Tag:Stan Van Gundy
Posted on: March 29, 2011 12:35 am
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Melo puts Knicks out of their misery

NEW YORK – Hours before the game, after the Knicks’ first home shootaround of the season, Carmelo Anthony called it “almost a must-win game.” When it was over – the game, and the Knicks’ six-game losing streak – Melo took the liberty of upgrading it to “definitely a must-win.” 

Forgive him that bit of revisionist history, since most of Anthony’s first month as a full-time resident of New York since he was 8 years old has been a nightmare. 

“Tonight was the starting point for us,” said Anthony, who scored at will to the tune of 39 points – 33 in the second half and overtime – in the Knicks’ bizarre 113-106 victory over Orlando. “We got that monkey off our backs.” 

The Knicks didn’t solve the world’s problems, or even figure out how to get consistent offense from both Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in a game they won. They did find out that with supreme effort and intensity, they can defend well enough to win even without personnel built for, you know, defending. And they learned that as cruel as the basketball gods can become, they can be just as charitable. 

“We showed that when we play with energy, we play with intensity, and we just play hard, a lot of things fall into place for us,” Anthony said. 

And so the most compelling train wreck of the NBA season north of South Beach is over. Move along; nothing more to see here.

It took Orlando being without starting point guard Jameer Nelson and reserves Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon (who left the game with a jammed finger) for the Knicks’ chemistry experiment gone awry to snap a skid in which they had lost nine of 10. (Orlando, of course, also was without J.J. Redick, who missed his ninth straight game with an abdominal injury.) It took Gilbert Arenas to shoot a miserable 2-for-11, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range. It took Dwight Howard missing the final 1:17 of OT after recording his sixth personal foul of the night and 17th technical foul of the season – putting him one tech away from a second one-game suspension with eight games left in the regular season. 

And finally, it took Jason Richardson’s offensive foul for tripping Anthony, waving off what would’ve been a tying 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu with 51 seconds left and the Knicks leading 109-106. This after Anthony had first tripped Richardson after the two had scrapped for a loose ball. 

“That’s what happens in life, man,” Anthony said. “The second guy always gets caught.” 

At least Melo was honest about that one. A significant weight lifted from his shoulders, he finally could smile again Monday night. 

“I’ve seen him score 40 and 50 points before, clutch baskets and all that,” Chauncey Billups said. “But I just think that he was so locked in. The kid was rebounding, he was all over the place – grabbing extra rebounds, doing extra effort plays, steals, blocked shots. You know that he wanted to win this game.” 

Before Anthony and the Knicks could win it, of course, they had to almost lose it. And the end of regulation was a near catastrophe that would’ve sent the panic meter to new heights. 

Out of a timeout with 10.2 seconds left in regulation and the Knicks leading 100-97, coach Mike D’Antoni opted – as he always does – to defend Orlando’s search for a 3-point shot rather than foul. Some coaches are dead-set against fouling in that situation, while others believe that’s the only way to play it. This time, the Knicks got burned when Richardson drilled a tying 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left. 

“I played with him,” Stoudemire said of his former Suns teammate. “He makes shots like that all the time.” 

With the pressure building to win a game with his newly assembled All-Star duo, D’Antoni didn’t show it on the sideline as the Knicks prepared to inbound the ball for their final trip of regulation. As the Knicks were assuming their spots on the floor, D’Antoni was engaged in what looked like a good-natured and spirited debate with several fans behind the bench – presumably over why he didn’t opt to foul. 

“It’s kind of a tricky situation,” Richardson said. “If I was a coach, I wouldn’t do it, either.” 

On the Knicks’ final possession of regulation, the ball went to Anthony – as it did nearly every trip after he checked into a tie game (80-80) with 8:49 left in the fourth. He drove the lane, got up in the air and had to double-clutch. Realizing he had to clear shot at the rim, he said he deliberately tossed the ball off the backboard to himself – but missed the putback at the buzzer. 

“I should’ve thrown it on the other side (of the rim),” Anthony said. “There was nobody there.” 

Then came overtime, and the Howard foul and tech, and the curious case of J-Rich getting caught for doing what Melo had done to him – costing Orlando Turkoglu’s tying trey. But if you were expecting Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to have his usual fun with the league’s officiating and disciplinary system, you would’ve been disappointed. Asked three officiating-related questions in his postgame media session, Van Gundy each time responded with dead silence. Commissioner David Stern, who’d promised we wouldn’t be hearing from Van Gundy anymore on such issues, was right. 

