The Orlando Magic Return to the Familiar Underdog Role | Magic Basketball

«

»

Oct 27

The Orlando Magic Return to the Familiar Underdog Role

Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

Via John Hollinger of ESPN Insider:

Virtually every set of predictions lists one of three teams as champion: the Lakers, Heat or Celtics. I’m wondering if this consensus is missing the boat on reality, and I’m not just saying that because the Heat and Lakers looked somewhere south of dominant Tuesday night.

In light of the fact that Orlando dominated the preseason after dominating the second half of last season, I find it particularly hard to swallow how dismissive most people seem of the Magic’s chances.

Apparently lots of people saw last year’s Eastern Conference finals and decided the Magic can’t be trusted in the playoffs … which might be a better argument if they hadn’t won the East a year earlier (with Rafer Alston playing point guard, for Pete’s sake). If the effects of Dwight Howard-stopper Kendrick Perkins’ knee injury linger into the postseason, the Magic might be able to outlast Boston in a potential meeting. Alternatively, they may not need to play the Celtics at all.

And then there’s the wild card: trades. Remember, you don’t win with your November roster; you win with the roster you take into the playoffs. Look at the top teams and at which ones have the assets to make major upgrades between now and the trade deadline, and you’ll quickly notice that it’s not the Lakers, Celtics and Heat who are holding the cards.

Teams such as Portland, Oklahoma City, Houston and Orlando sit on major asset troves, which could enable them to make the necessary upgrades and roster tweaks to push them up another level. You don’t think Orlando becomes a favorite if it can use its assets to pry Paul from New Orleans?

And that’s what boggles the mind. More and more, the Orlando Magic are being labeled as a great “regular season” team. For those that can’t read between the lines, that’s a nice way of saying that the Magic are soft or can’t cut it in the playoffs. Problem is, that argument doesn’t carry weight.

Why?

Because the core of the Magic, the same core that went to the NBA Finals in 2009 is still intact. It’s not like this is a cast of characters that haven’t stepped up on the big stage. Just because Orlando had a one bad series against the Boston Celtics, shouldn’t dismiss all the things they’ve accomplished the last two years. Rashard Lewis, especially, is a player that’s receiving a lot of undue criticism for how he performed against the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals, leading some people to believe that he’s yet to have a breakout series in the playoffs.

I guess Lewis’ performance in the Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers doesn’t qualify.

If the Magic were a team that hasn’t proven anything in the postseason then yeah, it’s fair to say they can’t be trusted.  But to dismiss them as a title contender?

That seems premature.

3 comments
Billy (slickw143)
Billy (slickw143)

I agree that Rashard has been getting a lot of unwarranted criticism about his playoff performances. I mean, just earlier in the summer, Eddy posted a higlight reel of Rashard from Game 2 in LA where Rashard went off and kept us in the game to almost steal one.

As far as Miami, I wouldn't write them off completely right now. They will get better, obviously, and their strengths might outweigh their weaknesses.

Tim James
Tim James

The narrative reminds me of how silly sports editorialism can be at times, both from journalists and fans. We extrapolate things based on limited sets of data like a playoff series or two. I guess it's all we've got to banter with.

Jayson
Jayson

Completely agreed. I thought that Lewis was getting the shaft in that article. He was the best guy on the floor most games in the 09 ECF, and he won us a game (or two, my memory is failing me) with big shots. He didn't play as well last year, but that was a function of VC being more of a scorer than Hedo was the year before. If the preseason holds true and its Jameer doing more of the dribble penetration/pick-n-roll ball handling then I think Lewis explodes again this season.

And while a trade for Paul would be nice (purposefully understated) this roster is good enough as is to take down anyone in the East. Boston is still a great team, but we have the tools to match up with them. Miami doesn't scare me at all, especially after last night. Watching them was puzzling. I kept thinking "What is wrong with this team?" I knew they had a weird preseason, but something looked a bit more fundamentally off than simple rust/unfamiliarity. Then someone (I think Barkley) said how they have no interior presence, and the world made sense. Udonis Haslem was the guy who got a majority of the minutes at C. 6'8" Udonis Haslem. And then there best true C is Big Z, who spends most of his time on offense 14 ft away from the basket and hasn't played good individual defense in at least a year. Bottom line: Dwight Howard eats these guys alive, forcing Miami to double, and the inside-outside game works to perfection. Or they foul him EVERY time he catches the ball, but I don't think it will be that effective. Are they going to put D12 on the line for 35 shots? I don't think they want to play that game. Either way I feel good. Go Magic.