Troy Murphy unleashed one of these horse-collar style takedowns on Dwight in the second half of yesterday’s game, Dwight got a technical for pushing Murphy off of him and giving him a hard stare.

It reminded me of a game almost exactly one year ago, when Dwight was on his way to dunking on the Clippers and Zach Randolph yanked him down from behind by the neck. That time, Dwight fell to the floor with a bang, unprotected. (He wasn’t hurt.) That time, Dwight got right up and went about his business of dominating; he finished with a 20/20 stat line just like he did against Indiana last night. One year later, Dwight isn’t just taking the beatings with a smile. But if he doesn’t want to get ejected, all he can fight back with are glares and harder dunks. More treatment like this, however, and the aftermath will get worse.

What we’re seeing with Dwight is the same thing we’ve seen with Shaq for 17 years. Because he’s so big and strong, teams committed to fouling him have to foul hard; and because he’s so big and strong and takes so much contact, referees don’t know exactly how to call the game. Nobody wants to watch Dwight (or Shaq) shoot 20-something free throws. Nobody wants to watch opposing bigs foul out in the first half. Nobody wants to get into ticky-tack whistles every time down the court. It’s like how they say NFL referees could call a penalty on every play, but have to pick and choose when to enforce the rules so as not to hold up the game too much. After all, nobody pays to watch the refs.

Shaq eventually grew accustomed to taking a beating, but Dwight isn’t there yet. He’s one of the most good-natured guys in the NBA and he understands the treatment his size and strength brings upon him, but it doesn’t mean he’s not human. Sometime over the next year, assuming he doesn’t suddenly become Mark Price at the stripe, Dwight will either learn to take the punishment in stride or he’ll start retaliating.

For every big man put in this situation, the easiest answer has always been to have an enforcer. It looks weird, considering the enforcer is usually smaller than the guy who needs protection — it’s like seeing Terry Crews with a bodyguard — but it works. Shaq had his greatest success when he had somebody looking out for him: Horace Grant in Orlando and L.A., Samaki Walker and A.C. Green in L.A., Udonis Haslem in Miami. It didn’t stop Shaq from getting fouled all the time, but at least he didn’t feel like he was out there fighting a solo battle.

Dwight Howard has made it to an MVP level and went to the ’09 Finals without an enforcer. Last spring, I wrote that Orlando could win a championship with its perimeter-oriented system where Dwight was the only real interior threat, comparing the ’09 Magic to the ’94 Houston Rockets:

The biggest difference between the ’94 Rockets (who won 58 games in the regular season) and the ’09 Magic is that Hakeem had Otis Thorpe up front with him, who was good for a double-double every night and could effectively guard dudes like Charles Barkley, Karl Malone and Shawn Kemp while keeping Hakeem out of foul trouble. Dwight doesn’t have that kind of enforcer/cleanup hitter, although I’ve been saying for a while that Van Gundy should at least try to play Dwight and Marcin Gortat together once in a while and see what happens.

Houston repeated as champs in ’95 after trading Thorpe, starting Robert Horry at power forward. (Think Rashard Lewis with the current-day Magic.) Those Rockets had no real enforcer to speak of, but then again, Hakeem was so good that often it didn’t matter. Teams didn’t play Hack-a-Hakeem because he’d hit his free throws, and he was quick and coordinated enough to guard All-Star bigs without getting in foul trouble. Again, though, Dwight isn’t there yet. He needs some help.

And this is where Van Gundy comes in. While he’s doing his part by making the issue public and trying to influence refs who cover future Orlando games, he’s not doing anything about it on the court besides complaining. I thought Orlando made a step in the right direction by re-signing Gortat and acquiring Brandon Bass over the summer, but Van Gundy isn’t using them. As Dwight was getting assaulted last night, Bass stayed on the bench with a DNP-CD, and Gortat played five minutes — the exact five minutes that Dwight wasn’t on the court.

Van Gundy has a choice to make. Giving Bass and Gortat more time alongside Dwight takes a three-point threat off the floor and limits Orlando’s offense somewhat, but leaving Dwight to fend for himself is a recipe for an injury or an incident. Dwight is a lone wolf out there, and I’ve been watching enough nature shows lately to know that when a wolf doesn’t have the protection of a pack, somebody is going to get hurt.

