Orlando Magic need a Dwight Howard backup plan to win NBA championship

Otis Smith of the Orlando Magic

Otis Smith of the Orlando Magic (Stephen M. Dowell, Orlando Sentinel)

One more piece, Otis.

One more piece that allows you to go from Major Fail to Major Coup.

Snag a serviceable backup center, and the Orlando Magic are right there in the conversation of NBA championship contenders.

As good as they look now, the Orlando Magic won't get far in the Eastern Conference playoffs without a true backup center. The Celtics are too good, even if Shaq has become an over-sized slug.

And the Magic get a double-whammy because of Dwight Howard's dysfunctional relationship with the referees. Whether they are unfairly picking on him or not doesn't matter. What does is that Howard, now with 11 technicals, will start sitting out games once he hits 16. After he crosses that threshold, he will miss one game for every subsequent pair of techs.

He needs a Big Buddy.

Either New York's Ronny Turiaf or Philadelphia's Tony Battie would be a good fit.

And then, hopefully, Smith's work will be done and he can kick back and enjoy the rest of the season, along with everybody else.

It will be two weeks on Saturday since Otis Smith, Orlando's general manager, imploded Plan A and went with Plan B. It was a painfully honest assessment that he, along with everyone else with a say in the makeup of the team, had botched things. Badly.

It wasn't so long ago that I sat with Magic President and CEO Bob Vander Weide over coffee, and he confidently said that he liked the look of their team. A few months later, I ran into him in a hallway of the Amway Center, post-blockbuster trades, and he said, "we had to do something."

That they did.

Big time.

By dumping two under-achieving starters in Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter, and welcoming back Hedo Turkoglu and bringing Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas into the mix, the Magic have the look of a team with a refreshing burst of energy.

Four consecutive victories. A beat down of the best team in the West, the San Antonio Spurs. A dramatic fourth quarter rally on Christmas Day against the Boston Celtics. The New York Knicks come into town Thursday night, giving the Magic another measure of their potential.

I thought this thing would take much longer to figure out. Weeks, maybe even a month. Instead, it's taken a few games.

Turkoglu is playing like a free bird, no longer shackled in the purgatory that is Toronto and Phoenix, places where his superb passing skills were ignored.

Arenas will still thrill you on some nights and kill you on some others, but he always brings an exciting batch of unpredictability to the game. J-Rich is finding his way as a free-flowing long-range shooter in the offense.

One more piece awaits, Otis. You will have to have your mojo working again, and this time it may be more challenging than dumping those bloated contracts. Trading smalls for bigs is never easy.

But the Magic need insurance, they need a back-up plan, they gotta get bigger. They will also have to give up a player of value.

And that's when it becomes dicey. The Magic might have to give up somebody they don't want to give up.

J.J. Redick? Ouch. Quentin Richardson? Not so bad. Chris Duhon? Pull the trigger now.

But this is why you are there and I am here, Otis.

You managed to move a couple of guys holding this team back.

Suddenly, the potential seems boundless.

Nice job, Otis. Now do better.

Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at gdiaz@orlandosentinel.coms
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