Friday, June 5, 2009
Alston will continue to start over Nelson
By Chris Sheridan ESPN.com
LOS ANGELES -- Rafer Alston's job is safe, and Jameer Nelson will continue to come off the bench in the NBA Finals.
At least that's what Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said, with some conviction, Friday, a day after the Magic's 25-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1.
"I cannot imagine -- although I'll never say never -- that I would get to a point where I would be comfortable starting him after he just missed four months. I've got no issues going forward with regards to who I start," Van Gundy said.
That statement also served as a vote of confidence for off guard Courtney Lee, who replaced J.J. Redick as the starting shooting guard for the Eastern Conference finals but had trouble -- just like other Magic players -- defending Kobe Bryant man-to-man.
Van Gundy did acknowledge that he had erred by using Nelson for the entire second quarter, saying he would limit Nelson to stretches of 6-7 minutes of playing time as the series moves forward.
Nelson, who tore the labrum in his right shoulder Feb. 2 and underwent surgery, returned from a four-month absence Thursday night. He had an immediate impact, scoring or assisting on all four baskets as the Magic converted their first four possessions of the second quarter, but Van Gundy said he stuck with Nelson too long when it was obvious late in the quarter that he was winded. Los Angeles scored 10 of the final 14 points before halftime, turning a four-point lead into a double-digit advantage that held up for all but 46 seconds of the second half.
Van Gundy said he would alter his substitution patterns for Game 2, and -- in a shift from his statements of the previous night -- indicated that using a Twin Towers alignment of Dwight Howard at center and Marcin Gortat at power forward was an option if he feels the defensive boost wouldn't cause too many problems on the offensive end of the court.
"Of the nine guys we played, I thought Gortat had the best all-around game last night," Van Gundy said.
The Orlando coach also spoke about how the Lakers' size was something the Magic had difficulty adjusting to when trying to run their offense, and he took the blame for his team's lack of energy by saying the defensive scheme he installed to defend against the pick-and-roll was too passive -- and that passivity carried over into other aspects of the game.
Los Angeles outscored Orlando 56-22 in the paint, shot 46 percent to Orlando's 29 percent and outrebounded the Magic 55-41.
"The effort we made on the rebounding part of things was embarrassing," Van Gundy said. "I'll blame myself for a lot of things, and I did in the first game, but I really don't have an adjustment for when the ball goes up on the rim and everybody is going after it. I can't really X and O that. You're either going to put a body on somebody and go get the ball, or you're not. And last night, not."
Chris Sheridan is a senior writer for ESPN.com.