Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
The Magic have a chance to be winners this year. Just not in the usual sense. Playoffs? Not likely. Championship? Only if the starters from all other teams opt for swift, unexplainable early retirements. Or if they split and start their own exclusive pro league without inviting Orlando or Milwaukee.
No, the young Orlando roster can win in a different way that still carries plenty of honor and pride with it. They can keep their franchise win-loss record above .500 this season (993-978).
After Wednesday’s win over Detroit, it will only take eight victories to keep the franchise record from dipping below that equidistant mark, nine to stay above it. Only one other franchise has a closer number difference between its total wins and losses. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Part of the close gap has to do with the youth of the franchise. There are others with a win percentage closer to .500, but the Magic are actually closer because they have played fewer total games.
You might call them a “middle team.” Located in the middle of the state. Great success balanced with awful seasons. And their franchise win percentage is almost exactly in the middle compared to the rest of the league: 15th out of 30 teams. Stuff the Magic Dragon better watch his back. A hobbit is sounding like the perfect mascot right about now.
Despite the middling data, the Magic up to this point have been able to call themselves a winning franchise. That’s a special honor. It’s the result of a body of successful work that not every team can lay claim to. If there is any true, tangible goal for this year’s team during the actual season, defending the winning tradition is a worthy one.
As I mentioned, there is one team even closer in total win/loss numbers; the Knicks have only 10 more losses than wins overall (2634-2644). To reach .500 this season, they’ll need quite the resurgent turnaround. A 22-11 finish would put them above the mark. They haven’t looked like a team consistent enough for that, but they have the talent for it.
For the Magic, there is enough youth and inconsistent talent present to fall short of even eight more wins. So the challenge is twofold: finish above .500 and win the “Battle of the Middle Dwellers.”
Now there are two more storylines to follow. The Magic can be winners this year, even with a losing record, if they defend the franchise. Fans can also pretend the team has made it to the finals this years, against the Knicks. It’s a sad substitute, but you have to kindle the flames of passion for your team somehow, right? So we’ll track this epic battle and see who lands on the better side of history.
Fortunately for Orlando, they’re getting a pretty generous handicap.