Hope. When all else fails, it remains. It’s what we cling to when disappointments, failures, and bad breaks constantly fly at us from every direction. It’s what keeps us from giving up, what keeps us moving forward and continuing to fight. Our situation may be bad now, but hope gives us something to believe in; a belief that someday things will be better. In spite of all the pain and turmoil, someday good fortune will find us. That is hope.
The burning questions then is this, do fans of the Orlando Magic have any hope whatsoever?
Bad breaks and injuries to key players have become the norm for the Magic this season. Only one Magic player has played in all 47 regular season games thus far. Four of the five opening day starters have missed at least four games due to injury. Glen “Big Baby” Davis recently broke his left foot and will be out for the remainder of the season. Aaron Afflalo has missed the last four games because of a strained calf and will likely remain on the sidelines for tonight’s game against Philadelphia. Jameer Nelson has had various minor injuries throughout the year and will miss his 11th game this year tonight because of a left forearm contusion. J.J. Redick, who has been one of the more consistent contributors on the team, will also not be in action in tonight’s game. He has a sore shoulder. All the players mentioned above are arguably Orlando’s four best players. Yeah, the Magic know pain.
9 in a row. 20 out of 22. The losses are piling up, one right on top of another, game after game. At one point (22 games ago) the Magic were one game below .500 and in contention for the last playoff spot in the East. Then, as they say, “sh*t hit the fan.” Injuries piled up faster than the losses did. It was all Coach Jacque Vaughn could do just to put a somewhat competitive team on the court some nights. It is clear by this point in the season that those somewhat unrealistic- but not impossible- dreams of making the playoffs have completely vanished. The Magic now have the fourth worst record in the NBA. With only 35 games remaining to be played, Orlando is 10 games behind the Boston Celtics for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Only 2.5 games separate the Magic and the worst team in the league, the Washington Wizards. And with the way things are going for Orlando; don’t be surprised if they wind up with the worst record in the Association by season’s end.
So with all this in mind, once again I ask- is there any hope with which Orlando Magic fans can cling to?
Yes, by golly. Yes there is. Don’t give up yet Magic fans, you still do have hope. Not for this season, mind you, but for the future. You see, because of all the injuries and horrendous losing streaks, the Orlando Magic have been set free. They have stumbled into a certain type of freedom that only a small percentage of NBA teams experience each year. Before the Magic lost 20 out of their last 22 games they were in limbo. They were winning just enough games to have an outside chance at making the playoffs. Realistically, the Magic were probably never going to make the playoffs. But without all the injuries, they might have been able to finish ninth or tenth in the East. And they wouldn’t have been free. Not good enough to make the playoffs, but not bad enough to call it a season. Stuck in mediocrity, often one of the worst places to be in the NBA.
Now that the Magic have no chance whatsoever at making the playoffs, hope is found. If the Magic were never going to make the playoffs anyway, then finishing with one of the worst records in the league is actually a desired outcome. The Magic are in a rebuilding process, and much of that process should be accomplished through the draft. The way the Magic are losing game after game right now, they will be in a prime position to get a top 5 pick in this summer’s NBA draft. And while the upcoming draft class is a little weak, there are still some good players available that could contribute right away.
The Magic already have plenty of young, talented big men, so I doubt that Nerlens Noel or Cody Zeller are viable options for them right now. The one position that the Magic have struggled all year to get solid contribution from is at small forward. DeQuan Jones, Hedo Turkoglu, and Mo Harkless have all had their turn starting at the position, but no one has played well enough to keep the spot. Enter the NBA draft. There are a couple of talented collegiate players that could probably start right away at small forward for the Magic. Anthony Bennett from UNLV is a powerful player that can dominate the paint and step outside and knock down the three. Shabazz Muhammad is a smooth scorer with a plethora of moves to the basket. The Magic would be happy to grab either one.
If the Magic are able to pick up either Bennett or Muhammad, next season could be a playoff season for Orlando fans. A starting lineup that features Jameer Nelson, Arron Affalo, Bennett/Muhammad, Glen Davis and Nik Vucevic is just as talented as this year’s Celtics or Bucks starting lineup. And most of the players on the Magic roster are young and only getting better.
So take hope Magic fans. Celebrate and applaud when your team claims a rare victory, but celebrate even harder when your team comes up short in defeat. For therein lies the real hope. Hope not for the present, but for the future. Hope that perhaps you will claim the next superstar in the draft. Hope that if all goes as bad as planned this season, next season will go better than anyone expects.
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.