As the Magic rolled into Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the heart of a state with such rich basketball history, it was hard not to reflect on the season that has been so far–the missed opportunities, the injuries, the stretches of listless play. On Thursday night in Indianapolis, Orlando showed their full potential as a team and painted a picture of what could have been. The Magic looked like the team fighting for their playoff lives while the homestanding Pacers looked like a team dogging it to the finish line. Orlando defeated Indiana 114-94 and are now riding a three-game winning streak for the first time since December 14th-18th earlier this season. It also marks the third time the Magic have won three straight contests by 20+ points in franchise history, and first since December 22-27, 2008.
On a dreary Tuesday night, already eliminated from playoff contention and playing against an inferior opponent, the Orlando Magic had every reason to mail in an effort befitting such an occasion. But, they played perhaps their most complete game of the season and gave their Senior Chairman and Owner Rich DeVos a performance to be proud of on the evening of his induction into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame. The Magic absolutely routed Brooklyn by a final score of 139-105 en route to sweeping the Nets 4-0 for the season series. The win marks the first time the team has won back-to-back games since February 7th and 8th when they swept a home-and-home series with the Atlanta Hawks.
The Magic started slow, turning the ball over and playing generally lethargic as they quickly found themselves down 8-2. But, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon sparked an energetic 17-3 run midway through the first quarter, highlighted by a ridiculous one-handed, two-footed dunk in transition from the Slam Dunk Content Runner-Up who took flight from near the free-throw line and the Magic truly never looked back after that moment.
Emasculate: To make (something) weaker or less effective
The biggest mistake in Orlando Magic history will be if the franchise re-acquires Dwight Howard.
I respect all of the on-court and off-court accomplishments and successes that Dwight brought in his 8 seasons with the Magic. But the former franchise center made numerous avoidable mistakes his final year and half in Orlando that inevitably ripped the relationship apart. 4 years later, and we’re still recovering.
Not only did the front office get torn to shreds, more importantly, the Magic booted Stan Van Gundy. SVG is undeniably the best coach in franchise history. It’s stuff you can’t patch up. Not until Howard retires anyway. The ‘Dwightmare’ saga isn’t something that magically disappears.
Dumping former agent Dan Fegan is a good step for Dwight to rehabilitate his image and pursue one final huge payday. But Shaquille O’Neal getting involved isn’t exactly the greatest thing the Magic brass wants to be hearing either. A press conference apology tour means nothing if I can’t trust your word.
I would lose enormous respect for the decision maker(s) that would bring Dwight back to O-Town. Let’s not forget all of the ‘loyalty’ nonsense. If Dwight wants to blame the people around him or his management crew for past mistakes, then I question his judgement as a professional. How am I expected to hand the keys to the franchise over to you yet again? You can already question his personal judgement.
What narrow-minded human being compares themselves to Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, and Michael Jordan? WHO DOES THAT?! And I know Bob Vander Weide is telling the truth because there’s no way you could fake such outlandish quotes and comparisons. You couldn’t get a Hollywood writers’ room to get that creative.
What is the point of bringing back an old #12 – there are over 30,000 minutes on that body – that has dealt with so many injuries? Dwight’s game depends so much on being more athletic than others on the court. Will he ever get that Orlando dominance back? Highly unlikely. His defensive impact is barely ‘good’ at this point.
Mentoring the young players? Dwight’s a 30-year-old big kid still. Aaron Gordon – a man 10 years younger than Dwight – is infinitely more mature than Howard.
Houston is going to barely sneak into the playoffs this season. You want to potentially throw maximum salary money to a player that has not proven of late that he can carry a team towards the top of a conference?
Even if Dwight signed at a discount (not happening), I just don’t see why you would want that toxic situation in the locker room and potentially again with the front office and ownership.
So why would this get done? To sell a few more tickets and jerseys? Because it’s very debatable if Dwight makes this Magic team better on the court, especially if assets have to be dumped to clear the way for his return. He’s not much better than Nikola Vucevic. Especially when you factor in that Vooch is only making about $12 million per season over the next few years. You can count on Vooch to knock down free throws and hit a game-winning tough shot if necessary. You can’t with Dwight.
Who are we trying to satisfy here? Who really benefits in a Dwight return? To make the local media outlets happy? To boost the web hits of sites like mine? To watch people pretend to have to like Dwight all over again? Not worth it. Not even close. There are no championship banners being raised inside Amway center if Howard wears those pinstripes again. Not as one of the go-to guys.
