Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Uh oh its Magic!

Well, well, well…I go ahead and show a little faith in the Magic and how do they reward me? By losing two consecutive games to teams below .500. That’s right, just a day or so after I declared that I no longer felt like my praise of the Magic’s collective efforts in this space could bring them bad luck, they blew numerous second half leads in a loss to Indiana and then followed that up last night with a loss to the Hoover, er, Atlanta Hawks. Despite this unnerving turn of events, I’m going to show a little faith in the Magicians and continue on with my thoughts about this years team.

I was going to mention that one of the most encouraging things about the Magic thus far is that they’d only lost to quality teams (Phoenix (twice), San Antonio & Detroit). Of course, that no longer applies so we’ll just move on to what I feel is one of the more significant differences in the overall play of the Magic, the role players. It’s not just the bench I’m talking about here either. Keith Bogans has done a great job of finally finding his niche in the NBA by morphing himself into a poor man’s Bruce Bowen. He’s always been a tough, tenacious defender who drew the opposition’s best perimeter offensive player, but now he’s added a consistent three point shot to go with it. With Bogans now a legitimate threat to knock down open 3s, teams can’t play off him and force the Magic to swing it to Bogans in the corner without fear of the results. This further opens up the inside for Howard and the rest of the Magic on offense.

The emergence of Bogans has also allowed Van Gundy more flexibility with his reserves. He can go with Carlos Arroyo and Keyon Dooling at the guards, or go big in the backcourt and play Dooling at the point alongside Maurice Evans. Evans was a part of a recent trade that flew under the radar for most NBA fans but drew the ire of many Magic fans as he was swapped, along with Brian Cook, for fan favorite Trevor Ariza. While Ariza is loaded with potential and brings swagger and energy to the court (not to mention a the occasional jaw dropping dunk and a ridiculous minutes to offensive rebounds ratio), there were not a lot of minutes to be had for him with this edition of the Magic. He doesn’t have the shooting or ballhandling prowess to play extensive minutes at the 2 and struggles to defend most 4s ude ot his slight frame and 6'8" height. With both Turkoglu and Lewis playing most of the minutes at the 3, it became a situation where Ariza wasn’t going to receive the necessary amount of minutes to continue his growth as a player in Orlando. By trading Ariza before he languished on the bench for half the season (thus dropping his trade value), the Magic were able to acquire another physical, athletic defender to matchup against the league’s premier perimeter scorers )Evans) as well as another forward who can draw big men out on the perimeter and spread the floor for Dwight Howard (Noticing a theme here?) with his long range touch (Cook). It’s been a long time since I agreed with a Magic personnel move from the jump but I loved this move. We’ll see if Evans and Cook are able to find their respective roles and find some minutes for themselves as the year progresses. If so, they'll only add to an already dangerous Orlando bench. Finally, while I’m not an Adonal Foyle fan, he has provided the Magic with some defense, rebounding and toughness underneath on the second unit without demanding the ball or causing waves in the locker room. While I’d sooner give it to Arroyo in the post than Foyle, he’s sure to set a good example of professionalism for the young guys in the Magic organization.

And that’s the final point I’d like to make about this Magic team: It is a good group of guys. It really is. You’d be hard pressed to find a “bad guy” on this Magic team. Howard is almost too nice, Jameer Nelson is a natural leader who pays for the whole team to come up and hang out in Philly for a week each summer and even new acquisitions like Lewis and Foyle came to the Magic with reputations as no nonsense, team first players. As bad as the Magic have been recently this has, surprisingly, not always been the case. Steve Francis was at times moody, selfish and inwardly focused. McGrady became withdrawn from the team and organization as his tenure wore on and the team continued to struggle and Penny Hardaway was just a bitch. Not a bitch like your ex-girlfriend but a bitch like that kid at the bar who talks shit and then refuses to back it up. As much as I love the Magic, it was awfully hard to root for guys like Francis and Hardaway during much of their tenure (I give McGrady a bit of a pass since the organization did zilch to compliment him for most of his time in Orlando). This isn’t the case with this group of Magicians. They genuinely seem to enjoy each other and enjoy being on the court playing a game they love. Maybe that’s why I’m not as worried as I normally would be after two consecutive bad losses. Because I believe this team has not only the talent, but the wherewithal to stick together when shots aren’t falling and fight for each other in order to change the direction of this franchise.

Because, you see, there’s more at stake here than just winning basketball games. The city of Orlando approved a new arena last year and Dwight Howard signed a long-term extension recently but all of that won’t mean a thing if the Magic still haven’t made it out of the first round five years from now. By that time, Howard will have grown tired of mediocrity and the Magic will have run off yet another franchise player. By that time, Orlando won’t have the Magic anymore. Orlando won’t have anything but an empty arena and thoughts of what might have been.


Greg said...

You forgot to mention that this is still a fairly young team. Turk and Shard are not yet 30 and outside of Foyle, they're probably the oldest guys on the team.

They'll make the playoffs this year but they might be too inexperienced to make it past the first round. This isn't the kind of thing that will happen after this year.

Jerry said...

Hey, you're writing again. Word up. I've got nothing. The only teams I've seen play full games are the Nets, Raptors, Bulls, Sonics, and Blazers.

Greg said...

...and now a loss to Milwaukee Bucks. all because a certain blogger had to write an article about how good the Magicians were.

That's it. Season's over. Thank's a lot, Mark for ruining this season.

Mark said...

Yeah, I thought the same thing watching the game last night. I'm officially bad luck.

Mark said...

Magic have now lost 4 of 5 and given 120+ at home to the Griz (who were on a 6 game losing streak). Fuck.

Also, Juan Carlos Navarro killed the Magic. 28 points. And we're going to end the night with a shirtless Mike Miller being interviewed postgame...great.

Mark said...

Actually, that was kind of cool. Miller was shirtless b/c he exchanged jerseys after the game with Dwight Howard.

The sideline reporter asked Miller what the deal was, saying "thats some kind of european thing isn't it" and Miller explained that all the guys on the USA team this summer decided that they would exchange jerseys with each other after they played against one another during the regular season. Which is a cool idea and (hopefully) speaks to the change in the approach of our currently assembled national basketball team.

Jerry said...


"Actually, that was kind of cool. Miller was shirtless "