By John Denton
Oct. 5, 2017
ORLANDO – In Orlando Magic coach Frank Vogel’s eyes, preseason games are almost solely about focusing on what his team is doing well and needs to improve upon and the opponent across the way actually matters very little in the equation.
That will be a good thing tonight considering that the Dallas Mavericks (2-0) are bringing a shell of a team to the Amway Center to face the Magic (0-1). After thumping the Chicago Bulls 118-71 on Wednesday in Dallas, the Mavericks announced that head coach Rick Carlisle, legendary forward Dirk Nowitzki and teammates Harrison Barnes, J.J. Barea, Nelens Noel, Wes Matthews, Josh McRoberts and Devin Harris would not be making the trip to Orlando.
That’s just fine with Vogel, who is firmly focused on seeing his Magic show improvement in their second game of the preseason. Tipoff is just after 7 p.m. There is no local television for the game, but it will be broadcast on the Magic Radio Network (580 AM in Orlando).
“We’re focused on us and working on our habits that we’re drilling every day in practice,’’ said Vogel, referring to Dallas resting its veteran players. “It’s about system implementation and that stuff. It’s irrelevant who’s in the other team’s uniforms.’’
Orlando is hoping to make strides from Monday’s 92-84 loss in Memphis to the Grizzlies in the preseason opener for both teams. The Magic got big nights from rookie Jonathan Isaac (15 points and two steals) and Jonathon Simmons (nine points, three assists and two steals) and handed out 26 assists as a team, but it shot just 36.4 percent from the floor and made only five of 32 3-point tries.
“I hope we shoot the ball a little better and our shot selection improves,’’ Vogel said. “I’d like to see our transition defense improve, a better commitment to boxing out and our one-on-one ball containment definitely needs improvement. We need to have a collision mentality at the rim when we’re in help situations. I could keep going, but let’s just leave it there.’’
Orlando started Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Terrence Ross on Monday and that unit is expected to open tonight’s game again. That starting five played together for most of the final 24 games last season and Orlando is hopeful that their continuity will be an added boost to the team this season.
Nowitzki, 39 years old and entering his 20th season with the Mavericks, played 17 minutes and scored eight points on Wednesday in Dallas. Barnes and Matthews, the other two starters out of action tonight, each played 26 minutes on Wednesday.
With several of their key players out, the Mavericks undoubtedly will feature rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr., the No. 9 pick in last June’s NBA Draft. Orlando passed on Smith in the draft to nab Isaac and thus far both rookies have shown themselves to have bright futures in the NBA. Smith Jr., who played just one college season at North Carolina State, has followed up his strong Summer League showing by averaging 8.5 points and 2.0 assists in two exhibition games thus far.
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.