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  • Hucklebuck

    Thats why Van Gundy was booted by Pat Riley-
    he can’t manage the players correctly.

    why is Van Gundy benching Bass and Gortat? All that money sitting on the bench? Lewis is a softie, and getting Carter doesn’t make it any better.

    Also, in protection of Howard, I am waiting for him to throw someone down like PJ Brown vs the Knicks. At the same time, however, Howard needs to diversify his game-counter moves in the post, a 10ft jumper, pumpfakes, Ewing-like jump hooks. SOMETHING so that his defenders are kept guessing, making it harder to foul him.
    As much as I like Howard, he is no Shaq-Shaq is a BASKETBALL player, Howard is an ATHLETE playing basketball.

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    Sound like Stan is a terrible coach and to make it easy on himself coaching wise, he leaves a bunch of 3 point shooter on the floor with someone who can create and D12. That’s like Highschool coaching 101. Bass is a much better player than Gortat (who i think is highly overrated) and Bass can even hit the 15ft jumpers when left open. Bass is 6’8 and a solid 250lbs that would bang on people just like D12. Not only that, but he’d be causing fouls himself. Allowing the perimeter game and interior game to open up because the other team would be in the penalty nearly all game if the refs are calling the fouls right. Bass can also bang with bigger forwards and some smaller centers. Allowing D12 to be a weakside shot blocker. Bass is a good rebounder also.

    So in all, Van Gundy is a f^king idiot and is stealing money from the ORL fans.

  • http://twitter.com/PoppiGEE POPPI GEE

    He does need an enforcer. All championship teams have seemingly had one, although L.A. is questionable but I guess L.O. was theres lol.

    Anyway nice one to bring up Ol’Otis. Never got enough due for the work he did. Dude was a behemoth physically and was guarding all the greats at his position and making it hard on em to score.

    Anyway Dwight is a christian but that don’t mean he a punk, and more than the enforcer the NBA needed to do something when it was happening to Shaq and they need to do something now.

    Strategy or no it really hurts the game. Oh yea Dwight does need to hit those free throws though.

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    “As much as I like Howard, he is no Shaq-Shaq is a BASKETBALL player, Howard is an ATHLETE playing basketball.”-hucklebuck

    great point…great point!

  • http://nerditry.com nerditry

    @hucklebuck: I live in Orlando and follow the Magic religiously. Your commentary is exactly spot on. One thing that I may add is that Dwight may not be able to have that type of finesse/varied offensive game because of his physique.

    He is considerably muscled, but that may not lend itself to being able to drop in a soft 10 foot shot or even drive to the rim without going well over the top of it.

    I was at the game last night and no defender respects Dwight’s first step with the ball. They all know which direction he is going, which shoulder he is going to favor and quite often, they’re comfortable in believing he’ll make an error putting the ball on the floor.

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    Another strange thing i noticed is, Dwight is supposed to be an ordained minister correct? I think i read/heard that somewhere before. If so, he sure doesn’t act like one. He helped make popular a song that talks about “superman that hoe” by doing the dance and constantly referring to the song. He is not that naive that he isn’t aware of the meaning of “superman that hoe”.
    Which apparently means busting a nut on the girls back and leaving it there so the sheets can stick to her when she gets up…. Rev. King is rolling over in his grave right now.

  • Royal

    Chicagorilla: Im pretty sure most minsters and preachers have had their fair share of “Superman” moments

  • money

    great article ab. the magic have too many shooters on the floor at once, even ryan anderson at the 4. 3 shooters would be plenty. if bass and dwight were in the middle, bass could even shift out to hit that midrange jumper if needed

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    As far as Orlando needeing an enforcer, isn’t that why they re-signed Gortat and signed Bass?

  • http://dime eyes

    Whatever Howard is he nor Shaq deserve to be fouled the way they do. I’d go with D.Howard over Patrick Ewing. You can teach skill but you can’t teach what Howard or Shaq had. Athletic physical specimens. It’s unreal how big,quick,strong, & how high he can jump. He makes Orlando a defensive team by himself. Almost single handely won the finals. That’s overachieving at it’s best. Who would have thought.

    Van Gundy needs to play both Bass & Gortat way more. You can’t win a chip playing 3 ball. You’ll get there but not over the hump. He does seem PANICKY at times. The players are like calm down. That’s funny. The Orlando Magic could use Rafer Alston. Bad decision. Both Orlando & Skip are suffering. This team is to talented not to have a deeper rotation. Can’t save your dogs. Regular season means nothing. He has the N.Mcmillan problem. Trade your players then. Who wants to sit the bench.

