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Game Preview: Knicks at Magic

In anticipation of tonight's Knicks-Magic contest, I exchanged some questions with Ben Q Rock from Third Quarter Collapse. Check it out.

P&T: The Magic are one of the few legit teams in the East, but I think we can agree that they're probably not going to be winning a championship this year. What's their downfall gonna be? Inconsistency at point guard? Lack of depth? Adonal Foyle?

3QC: I think it's a combination of those things, but the biggest problem is defense. We do a horrible job preventing penetration, which is why most of the guys who have torched them this year have been smallish, slashing guards: Dwyane Wade, Larry Hughes, and Ben Gordon are just three of the of the players who have posted season-highs against us this season. Just the other night, Andre Miller and Willie Green outscored our backcourt of Jameer Nelson and Maurice Evans, 52-2.

Offensive rebounding is also a concern, as is toughness. The Magic don't have a goon who can come into games and knock guys onto the court. While I don't advocate thuggery, it'd be nice to have some grizzled old guy in the paint to make the little guys think twice about venturing inside. Yes, Dwight Howard is intimidating, but he's not going to knock you out; he will, however, spike your shot into the 3rd row.

P&T: Other than tripling the team's average cholesterol, what has Stan Van Gundy's impact on this team been? What grade would you give him?

3QC: I love Stan. I think he's already the best coach in franchise history. He's candid, not afraid to rip his players, and he plays to his team's strengths. I don't know if many other NBA coaches could have managed to pair Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu and make it work, but he has. Unfortunately, the defense has gotten pretty awful lately, so I wish he'd turn up the intensity there. But overall, I'm stoked to have him coaching this team. He's the Man, and most Magic fans will agree.

P&T: Is Hedo Turkoglu's explosion this year merely a function of increased minutes, or is he doing something differently/better? Does this semi-breakout make you think all that money Rashard Lewis is making should've been spent elsewhere?

3QC: It's not that Hedo has gotten better, necessarily, but that he finally has a coach who has found a way to make use of Turk's exceptional ballhandling skills. He's our best playmaker and crunch-time scorer, and obviously the second-most valuable player on the team. And finishing second to Dwight Howard is nothing of which to be ashamed.

And no, I don't think Otis should have spent the Rashard money on anyone else. People talk about how Lewis spreads the floor for Dwight, and that's true, but they neglect to mention how that also opens up the lane for Turk (and our guards) to penetrate. It's weird to say that a 6'10" small forward does stuff that doesn't show up in the box score -- that talk is usually reserved to low-scoring guys who rebound and take charges -- but it certainly applies to Lewis this season.

What may become a problem is Turk's ability to opt-out after next season. He's certainly earned a big payday, and there may not be enough money to pay him fairly. Of course, he may choose to stay here if he feels like we stand a good shot at winning a title. But I really don't want to think about that right now. Picturing Hedo in another team's uniform hurts.

P&T: Orlando's bottom three minute-getters are J.J. Redick, James Augustine, and Pat Garrity. What does Van Gundy have against white people?

3QC: Let me first say that I laughed hysterically at this question. Thank you.

To answer it, I don't think Stan has anything against white people, but he does have NBA observers would agree that Redick is a better scorer than Keith Bogans, a shooting guard who is a career 39% shooter from the field , but Redick is just so poor on defense that Van Gundy can't justify playing him. Meanwhile, Augustine is probably a few months away from signing with a team in Greece, and Garrity is the same amount of time away from working behind a desk in the Magic's front office. Dude's been here for 9 years and the organization loves him. Neither of them fit into the team's long-term plans... on the court, anyway.

P&T: Before the trade deadline, you were clamoring quite a bit for Otis Smith to snaggle a decent big man. The deadline's come and gone, but I would imagine this is still a major need. Ideally, what type of player is ideal to complement Dwight Howard in the frontcourt?

3QC: Anyone of decent size who has the toughness to bang inside, but the shooting touch to knock down 13-footers consistently. Udonis Haslem, Joe Smith, and Kurt Thomas are jus three players who fit this description. Rebounding is obviously a weakness for us, even with Dwight, but the shooting ability is important because we want to keep as much distance between Dwight and the double-team as possible. Horace Grant did the same thing for Shaq during our last title run.

Good stuff. Big thanks to Ben Q for participating. Head over here for my answers to his Knicks questions. Game thread coming your way later, kids. Enjoy your day.