Has Orlando run out of Magic?

Death or destruction on a large scale, as from war, plague,or famine.
Obsolete, Death

Above are some definitions of Mortality but I’ll add another one:  Finality!  Mortality is something that man is ill-equipped to accept but nature has to take its course thus it still is survival of the fittest.  Tonight the Orlando Magic were dealt the blow of death by the Atlanta Hawks who were the lesser team and they throttled the Magic by playing with the Power of Belief!  Now the Magic are back to the drawing board, their time at the top of the Eastern Conference may have run its course.  If one were to look at the history of the NBA, greatness is never sustained for long stretches of time.  On average championship teams/caliber teams only have a shelf life of about three years and this is the second playoff season for the Magic since their NBA Finals run of 2009 where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 4 games to 1.  Some will ask the question:  What went wrong, why did the Magic take steps back since their finals run?  The answers are plentiful and at this time I will delve into many of the reasons that the Magic failed to live up to the expectations of their rabid, thirsty, fan base.

Why Do I Care?

There’s no secret that I am a fan of the Miami Heat and I have tried to be as non biased in my analysis of other teams as possible, truth be told I watch our Florida rival more than any other team and since I am bombarded with their news daily I must pay attention.  In the past I’ve attended about 5 Magic games a year and I am a frequent visitor to their page on the Orlandosentinal.com….simply put I am qualified to speak on all things Magic and I can hold my own during any debate with a Magic Fanatic.  I said that to say this, since December I have told every Magic fan I know that they would face the Hawks in the first round and not to underestimate the Hawks because their team could be doomed and now the Hawks have completed my prediction, it’s sad but it’s true…this is one situation where I hated to be right but I am and the only reason it’s pains me to be right is because I know what’s at stake for the Magic Kingdom.  Simply put heads not a head, but heads may roll and it won’t be pretty.  Does the phrase shit rolls downhill come to mind?  Every one’s job is on the line now from Otis Smith, to Stan Van Gundy and various players.  Lets get to the genesis of the matter.  The Orlando Magic’s downfall began and ended with the Miami Heat.  

Once the Decision was made, the other pieces began to fall into place, Atlanta overpaid Joe Johnson to remain, the Knicks became relevant again with the addition of Amare’ Stoudemire, Chicago grew stronger with the emergence of Derrick Rose and arrival of Head Coach Tom Thibodeau and finally the Celtics remained the Celtics and continued to turn back the hands of time by getting older, adding Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal.  What did the Magic do; they matched Chicago’s $20 Million offer to J.J. Reddick.  That’s $20 million over the course of his contract for someone who come’s off the bench, plays no defense and averages 10.1 points per game.  It was the only move they could have made in the off season because of the lack of cap space with the contracts of Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, and Marcin Gortort eating huge chunks of said cap space.  After a 26 point thrashing by the Miami Heat and a road trip where the Magic played mostly uninspired basketball, Team President Otis Smith panicked.  The morning of December 18th 2010, the twitter world exploded with rumors that the Orlando Magic were on the verge of overhauling their team in one great swoop.  Usually those tweets are largely ignored but this day was different, days earlier after another lack luster performance resulting in a loss, Head Coach Stan Van Gundy stood outside of the locker room, staring into space and said in essence that if the team doesn’t change then some of the players would.  The morning of the 18th, after seeing all of the tweets I was compelled to blog and I created this post hours before the trades were finalized……http://nbaballanation.blogspot.com/2010/12/has-window-of-opportunity-closed-on.html it wasn’t my best stuff but the point was clear, The Orlando Magic were scrambling for an identity and now it seems as if they chose the wrong one.

Heat of the moment?

For the majority of the off season and at times of the regular season instead of the Magic organization focusing on ways to improve their team, they became caught up in all of the hype surrounding the Miami Heat and hit the Heat with a few immature jabs in the process.  Below are some statements Otis Smith made to the media the day after The Decision.

“I was surprised that he went”  “I thought he was, I guess, more of a competitor.”

“The great ones do and usually stay in one location,”  “This is a new era. It’s a little different than 
my time.”

Otis Smith also stated that the Magic “still hold the crown” as the best team in the Southeast Division. 

Otis Smith wasn’t alone in firing unwarranted shots at the Heat in the off season.  Former Heat coach Stan Van Gundy also had a turn in attacking the Heat.  After Dwyane Wade mentioned sarcastically that “the world is better now that the Heat were losing” in March Van Gundy decided that it would be the perfect time for him to chime in.