Dwight is like that wife who slept with some randoms, requested a divorce from her husband, takes a large portion of the husband’s assets, burns his house down, all while leaving the husband a sexually-transmitted disease. There were no kids in the relationship. She gets re-married 2 times all while the formerly married man is simultaneously still trying to put his life back together, but the task is beyond difficult due to the prior damage done.
The man is lonesome. Then, 4 years later, the ex-wife wants to come back and patch things up. There’s nothing that’s improved with her since she departed the man’s life. The man’s best friends despise this woman and beg the man to not fall for the trap again. What do you do?
Don’t bring Dwight back.
He’s not LeBron James. Dwight is no where near a top-10 NBA player, and he hasn’t been since being dealt to the Lakers in 2012. And Dwight certainly can’t attract and recruit players like James has. Howard couldn’t do it in the past and there’s nothing to indicate he’d be successful now. The ‘coming home’ thing hasn’t exactly worked out for LeBron in Cleveland.
You bring Dwight back to Orlando, and he’ll believe he has full power over the franchise. Then you’re right back in the same horrendous situation that existed in 2011 and 2012. An environment where Dwight holds a ton of of power. That’s definitely not working out for LeBron and the Cavaliers at this moment. And again, Dwight isn’t anywhere close to LeBron’s playing level, and the Magic roster as a whole isn’t up to par with the current Cavs roster which doesn’t appear close to winning a championship.
Just say ‘no’ to Dwight. It’s an easy decision no matter how much losing may cloud minds and raise the levels of desperation for relevancy. Howard isn’t the antidote, he’s the poison. There are more logical solutions.
Those people who still emphasize that Dwight should return to Orlando ought to be forced to spray some heavy coats of Howard’s Stickum onto both of their hands and place those palms onto their foreheads. You deserve permanent facepalms.
Adam Papageorgiou is Owner/Editor of MBO.
Some Orlando Magic players shared how intense the huddle was in the third quarter after the Chicago Bulls chopped down their double-digit lead to single digits. For one night at least, the Magic were able to re-gather themselves and not fold to Chicago’s advances at trying to come back.
Dewayne Dedmon was one happy man as he’ll be looking at getting a new NBA contract this offseason. Elfrid Payton continues to play like his old self, wearing an Allen Iverson t-shirt in the locker room. Evan Fournier didn’t let the 6 stitches in his forehead bother him too much.
The Orlando Magic finally claimed their 30th win of the season on Saturday night, defeating the Chicago Bulls for the second time in March 111-89. It will go down as the Dewayne Dedmon game. The 26-year-old center had the performance of his life. He tallied a career-high 18 points on a career-high 9-of-14 shooting to go with 13 rebounds. The 6-game losing streak is over.
Orlando hovered around 60% shooting most of the night, settling on 53.9 FG% to finish. Elfrid Payton had another solid night, finishing with 15 points and 10 assists on 7-of-9 shooting. Jason Smith and Andrew Nicholson bolstered the bench play by each pouring in 14 points. Chicago – who is in the hunt for 8th – looked out of sync as they never led. The Magic’s largest lead was 29 points. Bulls were held to 40.9 FG%. Taj Gibson led Chicago with 16 points.
Below is the game recap.
The Orlando Magic have now lost 14 of their last 15 meetings against the Heat, falling 108-97 in Miami on Friday evening. Some in-state rivalry. Orlando has officially been eliminated from the playoff race. The Magic have now lost 6 straight games, including 10 of their last 12 contests. The pinstriped patrol are also just 6-14 since the All-Star Break.
Miami shot 50.0 FG% and were led by Hassan Whiteside‘s 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks off the bench. Goran Dragic poured in 22 points and 8 assists. Orlando was led by Evan Fournier‘s 20 points. Andrew Nicholson came off Scott Skiles‘ bench and tallied a season-high 19 points in 17 minutes of action. In his first start since March 8th, Elfrid Payton had a respectable 14 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds.
Miami took the points in the paint battle 62-46. Orlando is lacking bodies and spirit as they reach the finish line of another disappointing season. The Magic face Miami two more times in April.
Below is the game recap.
The Orlando Magic have lost 5 straight games and 9 of their last 11 contests after falling in Detroit on Wednesday night as the Pistons won 118-102. At 29-42, even if the Magic win out the rest of the season, Orlando will finish with their 4th consecutive under-.500 season. Not something to be proud of.
