Navigating through murderer's row | Magic Basketball



Dec 22

Navigating through murderer’s row

Photo by Fernando Medina

Two games since the Orlando Magic acquired Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu. Two losses.

Losing to the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks is nothing the Magic should be ashamed of, considering head coach Stan Van Gundy is trying to integrate three players on the fly in the middle of the regular season. In fact, Van Gundy is referring to the timeframe right now as training camp. But it’s easy to see why the frustration level is rising for Orlando — losses are piling up. After a 15-4 start to the year, a stomach virus, injuries, and trades have contributed to the Magic losing eight of their last nine games. Now Orlando is 16-12 and tied for fifth in the Eastern Conference with the New York Knicks.

Needless to say, no one saw this coming.

And with the Magic still having to face off against the San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics in the next four days, it’s safe to say that things are going to get worse before they get better.

Orlando is dealing with a murderer’s row schedule at a bad time. It’s not the worst time because the playoffs aren’t here yet. The Magic do have 54 games to right the ship and rest assured, they’re going to need each and every one of them to figure things out.

What once was a stout defense with Dwight Howard as the anchor is in shambles right now as Orlando waits for reinforcements to arrive and rebuild a frontline that is depleted at the moment. Not only that but the Magic are lacking for great, let alone elite, perimeter defenders with the departure of Mickael Pietrus.

General manager Otis Smith is gambling that Van Gundy and Howard are enough to rebuild a top five defense with Arenas, Richardson, and Turkoglu, along with any other newcomers that may be on their way before the trade deadline. If Turkoglu’s stifling defense on Dirk Nowitzki in last night’s game against the Mavericks is any indication, the gamble may pay off but it remains to be seen what happens in that department.

The offense?

It’s a work in progress, but it’s clear that Orlando is going to be a handful offensively when things are clicking on all cylinders. Turkoglu’s synergy with Howard in the pick and roll remains intact, Richardson — as he gets acclimated in the Magic’s offense — poses a dynamic threat on the perimeter, and then there’s Arenas.

Well, Arenas is the wild card. Let’s put it that way. Arenas’ spirits are high, as he seems to be enjoying his new surroundings. But Smith traded for Arenas to produce, and that’s something he expects from him sooner than later. It’ll take some time, though, for Arenas to not only know the right moments to be aggressive on the offensive side of the ball but also how to effectively play with Howard, the type of dominant center he’s never played with before in his career.

That being said, the playmaking is there, the scoring is there, but the defense has some catching up to do. A lot of catching up to do, actually.

With the upcoming schedule, things aren’t going to be easy.