Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images
Readers, I apologize in advance for emoting negativity so early in the season. I’m generally optimistic, but I’m having a hard time seeing the light at the end of this particular tunnel.
Now that the opening day excitement has settled, and we all got a chance to watch our teams and size them up after an extended, lockout induced break, I have some seriously mixed emotions about this season.
Let’s start with the positives. There are some truly exciting teams to watch this year. I think of Oklahoma City and their platoon of young bloods that shoot from the hip and have one of the most dynamic scorers in the game in Kevin Durant. I think about the undeniable juggernaut that is Miami. Then there’s CP3 and Griffin in Lob City, California. How about the newly revamped Knicks, or the reloaded Bulls? I could go on. Ricky Rubio? Yes. Awesome.
But what about the Magic? Ugh. Sigh. Not exciting.
I find that this is an extremely painful time to not be a part of all the good that’s going on. It’s like there is a dope dance party somewhere and the Magic suddenly realized they weren’t a part of the cool group anymore. They won’t be in those conversations about who to watch out for in the East. They won’t be in arguments about how things will stack up in the playoffs. In fact, I have them picked to finish fifth or maybe even sixth in the East barring a miracle.
What’s wrong with this picture? Orlando is usually right there at the dance!
So that’s the truly difficult way to start this season. What scares me most is the optimism and belief that Dwight is going to stay in Orlando. The reason is that I felt very strongly at the end of the lockout that this was also the end of the Dwight in Orlando era. It wasn’t easy to swallow at first, but after having Albert Pujols leave my hometown Cardinals, I became comfortably numb to the prospect of losing a hero in the spirit of starting over.
Because look — if he’s going to go then he’s going to go. We just have to make sure to get the best possible pieces for him, right? I mean, if he stays it’s just delaying the inevitable. We’re not going to bring in a Deron Williams or a Monta Ellis. We’ll just lethargically roll out a few more painful seasons where SVG doesn’t have the right pieces surrounding Dwight and become a perennial four seed in the East.
So yeah, I had a touch of excitement about the possibility of starting over. It would be fresh. Instead, I’m faced with watching a team on its last breath, and waiting for something to shock its system. That shock is nothing short of a Dwight trade that brings in strong pieces for now, and strong picks for later. Maximizing has got to be the name of the game for Orlando, but why isn’t it happening?
I realize I’m coming close to sounding like a traitor, and please don’t mistake me, I love Dwight Howard and hope he gets to finish his career in Orlando, but at the cost of pleading with Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson to play out of their minds every night? At the cost of rooting for Ryan Anderson to somehow seem more like a dependable starter? That just sounds grueling.
There are factors on factors on factors that will affect the outcome of this season for Orlando. Maybe they do pull in some serious, championship-caliber talent before it’s all over. Maybe Dwight leaves and we get the sense that the next few years will be everything we love looking forward to as fans. Maybe the Magic will crumble, lose Dwight, gain nothing, and we’ll all go crazy.
All that matters right now, though, is that Orlando is not part of the big show. Dwyane Wade said recently on ESPN Radio that even in the face of the lockout the NBA was probably the strongest it has been in a long time. The talent pool and depth of teams is astounding. It’s just a shame that Orlando became a “not really that good” team in the midst of all this excitement.
I have faith that Magic will do what it takes to bounce back — even if it’s not this year. I’m not worried in the grand scheme of things for the livelihood of a good franchise with a great coach, who still possesses one of the great players in the game.
I’m just bummed out that I can’t watch great teams and wonder how the Magic would stack up against them this year without laughing (and crying) hysterically.