And for one night, so were the Knicks. 

“They played really hungry,” Richardson said. “They dove, they hustled. It was a must-win for them. You lose six in a row, you start getting hungry. You start feeling that starvation kicking in.” 

Making the Knicks’ first victorious post-game meal in nearly two weeks a must-eat.
Posted on: March 28, 2011 1:25 pm
 

With Stan, Dwight chastened, some Magic is gone

NEW YORK -- The basketball microscope in New York is focused squarely on the Knicks, who stumble into their second game in six days against Orlando Monday night on a six-game losing streak and in full-blown crisis mode as they try to adjust to the franchise-shaping trade for Carmelo Anthony

But what of their opponent? The Magic, a perennial championship contender in each of Stan Van Gundy's four seasons as coach, are having an identity crisis of their own. Three months after a pair of similarly impactful trades, Orlando is still trying to relocate its bread and butter. 

After sending Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus to Phoenix and Rashard Lewis to Washington in December, the Magic are still top 10 in the league in the major defensive categories -- points allowed (fifth), opponent field-goal percentage (fourth), and opponent three-point percentage (eighth). They remain mired in an astonishing trend at the other end of the floor, averaging 15.5 turnovers per game. During that stretch, the Magic have beaten the Heat but lost to the Lakers, Bulls, and even the Warriors

What Orlando's identity will be come playoff time remains a mystery to Van Gundy -- and, to some extent, to the other person who should be creating the identity. Dwight Howard came into the season vowing to stop having so much fun and start getting serious, but that promise is up in the air -- especially since his aggressiveness has been taken away since receiving his 16th technical foul March 4 against Chicago. 

"Same guy," Howard said recently when asked if he's changed since the one-game suspension he received automatically for the 16th tech. "I get upset about the way guys foul me. But it's not about the way things are called. Somebody fouls and after the foul they continue to foul me, and I get upset at the refs because they allow that. My teammates are trying to do a better job of coming and consoling me so I don’t say anything else." 

Van Gundy, too, is trying to do a better job of filtering his opinions since being blasted by commissioner David Stern over a rant in which Van Gundy likened Stern to an evil dictator when asked to plead his case that Howard shouldn't have been suspended. All this means that the two most important figures in Orlando's push to get back to the NBA Finals, Howard and Van Gundy, have been muzzled -- Van Gundy off the court and Howard on it. 

"I'm not a dirty player. I'm not a dirty person," Howard said. "I would never try to hurt anybody on the court. That's not who I am. That's not how I play." 

How the Magic will play when the playoffs roll around remains a mystery. With Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkolgu all fixtures in Van Gundy's rotation, it's little wonder the Magic are a worse defensive team than they were before the trades. That was expected. But without backup from Gortat, Howard is faced with a dilemma: How can he be the lone enforcer around the basket for a team that badly needs one to make up for perimeter defensive deficiencies while at the same time worrying about flagrants, technicals and the growing (and unfair) perception that he's a dirty player? How can he live up to his preseason "no more Mr. Nice Guy" promise while still carrying his fun-loving demeanor with him from the locker room to the floor? 

"I'm still the same person," Howard said. "I just know when to turn it on and turn it off. One thing my teammates said at the beginning of the year is, they don’t want me to just be this mean guy because they look forward to me coming in the locker room and just having a pretty good time. And I know when it's time to get serious. They don’t want me to change who I am for other people. 

"Other people I guess wanted to see me get more serious, but I've never played around with basketball," Howard said. "But I just know that fans come to the games to be entertained. I'm not a UFC fighter. I don’t have to go out there and growl every two minutes to show my team. I just have fun and that's what it's all about." 

How much fun the Magic have in the playoffs will depend on solving their turnover mystery and regaining some semblance of defensive consistency. Both of those problems are fixable. The bigger dilemma will be getting Howard to play once again with abandon, without concern for whistles or perceptions, and getting the irascible Van Gundy to lose the filter that Stern surgically implanted between his upper and lower lip. For better or worse, the NBA needs the old Dwight and Stan back. More than ever, so do the Magic.
Posted on: March 23, 2011 8:12 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 9:53 pm
 

Van Gundy: Rose-y outlook for MVP

NEW YORK – Stan Van Gundy has read the tea leaves – and lots of NBA articles, including on this site, evidently – and declared the MVP race over. 

