Evan Dunlap, the founder and managing editor of Orlando Pinstriped Post, took some time to answer five questions regarding tonight's game between the Celtics and Magic.
Glen Davis makes his return to Boston on Monday night. At the same time, Brandon Bass will face his former team (the Magic). It may be too early to fully asses the Davis-for-Bass trade, but what are your impressions of Davis in Orlando? In your opinion, which team got the better player?
Evan: Davis has played about the way one might have expected to based on his body of work in Boston: hard, with lots of energy and tenaciousness. But his weaknesses are the same, too: he shoots a ton of long two-pointers at a low percentage, and when he does try to score inside--usually on an offensive rebound--he struggles to convert. He's vying with Chris Duhon for the dubious distinction of being the team's least effective everyday player, at least in terms of offense. Davis brings other things to the team, however; his great positional defense and willingness to lead are two attributes Orlando sorely lacked last season, and from that standpoint he's valuable. Having said that, he's not nearly as productive as Bass.
Dwight Howard is up to his usual trick, but with his contract coming to and end, everyone's talking about potential destinations for Howard. Is it pretty much a done deal that Howard is leaving town after this season or at the trade deadline, or is there a chance he could stay in Orlando for the long run?
Evan: My own feeling is there's a chance--however slim--that Howard decides to return to Orlando. The odds are heavily against it, but I don't believe he's dead-set on leaving, and neither do the Magic.
Mickael Pietrus spent over two seasons in Orlando, and of course is now with Boston. What were your impressions of Pietrus during his time with the Magic, and what is the maximum level of production the Celtics can get out of him?
Evan: Pietrus is the classic "no-no-no-no-yes!" player, and is a bit of a space cadet to boot. When healthy and engaged, he's a well-above-average perimeter defender thanks to his good quickness and his willingness to play physically. His problem of late has been staying healthy, and it'll be up to Doc Rivers and Boston's crew of vets to keep M.P. focused. As Stan Van Gundy told the media several times during Pietrus' time with the Magic, M.P. plays much better when he's involved offensively. What Stan didn't say--because he's a tactful guy, all things considered--is that it's tough to get Pietrus involved offensively because he's so limited.
Yes--and Celtics fans who watched the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals know this better than most--Pietrus is a streaky shooter, especially from beyond the arc, which makes him dangerous: he's capable of hitting three or four triples in very short order; he's also capable of bricking three or four triples, or stepping out-of-bounds on a dribble-drive attempt, or taking a contested fadeaway 18-footer with 17 seconds on the shot clock. Again: no-no-no-no-yes.
Apart from defense and outside shooting, MP provides little. He doesn't have a good enough handle to create for himself off the dribble, he's not what one might call a willing passer, he takes some truly awful shots, and he doesn't rebound well at all. That assessment sounds harsh, I know, but I actually like M.P. Defense and three-point shooting are valuable in this league. Boston fans shouldn't count on him to be as key as James Posey or Tony Allen were in prior seasons, but for a guy backing up two future Hall-of-Famers on the wings, Boston could do worse. It has, in fact: just look down the roster at Sasha Pavlovic and Marquis Daniels. Even the Toronto Raptors think that's a bad backup wing rotation.
Boston and Orlando are teams heading in different directions, at least to some degree. The Celtics are at the tail end of the Big Three era while the Magic are still considered a contender. However, that can change quickly for both teams next offseason. From your standpoint, which team has a brighter future in the next five years?
Evan: Ask me again when this Dwight Howard drama is over. If he stays, Orlando has the brighter future by a mile. If he doesn't? The Cetlics at least have Rajon Rondo to build around even if Danny Ainge breaks up the Ray Allen/Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett core, and I have more faith in Ainge than I do in Otis Smith.
Prediction time. Which team will prevail on Monday night and which Magic players should fans expect big games from?
Evan: I'm torn here. The Celtics are 6-9 and haven't looked sharp at all; Orlando, at 11-4, has a much better record, but has played arguably the league's softest schedule, though if we're talking strength-of-schedule, I hasten to note that half of the Celtics' wins this season are against the Washington Wizards. It's a tough one to call, but I do think ultimately Howard will put the Magic over the top in a close, ugly, low-scoring game. Something in the neighborhood of 87-82.