Embracing uncertainty | Magic Basketball

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Dec 02

Embracing uncertainty

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There’s not a good way to introduce this season for the Magic, because you already know all the things that one might say. The elephant in the room has been trumpeting his trunk for three seasons now, and the second we heard that a new CBA was forthcoming, Orlando became one of the four or so franchises most under the microscope for the coming season.

It feels like Orlando can’t win. For years, despite having a perennial MVP candidate, one of the best and most innovative coaches around, and now the NBA’s best arena, Magic fans have felt like the team has been overlooked. And now that the team has the spotlight, the scrutiny is mostly about the roster’s shortcomings and the increasing probability that Dwight Howard will be plying his wares elsewhere next season.

Now check it, y’all: I have nothing new to say about Dwight Howard, and I may not for a long time. But it’s looking like a season of worry and tooth-gnashing for Orlando, and while I don’t want to trivialize how much is at stake for the franchise, I am here to say that we just ought not sweat it.

Post-lockout, I feel like a dude on the rebound after a bad breakup. I been burned. I learned a few things about love I hadn’t thought about before. (Disclosure: I am coming to you live and direct drinking a Manhattan and blaring Sam Cooke right now.) I just spent months watching the owners — men whose businesses I devote an outsize proportion of my time and resources to following — behave as if they simply did not care whether basketball happened. It’s not news that money makes the world and the league go ‘round, but what I’m saying is I’m having a hard time reinvesting in the league in the exact same way. Me and the NBA are going to go out a couple times, I’ll focus on the positives, and we’ll see during the playoffs if it will be love again.

I don’t mean to be saying I won’t follow or be invested in the league this year, I’m just determined to understand its goings-on within the proper frame of reference: as parts of a pure entertainment system, with little of the seriousness that would inspire real angst about where Dwight is going. I would like him on the Magic for his career, sure. I’d like it even better if he was kept on the Magic by means of a daring trade that brought another top-tier player to the Magic. And those things might happen.

But whereas last season I might’ve gotten annoyed with the trade speculation or the fact that countless observers who’ve been ignoring the Magic’s good features for years will now be talking about their shortcomings, this year I’m the prettiest girl at the prom. Every fun scenario for the future of the league involves the team we’ve been following for years, and while in the short term the Magic may get less competitive, it’s harder to imagine a scenario with so many rich possibilities.

One of the things that has driven me the craziest about the Magic the past few seasons — ever since the trade for Vince Carter, really — was the high-quality limbo in which the team has been floating. I believe pretty firmly that whatever the result of this season is, rooting for the Magic is going to be more fun that it was last year. Perhaps we’ll get to watch an extremely young team of high draft picks, perhaps we’ll see Dwight paired with a similarly talented player. What we almost certainly won’t be seeing, God willing, is a team of high-priced veterans whose skills we are already sure of and don’t fit any sort of team identity.

So instead of sweating the devil I know — that extremely frustrating, ill-conceived devil whose limitations I’m acutely aware of — I’m going spend the season embracing the devil I don’t.

3 comments
Mike
Mike

Did you drink the entire bottle, Danny? Otis Smith has to gamble, and even if he fails, it's not likely that it ends up any worse than if he did a conventional trade.

If he trades for Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, he likely ends up with two players who want to be here even less than Dwight Howard and ends up with only a one-year fix. Both are free next season, too. And a bunch more players currently on the Magic roster who you might want to keep will likely leave, too, because they also want a chance to win a title.

If you trade Dwight Howard to the Clippers, they already have told you that they won't send back their best talent, Blake Griffin, and the draft picks from them then would be worthless, too. In fact, if you trade for picks from any team to which you are trading Dwight Howard, the picks would be worthless.

Worst of all, the trades prove that the lockout was worthless. The owners went after the wrong things. They should have let the players keep the money and instead focused on the system issues that allow the NFL to thrive. Instead, the NBA continues the SuperFriends trend.

Under that trend, it just shows that it never matters what Orlando or any other small- to medium-sized market tries to do, they won't be able to keep together teams long enough to build contenders. There are no Tim Duncans, Reggie Millers, Karl Malones, and John Stocktons left in the NBA. It appears to be impossible that any player wants to play for any NBA team other than the Lakers, Knicks, Heat, Bulls, or Celtics. (And all the pundits can stop telling us about Kevin Durant; he hasn't been unrestricted yet. All the SuperFriends re-signed with their original teams enthusiasticallyat the end of their first contracts, too, so they could get paid.)

Which means that everyone can stop telling us how much they wanted to settle the lockout for the fans. The players want you to support them regardless -- even after you leave their teams in shambles. Throw in assists to player agents on that. And if you don't like it, well, they will wake up tomorrow in their new homes, and you still will have your miserables lives, right LeBron?

There aren't enough elite players to go around, and if they all want to be on the same teams, that leaves a lot of bad basketball. The league should contract to eight teams (has to be an even number so maybe since the Clippers and Nets are in L.A. and soon to be Brooklyn, they can succeed; throw in Dallas or San San Antonio -- your choice). I'm sure the 300 or so players put out of work won't mind at all. You can thank the SuperFriends.

Mateus Fregonassi
Mateus Fregonassi

Great article, Danny!
Yes... everytime I think about the upcoming season, I think about excitement.

Except in the scenario of trading Dwight to the Lakers for Odom and Bynum. Then we're gonna see a good team limited to the Conference Semifinals.

Keep Dwight and rebuild or trade with the Clippers for young talent and picks.

Otis should gamble again. For us to have fun despite the results.

Carlo Simone
Carlo Simone

"Disclosure: I am coming to you live and direct drinking a Manhattan and blaring Sam Cooke right now."  Did you realize that you and I were the same person?
But this is a great perspective on the coming season.  I'm also nervous but very excited at what the possibilities are.