“I don’t think it’s wide open,” Van Gundy said before the Magic played the Knicks Wednesday night. “I mean, the media seems to have made their decision and they’re the ones who vote, so I think it’s over. … Derrick Rose has it. I haven’t really read or heard a media guy who is going another way at this point. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t win it.” 

Van Gundy, clearly chastened by recently having been called on the carpet by commissioner David Stern for voicing his opinions, suffered a momentarily lapse into his previous persona when asked about the MVP race – which he clearly believes, once again, that Dwight Howard should be winning. 

“To me, with his rebounding, his scoring and his defense, I just don’t think there’s anybody who impacts as many possessions in a game as Dwight does,” Van Gundy said. “I think Derrick Rose has been great. I will have no problem if Derrick Rose wins the MVP. They’ve got the best record in the East, and he’s been clearly their leader. You can make a great case for him. 

“He’s been great,” Van Gundy said. “But I still don’t think anyone impacts the game as many possessions in a game as Dwight does.” 

Howard, speaking in the locker room before the game, declined an invitation to state his own case for MVP. 

“Derrick Rose has been playing great basketball,” Howard said. “I’m not a guy that likes to talk about myself, but I think I do a lot for my team in order for us to have a chance to win every night. I think that’s about it. I don’t like talking about myself.” 

As chronicled here, my personal opinion for about two thirds of the season was that LeBron James would get my vote for MVP. But Rose has come on – not statistically or efficiency-wise all the time, but in terms of lifting the Bulls to elite status in the East and being their undisputed floor leader and scorer. Since losing two straight on the road in early February, the Bulls have beaten Miami and Atlanta twice and San Antonio and Orlando once apiece. In February and March, Rose is averaging 25.7 points and 7.1 assists in 23 games.

Earlier this month, Matt Moore and Ben Golliver had a spirited MVP discussion in our Eye on Basketball blog that you can relive here.
Posted on: November 29, 2010 6:42 pm
 

Four options for Riley

So there's trouble in paradise, but what happens next? Here's a look at Pat Riley's options as he tries to turn his Super Team into a team that can actually function:

* Fire Erik Spoelstra and take his job: As Phil Jackson said, it's SVG 2.0. The problem is, sources say Riley would only come downstairs as a last resort because A) he really doesn't want to coach anymore, and B) he knows that the same roster flaws that are sabotaging Spoelstra would do the same to him. Also, this isn't exactly Dwyane Wade's idea of a solution; Wade and Riley butted heads in the past. Personally, I think it would be eye-opening for LeBron James to be coached by someone with experience and championship rings -- someone who could put him in his place.

* Fire Spoelstra and hire someone else: This would be the ultimate sign of how wing-heavy and flawed this supposed dynasty really is: Riley fires Spoelstra, his handpicked protégé, and hands the job to ... Ron Rothstein? Well, that's not going to happen. But really, who's out there? Mike Brown? LeBron's been down that road in Cleveland, and the road ends in a spectacular, five-car pileup in the playoffs. Mike Woodson? For what, to run an even less creative offense? CBSSports.com's Matt Moore mentions two intriguing coaches who are currently unemployed: one credible (Jeff Van Gundy) and one straight out of Frankenstein (Don Nelson). I believe JVG is done coaching; he has a much easier and better job making fun of Mike Breen on TV. Plus, I can't imagine him doing that to his brother, Stan, in Orlando. Nellie? If someone could get him out of his hammock in Maui, they should make this happen tomorrow. Why? Not because it makes sense or the Heat would finally figure out how to play together and win a championship. Who cares about that? It should happen because the Earth would shift, the island would move, blinding lights and screeching noises would overwhelm us ... yes, it would be the basketball version of "Lost." Nellie, the connoisseur of ill-fitting basketball parts, chowing down on this disjointed beast of a team in Miami? It would be delicious on so many levels. If the Heat hired Nellie, I might move to Miami just so I wouldn't miss a minute of the hilarity.

