“We’ve been talking for a long time—all we seem to do is talk…You guys know what the difference is. You watch the games. If guys don’t want to play, they need to sit down. We can’t just have guys or anybody out there not playing hard. We’re professional athletes. This is what we do for a living. If you can’t go out there and go hard for two hours, then you shouldn’t be playing.” Those were the words from the Orlando Magic superstar, Dwight Howard, following a 111-105 loss to the lowly Sacramento Kings this past Wednesday. A curious start to the last quarter of the Magic regular season indeed.
Howard was not alone in his frustration following the loss. Coach Van Gundy said “I’m not happy with anything other than Dwight right now. I’m not happy with anything.” Brandon Bass made the following statement “We have to play hard and have that sense of urgency. Each individual has to want to win, really want to win and not just say it. It has to show when we step out on the court.”
Clearly this is a loss that stung the team. So much so that a team meeting was held the following day instead of focusing on the practice time Van Gundy has held to be so valuable. According to John Denton, Orlandomagic.com writer, there was plenty of talking by the players and coaches. Jameer Nelson commented that “There wasn’t yelling or screaming or anything like that, but some things were said that we needed to hear.’’
It would appear that Nelson was right as the following evening Orlando dominated the slightly shorthanded Oklahoma Thunder 111-88. Howard continued his M.V.P play abusing the Thunder bigs for 40pts, 15rebs, and 6blks. Orlando shot 50% from the field while holding the high scoring Thunder to 33%. With contributions from Nelson (16pts, 9rebs, 4ast), Jason Richardson (17pts,6rebs,4ast), and Hedo Turkgolu (7pts,10ast,4rebs) the Magic put together one of their most balanced attacks in recent memory. Of course “The Hibachi” stayed in a deep freeze but Orlando can no longer be expecting anything from Gilbert Arenas anyway. “I think we played a lot better on the defensive end,” said Howard, “Our help defense was great tonight and individual defense was great. We’ve just got to keep it up.” A much better tone from Superman after beating one of the Western Conference elite.
Sunday the Magic men were paired against the Charlotte Bobcats. Let’s be brief. Orlando delivered a business like performance in a game that had nothing memorable about it and defeated the Bobcats 100-86. Correction there was a brief Gilbert Arenas sighting as Arenas caught fire pouring in 16pts with 4 made threes. Terribly exciting I know. Otherwise Howard had his customary double double (20pts &10rebs) and Jameer Nelson continues to claim the lions share of the minutes at the point while producing more consistently (13pts &7ast).
Orlando stayed quiet as the trade deadline passed on Thursday afternoon. Despite the glaring need for another big, the Magic chose to stand pat and develop the chemistry on their current roster. As a result the Magic finished the week 2-1 feeling better about their championship aspirations. “We have a lot of talent, but talent won’t win you championships,” Howard said. “But hard work, commitment—every play, every night is what gets you the championship. We’re talented enough to beat anybody…We’re equipped, whatever you want to call it to win a championship. We have to continue to play hard and be consistent with what we do. That’s the only way we’re going to get to where we’re trying to get to.”
The fact remains that Howard can’t do it alone and the talk of championship can only be put into action as a result of team effort/belief. With Howard as their leader, the Magic have the perfect example of how to talk the talk and walk the walk.
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