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NBA Offseason: Wizards trade Rashard Lewis for Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza 06.20.12 at 3:04 pm ET
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This was a bit of a surprise. According to a report by Draft Express, and confirmed by several others including the Washington Post’s Michael Lee, the Wizards have agreed to trade Rashard Lewis and the 46th pick in the draft to the Hornets for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.

First, the contract numbers: Lewis has one-year left on his albatross contract that pays him more than $23 million but he can be waived for $13.7 million, per Draft Express. Okafor is due about $14 million this season and he has an early termination option for the 2013-14 season, while Ariza will make over $7 million and has a player option for the following season at $7.2 million.

This could potentially save the Hornets up to $30 million and open up major cap space for next summer. With two first round picks and no long-term salary obligations — yet — the Hornets are well-positioned to build an entirely new team in new owner Tom Benson’s first season.

Eric Gordon is set to hit restricted free agency, but suddenly re-signing him to a large deal is less daunting minus that $20 million in contracts for Okafor and Ariza. A core of Gordon, Anthony Davis, whoever they get with the 10th pick and cap space isn’t a bad starting place.

For the Wizards, well, this is yet another step in yet another major overhaul. After years of being good with nothing to show for it, they settled into a painful rebuild around young players with no veteran experience, an approach that was criticized by Celtics coach Doc Rivers among others.

GM Ernie Grunfeld signaled the new direction when he traded Javale McGee for Nene at the deadline. Now he adds two more veterans at the cost of future cap space. If Grunfeld really wanted to clean house, he could use the amnesty provision on Andray Blatche who has been a major disappointment.

This move could also affect the draft where Washington could set their sights on Florida guard Bradley Beal with the third pick, rather than Kentucky forward Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, setting up a backcourt of Beal and John Wall to go with the veteran bruisers up front. They still have recent first rounders: Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin, Chris Singleton and Jan Vesley, so it’s not as if Washington is going the veteran route completely.

Whether Okafor and Nene can play together up front remains to be seen, but with Wall entering his third season it’s time to find out exactly what they have in the 2010 top overall pick.

Read More: 2012 NBA Offseason, Emeka Okafor, John Wall, Rashard Lewis
What the Orlando moves mean for the Celtics 12.18.10 at 10:31 pm ET
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In two separate trades over the course of one day, the Orlando Magic turned over almost half of their rotation for an upgrade at the scoring guard position (Jason Richardson) and high-priced gambles on two of the league’s worst contracts (Hedo Turkoglu and Gilbert Arenas). In doing so, they ditched the services of two former All-Star wing players whose production has plummeted (Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis) and two well-paid role players (Mikael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat).

There are a lot of moving parts for the Magic, who over the last two and half weeks have lost six of seven games and watched as the Celtics asserted themselves as the favorites in the East and the Heat established themselves as the best team in their division.

The Celtics have always considered the Magic their toughest conference challenger and many of their offseason moves have been done with the Magic in mind. Orlando general manager Otis Smith clearly felt that his team needed an overhaul to try and keep pace.

The particulars are as follows:

Orlando gets: Gilbert Arenas from Washington and Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkulgu and Earl Clark from Phoenix.

Orlando gives up: Rashard Lewis to Washington and Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mikael Pietrus, a 2011 No. 1 pick and $3 million to Phoenix.

Phoenix and Washington’s motivations are clear. The Suns, who are going nowhere fast, shed Turkoglu’s onerous contract, which still has two years remaining after this season and get an intriguing big man with potential in Gortat along with a serviceable player in Pietrus. The cash will help the inevitable $4 million buyout on the last year of Carter’s contract. The Wizards obviously get rid of Arenas, who still has three years, $60 million and just as much baggage next to his name.

But these trades are all about the Magic, or more specifically, Dwight Howard, who as Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer points out, can opt out after the 2012 season. If this team had reached its limit, then it does them no good to continue playing out the string until Howard becomes a free agent.

Assuming for the sake of argument that the personalities of the new players will mesh with coach Stan Van Gundy, which is the huge blinking neon light of an X-factor in this discussion, the Magic have gotten better offensively. They have shooters everywhere to put around Howard and in Arenas they have a scoring guard who can create his own shot.