    D.Howard please seek out Mchale,Olajuwon,R.Wallace & T.Duncan,KAREEM this summer. Would be of muchhhhhh help. Pat has done his job. He got you to his peak. Lil rib shot because I used to be a Knicks fan. Still got love for Ewing,Starks,Mason,Oak,Harper & Co. Need Championship post moves baby!!!!

  • Derrty

    So, apparently, Stan Van is a horrible coach. Yeah, he’s terrible. So bad in fact that the Magic are 14 games over .500 at 18-4. So bad in fact that he coached his team to the NBA Finals last season. Yeah, he needs to be fired. Right now. I mean, his implementation of the 1 in/4 out playbook has nothing to do with how this team is constructed. I mean, he had absolutely nothing to do with the Magic beating Boston, in Boston, in a game 7 scenario that had never been done before. So bad that he had no input with exploiting Cleveland for the 1-trick pony that they were.

    Some people are just unbelievable with thier opinions. Riley fired Stan Van because he wanted the glory. And if you believe Shaq and anything he says in his waning years of “being relevant as he slides into the post-superstar athlete still trying to be worth anything” mode, then I believe you’ve lost all your credibility as well. Or, at least you’re as credible as Timmy Legler and Avery Johnson. Stan is a damn good coach. Yeah, he’s no Phil Jackson, not by a long shot. But he’s got a great win-loss record, and is just off a Finals berth. And he’s guiding a team with 7 new players to one of the best records in the league.

    He is truly a terrible, horrible coach.

  • sh!tfaced

    Bass and Gortat are legit big men who are more than willing to do the dirty work. They just need to play more. Both bigs have the least tick in the lineup, except for old man Johnson. Even Jameer who was injured weeks ago still has more minutes logged in than those two.

    The Magic prefer to surround Dwight with shooters and don’t use their other inside players, leaving D12 all alone manning the paint.

  • sh!tfaced

    Orlando has enough big men. They just need to bring in someone who can give them some toughness and attitude, not necessarily a player – like Ewing’s old sidekick, Charles Oakley to their staff.

  • Shaw32

    Play bass he has a good midrange game for big and there’s no HACK-a-BASS cuz he shoots 80 percent from the line.

  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    @dERRTY

    yes, he needs to be fired.

    1) 1 in 4 out because of team construction?…well Bass and Gortat were paid a lot of money also… guess they don’t count as part of the contruction

    2) sure they are winning but thats in SPITE of SVG and not BECAUSE.

    3) they went 7 games with boston… my point exactly! They went 7 games with a team that didn’t have it’s best player (KG) who happens to play D12’s position. Which means D12 should have killed Perk and big Baby…but instead the series went 7. He beat Clevland… who happens to have the only coach in the L wasting more talent than SVG in Mike Brown.

    4)great win-loss record and just off a finals birth… sounds like you are describing MIKE BROWN..

    5) since you want to mention last years playoffs like it was such a great things… what happened in the Philly series? Philly actually led the series 2-1 before SVG’s coaching was helped by the STERN machine.

    again, SVG is a terrible coach which for the most part is hidden by the highly talented players he coaches.

  • Diego

    Doesn’t seem that Bass is getting ANY tick; Orlando should trade him for a point.

    Well, I’ll tell you what, with Jason Kidd staring at me on the other article, I say trade Bass to Dallas for Kidd!

    Kidd is playing alright this year, but his shelf life is pretty limited these days. Bass a young buck but is unneeded by Orlando. JJ Barea is playing pretty well for Dallas; Terry can play point too. Teams are in West and East, so no worries there. If need be, toss Anthony Johnson in the trade too if possible if Dallas wants another point, and have Dallas toss something else in too.

    Make it happen.

  • Eduardo

    Uhhhh I love the metaphor in the end, with nature and wolfs.Gotta give credit where credit is due..;)

  • Prof. TX

    The Magic have the player they need, but they just aren’t using them. Lewis is not a 4, he’s a Dirk-style 3. They need a bruising paint-playing 4 out there who would only need to avereage about 6pt 8rb per night. Gortat or Bass could fill that, splitting time at the 4 or playing both at the same time when Howard needs a rest. If they’re all healthy, the team is built fine. It’s the rotation that needs work.

