The Orlando Magic suffered their first bit of adversity on Friday night, after being thoroughly dominated by the Miami Heat in their first meeting of the season.
This game came with all the hype of Miami’s Big Three in tow. For Heat fans, it would help reduce the anxiety created by a poor showing in the season opener against the Boston Celtics.
For Magic fans, this game would help solidify the notion that the Magic “team” could compete with the “New-look” Heat.
Things worked out better for the Miami contingent, than it did for those of us in Orlando.
As I did for the Miami Heat, I’m giving my first impressions of Orlando after playing one of the league’s true contenders.
Dwight Howard Continues to Learn
Dwight Howard came out in the first half and showed some of what he learned from Hakeem Olajuwon. Howard finished the first half with 17 points.
He finished the game with 19 points.
Though Howard demonstrated a new offensive aggressiveness, he let other aspects of his game slip somewhat. Magic fans did not get the dominating defense and rebounding we’ve come to expect from the All-Star center.
Now Howard must learn to put his offense into the context of the team game. Learning when to pass—and when to assert his advantage—will be key in keeping the entire team involved in the game.
Orlando Still Needs a Go-To-Guy
Magic starting guard Vince Carter only scored one basket in the second quarter. Rashard Lewis missed every shot he took from the floor, and fouled out of the game.
Had point guard Jameer Nelson not showed up, the loss could have been much worse.
Yes, the NBA season just started, but both Carter and Lewis seem to be demonstrating the “Dennis Green” syndrome—“They were who we thought they were”—so to speak.
Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy admitted his team’s shortcoming in postgame comments, “We don't have—and this isn't to put down anybody in our locker room—but we don't have the great one-on-one players.”
Both players continue to disappoint as they did last season in the playoffs. I for one don’t expect that to change all that much.
The Orlando Magic Still Lack a Competitive Edge
Magic GM Otis Smith drew the negative attention of LeBron James and the Heat fan base this summer for some statements he made concerning James’ decision to join Dwyane Wade in Miami.
He questioned James’ competitiveness, due to the fact that usually the really good NBA players choose to play against the NBA’s best players, and not with them.
The statement earned Smith and the Magic a place on James' “hit” list.
Smith should have directed those comments at his own team. The Magic continue to fold in the face of stiff competition. The problem does not seem to affect the entire team, but a few key players.
Vince Carter lay on the floor, and then left the game after a collision with a Heat player. Magic fans have seen this before from Carter.
Lewis simply appears to remain un-phased—or better yet, unmotivated by big beat downs from good teams.
The Orlando Magic Will Attempt to Trade for Carmelo Anthony
As I noted earlier, Stan Van Gundy recognized his team’s lack of a good one-on-one scorer.
Yes, the Magic have played only one game against an NBA elite team—but the team’s body of work from last season indicates this pattern most likely will continue.
Fact is, Smith brought Lewis to Orlando to provide scoring. Another fact, Smith brought Carter to Orlando to be clutch.
Neither player seems to be earning their pay, based upon their expectations.
Carmelo Anthony has earned his reputation in the NBA as a scorer.
Yes, his wife wants to live in a big market. Yes, New York provides that and a chance to play with Amar'e Stoudemire.
The New York Knicks do not provide a better chance to potentially win a championship than the Orlando Magic within the next three years.
The Magic bench runs deep with good players. Stan Van Gundy has already stated he plans to only go with a nine-player rotation throughout the season. Playoff rotations don’t tend to expand.
Smith knew this in the offseason, even while matching J.J. Redick’s offer and acquiring Chis Duhon and Quentin Richardson.
I’ve always thought Smith intended to make a trade for a big-name superstar—either Chris Paul or Anthony.
Watching how the Magic fared against the Heat—coupled with Van Gundy’s statement, I believe Anthony shot to the top of the list.
We will hear a great deal from the Magic public relations about this being only one game. True as that statement may be, it proved to be one game where old habits had not changed.
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