Even without Dwight Howard, Magic aim to protect the paint

Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

The Orlando Magic don't have All-Star center Dwight Howard down low, but new head coach Jacque Vaughn still wants his team to avoid giving up easy baskets.

The Orlando Magic no longer have center Dwight Howard, a perennial All-Star who provided dominant defensive play in the post. Nevertheless, first-year head coach Jacque Vaughn wants his team's defensive philosophy to remain the same. Vaughn doesn't want the Magic giving up easy baskets:

"We really want to restrict guys getting into the paint," he said. "If there was one thing, that's for us. There are going to be some nights where guys hit 3-point shots on us. High-quadrant 3s and long 2s are the worst shots in basketball (for an offense to take), and so we're geared to give up those shots. Sometimes, I'm going to have to shake the other coach's hand and say, ‘Good job.'

"But, for the most part, we want to keep guys out of the paint, and that's going to be the base of our defense."

Howard, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, deterred opposing players from attacking the Magic basket. He averages 2.2 blocks per game in his career and has averaged more than two blocks per game in each of the last five seasons. During that span, Howard ranked in the NBA's top five in blocks every year, leading the league in 2008-09 and 09-10.

Without Howard, the Magic don't have the luxury of one of the league's best centers intimidating opposing shooters. That means current Orlando players must play better defense as a team and individually.

"The way we're playing defensively is definitely geared toward the personnel that we have right now, for sure," Vaughn said. "It is a team defense based around five guys being in the right position at the right time. It's help-oriented. But, at the same time, there's a responsibility one-on-one."

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