A guy named Brian Schmitz at the Orlando Sentinel had a rap session with Magic GM Otis Smith last week, during which Otis mentioned his desire to avoid signing a center to back up Dwight Howard.
“Why do I need one?” Smith asked.
Schmitz, probably not used to being asked questions in his own interviews, pointed out that a strategy such as that one might present issues with the Boston Celtics, who, when healthy, have quite a few playable or Semih-playable bigs to throw at Dwight Howard and his non-existent backup center. Great answer, Schmitz! Smith’s rebuttal:
“See, I Iook at it the other way. Why do they have all of those bigs? To match up with us, to match up with Dwight,” he said.
Right. That’s pretty much true. Continue.
Oh, you’re done? That’s…the end of your answer?
Hm. Seems like that’s pretty much the same thing Schmitzy said, though, right? Like, he said that the Celtics have a lot of bigs to match up with Dwight Howard. Otis responded by saying he prefers to look at it “the other way,” but then just repeated the same thing back.
I get that Smith is suggesting that the Celtics have constructed their team with Dwight Howard in mind, but I don’t understand how that would lead him to the conclusion that he should not sign a backup center. Here’s a peek inside Otis Smith’s brain:
The Celtics have signed a number of big men ——> They have done so in response to our excellent big men situation ——-> I should trade away two of my big men and not sign any more. ——–> I need those roster spots to carry four point guards and not play two of them.
The exact opposite reaction would seem to make much more sense. Particularly when the team he’s referring to held Howard to 6 points on 1-4 shooting in their last meeting without its starting center.*
Anyway, the result of Smith’s strategy in Orlando’s last two games has been Howard playing 48 and 43 minutes and Van Gundy working with a seven-man rotation (which he’s used ever since the big trades). Yes, Howard is totally capable of shouldering a ton of minutes; he went for at least 39 in all six games of the ECF last year and only two of them were huge clunkers for him. Still, choosing not to pursue any more bigs hugely limits the Magic’s options against the team that’s probably one of the three most capable of minimizing Dwight Howard’s impact. Plus, more minutes for Howard means more time to get in foul trouble, and Dwight’s averaged a shade over 5 PFs per 48 minutes against the Celtics over the past two seasons.
I’m also encouraged by the idea that Perk or a well-rested Shaq off the bench could distribute some misery around the basket in the 5-10 minutes when Howard is out and Brandon Bass, Malik Allen, or Earl Clark is filling in at center. Doc may have to rest Shaq for the last two months of the season to make him useful in that scenario, but it seems like that’s the direction we’re heading anyway.
Anyway, keep doing things your way, Otis Smith. “The other way.”
*I know the Celtics lost this game, but it wasn’t because of Howard. It was because Ray and Nate combined for 5-28 shooting and 2-12 from three.