“I do chuckle a little bit when they sort of complain about the scrutiny when they get,” Van Gundy said. “My suggestion would be if you don’t want the scrutiny, you don’t hold a championship celebration before you’ve even practiced together. It’s hard to go out yourself and invite that kind of crowd and celebration and attention, and then when things aren’t going well, sort of bemoan the fact that you’re getting that attention. To me, that doesn’t follow.”
For the record the Miami didn’t hold a championship celebration, they threw a welcome party to celebrate the arrivals of Lebron James, Chris Bosh and the resigning of Dwyane Wade.  The Heat in no way proclaimed themselves champions before the season started.  Yes Lebron James stated that he would like to bring multiple championships to Miami but he never proclaimed the team as champions, that would have been childish and quite foolish if he’d done so.  Van Gundy also knew that the Heat had held that type of celebration before….when he was the Head Coach of the Heat…with the arrival of Shaquille O’Neal…who guaranteed at the time that he would bring a championship to Miami and he helped the Heat acheive that goal the year that Van Gundy “resigned”.  How does it look on the other side now Stan?  You’re close to being jobless and still ringless for the second time in your career.  The Magic’s direction as an organization was misguided in the off-season where smart basketball decisions could have been made rather than the hast of a in season overhaul.  Too much focus was put on a rival who quite frankly never saw the Magic as a threat while not enough focus was put on the ultimate goal…How can we win a championship?     
How can this mess be fixed?
Contrary to popular belief, Championship teams aren’t built over night just look at the transitions of the Los Angeles Lakers from the “02/03”  to the “08/09” championship teams.  Five years of slight struggle, no Shaq, Horry, or Fox and for a time no Phil Jackson or Derrick Fisher.  The Lakers became relevant again with the addition of Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol and by not giving acquiring aging, overpaid players to win “now” just because they could.  Despite Kobe’s wishes at the time they didn’t trade Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd and the results are three straight NBA Finals Appearance while winning the last two titles.

The Magic have the most dominate big man of this era on their roster but he will be a free agent the summer of 2012.  At this time no one knows what the salary cap will be next season because of the impending lockout but it will most likely be significantly lower than what it is now.  It’s true that Otis Smith traded away three bad contracts in Lewis and Gortat but he didn’t have to trade Carter and here’s why.  Vince Carter had    $17,522,375 scheduled to come off the books in the off season which would have helped the Magic tremendously; in return the Magic added Jason Richardson who’s in the last year of his contract and now his $14,444,443 will come off the Magic’s book….had the Magic stuck with Carter they would have had an additional $3,077,932 towards next season’s salary cap.  Once Lewis was traded the Magic cleared $42 Million over the next two years but it picked up the additional $63 Million left on Gilbert Arenas contract with an additional year of $21 Million.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  You traded away a huge contract with only two years remaining to pick up a larger contract with an extra year…..how is this smart business; we’re so not done here, 3 years and $22 Million of Marcin Gortat’s contract was traded for Hedo Turkoglu who has 3 years and 34 Million left on his contract.  The moves were made to win now and since the team hasn’t, the future is extremely bleak.  Unless the Magic find partners willing to take on huge contracts of aging stars, they will continue have a team of those aging stars and hard to trade contracts for the next two seasons….not a good look at all.  

The Magic must find willing trade partners, with that said the task would be easier if the contracts were expiring but sadly they’re not.  Would anyone want an Arenas who’s lost all his explosiveness to the point that some night he doesn’t play or a 31 year old Hedo who has clearly lost a step and has conditioning issues?  It’s a really hard sell for anyone at this point to believe that it can happen.  Clearing cap space for this team just isn’t as easy as some make it out to be and it may not happen at all.  Without the additional cap space, perhaps the Magic’s best option is to lose A. Lose Howard to free agency or B.  Lose Howard via a sign an trade for expiring contracts.  As the team is currently constructed the Orlando Magic won’t have any significant salary cap space until the summer of 2013.  Losing Howard isn’t the most popular decision but for the long haul of the franchise it may be the best option.  Lets be honest with ourselves here, the Orlando Magic will sell their soul to Satan to retain the services of Howard and there’s nothing wrong with that but they must be smart and sacrifices must be made.

1.  Stan Van Gundy must be let go….it’s just time, after time one tends to repeat himself thus being tuned out.

2.  J.J Reddick must be traded…You can get one or even two cheap defensive stoppers, they will be needed against the New York Knicks and Miami Heat.

3.  Doc Rivers must be rehired as Head Coach….Pay what ever you must to acquire him.

4.  Create the identity of being a hard nosed defensive team.  Despite outside perceptions they are not that, their idea of defense is to funnel opposing wings to Howard so he can clean the perimeters mess.  It should never have to get to that point.   

5.  Stop living and dying by the 3-point shot…this may come with the subtraction of SVG but it must happen, this team will need to replace its current “post” players with real post players i.e. anti Ryan Anderson’s and Brandon Bass’s.

6.  Stop trading for terrible contracts i.e. Vince Carter, Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu.

7.  Acquire as many draft picks as possible.

8.  Take the pressure off of Dwight Howard by making the small forward a priority i.e. not use him as the primary ball handler on most nights.  The Point Forward is an overrated position!

9.  Upgrade the point guard position….priority 2 after retaining Howard.

10.  Inform the fan base of the long term goal which means one has to be created to began with.  By informing the fan base of the long term goal during what could be lean times, not only do you give the fans a realistic reason to care but you also create expectations for the franchise to meet.

Having no Vision is worse than having a bad vision and for years this team has had a bad sense of vision but over the course of the last few years it has been stuck in a rut of no vision.  The opportunity to gain vision from the bottom up will start with the retention of Dwight Howard.  At the very moment they have the commitment from Howard, the Magic will need to reconstruct its current team from the ground up.  Loyalty must take a backseat beyond Howard which means some tough decisions must be made from top to bottom.  If winning a championship is the goal then it must be done this way and as soon as possible because how long will Howard be able to sustain his current level of play?  The clock is ticking Orlando, the East is growing stronger and Brooklyn is on the horizon.  It’s time now to put up or shut up once and for all.


Death or destruction on a large scale, as from war, plague,or famine.
Obsolete, Death

If there’s any questions or comments feel free to email me at nbaballanation@gmail.com, all emails will be responded to.  You can also follow me on twitter @ballanation2010.

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