For the Orlando Magic atonement is at the forefront of their minds. Yes the Boston Celtics are the team that made the Magic disappear in the Eastern Conference Finals in 6 not so close games. No, the Boston Celtics are not whom the Magic wish to seek atonement from. Well at least not yet. The Magic enter the season feeling like everybody developed amnesia as to who they are. If the Magic are brought up in conversation regarding potential NBA Finals participants at all it is usually as an afterthought. One more mention of the Miami Heat and Stan Van Gundy’s face might stay permanently fixed in the child like pout he makes when the team is struggling. That would not be a good look, but a look we might see as the talk of the Miami Heat continues to sicken everybody north of West Palm Beach.
One would think it would be hard to overlook a team with the likes of Dwight Howard manning the middle, 3 consecutive Southwest Divisions titles, a Finals appearance in 2009 and a conference finals appearance in 2010. The resume is quite impressive and in a “what have you done for me lately” world Orlando’s accomplishments speak louder than that of the SOBE Three. As with anything else in life it’s all about progression for the Magic. Progression through continuity with minor tweaks is the formula the Magic hope to use to propel them back to the NBA Finals. It is no short order but this team has a way of surprising and coming out of nowhere, even though they have been an elite team for a few years now.
So far progression and continuity have been fluid. The Magic finished the pre-season 7-0 with 5 straight double digit wins and by beating 4 of those teams by over 25 points at the buzzer’s end. Incidentally a pre-season match up with the Heat was canceled on October 22 due to slickness on the court in Tampa. The Southeast division elite clash will have to wait till October 29, when the Magic will be the Heat’s home opening opponent. It would have been nice to see how the two teams matched up but the pre-season has still been insightful.
Dwight Howard had a busy summer with philanthropic efforts worldwide, but still found the time to visit hall of famer Hakeem Olajuwon to work on both his jumper and footwork in the post. The fruits of his labor have showed in the pre-season but his free throw shooting is still abysmal. As usual he will be the key to Orlando’s success followed by Vince Carter. Vince seems better adjusted in the Magic offense now that the Magic have realized that Carter is not Hedo Turkgolu. In the pre-season Vince has been able to spot up and post up rather than having the ball and trying to create on his own. This has given him quality shots and should improve his efficiency this year.
New addition Quentin Richardson has been adjusting nicely and has a chip on his shoulder the size of a forest regarding Miami. “F the Heat, with all due respect” Richardson said in earlier interview during the preseason. Richardson appears to have won the starting small forward position keeping Rashard Lewis at the power forward for now. The Magic toyed with the idea of starting a more traditional lineup with Lewis at the 3 and Brandon Bass at the 4. Ironically Bass was not the cause of the failed experiment, Lewis is just not fast enough to defend other small forwards (maybe it’s the $20.5 million he is making this season that is slowing him down). All is not bleak for Bass as his play has finally caught the attention of Coach Van Gundy. Bass as well as sharp shooting power forward Ryan Anderson are in store for increased playing time this season. That itself is change worthy of note while the rest of the team is by and large the same.
The team will open the season as the first half of the TNT double header October 28 against John Wall and the Washington Wizards. Expect Arenas to Orlando rumors to pick up steam and for it to be a topic discussed the telecast if you are watching it on TV. It will be interesting to see how big of a home court advantage the new Amway Center will provide for the team as well. The second game of the season is on the second night of a back to back against the aforementioned Heat. After three full days of rest the Magic will travel to New York to take on the new look Knicks and Amare Stoudamire. The Magic will finish out the week at Minnesota, at home to play New Jersey then back on the road at Charlotte, who they swept out of the playoffs last season.
There is no reason the team should not be 5-1 or 6-0 by November 6 with Miami as the only real contender they play in the first 6 games. If all goes as it should the Magic are primed for a great start out of the gate and might even send an early message not only to the Heat but to the league with a win on October 29. Then again it seems no matter what they do, people seem to bump their heads and forget all over again how good this team is. Maybe it is better that way. Maybe being the hunter and not the hunted is what best suits this organization. The only way to answer these maybes is to play and then maybe the Magic will get the atonement it deserves.
About the Author
Written by Warren Shaw
I am an avid Basketball fan who has worked for the New York Knicks, Alonzo Mourning Charities and various other sports organizations. Having covered many NBA and various professional sporting events has given me the opportunity to provide insight with an unbiased but flavor driven view. I look forward to providing NBA content and interacting with knowledgeable fans and readers. Follow me on Twitter @shawsports or Email your questions to me at Warrenshaw@prosportsblogging.com