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NBA Playoffs: First Round Hits and Misses

Here are the highlights I have drawn from the first round, if you think I’ve missed anything please add it in the comments section.

Hits

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies were written off before the playoffs even started and they are now in the second round. They are not the team we thought they would be!

Dwight Howard

This man did everything he could to keep the Magic in the playoffs, if his team mates did the same Howard wouldn’t have to be killing the rumors about being traded or free agency.

CP3

Chris Paul showed the world that he is well and truly back. If the All-Star point guard carries this form into next season I’m sure his name will be mentioned in the MVP conversation.

Brandon Roy

Those unstable knees of his didn’t keep him grounded for too long. B-Roy came up big in Game 4 and made it clear that the Blazers could still depend on him.

Kevin Durant

Always a beast on offense, averaging 32.4 points in the series, including two 41 point performances. No one can guard KD.

Serge Ibaka

More like Serge I-Blocka! He had 9 blocks in Game 5… 9! And averaging 4.8 in the series, Ibaka is turning into a key player within that OKC defense.

Miami’s Big Three

I’ll have to that this was expected, playoffs are the time for stars to shine and that’s exactly what Miami’s Big Three did, proving to be too much for the 76ers.

Boston’s Big Four

Boston was the only team to sweep in the first round. The old guys look very fresh and will be trouble for the Heat in the next round.

Indiana Pacers

The 8th seeded Pacers showed a lot of fight against the Bulls, they showed that they weren’t going to be a push over like any regular eight seed. Interim coach Frank Vogel can take all of the credit for getting these guys to come out and compete every night.

Misses

San Antonio Spurs

They had the best regular season record but this meant nothing to their first round opponents. The Spurs looked old and battered, Z-Bo had his way with their bigs and Manu wasn’t Manu after that elbow injury. It’s rebuilding time for the Spurs this offseason, happy fishing!

New York Knicks

It would be very optimistic to say that the Knicks had a chance to beat the Celtics in this series. But getting swept is very disappointing, I thought they had at least two wins in them. It will be a very eventful offseason for them too.

Pau Gasol

I think his parents fed all the tough pills to Marc when they were little. Pau struggled against the New Orleans big men, his numbers were way down from what they were during the season.

Any Orlando Magic player not named Dwight Howard

If your name is not Dwight Howard and you play for the Orlando Magic watch out because the guys upstairs will do anything to keep Dwight happy. After their performance these playoffs I don’t think anyone’s job is safe within Orlando.

Hit and Miss

Russell Westbrook

He is an NBA All-Star and one of the leaders on that team. But if you have Kevin Durant on your team you can’t be taking more shots than the best scorer in the game. Westbrook will have to make better decisions when it comes to the next round.

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Dwight Howard Loves Orlando!

Following elimination from the playoffs last night, a frustrated Dwight Howard faced the eager media who had already begun speculations about his future with the Orlando Magic. Before a question regarding this could be completed Howard cut in and had this to say:

“That has nothing to do with right now. There’s no need for me to comment on it. So let’s not even talk about it. There’s no need to bring it up. Right now, I’m going to figure out how I can get myself better for next season, not about what team I’m going to play for. So all the speculation can stop. There’s no need to talk about it.”

Unlike recent superstars that have moved area codes, namely LeBron and Carmelo, Howard left everything out there on the floor. Averaging an astonishing 27 points, 15.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, he didn’t check out the way LeBron did in against Boston in the second round of last year’s playoffs and Carmelo as the trade deadline neared this year.

Prior to Game 6 it would seem that Howard already put his house up for sale and had his bags packed as speculations grew, however reports indicate the contrary. “I am going to do whatever I can to lead my city,” said Howard. “I love Orlando — Our fans deserve a championship and I am going to keep fighting. That’s all I can do is keep fighting.”

Related post: Does an exit for Orlando mean an exit for Dwight Howard?

President of basketball operations, Otis Smith, confirmed he had no intentions to trade Howard before the February 2012 deadline. What you would conclude from these statements is that Dwight will remain the face of the franchise for many years to come. This may be so but Smith will have to explain why he made that roster overhaul mid-season and why he should be trusted in putting together the pieces for a championship. In my opinion his decision making has been very anti-championship. However Magic CEO Bob Vander Weide says Smith is expected to be back next season.

As much as the Magic try to change the perception of the situation, speculation will grow until Howard has either signed an extension or moved to another city.

It looks like it will be another exciting summer. Stay tuned in!

Until next time..

D.B.

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Does an exit for Orlando mean an exit for Dwight Howard?

Many will say that it is a championship or bust year for the Orlando Magic. The reason behind this is the looming free agency of Dwight Howard following the 2011-12 season.

The Magic are now on the brink of elimination, down 3-1 to the Atlanta Hawks and Howard has been doing everything in his power to get wins for his team. Averaging 33.3 points on 66.7% from the field and pulling down 17.5 rebounds per game. He has also played all but 12 minutes in the four games this series however these astonishing numbers have only been good enough to win one game.

Where are the Magic going wrong?

A consistent trend during the playoffs is Orlando’s under achieving supporting cast. You must wonder what kind of confidence Howard has in his GM, Otis Smith, to put together the pieces of a championship team. I’m thinking it’s not high.

So far Smith’s efforts have been questionable at best, signing Rashard Lewis to a large contract, who turned out to be very ineffective. Trading away their backup center, Marcin Gortat, who provided valuable minutes and now bringing in the like of a broken Gilbert Arenas. I could go on, but I imagine you get the point, it would be hard for Howard to stay in Orlando with what seems to be anti-championship management.

What do the Magic have ahead of them if their playoffs are cut short?

My prediction is nothing good. Howard is one of the most low maintenance superstars in the league, it’s hard to see him leave the franchise that he has been with his entire career. We all know he wants a championship, he hasn’t kept that a secret and recently we’ve seen the leagues biggest stars make moves that were thought unimaginable. Fans have already created the website staydwight.com, so you know that free agency is no out of the question.

All the cards are with Dwight, if he chooses to test out the free agent market and Smith keeps his word on not trading his superstar big man, chances are high that Orlando will be the next Cleveland. The smartest decision would be to trade Howard and at least get some value for him.

Where could Howard land next season if he is traded?

There would be many teams wanting to give up valuable pieces in order to get him on their roster. The likes of Los Angeles, New Jersey or even Chicago would all be possibilities. Chicago have a number of players that Orlando might be interested in, I could imagine the trade will involve some combination of Noah, Boozer, Asik, Gibson and Deng. LA also has some assets, Bynum would be in the middle of that trade with the addition of Odom or Brown and without a question, New Jersey, who have the rising star in Brook Lopez.

However it’s hard to say what will happen, Orlando still have a chance to continue in the playoffs, a very slim one, but nothing that hasn’t been done before. Last time someone came back from a 3-1 deficit was the Phoenix Suns in round 1 of the 2006 playoffs against the Lakers. Anything is possible.

It looks like it will be another eventful offseason.

Until next time..

D.B.

Do you have thoughts on this topic? Reply in the comments section. We are on twitter follow us @hoopsweblog. Subscribe to get regular updates about what’s happening in the basketball world.