* Stick with Spoelstra for the season and then score a coaching free-agent coup: Sadly, this is the most realistic of the options so far. If Riley really wants no part of this, then he could make it right with another offseason of roster tweaks and a chance to make a run at two very good coaches whose contracts will be up: Nate McMillan and Doc Rivers. McMillan is a fine coach, but I don't think he's the right fit for LeBron and Wade for the same reasons Spoelstra isn't the right fit: too upright and too averse to up-tempo offensive basketball. Speaking of which, Mike D'Antoni always seems to be a three-game losing streak away from being on the hot seat, even though he's spent the majority of his Knicks tenure coaching a D-League team. So if James Dolan ever has the urge to fire D'Antoni, I'd hire him in Miami in about three seconds. For one thing, D'Antoni would get to coach the two players he thought he'd be coaching in New York, only in a warmer climate. For another, I bet he'd enjoy paying no state income tax and saying good-bye to $7,000-a-month real estate tax bills in Westchester County. And finally, D'Antoni was the right coach for LeBron and Wade all along. He'd loosen the reins, let LeBron run the point and be Magic Johnson, and outscore everybody 130-117. But the most intriguing coach in this scenario, by far, is Rivers, who has the patience, presence, and pedigree to give LeBron and Wade just enough leeway while also commanding their respect. Plus, Florida is home for him, and any time you can trade an old Big Three for a younger version and cement your legacy as one of the most decorated coaches of all time, I'd say that would be a pretty good career move.

* Tell LeBron and Wade to quit whining, look in the mirror and figure it out: Of all the intriguing options, I like this one the best. To be fair, it isn't just the players who have to adjust; Spoelstra will have to change, too, by putting the ball in LeBron's hands and getting him in transition and in the open floor to create -- for Wade, for Eddie House and Mike Miller (once healthy). LeBron holds the key to this approach. He's the one player on the roster -- perhaps the only one in the league -- with the breadth of talents to adjust his game and make it fit with an elite scorer like Wade. I don't think Wade is built that way. He scores; that's what he does. LeBron can do it all, and he can do so much more than what he's doing now if he'd check his ego and if Spoelstra would be willing to give up some control. It's a slippery slope, but more promising than the one the Heat are currently sliding down.
Posted on: September 22, 2010 2:28 pm
 

Preseason Primers: Miami Heat

You may have heard that the Miami Heat are a bit of a big deal. They ran the table during free agency in July, executing the ingenious plan hatched by mastermind Pat Riley without flaw. Riley even assembled a quality, veteran supporting cast in the blink of an eye, surrounding Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh with shooters, defensive toughness and quality support players. Free-agent center Erick Dampier could be next. Was it enough? Will the Super Team execute as well in June as Riley executed in July? It's time for the Miami Heat preseason primer -- which has all the questions, some of the answers, and none of the fanfare that went along with LeBron's "Decision."


Training camp site: Dark Side of the Moon. (Just kidding. It’s actually on less accessible property: Hurlburt Field at Eglin Air Force Base near Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Smush Parker (fantasy signing), Jason Williams (none of your business), and three of Michael Beasley’s better-adjusted cousins. This is a joke, of course. You know who the key additions are. Besides them, the most important ones are Mike Miller (free agent), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (free agent), Eddie House (free agent) and, um, Juwan Howard (free agent).

Key subtractions: Quentin Richardson (free agent), Jermaine O’Neal (free agent), Beasley (trade), Daequan Cook (trade).

Likely starting lineup: Wade, G; Mike Miller, G; James, SF; Bosh, PF; Joel Anthony, C. (Or maybe Dampier.)

Player to watch: Aside from the circus atmosphere starting Sept. 27 with media day on the University of Miami campus, the most interesting X’s and O’s to examine will be Erik Spoelstra’s use of Wade and LeBron as interchangeable point guards. I expect a token go at it with Carlos Arroyo and/or Mario Chalmers at point, but ultimately Spoelstra’s best lineup will be using Wade and LeBron as interchangeable wings with either one able to initiate the offense.

Chemistry check: There won’t be many clues in the cloistered environment of training camp as to how Wade and LeBron are going to work out their all-important pecking order. But the seeds will be planted for how they divvy up the pressure, credit and blame months from now.

Circus act: The fact that the Heat have chosen a secluded Air Force base for training camp, making it temporarily inconvenient for media to besiege them, is no surprise. Even when the Heat were a .500 team and no lock to get out of the first round, they were one of the most challenging teams in the league to cover. Under Riley, they like their space and they love to control the message. The creation of this super team – as star-studded a locker room as has existed in the modern NBA – will be a daily challenge. Everywhere they go, they’ll receive the rock-star treatment. It’s legitimate to wonder if the attention, and the pressure of converting the coup of July into a championship in June, will have a cumulative effect.

