Magic Slighted Again, Falling to Third Option in East
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy is going to try.
Van Gundy intended to talk Thursday about the recent addition of veteran point guard Jason Williams, but he couldn't help veering into the perceived slights his team has received this summer as it got overshadowed by the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.
"For a team that went to the Finals, we really haven't gotten the respect teams normally do,'' Van Gundy said at the Magic's headquarters. "Based upon what we did last year, I think our players do feel a little under appreciated and under respected.''
Although the Magic beat both the Celtics and the Cavaliers last spring on the way to reaching the Finals, their draft-night trade for Vince Carter was shadowed when Boston added Rasheed Wallace and Cleveland traded for Shaquille O'Neal.
"It was a lot of little things, and in the long run they're not very important, but you feel it,'' Van Gundy said. "Like the television schedule. Normally on Christmas Day, you get a rematch of the teams that played in the Finals. But instead, we get a Christmas Day matchup of the teams that they (TV executives) wanted to see in the Finals.''
The Magic do play the Boston Celtics Christmas Day on national television, but only as the preliminary game to the Lakers-Cavs on ABC.
The Magic did get plenty of attention this summer when All-Star Rashard Lewis received a 10-game suspension to start the season for violating the league's Anti-Drug Agreement, another reason the Magic have slipped to third in the Eastern Conference pecking order.
Van Gundy admitted that the early suspension could lead to a slow start and cost the Magic valuable playoff seeding, which is determined by regular season records. The Magic already were facing a change-of-chemistry adjustment by adding Carter, Williams, Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes to the regular playing rotation.
"Anytime you lose a guy like Rashard for 10 games, it's hard to see it in a positive light. We have so many new guys and now Rashard will likely be replaced mainly by new guys. So instead of one or maybe two new starters this season, we'll have two or three new starters,'' Van Gundy said. "It's not the ideal situation.''
Williams, when he was introduced at the press gathering Wednesday, said the team he was joining had some similarities to the team he played for in Miami that won the 2006 NBA title. He was the starting point guard there, playing between center Shaquille O'Neal and guard Dwyane Wade.
In Orlando, he will have center Dwight Howard, guard Vince Carter and Lewis when he returns.
"There is more talent on this team in Orlando than we had in Miami,'' Williams said. "Having this kind of talent around you just makes it easier. I think I'll be as good or better (than I ever was). Your teammates make you.''
Both Williams and Van Gundy made it clear that Williams was signed to compete with Anthony Johnson for the backup role behind Jameer Nelson, who has been injury prone throughout his career.
Williams, 33, sat out last season after prematurely retiring because he didn't want to honor the contract he signed in Los Angeles with the Clippers. The Magic signed him primarily because of his experience and his passing ability, which was key on a team of stars.
"If they want me to play 30 minutes, or 10 minutes, I'll be fine,'' he said. "I love to pass, and Dwight Howard loves to score. He's obviously the focal point offensively. If he's open, he's getting the ball.''