To say that things aren’t going well for the Orlando Magic would be an incredible understatement. Since defeating the Indiana Pacers on Jan. 24, the team has fallen into a four-game skid that if defined as abysmal would be a compliment. But it all actually started the night before that win, when the Magic produced a pathetic 56-point performance in a loss to the Boston Celtics. That Monday night game should be remembered as the moment the Magic crumbled.
To be fair, the 66-game schedule hasn’t been kind to many teams at this point, with back-to-backs packed in like strippers in a trunk. But for the Magic – with my obvious homer status aside – it’s been a fascinating season with only 21 games behind them. And it all starts with the man who set the tone for Orlando’s season by requesting a trade, Dwight Howard.
After last night’s hideous 74-69 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers (and the game was a lot worse than that score suggests), Howard maintained that his team can win, but he still wants to play for a team that can win.
“It’s not the first time I’ve called them out,” Howard said. “As a leader, you’ve got to do things that people don’t like. People hate what they don’t understand. My teammates understand why I said what I said. They all agree. It’s not like, `Oh, Dwight’s wrong with what he said.’ But that’s with anything. My job is to challenge my teammates and challenge myself to go out and play every night.” (Via CBS Sports)
And he challenges them by requesting a trade right from the start, as well as openly telling reporters that he would consider playing for opposing teams after playing against them.
“We’re still a great basketball team, we’re just going through a tough stretch. That’s it,” Howard said. “There’s no need for us to complain or point the finger or for anybody to panic. We’re going to be fine.”
During their 4-game losing streak, the Magic are averaging 76 points per game, which is especially terrible considering they had one of the top offenses in the league prior to that first beatdown by the Celtics. They also squandered a 27-point lead against the Celtics on Jan. 26, and now reports are surfacing that the players have completely tuned out coach Stan Van Gundy.
Meanwhile, GM Otis Smith, who is about 80% to blame for this collapse from the team’s Finals appearance in 2009, failed to sign Ryan Anderson, the team’s second best player, to an extension last week, and he claims that he’s not willing to ever make major changes to the roster just because of a “string of losses” even though he traded Rashard Lewis for Gilbert Arenas and Vince Carter and Marcin Gortat for Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu last season because the team lost 5 of 6. There’s just not a positive thing about these guys right now, other than at 12-9 they’re still in third place in their division.
I know the Magic aren’t big market news, but if you’re a basketball fan, you have to recognize that this is the most fascinating story of the season so far. Hell, even if you appreciate good schadenfreude, the Magic are the team for you.