  • Snyde

    @1

    Um…because that isnt the style of play the Magic use. They predicate their lineups on matchups and the spacing that Ryan Anderson provides is more important that Bass’ minutes. Not to mention Bass has been completely abysmal on D this year so there isn’t really an upgrade on that end either. The Magic are very, very deep. Some players have to take fewer minutes to accommodate this depth. This isn’t a poor reflection on SVG, its a very good indicator of the depth this team has. Your assumption about SVG’s coaching ability (considering he took them to the finals last year and has improved their win total every year, not to mention coached them to the #1 D in the league last year…) is way off base brosef.

  • NEP4life

    Brandon Bass Master for A.Miller and change. Blazers need a banger. Orlando needs a point guard.

    C’mon internet lets do this.

    KP can you hear me?

  • Snyde

    and @ 11,

    thank you. you are the only one on here that is giving SVG the credit he’s due. its unreal that despite this guy winning everywhere he’s been and getting to the finals last year with a team no one expected to be there, hes “terrible”. unconventional? yes. funny to look at? yes. whiney demeanor? of course. little too intense at times? yes. great coach? no question.

  • Snyde

    chicagogorilla,

    its funny how easily one can say they win DESPITE their “horrible” coach and thats supposed to be taken as fact. the magic had brian hill as their coach before SVG got there. they were 40-42. SVG walks in the door…BEFORE shard gets there mind you…and they jump to 48 wins. Shard gets there, 52 wins. Last season, 59 wins…see a trend here? thats not winning DESPITE a coach, its winning using that coach’s great offensive and defensive philosophy to maximize the available talent on your roster. Gortat has sucked balls this year. He doesn’t muscle up on anyone or play defense. Bass has some offensive game but his defense has somehow been worse than Gortat’s. Watch a game once in a while then comment. Don’t just make baseless assumptions about SVG’s coaching ability when all the guy has done is win.

  • the cynic

    Bass defense might improve if he got sufficient courts time, but Gortat is a superior player to Bass. There is a reason the Mavs let Bass go to orlando then attempted to snake Gortat. Howard plays too many minutes anyways, but if he had any other moves beside stand under the basket team wouldn’t horse collar him so much (which should be a flagrant foul).

    @ chicagogorilla

    stan van gundy does make some boneheaded coaching decisions sometimes, but he is solid coach. You bash him because it took them 7 games to put away the celtics when each team was missing an all-star. The only 2 games the 76ers won were on 2 lucky last second shots (they didn’t even need Howard to blow them out in game 6 at Philly). You bash him when hasn’t had his starting unit together all season and has the 3rd best record in the league. If your going to spew BS, at least try and do it with a relevant argument.

  • rocco

    gortat gets paid good money to do this

  • http://dime eyes

    It’s not that hard to win 1 in this league when you have a center like Howard. A player like Rashard as your 2nd option. Throw in a healthy Jameer,Barnes,Pietrus & CO. He’s a good coach but the lineup could use some tinkering. It’s not good what they did last yr by bringing Jameer back in spite of Alston solid play. It threw of chemistry. You might as well protect your big & try it for crying out loud. It might work. Everyone is jumping on the defensive. You guys still have to beat the Celtics & a revamped Atlanta team. This team is deep but not unbeatable. Jameer didn’t get them to finals.

    I don’t think J.Will either. It’s up to SVG/D12 & Co. to do it. The filler pieces have been nice. Remember though come playoffs time the intensity goes up a ton. For the money Bass & Gortat are being payed use them or trade them. A guard line-up of Nelson,W/C,& Vet Johnson will not sustain and help this roster in a half court setting. Rotations and different line-ups make a difference. Learn a thing or two from Doc Rivers. The Celts are experimenting and Garnett isn’t even a 100% and there Roasting people like Turkeys. The minutes being spread is going to be plus as the season or nagging injuries arise.

    Being a good coach doesn’t win a N.B.A. finals. The window for this team is now. You blew a golden oppurtunity last yr with help from Stern & the Refs/JAMEER COMEBACK TOUR. The Kobe hold on Lee & then the Gasol/Phil admitted goaltend. Replay should have negated that play. Also a few phantom calls on Mamba & allowing D12 to be held on a closeout game the Magic had in the bag. It totally swayed the series. Good Job Donaghy I mean Stern. Way to script a winner and save face,the league. It’s fair & square may the best man win. Aside from all that the Magic could have won. The Nuggets & you guys have the best chance of upsetting everyone’s fantasy Finals. I’m hoping for an epic Boston/Orl -LA/DEN turning into a Den/Orl CHIP. Would bring a little bit of the realness back. Stern covered his Kobe tattoo with LBJ’s but know has a Blake Griffin Coffee Mug & Tim Duncan autographed cowboy hat.