On the spot: The sharing of the ball, the big shots, and the blame if things go wrong will be fascinating to watch as Wade and LeBron navigate their co-superstardom together. But at some point, someone outside the realm of the dynamic duo will have to make a big shot, a defensive stop, or a smart play at the end of a close playoff game with elimination on the line. At that moment, the spotlight will perhaps shift to Bosh, who clearly wasn’t up to that task in Toronto, or Miller, who may have to deliver a corner 3-pointer with a hand in his face at the buzzer of a Game 7.

Camp battles: Chalmers vs. Arroyo for backup point guard. Anthony, Jamaal Magloire and perhaps Dampier for starting center. Pat Riley and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy for best preseason insult.

Biggest strength: In Wade and LeBron, Miami has two players who, individually, are nearly impossible to guard. Putting both of them on the floor at the same time will be enough to make even Tom Thibodeau’s head explode. For 82 nights, and then the playoffs, the challenge for the rest of the league will be: How do you guard them? Which poison do you pick?

Glaring weakness: Size and interior presence. An asterisk goes here based on the likely addition of Dampier, who would give Miami the kind of size and length they are currently lacking with the combination of Anthony, Magloire and Howard at center.
Posted on: April 11, 2010 1:40 pm
 

Stan: Pencil in LeBron as MVP of the decade

CLEVELAND -- Stan Van Gundy has been stumping for Dwight Howard as the NBA's MVP for a few weeks, as is his right. Not only is Howard Van Gundy's player, a very credible case can be made for him to win the award.

But with anticipation that LeBron James will win his second straight MVP and do it unanimously, Van Gundy said Sunday that we might as well just give him the trophy for the next decade.

"Obviously I'm biased," Van Gundy said before the Magic played the Cavs in Cleveland's regular season home finale. "I'm in a situation where I see a guy every day and know what he does. But look, I've said all along, too: We all know how the vote’s gonna go. I mean, LeBron will win the MVP every year until he retires.

"I think it is tougher for big guys, but there’s a lot of things that go into it," Van Gundy said. "For the next eight to 10 years, LeBron basically has to go into the year and lose the MVP award. I think you guys have already decided that he’s the MVP and he has to go in and lose it. That’s a pretty good position, and he ain't ever going to lose it because he’s a damn good player."

As usual, Stan the Man was on a roll, and there was no stopping him.

"I don’t even know if Jordan was as hyped as he is and then he goes out and lives up to the hype and sometimes exceeds it," Van Gundy said. "That’s not easy to do. He’s a hell of a player. I mean, I'm not going to argue when he’s the MVP, that’s for sure."

But Van Gundy did take issue with a couple of aspects of the voting. First, in basketball and all sports, Van Gundy said the MVP voting shouldn't be done until after the playoffs. To an extent, I agree. (Remember Dirk Nowitzki winning the MVP in 2006 and losing in the first round to Golden State.) But the NBA Finals MVP usually takes care of the best player in the playoffs, and it's not all bad to keep what essentially are two separate NBA seasons apart when it comes to awards.

"The year’s not over this week," Van Gundy said. "To disregard the playoffs, I don’t care what sport you’re in, when you’re picking an MVP doesn’t make any sense to me. Then again, I’m not running the league."

Secondly, Van Gundy believes scoring is given too much weight in the media's calculation of MVP worthiness. I can see both sides of this argument. On one hand, Howard will most likely be named the unanimous defensive player of the year, a well-deserved honor for his defensive and rebounding dominance. But shouldn't his impact on those areas of the game be given equal consideration with scoring average? There is a scoring title for that, after all.

"His scoring would have to go way up," Van Gundy said. "We’re a team that offensively is not going to help him right now win an MVP award. We’re built on much more balanced scoring than most of the other teams. It’s tough. [Steve] Nash did it as a point guard, but it’s tough to do it without averaging 25 right now."


Posted on: March 24, 2010 10:57 pm
 

Hawks' Smith flushes doubts at buzzer

ATLANTA – As much as they wanted to downplay it, this meant something. The Atlanta Hawks didn’t want to go into the playoffs with a Can’t-Beat-The-Elite albatross following them every step of the way. 

“We know we can play with anybody,” said Josh Smith, who flushed a lot more than a game-winning putback dunk at the buzzer Wednesday night in an 86-84 victory over the Orlando Magic

It all came together for a team that no longer has to search so hard for respect. In front of a solid midweek crowd in attendance-challenged Philips Arena, the Hawks clinched a playoff berth and carried star-crossed teammate Jamal Crawford to the postseason for the first time in his nine-year career. 