That is particularly important against the Celtics, who are one of the few teams capable of playing Howard straight-up. Without the double-teams, the Magic had trouble getting their shooters open for shots against the Celtics in the playoffs until they switched to a constant pick-and-roll attack. Carter was supposed to be that player, but he wasn’t able to do it.

The Magic should also play faster, an obvious adjustment for a team with so many perimeter players, a dominant rebounder and a lack of size beyond Howard. All of this makes it even more important that Delonte West is able to return from his broken wrist because Van Gundy now has a number of different lineup combinations he can use and the Celtics could use West’s defensive versatility.

Here are five essential realities of the deal from Orlando’s perspective. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Dwight Howard, gilbert arenas, Jason Richardson, Orlando Magic
Five Reasons Why The Celtics Won Game 3 05.22.10 at 11:19 pm ET
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The Celtics are just a win away from the NBA Finals following a 94-71 win over the Magic on Saturday night, a victory that was exactly as close as the score revealed. The Magic never led in the contest, and the Celtics held a double-digit lead during the final 39 minutes of the game. Glen Davis led the Celtics with 17 points off the bench and Paul Pierce added 15. Rajon Rondo had 11 points and 12 assists for the winners. The defense has been the calling card of this team and it continued in Game 3, as the C’s held the Magic to 36.9 percent shooting.

Five Reasons

GREAT START:

Before tipoff, the formula for a Celtics victory on Saturday seemed simple. Hang in during the inevitable fast start from a Magic team that was playing for its postseason life and eventually wear down Orlando with defense and toughness. Turns out the group that played with desperation right from the start was the team up 2-0, and the defense and toughness never slowed down.

The Celtics led 27-12 after the first quarter, holding the Magic to just 23.5 percent shooting. The Magic’s three stars — Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis — scored a total of three points on 1-of-11 shooting in the quarter. The Celtics jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back, taking a 21-6 lead (following a 14-0 run) to, incredibly, basically put this game away. The opening 12 minutes told you all you need to know about both teams. One played with heart, urgency and smarts and the other played as if they were finishing up a home-and-home series with Memphis in February.

RONDO DOES HIS BEST LARRY LEGEND:

THE play of the series, without question, came in the second quarter when Rondo dove for a loose ball at the Magic foul line, taking the ball from Jason Williams (who, it appeared, didn’t feel much like hitting the floor). Rondo then got up, put a wicked cross-over on Williams and banked in a layup. Williams, it should be noted, put exactly the same amount of effort trying to defend Rondo as he did trying to get the loose ball. That kind of play by Rondo works perfectly when you need an example to show why one team is totally dominating the other in a series where the talent level doesn’t seem that different (though that can now be debated).

GLEN DAVIS:

Through three games in this series, Rashard Lewis ($110 million) has scored a total of 15 points in 111 minutes played. That is two fewer points than Big Baby (two years, $6.3 million) scored in his 23:15 on the floor in Game 3. Davis also took nine free throw attempts in Game 3, one more than the entire Orlando starting five combined. And unlike Game 2, where he had trouble matching up with Howard physically, Davis did an expert job on the post defensively.

DWIGHT HOWARD: NON-FACTOR

Howard’s line in the most important game of his season: 3-of-10 from the floor, 1-of-4 from the free throw line, a plus/minus rating of -29 (worst of any player on the Magic in a game they lost by 23 points). Credit Perkins, Davis, Rasheed Wallace and the game plan but Howard has to take a hit. If you are going to be thought of as a truly great player that kind of effort cannot happen in a must win. Shades of LeBron in Game 5.

TAKING CARE OF THE BALL:

This stat will probably be lost in all the postgame “What’s wrong with the Magic?/Are the Celtics better than 2008?” stuff, but maybe the biggest reason this was never a competitive game was the assist-to-turnover ratios of the teams. The Celtics finished with 23 assists and just eight turnovers, compared to a ghastly 10-17 mark for the Magic. Rondo, in fact, finished with two more assists than the Magic team.