  • JEP

    This is an aside to the article, which was quite good, but I could not let the following quote slide:

    “…Shaq is a BASKETBALL player, Howard is an ATHLETE playing basketball.”

    That was a joke, right? No offense chief, but Shaq was good for one reason only: size + strength. There was not much skill there (seriously, how many times did Shaq lead the leage in rebounding?). If Shaq were a “basketball player” then I assume we could knock him back to 6’10″/250 and he still would have been good with his same skill set? (Rhetorical question – under that circumstance I am not sure he would have even started for half the teams in the league). Kareem, Olajuwon, Duncan, heck, even guys like Sabonis – those were basketball players. Shaq? An ogre with Nikes. I can go out and hoop with the grade school kids and score 50-60 points in a game every night…it does not make me a good player, I am just a lot bigger and stronger than the rest of the little folk.

  • mtshamrocker

    Although it would be great to see Dwight develope a complete game and be even more dominant by shooting 70-80% from the line, which would slow the fouling. The “clear path” rule could be extended to include a guy who is going to get an obvious and emphatic two points if not mugged. Then a flagrant is called you shoot two and get the ball back, and it wouldn’t pay to hack him. I would much rather watch a nasty rimrocker than even Ray Alan shoot free throws. Reluctantly, some credit should also go to those with the rocks to drop the hammer either Shaq or Dwight. As a 40+ Y-baller, I think I would enjoy the show and keep my teeth.

  • Derrty

    Chicagorilla:

    I wonder where your logic comes from. You bash on SVG and say the Magic are winning in “spite” of him? And he needs to be fired? No, son. Not a chance in hell. Lawrence Frank needed to be fired. Terry Porter needed to be fired. Stan Van? No. Not when his team is responding to him and playing well. Here’s a rebuttal for you:

    1) Bass and Gortat are INSURANCE. Do you know what that means? That means when Howard goes out with fouls or injury, Gortat is there. A lot of people here are dogging Stan Van for not playing Bass, but look at his +/- numbers. They’re not great. In fact, his defense is his weakest link. The Magic’s three worst lineups all have Bass as either the 4 or 5. Gortat’s production has dipped this year, as well. Yes, team construction. Thats what this team is about. That’s why we pose so many matchup problems. Not because of Bass or Gortat. They’re insurance and most importantly, trade bait.

    2) In spite of SVG? Prove that. Stan’s playbook is specialized for this team. He works to his players’ strengths. This team has lost 4 times in the last 22 games, 10 without thier best shooter, many dealing with injuries. They have yet to play a full week without thier projected starting roster. And yet, they’re in contention for one of the top spots in the league. And you call that bad coaching? Where is the logic in that?

    3) So, you’re one of those people who only take into account that Boston was missing KG, and call that the deciding factor in the series, eh? Did you forget that Orlando was missing Jameer Nelson? And don’t give me that Finals version, either. I’m talking about the pre-injury, All-Star BEFORE Mo Wiliams cried and was selected after 7 injuries, slashing up the Lakers in the regular season version. Orlando was also missing their own All-Star, or did that not count? As I recall, Orlando also won in Boston this year with Boston at full strength. Oh, wait… They didn’t have Big Baby, so I guess that game didn’t count as well.

    4) Mike Brown? You’re comparing SVG to Mike Brown? The only coaching skill that Mike Brown has over SVG is that he dresses like a coach. Mike Brown doesn’t even coaching ability. Nobody wants to listen to his teeth speak. Lebron coaches his Lebronettes. Stan’s ‘stache ownes Mike Brown’s teeth.

    5) You want to know what happened in Philly? The Magic won. End of story. Philly was pumped. That’s all it was. Philly was jacked to be in the playoffs and the Magic cruised into the postseason. Philly caught them off guard with their energy and athleticism and the Magic responded by winning the series. The much better team won. I can’t believe you’d even go there. That’s just an inane and asinine point to try to make.

  • D.H.

    Or you could do what I do in my league . . . Dwight just does to the other guy what they did down the floor. I, for one, can’t wait to see Dwight horse collar some 6’10 250 pounder to the floor!

