Do you believe in the Orlando Magic?
Well, a few months ago, almost everyone believed something about this team and it’s that they would be stinking awful.
Following the blockbuster trade that sent Dwight Howard to the other side of the states, most of us felt like Orlando’s desperation to get rid of him resulted in a rash move that would end up costing them not only this season, but for multiple seasons to come.
Initially, after the trade dust settled, it looked like they’d be forced to play the without any big name centers, let alone any experienced NBA players that would help them survive the tumultuous 2012-13 season.
Oy vey! What’s worse is that the Magic apparently had opportunities for better trades throughout the summer, but they passed on those offers. Go figure. Based on those reported declinations, I’m not even sure if Orlando’s management had any realistic expectations going into this season except to put five players in Magic jerseys 82 times over the next 9 months, and keep their fingers crossed.
Keeping it simple, right? Anyways, it just seemed too easy to peg the Magic as the clear losers in that trade, so naturally we did. We called them “losers” and “NBA outcasts,” and some of us even went as far as saying that they were going to be worse than the Charlotte Bobcats. Yikes!
Most of us believed that their season was over before it started because outside of Orlando, there weren’t any expectations for this team. Let’s face it, there might be one all-star caliber player on the Magic’s roster right now, and that’s Glen Davis, but even that’s a stretch.
Conversely, it also seemed obvious to dub the Los Angeles Lakers the so-called “winners” in that Howard deal a few months ago, and it felt even more obvious to call them “the championship favorites.” Frankly, the basketball math just added up to a Lakers’ NBA championship appearance at the very least:
Kobe Bryant with Howard, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol equals championship or bust. It’s hard to argue with that. Ironically, that mix of Laker talent has yielded only one win so far this season, while the nobodies employed by the Magic have earned themselves more wins than the Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Washington Wizards combined.
In his first season as head coach, Jacque Vaughn‘s squad looks relaxed and at ease on the court. Their offensive sets look natural and fluid, and their defense has come alive in the second half of ball games. Oddly enough, they look like they’ve been playing together under the same coach for years.
Vaughn’s effectively gotten Davis (25.5 PPG and nine RPG) and JJ Redick (22.5 PPPG and 6 APG) to play up to their potential for the first times in their respective careers, a feat that Stan Van Gundy or Doc Rivers failed to accomplish. But more importantly, the entire team is playing to their strengths.
They are knocking down open jump shots, isolating mismatches, staying disciplined on both sides of the ball and are moving the ball around to the tune of at least three-to-four passes per possession with very few one-on-one isolation sets. Also, they are second in the NBA in scoring (108.5 PPG), fifth in rebounds (46), sixth in assists per game (25) and fifth in team defense (only 91.5 PPG allowed).
These are signs of an intelligent ball club, and frankly, they are playing and looking like a veteran-coached, veteran-prepared squad. So what does all this mean? First off, Vaughn was the right decision for the head coaching position in Orlando, and yes, he believes in his Magic. Secondly, and more importantly, the Magic believe in each other and their ability to win as a team.
And third, this means that Orlando is disproving the theory that NBA successes require superstars, money and big markets. In other words, the Magic are proving that the way you play on the court is still more relevant than the names on the back of the jerseys because teams without superstars can still be exciting, and clearly they can still compete.
To paraphrase a great linguist, “no superstars, no problem” for the Magic right now, and that’s what they continue to believe.
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