Do you believe in God? You know, the big man upstairs that controls the happenings of the universe. Well, chances are you do, at least according to most religious polls conducted in America. What about the basketball gods? You know, higher beings that control the results of the National Basketball Association. Is there such a thing?
J.J. Redick believes there is. After a disappointing loss to the Raptors on Thursday in which Demar Derozan nailed an impossible fadeway jumpshot at the buzzer to win the game by two points, Redick voiced his frustration, “The basketball gods have turned their backs on us. We need to get back in their good graces.” There may not actually be any basketball gods, but if there are, it does seem as if they have indeed turned their backs on the Orlando Magic.
The loss to the Raptors was Orlando’s 15th in 17 games and the Magic have since lost 2 more in as many games. Sunday was another heartbreaking 2 point defeat to the Pistons and tonight the Brooklyn Nets completely dismantled the shunned team from Orlando. These losses move the Magic record to a dismal 14-30. Just over a month ago, the Magic were a game under .500 and challenging the Bucks and Celtics for the last playoff spot in the East. Now they are in danger of slipping to fourth place behind the Washington Wizards in the Southeast division. With the return of John Wall from injury the Wizards are surging forward and are only 3 games behind the Magic. Not that it really matters whether Orlando is in third or fourth place at this point, it just mean that yet another team would pass the Magic and would be representative of how much they have declined in the past month and a half.
To be fair, the Magic really have run onto some bad luck this season. Injuries have riddled the team from day one. Starting center Nik Vucevic is the lone Magic player to have played all 44 of their games this season. Opening day starter Hedo Turkoglu was injured in the first game, came back for 5 games a couple months later and promptly hurt himself again. Starting point guard Jameer Nelson was out for 9 games early in the season. Starting power forward, and second leading scorer on the team, Glen Davis missed 11 games right near the beginning of the Magic’s horrific slide to the near bottom of the East. Veteran forward Al Harrington has yet to appear in a Magic uniform after being acquired from the Denver Nuggets over the summer. Harrington is recovering from knee surgery and was expected to make his Magic debut about 2 months into the season, but time marches on and still no Harrington. To make matters even worse, leading scorer Aaron Afflalo strained his calf against the Pistons on Sunday and was forced to miss tonight’s game against the Nets. Afflalo is not expected to miss much time with his calf strain, but still, it’s another injury heaped on top of the many others. No wonder J.J. Redick had a hard time believing that the basketball gods had the team’s back.
So what can the Magic do to get back in the good graces of the basketball gods? Well, what does one to do receive the grace of the God of the universe? One confesses his wrongdoings. The Magic have the worst record in the league in games decided by three points or less. They are 1-7 in those games. They are also 0-3 in overtime. Better execution is needed in close games. The Magic also need someone to step up late in games and make plays. Big games and big situations call for big time players. The Magic have a team of only slightly above average players, but someone needs to step up and play at a higher level late in games. The Magic also allow their opponents to score the third most points per game in the Eastern Conference. Having less talent than most teams is no excuse to not be good on the defensive end. The Magic have played hard all season, but there needs to be more of an emphasis put on performing defensively. Maybe they need to play even harder. If they acknowledge their flaws and commit to improving them, maybe the basketball gods will smile down upon them once again.
In spite of their flaws, though, I think it is important to remember that before the season began this is about right where we expected the Magic to be. They’re actually performing better than I predicted. They’re at 14 wins a little over halfway through the season and I projected them to be at 20 for the whole season. Nobody, and I mean nobody, expected them to be one game under .500 two months into the season. Yes, they are a struggling team right now with numerous problems. But considering the injury problems they’ve had and the youth and inexperience on the team, the Magic have endured valiantly. And it may not happen right now, but I think eventually the basketball gods will reward the Magic for their perseverance. So hang in there J.J.
About the Author
Written by Madison Warfel
I graduated from Lancaster Bible College in the spring of 2012 with a bachelor's degree in Sports Management and Ministry. I am working to enter the field of sports journalism and plan to pursue a masters degree in sports journalism in the near future. Everything I have accomplished and will accomplish is only because of the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Without Him I am nothing; all glory goes to our heavenly Father.