They also took an important step, however reluctant they were to admit it. Despite a 4-0 season sweep of the Celtics, the Hawks’ resume was stained by an 0-6 record against the other elites – 0-1 against the Lakers, 0-2 against Cleveland, 0-3 against Orlando, with those three losses coming by an average of 22.3 points. That streak ended Wednesday night, when Joe Johnson’s jumper caromed off the rim and into the left hand of Smith, who soared through the lane and beat the buzzer with a dunk that sent a lot of doubts down with it. 

It was important, Smith was saying at his locker, “Just for our confidence, to know we can beat this team.” 

The deciding sequence came after Vince Carter’s 3-pointer tied it at 84-84 with 9.9 seconds left. As it turns out, it was better that the Hawks didn’t have any timeouts, because Smith said the matchup confusion resulted in nobody putting a body on him as Johnson’s 16-footer floated toward the rim. 

“Vince hit a great shot at the end, and Vince played great defense at the end to get the stop,” Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. “On the weak side, we just stood and watched. We absolutely spectated. All we needed was one boxout and we’d be in overtime. But we didn’t get the boxout and we’re not in overtime. How you stand there and watch that play, I don’t know. The guys on the court were doing the same thing the guys on the bench were doing – standing there watching.” 

Down the hall, in the Hawks’ locker room, they were doing something else. Crawford, who’d spent his entire career on pathetic non-playoff teams in Chicago, New York and briefly in Golden State, proudly flashed a black T-shirt that read, “Clinched!” He hung it in his locker, saying he figured he’d let it stay there for a while. It’s been a long wait. 

“When you first come into the league, you think you’re supposed to be in the playoffs in year one or two,” Crawford said. “I don’t take it for granted. I’ve seen some tough situations, the worst of the worst.” 

And if the Hawks had lost to another elite team, they’d be wondering if they were ever going to take the next step. 

“It feels good,” Al Horford said. “There’s a lot of people that have been talking and questioning us against the bigger teams.” 

As the locker room was clearing out, the party was just starting in coach Mike Woodson’s office. Earlier in the day, after shootaround, roses and balloons had adorned his office signifying his 52nd birthday. Now, family and friends and adult beverages had joined them.

“That was a great game, a playoff game,” Woodson said. 

They will be playing those in Atlanta again this spring, the third straight year Woodson will lead the Hawks to the postseason. For five straight years, he’s won more games than he did the last. By beating Orlando, the Hawks clinched their ninth consecutive winning month – the third-longest streak in franchise history and second-longest since the team has been in Atlanta. 

Woodson is on the last year of his contract, Johnson is poised to join the star-studded free agent class, and all bets are off as to how that shakes out. For now, they should all take Crawford’s advice. 

“You have to appreciate it,” Crawford said, “because you never know when it’s going to happen again.”
Posted on: February 8, 2010 11:13 pm
 

Vince Carter is on the Magic?

Apparently, the Magic have acquired Vince Carter. I hadn't noticed -- until Monday night.

Let's not get too carried away with Carter's incredible display against the Hornets -- 48 points, 34 in the second half, and only three shy of his career high. This is not what the Magic had in mind when they pre-empted Hedo Turkoglu's departure by trading for Carter. They expected what they'd gotten for most of the season until now -- a former All-Star who is willing to settle into a secondary role behind Dwight Howard.

But you have to believe it was nice for Stan Van Gundy to witness this unexpected development in the Magic's 123-117 victory over New Orleans. It won't happen often, but when the Magic are slogging their way through the playoffs in a few months, getting sick to death of listening to Van Gundy yell at them about defense with that raspy voice of his, at least they'll know this: Vince Carter is still capable of taking over a game. On occasion, he is still unguardable.

Carter had settled into a mostly pedestrian existence in Orlando, deferring to younger teammates with more bounce in their legs. He hadn't been this good all year, by a lot. He hadn't warranted being a Twitter trending topic since before Twitter was invented.

I can confidently say that 48 points will be his season high; he won't do this again. But the fact that he showed that he can is every bit as important. When the Magic play Cleveland, Boston, Atlanta, or whomever else gets in the way come May and June, their opponent will have to defend Carter as though he will do that again.
 
That's why Carter will be better for the Magic in the playoffs than Turkoglu would've been. You saw merely a glimpse of his worth Monday night, and a glimpse is all it takes.




 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com