Read More: Dwight Howard, Glen Davis, Orlando Magic, Paul Pierce
Howard: ‘We’re not done’ at 8:16 pm ET
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In spite of being down 2-0 to the Celtics, Dwight Howard is optimistic about the Magic’€™s future in the Eastern Conference Finals.

‘€œWe’€™re not done,’€ he told WEEI.com prior to Game 3.

Howard was loose and said the team is not getting down about their deficit, noting, ‘€œWe feel like a million bucks. It’€™s a new day.’€

The Magic have used the three-day break between Games 2 and 3 to mentally refocus. They have watched game tape and honed in on getting back to the fundamentals of Magic basketball.

Rashard Lewis noted they are zoned in on improving their ball movement and getting into an offensive rhythm early, something he said they have not done yet in this series.

“Boston was in a better rhythm than us playing, and hopefully they won’t be tonight,” Lewis told WEEI.com, adding, “We’ve got to come in with a lot of energy and a lot of effort in order to beat this team.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic, Rashard Lewis
Kevin Garnett’s big challenge 05.20.10 at 2:25 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Rashard Lewis is a monster scorer, but Kevin Garnett is a monster defender, and through two games, Garnett has gotten the better of his longtime rival. Not only has Lewis not been able to score — just 11 points — he hasn’t even been able to get shots off — just 16 in two games.

Credit for that goes mainly to Garnett, along with Glen Davis, who have a hand in his face on almost every jump shot he’s attempted. In Game 1, both of Lewis’ made shots came on simple put-backs from offensive rebounds. In Game 2, his one made 3-pointer, the only one he’s made in the series, came on a wide open look off a kickout.

But on his other 13 shot attempts there has been a Celtic defender close by.

“Nothing,” Doc Rivers said when asked about any special coverages. “We just guard him. He’€™s actually had some shots that he’€™s not made. I think the key to us guarding Lewis, or any of their guys, is the better we are in pick and roll, the quicker we’€™re back in our rotations. If we can’€™t get back, Lewis is wide open.”

It’s true that Lewis has missed some shots that he would ordinarily make, but that’s only because he’s such an extraordinarily talented shooter. Rolling through his shot attempts with the help of Synergy Sports, Lewis has had only one clean look at a jumper, his made 3 in Game 2. In all the others, Garnett or Davis were out contesting his shots with a hand in his face.

“Trying to keep my hand up,” Garnett said. “Baby and myself have the responsibility. Tell you the truth, a lot of the focus is on Jameer [Nelson] and Dwight [Howard]. I’€™m sure he’€™ll be real aggressive in Game 3, so I’€™m anticipating that.”

Keeping Lewis in check is Garnett’s top priority, but the Celtics also need his offense and he had made shot just 9-for-30 in the series. The Celtics like the number of shot attempts, in fact they want more, but Rivers is not easing off his demands that Garnett be a two-way player against the Magic. Even though he knows that it won’t be easy.

“In this series, they’€™re denying him with the double teams on the post,” Rivers said. “We knew that coming into it. What we’€™re trying to do is get him to the elbows and get him to the spots on the corner to stretch the floor.”

Garnett missed eight of his first nine shots in Game 2, but they were able to get him looks on the perimeter that they will gladly take again. Garnett has to continue to be aggressive. His signature play came in the third quarter when he allowed Howard to close before he hit him with a pump fake. As Howard flew by him, the lane was wide open and Garnett roared down the middle of the paint for a dunk.

“That was great,” Rivers said. “Because he was taking his time. I thought he was going fast for a game and a half and finally he slowed down a little bit and it allowed him to play.”

Garnett won’t be able to operate with only token resistance on the post as he did against the Cavs in this series, but the Celtics are finding ways to make him an integral part of the offense. Now he has to make a few, and continue to keep Lewis in check.

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Rashard Lewis,
Garnett’s tough cover 05.18.10 at 11:45 am ET
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ORLANDO — Whenever he is asked about the toughest players to cover in the NBA, Kevin Garnett always pays respect to Rashard Lewis. At 6-foot-10, Lewis is one of the best 3-point shooters in the league, but he also can put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket.