  • QQ

    For every Orlando article, it’s always Van Gundy eh?

    You know, I have issues against SVG myself, but this ‘ALWAYS blame it on him’ approach EVERY SINGLE TIME is sickening.

    I’ve followed my squad for years, and I can definitely say he’s a different kind of coach, because he does it his way. There’s a bad in that, but a Finals trip and still one of the top teams now, there’s a LOT of good in that.

    Stop playin’.

    @ Derrty:

    Came out swinging, cat. Finish em.

  • QQ

    And yeah, AB, I remember you telling us that Gortat should start alongside Dwight many times. Is this another plea? Don’t you see that it doesn’t work?

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    QQ, I don’t think Gortat should start or even play a ton of minutes. I just don’t understand why SVG doesn’t even try to play him and Howard at the same time. Even when it would have made sense, like when the Lakers were throwing two 7-footers out there and another 6-10 guy, at least play Dwight and Gortat for 4-5 minutes together.

    And yeah, when it’s a matter of personnel and playing time, that does fall on the coach. I’m not saying Van Gundy is a bad coach — I think he’s a good coach — but he’s the one who decides who plays. If Dwight is out there with no enforcer and you’ve got two potential enforcers on the bench not being used, that’s on the coach.

  • QQ

    @ AB:

    It doesn’t make sense, man. The Lakers and the Magic? Come on now. You can see how different their offenses are, right?
    You could play two centers in the triangle because that’s how their offense works. Our offense needs 4 shooters for it to work. Using two centers will just neglect our offense and instead highlight our weakness. Why would any coach do that?

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    You’re asking why would any coach occasionally go big against the Lakers?

  • hokwei

    “He does need an enforcer. All championship teams have seemingly had one, although L.A. is questionable but I guess L.O. was theres lol.”

    Apparently you didn’t see Fisher put the wood to Louis Scola.

    “That was a joke, right? No offense chief, but Shaq was good for one reason only: size + strength. There was not much skill there (seriously, how many times did Shaq lead the leage in rebounding?). If Shaq were a “basketball player” then I assume we could knock him back to 6′10″/250 and he still would have been good with his same skill set? (Rhetorical question – under that circumstance I am not sure he would have even started for half the teams in the league). Kareem, Olajuwon, Duncan, heck, even guys like Sabonis – those were basketball players. Shaq? An ogre with Nikes. I can go out and hoop with the grade school kids and score 50-60 points in a game every night…it does not make me a good player, I am just a lot bigger and stronger than the rest of the little folk.”

    You must not have seen Shaq in his prime. He was bigger, stronger AND faster and more agile than most other centers he played against. Sure, Hakeem and Robinson were quicker than he was. They were quicker than a lot of small forwards too. Shaq’s greatness came from his unique size and agility. And the reason he never led the L in rebounding was more to due with lack of effort than lack of skill.

  • QQ

    No, I’m asking who would any coach neglect their offense by using a lineup that doesn’t take advantage of how their playbook works?

  • http://dimemag.com Austin Burton

    It’s not like you have to keep the same lineup out there for 48 minutes. Should Orlando scrap their offense just to get two big guys on the floor at the same time? No. Should they (at least occasionally) get somebody on the floor with Dwight who can also rebound and defend the paint? Yes.

    Remember the end of the Suns game? Dwight went to the perimeter to challenge Dudley’s shot, and you knew when he did that, there was no way Amar’e wasn’t getting that offensive rebound. Even though there were 3-4 Magic players around Amar’e. Again, I’m not saying start Gortat or even start Bass, but give Dwight a chance to not get his ass beat all night, every night.

  • weng santos

    Regardless of SVG’s system, much of this is Dwight’s fault.

    How many teams that intentionally hacked Shaq won against him? Shaq is an ugly freethrow shooter, but he has a history of making them when it counts.

    Also, don’t we always say players shouldn’t let anybody get in the lane and dunk on them? That they should foul hard to send a message? The problem with Dwight is he needs to get to the front of the rim to do his thing. Shaq’s half-hook is good out to about 12 feet. He doesn’t need to get as close in as DH to be effective.

    Take what the defense gives you, Dwight. If you can’t exploit that, it’s because yopu have no moves, and that’s on you now, not the refs nor the opponents.

  • Hucklebuck

    @JEP

    where should I start? I will start with ur “rhetorical theory”-he is not 6’10” 250, why would you even bring that up? wow
    the REALITY is Shaq is 7’1”, 300lbs, and there hasn’t been a player with that size, agility, and strength (big up to hokwei)that has had an influence on the game as much as Shaq.

