Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Hello, Hedo!

Talk all you want about the stars of this series, Dwight “Superman” Howard and Chris “You need to vote for me for All-Star” Bosh, but when it’s all said and done I think we’ll find that the discussion will be about the two players that came to the NBA from “over there”—Hedo Turkoglu and Jose Calderon. This series will be won or lost because of what these two bring to the table. Sure, Dwight should get his 20+ points and 14 rebounds, and Chris will cause the Orlando defense problems with his outside shooting and length, and will probably average 20+ points in the series. But down the stretch, Van Gundy is going to make sure that Hedo gets the ball in key late game situations, because not only has he developed a killer instinct with late game threes, but also because he is one of the few on the Magic that can make free throws consistently (a short coming that may cause a loss or two in the series).

The gutsy play of the Raptors back up point guard, Jose Calderon and his skill at running Sam Mitchell’s offense and making the right play, will give the Magic’s guards fits. Jose seems to fit better with the starting team than TJ Ford, although Ford is a gutsy player in his own right. You’ll probably see Jose starting by the third game of the series, if not before. He just seems to mesh better with the starters and he’s a feisty player who doesn’t turn the ball over.

Orlando has been quietly going about its business winning ball games and locking up its third place seeding, with home court advantage at least in the first round. It has improved its defense tremendously under the guidance of head coach Stan Van Gundy, who is as responsible for the emergence of this team as the continued development of Dwight Howard. The Magic’s weakness in this series could prove to be the shakiness and often bone-headed play of its guards.

Toronto, on the other hand, has exasperated its fans by playing inconsistent ball and failing to improve after winning last season’s Atlantic Division title, and Coach of the Year for Sam Mitchell. Injuries to Bosh and Ford are part of the reason for the drop off, but it seems to me that this team is not as together as they were last year. Still, they have the capability to give Orlando problems, and as a team, shoots threes with about the same accuracy as the Magic, somewhere around 40 percent.

On the surface, I guess most will say this will be the least exciting of the playoff match ups. But I think viewers who do decide to tune in—outside of course, those homers who are just happy to join the playoff party—will get an exciting series between these two second-tier teams. No, this isn’t the “sexy” series with all the hype surrounding the games being played in Western Conference, and yes both teams can frustrate when they don’t play to the level of their talent. But watching Dwight dominate in the post and Hedo hit those daggers from beyond the arc, and Stan Van Gundy pull his hair out while every drop of blood in his body rushes to his face, is going to be worth the price of the ticket.

The series will go 6 tight games, with Orlando coming out on top.