Elfrid Payton may have had his best game of the season, and that’s something to be fairly happy about. EP recorded his 3rd triple-double of his career – 1st this season – with 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists on 9-of-21 shooting in 34 minutes off the bench. It’s the 23rd triple-double in franchise history. Only Elfrid and Hedo Turkoglu have 3 each now. Brian Shaw‘s triple-double on December 29, 1995 was the only other Magic trip-dub to get tallied off the bench.
That was all of the good news Orlando got though. The Magic shot 39.8 FG% while Detroit shot 53.8 FG%. The Pistons shot 11-of-24 on triples. Andre Drummond led 7 Pistons that were in double figures as the center notched 30 points and 14 rebounds. Former Magic man Tobias Harris scored 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Reggie Jackson tallied 16 points and 9 assists.
Behind Elfrid’s 20 points off the bench, Aaron Gordon notched 15 points and 11 rebounds but shot a rough 5-of-15. Still love that hustle though. Evan Fournier and Victor Oladipo each added 14 points. Jason Smith had 12 points. Orlando never led, though they threatened a few times during the contest. Just didn’t have enough on the interior as Detroit won the scoring in the paint, 58-46.
Below is the game recap.
The Orlando Magic gave a decent effort against a very good Celtics squad, but lost in Boston 107-96 on Monday. Similar problems. Not enough of an interior presence. Too many inconsistent moments to validate stealing a road victory.
Orlando was once again led by Victor Oladipo who tallied a solid 25 points. The Magic got 13 points each from Evan Fournier, Aaron Gordon, and Andrew Nicholson. The Magic had to battle all night for their points, as Boston held them to 42.4 FG%. Orlando was an ice cold 5-of-18 on triple tries.
Boston was led by Isaiah Thomas who notched 28 points. They got 22 points each from Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk. Evan Turner chipped in with 16 points while Amir Johnson snagged a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds. You can never doubt the effort of a Brad Stevens coached team. Celtics made 7 more free throws than the men in black. Boston ran Orlando ragged, taking transition points 29-13. Boston’s largest lead was 14 points.
Below is the game recap.
Breaking News: For the 4th consecutive season, your Orlando Magic will not be making the playoffs this 2015-2016 campaign. It’s not official per say, but the Magic would have to go undefeated the rest of this season to maybe have a chance at grabbing the 8th seed in the East. That’s not happening. If the Magic somehow make the playoffs next month, I’ll be happy to buy the entire roster dinner. It’ll be worth the few thousand dollars I would spend because that means Orlando will have had to beat the Miami Heat 3 times.
Long gone is the optimism of 19-13 as the past two and half months have sucked away all of the great things Scott Skiles‘ team was accomplishing early this campaign. The result of the damage done by the awful play on the court is failure! The franchise is running out of actual Magic fans with some many folks jumping ship. This 4th straight year of no playoff basketball in O-Town is a stretch only matched by the 1989 through 1993 squads.
Below you’ll see comments and suggestions from me on how Orlando should handle the final dozen games.
The Orlando Magic lost 105-100 to a short-handed Toronto Raptors squad on Sunday. It was a self-inflicted defeat as the coaching staff inexplicably stuck with Ersan Ilyasova and a tired Andrew Nicholson, instead of coming back with Dewayne Dedmon and Aaron Gordon to beef up the frontcourt with their strength and athleticism. The Raptors closed out the contest with a 20-9 run.
Toronto crushed Orlando at the free throw line, shooting 29-of-45 from the charity stripe. DeMar DeRozan was 13-of-16. That’s more made free throws than the entire Orlando squad which tallied 12-of-18 FTs. DeRozan led all scorers with 25 points. Luis Scola continues to turn back the clock, dropping 20 points. Kyle Lowry had a relaxed 18 points. Bismack Biyombo keeps starting for the 2nd best team in the East as he notched 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 blocks. Toronto only distributed minutes to 8 players.
Victor Oladipo scored 21 points, but was scoreless in the fourth period. Evan Fournier also notched 21 points, but at least hit a 3-pointer to cut their deficit to just 1 point with about a minute left in the contest. Toronto won the offensive rebound battle 14-7. Crunch time made that difference quite obvious as Orlando struggled to get crucial boards.
Andrew Nicholson had a great 6-minute stretch to begin the fourth period, but he should not have been out there in crunch time. The Canadian tallied 15 points and 9 rebounds in 20 minutes, which is two more minutes than what Aaron Gordon tallied, and four more than Dewayne Dedmon. The biggest problem is Skiles unbelievably sticking with Ilyasova on the floor when the Turkish forward was getting crushed on both ends of the court. Ersan notched 10 points and 9 rebounds in 32 minutes.
Below is the game recap.