    JEP, you help me out on this since YOU say Shaq isn’t a basketball player-
    AT AGE 24-
    ppg- SHAQ-26.2
    Howard-18.2
    rpg- Shaq-12.5
    Howard-12.7
    apg- Shaq-3.1
    Howard-1.6

    so at the same age, are you tellin me Howard is a better basketball player than Shaq? YOU are tellin me Howard would fare well against David Robinson, Hakeem, and Ewing, or even better than Shaq?
    WHY isn’t Howard dominating in this era of no centers?
    Howard has shooters in Carter, Lewis, Anderson, Nelson, Petrius-as a group they are nowhere NEAR Penny, Anderson, Scott, much less Fox, Horry, Fisher, and Shaw (notice I am leaving Kobe out of this).
    I haven’t even gone into the stats yet, more assists than Howard, and more points. Rebounds are the same, a whoppin less than 1 rebound differential at the same age.
    Shaq at 24 can score with a jumphook, bankshot, 5ft fadeaway, 8ft-ish one hand jumper in the lane, can pass the ball-no looks, over the head.
    and Howard?-one right handed hook, one spin move, no jumper, no fadeaway, doesn’t see the floor as well, or move with the fluidity and rhythm of Shaq yet.
    Howard will get there one day, but don’t try and take down Shaq cuz Howard isn’t there yet. 4 rings and MVPs to Howard’s what?-and NBA Finals loss?

    whatchu got JEP?

  • Mike M.

    Hucklebuck, you just captured almost everything I wanted to say about Shaquille O’Neal. People see him now and seem to forget (or just never knew) how skilled he was during his early years up to his prime. He was an athletic FREAK when he got into the league, but also had skills. A good sample of his pure athleticism is his dunk over David Robinson during the 1996 All-Star game in San Antonio (Youtube it). Also, he had one of THE quickest spin moves off the block. Yes, it even rivaled vintage Olajuwon. Don’t believe me? Look at early Shaq clips and see how he punks people with that spin move after he lulls them to sleep. As he got older, Shaq did rely more on his size and strength than his quickness, but let’s not forget how quick he was. And even then, he still displayed quite the offensive skillset in his prime as previously mentioned.

    Oh, and as for his never winning a rebounding title, don’t forget that for his first six years he had to contend with a dude named Dennis Rodman, who was a rebounding freak pulling down 15-18 boards per game during that stretch. Not even Dwight Howard beats that. Shaq also was JUST behind the league leader during his best two years in 99-00 and 00-01. It’s not like he was never amongst the best in the league in rebounding…

  • NOLE

    @ Hucklebuck

    Do you know what rhetorical means?

  • Hucklebuck

    yes, indeed I do know what it means.
    by definition, if posed as a question it is asked with the effect in which no answer is required or expected.

    what’s your point NOLE?
    are you trying to get me back for a stupid little comeback that has NOTHING to do with the topic of this article in question?
    or are you just trying to butt into something?

  • Josh V

    new NBA rule.

    each team/coach gets 4 chances each game to swap any player on the court (not from the bench) to shoot free throws after a foul (similar to the coach challenges in the NFL with replay). It would help to lessen the hard fouls on the bigs that slow the game down so much and add a new level of strategy (do you use them when trying to rally, save all four for the endgame, spread them out to protect you’re big). the only problem I see is the stats (guys like Nash would get 8 “free points” a game while guys like Howard would lose 4 “free points” 50% clip). maybe those 8 points go into their own category (team FT) and not credited to a specific player.

  • Urban

    Stan Van Gundy, Orlando Magic/Miami Heat – 223-126, 63.8%

    It’s funny how perception becomes truth, and how a couple coaching incidents can give VanGundy the horrible coach label. The guy has the 4th best active win percentage. And don’t say it’s because he has great players (he was missing one of his all stars….again) , because ALL the top 4 have great players. Phil has the lakers, Popovich has the Spurs, and Mike Brown (who I personally think sucks) has Lebron. Then it’s VanGundy. If he’s the 4th best coach stat wise, playing with a host of injuries, and overachieving every year how is he soooooo bad. Are you really gonna beleive the media hype from Shaq and Howard, or believe the stats. The coach is a stud, and it’s a shame Riley took his ring while using Stans system.