A dismal playoff run, an underacheiving season with your superstar approaching the year he can opt-out of his contract and test the free agent market…What does that mean for the future of the Orlando Magic?
Being a Magic fan since 1989, I must say this latest defeat by the Atlanta Hawks hurts. Maybe hurt is not even the correct word to use; something more deeper may be appropriate. It could possibly be because we have all WITNESSed a Magic franchise recover from a devastating blow in 1996 when Shaquille O’Neal left the team in shambles. Penny Hardaway was the lone ranger and even he sucummed and left the team while coach Brian Hill was fired.
The stage was set. A brand new, state-of-the-art arena in the heart of downtown Orlando. An Eastern Conference Finals defeat by the Boston Celtics in 2010 was fueling power to make a return to the NBA’s highest stage.
But somehow, the Magic failed miserably to achieve anything.
D-E-F-E-N-S-E, most would agree is the heart of a team and the key to a championship. Which is why when General Manager Otis Smith initiated a mid-season trade of Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus questions were raised. In return the Magic acquired Jason Richardson, Earl Clark, Hedo Turkoglu and injury prone Gilbert Arenas. No back up center was ever acquired before the trade deadline.
Mistake #1. Chemistry fell apart and besides the few spurts during the season, defensively the team went backwards. From the day of the trades, I said I didn’t like them and would have rather Smith waited until the offseason to unload the team.
The fight and grit that the Magic team had showed in the 2009 NBA Finals run and last season was slowly disappearing.
Fast-forward to now, the Magic are now faced with the possibility of star player Dwight Howard leaving. Personally, I don’t think Howard has any interest in leaving as he told Magic fans Thursday night, “Keep believing, It’s going to get better. I’m going to do whatever I can to lead my city.” With the current roster, my pick this post-season was for a Orlando-Miami matchup in the East Finals. The inconsistency of the Magic finally caught up to them.
What the Magic must do is find a way to attract another superstar to the Magic Kingdom. The top free agents this summer will be Chris Paul (NO) and Deron Williams (NJ). Paul, in his fifth year, averaged 22 points-per-game and 11.5 assists-per-game this postseason. Keep in mind July 2010, the Magic were featured in rumors that would have sent CP3 to Orlando. Williams, also in his fifth year, averaged 20 points-per-game during the regular season. Both are dynamic play makers, something the Magic have been lacking since the McGrady years.
ESPN had reported then that Paul’s top destination was Orlando.
It’s now time to make that happen.
What will hinder the Magic from making any moves will be the contracts of Arenas and Turkoglu. Arenas is making $17,730,694 over the next three years and Turkoglu has three years following this season with $10,215,850 on his contract. Smith worked miracles unloading Carter; a blockbuster trade is expected this summer.
A slasher such as Denver’s J.R. Smith should also be looked at to add more scoring options and defensive players to the roster.
Will Stan Van Gundy return?
The future of SVG will all depend on the shoulders of Howard. If Howard feels SVG can continue to lead him and the team, then SVG will return. Quick point: SVG should not be to blame for the debacle we witnessed in Atlanta. Coaching cant make up for the poor shooting percentages from Nelson, Turkoglu and Redick.
The city of Orlando is Dwight’s city to own. The fans are there and the endorsements continue to pile up.
The offer is on the table for Howard to end the speculation; it’s up to him to accept it. Hopefully the precedent set by other players such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony doesnt inspire Howard to do the same.
The future of the Magic and the city of Orlando depends on it.
With or without Howard, the Magic must make a move to add players. The Eastern Conference continues to pile talent with James, D-Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, Anthony and Amare Stoudemire in New York and the rising team in Chicago.