The Jaded Season That Won’t* Die…
This season was hard. It was hard for the fans. It was hard for the players. It was hard for the coaches. It was hard for the organization. At some point between December 25th and May 8th, the team somehow managed to squeeze in 71 games of basketball.
Nobody knew what to expect in the strike shortened season. It was Dwight dominated, to say the least. And for once in his 7 years it wasn’t on the basketball court. A more accurate way to describe the season is exhausting.
Just ask the Dwight-less roster that fought their asses off for 5 games against the Indiana Pacers if it was exhausting. The first sustained sign of heart and hustle the team has seen in nearly 2 years. It wasn’t enough in the end, but at least it felt good to cheer for. You felt like there was a group of guys that were 100% bought in and truly played by their motto, #WeAllWeGot.
Big Baby went from having boos rained down on him in February to becoming a team leader in April. He not only took over Dwight Howard’s starting center position, but he even took his role as player ambassador to the fans when he took the mic during the final home game to thank all of the fans for sticking with them during the roller coaster season.
And that’s what it was. From the day that the lockout ended until the day of the trade deadline, the topic was Dwight. After a few days free from the drama, it picked back up when Stan Van Gundy openly and awkwardly announced that he was told directly that Dwight wanted him fired at the beginning of the year. The quiet was too good to be true.
Dwight played his final game on April 7th before being shelved for the season with what turned out to be a herniated disk. He missed a full month of his teammates action sequestered in Los Angeles, trying to heal. The team, sitting at 33-23 on April 7th, would finish the season with a record of 5-11, including the 1-4 showing during the playoffs. No Dwight, no drama, but also no winning.
This season was one of the hardest in memory to truly be a fan. When the franchise player, who professes his love for the city and all things Orlando, still says he doesn’t want to be here… it’s hard not to be jaded. “Look, it’s not you… it’s me. Except, well, it actually really is you. And the way you talk to me. And you don’t respect me. And you don’t let me make personnel decisions. And you are always yelling at me. But besides that I totally want to be here and I love you.”
So the fans cheer and they hope for the best, but something is missing. It was impossible to fully invest yourself into this season. A strike-shortened 66 game season that lasted from December 25th to May 8th. Barely over 4 months. And yet it still wouldn’t die.
Yet here we are, season ended. Season dead. The summer is supposed to be a time of hope, rebuilding, reloading. But for Magic fans it looks to be just another bout of anxiety-filled waiting.
Jameer Nelson, the co-captain and leader for the last 8 seasons will likely choose not to exercise his player option for next year, and become an unrestricted free agent in the next few days. I would say it is unlikely that he would re-sign in Orlando considering what Dwight put him through this season. He also has the chance to control his own destiny. A rarity for a player.
Stan Van Gundy, arguably the best coach in Orlando Magic history, will likely be fired along with General Manager Otis Smith. One of these is a gigantic mistake, the other is absolutely necessary. Both moves will be made to appease a disgruntled superstar in hopes that maybe -just maybe- if we change our haircut, and work out a little more… maybe help out more around the house… that he will stay.
Ryan Anderson, the NBA’s Most Improved Player, is a restricted free agent. Otis has already said that they would match any offer that is presented to him by another team but it is doubtful that Otis will be around to make that decision. Remember, it only takes one team to present a ridiculous offer to make the Magic think twice about the scenario.
And don’t think for a second that the Dwight-drama is over yet. It ‘s just delayed until draft night or July 1st or training camp. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel knowing the same thing that made this season so unbearable and heart-wrenching for Magic fans, will be firmly entrenched in every story line for the next year.
This season may have been the hardest in recent memory for Magic fans. It was indeed a jaded period, that never seemed willing to die. And for good reason. It looks like another serving of the same insanity next season.
The only thing that can fix things at this point is a few glasses of a nice Cab and a couple games of paddle. Farewell 2011-2012, you won’t be missed.