Lewis shot 2-for-10 in Game 1 and scored just six points, a far cry from last season’s playoff matchup when the Celtics couldn’t come up with an effective counter without Garnett in the lineup.

“KG was phenomenal,” Doc Rivers said. “Not only with Rashard, but with help and recovering. We’€™re asking him to recover from pick and roll angle to 3. Usually you recover from pick and roll to roll where you’€™re running under the basket. That’€™s the complete opposite direction. For him to train his mind to do that is really tough to do. With Rashard, you show [on the pick and roll] and you have to sprint the opposite direction. Eighty games of going that way and now you’€™re going this way, mentally that is really difficult. You can even see it in practice where he shows and takes a step this way, with Rashard if you take that one, you’€™re not getting back in time. He did a great job in Game 1.”

Garnett’s offense did not come as readily. He shot 4-for-14 and found himself out on the perimeter. Credit the Magic defense with making it difficult for him to get the ball in the post.

“They double team without the ball,” Rivers said. “You don’€™t see that very often. With [Kendrick Perkins] in there or [Rajon] Rondo, they use their guy to front and back Kevin so you can’€™t get it to him. We have to get it to him on movement plays. Once we get it to him I feel very confident.”

Read More: Kevin Garnett, Rashard Lewis,
Magic know formula to beat Celtics 11.21.09 at 12:05 am ET
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BOSTON ‘€“ It has been nearly a year since the Magic faced a healthy Celtics squad. On Friday they proved they can beat the Celtics with or without Kevin Garnett.

‘€œIt’s very important especially when they are full strength to show you that we’re still a good team,’€ Rashard Lewis told WEEI.com after the Magic’s 83-78 victory (Recap). ‘€œYou know they’re a great team. This is only one game, it’s early in the season and I definitely would not count them out at all. Every time we play the Boston Celtics it’s going to be a tough, tough game.’€

The Celtics were 0-2 last regular season against the Magic without Garnett and were eliminated from the Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Magic without him. But the truth is, the Magic have held their own against the Celtics in recent years. They improved to 5-3 against the Cs since the 2007-08 regular season.

‘€œI think the biggest thing playing their team is not allowing them to get a lot of second chance points, hold them to one shot, and then run,’€ said Dwight Howard.

The Celtics actually outshot the Magic 87-to-70 from the floor, but the Magic shot 10-for-22 from three-point range while Celtics were a mere 2-for-19. Vince Carter attempted 29 field goals — ‘€œAll of them weren’t open, I’ll be the first to tell you that,’€ he said with a laugh — the same number as Ray Allen and Paul Pierce combined. Stifling the Celtics offense was a must-do for the Magic.

‘€œYou’ve got to play defense,’€ said Lewis. ‘€œI think every time we play this team we really buckle down on the defensive end and we try to take their main guys out ‘€“ Ray Allen at the three-point line, and we try to crowd Paul Pierce and make other guys beat us. Tonight I think we did a good job of that.’€

The Celtics lost their lead just three minutes into the first quarter, and the Magic held off a 17-12 fourth quarter run after Rasheed Wallace tied the game at 78 apiece. Lewis said his team regained their composure after coach Stan Van Gundy called a timeout and buckled down, realizing how easily the Celtics can fight back from a double-digit deficit. The Magic diminished the Celtics homecourt advantage and held on in the TD Garden’s playoff atmosphere.

‘€œWe’re not going to do that [back down] to anybody,’€ said Jason Williams. ‘€œI mean, we feel that we’re just as good as anybody else. So if we come out and do what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to win more times than not.’€

On Friday night, like they have so many times in recent games against the Celtics, the Magic came out on top. Neither team can read too much into this victory, though. While the Magic know how to beat the Celtics, but they also know either team is capable of winning at any time.

‘€œI don’t want to say we got their number because anything can happen on any given night,’€ said Lewis. ‘€œTonight the ball kind of bounced our way and towards the end of the game we were able to get away. It’s not like we blew them out. We won by like four points so it could have easily gone the other way.’€

Read More: Boston Celtics, Dwight Howard, Jason Williams, Kevin Garnett
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