Orlando Magic: Aftermath, Recovery, and Harvest
After being at the Magic’s home opener on Friday, I have great news from the front-lines: basketball lives. You may have heard the rumors that they were scuttling the Amway Center, moving the team to Vegas/Seattle, and banning them from competition until they can accumulate five 1st rounders to start fresh. Well, folks…none of that happened. There were intro’s, tip off, good calls, bad calls, and a final score, just like a real basketball game. Hell, they are even going to let the Orlando Magic compete for a playoff spot if they want to!
To be fair, there were a couple of fairly significant moves this offseason (headlined of course by shipping out Duhon). A very close second was the move of the Great Dwight Hope from Orlando to L.A., completing the soap opera-worthy drama that swallowed the team up for the last two years. If that drama was a rainstorm, the conclusion was the dam finally breaching. It soaked any remaining hope for significant national exposure, and the big market relevancy leant to small market Orlando related to the superstar dynamo. It swept up the coaches, the basketball management, the scouts, and took them all downstream.
Listen, the storm analogy isn’t a cheap reach to grab something topical for this post, and I am in no way here to trivialize the devastation in New York and New Jersey. We are talking about a crisis within a playground game for grownups, and not within the lives, homes, and cities that were besieged by Sandy (by the way, click here). However, for those of us that were involuntarily captivated by the “Dwightmare” (copywritten and trademarked, by someone, somewhere, probably), there is nothing more fitting that a storm to compare it against. It had the same warnings, the press attention, the countless and unstable/conflicting predictions, the exaggerations, the hyperbole, the gimmicky names (see: Dwightmare), and then finally the panic as it came, and the damage, and disillusion, as it left.
However, some ridiculous fans and NBA media see the Grimm Reaper stalking Orlando Magic basketball closer than ever these days. Losing a second Hall of Fame center within 15 years? Insurmountable mismanagement, and the draft lottery gods will never again bestow a Shaq or Dwight on Orlando. The upheaval around the Magic over the last offseason has to have an effect…there is too much change for it not to. Indeed, it does have an immediate one: it moves Orlando down from being one of the top 8 teams to one of “the rest”. They are now openly vulnerable and with specific weaknesses…just like every other non-elite squad in the NBA. Losing Dwight didn’t make the Magic bottom-dwellers or unworthy, it just made them a regular team.
But there is something else that happened when Dwight, Stan Van Gundy, and Otis Smith ceased to be part of this organization. Just like the farm land after a flood becoming more fertile where the old crops had drownd, so to are the Orlando Magic feeling rejuvenated, energized from the dramatic changes. Where there was overcast emotions over the entirety of last season, full of anger, frustration, and disappointment, now there is a cloudless attitude around the team. They are inspired and full of vigor and fight. Along with the new additions, the teams as a whole is more focused and showing greater drive than we saw last year. Part of it is simple: new faces, new legs, new system, and a full offseason/training camp of preparation. But other parts are more substantial: for one, hope.
It shows on the court. Orlando is a hungry team, fighting for position, for points, for rebounds, respect. It is a group that will make every game competitive, and hopefully, that will make the losses rarer than expected. Fans came into the season told to expect awful play, a disjointed team, and with the greatest efforts being applied to tanking, not winning. They only talked about the land that was flooded and the crops that were destroyed. Two games in, it isn’t overreaction to say that we should all now know better. There is light beyond those rain clouds, and there is rich soil under that floodwater. Fans have gotten a glimpse of what Jacque and Rob Hennigan are hoping to grow with this team, and what they’ve seen is positive. This is “the process” at work…and so far, working. Fans: prepare, and keep the hope. The Magic are rebuilding quicker than we thought. Orlando’s basketball harvest is coming.
Preston Raulerson is a semi-regular guest contributor for Magic Basketball Online. Follow him on Twitter so he feels more valued by society.