7:45 PM EDT, May 3, 2013
Obviously, Magic fans have known for some time — say, since January — that the club was not going to receive a postseason invitation. (Thanks again, Dwight.)
Still, it's weird after six consecutive seasons of playoff appearances not to see the Magic in the mix, not to feel that vibe around town.
Predicting just when Orlando will become a playoff regular again is impossible, given that it all largely depends on the whims of the draft and free agency.
I wonder what the 2015-16 Magic might look like, and how much the team will resemble any of the current (or ousted) playoff teams.
Golden State Warriors: The Warriors are the darlings of the playoffs, and perhaps a model for the Magic. They have dynamic young players — Steph Curry (Davidson, 7th pick in 2009) and Klay Thompson (Washington State, 11th pick in 2011) — and start other top-shelf draft picks such as rookie Harrison Barnes.
The Warriors, though, suffered for years before posting 47 wins — and after finishing 20 games under .500 in 2011-12.
Denver Nuggets: You know why they are called the Nuggets? Because they've been assembled by bits and pieces from the blockbuster trades of Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard. They have no superstar since dealing 'Melo, but they are deep, athletic and coming off a 57-win season.
The Magic also are building with Frankenstein parts. They collected Nik Vucevic and Moe Harkless from the Howard trade and Tobias Harris from the J.J. Redick deal.
Indiana Pacers: Teams seldom strike superstar gold as Orlando did. The 24-year-old Magic have been blessed with Shaq and Dwight for half of their existence as a franchise. But like the Pacers, sometimes you must live with the reality of building a good team of good guys who are happy to reach the playoffs.
The Pacers had to fumigate and start over with astute drafts (Danny Granger, Paul George). Orlando could well become Hoosiers South — and that isn't so bad.
Oklahoma City Thunder: You are looking live at Rob Hennigan's favorite dream: He falls into a deep sleep and envisions a Kevin Durant, a Russell Westbrook, a James Harden and a Serge Ibaka falling into Magic uniforms at the end of a rainbow. As a former Okie exec, he's Thunderstruck.
OKC is a team that Hennigan wants the Magic to be when they grow up, but that kind of draft luck is an aberration. Still, a guy can dream, can't he?
Houston Rockets: They're the ramblin', gamblin' Rockets — and every team wishes their GM had some of that spirit. Does Hennigan? How daring will he be? We'll see.
With the Rockets, it's "Have Deal, Will Trade." They should sell t-shirts that read, "GOT CAP ROOM?" Houston signed Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik while fishing for Howard or Andrew Bynum. Alas, all the Rockets wound up with after losing out on the two centers was Harden in a trade — and 47 wins. Insert exclamation point.
San Antonio Spurs: Make no mistake: The Magic are the Spurs — just without the players. Hennigan and coach Jacque Vaughn are San Antonio disciples. They believe in no frills, independent thinking and media black-outs.
All the Magic need is to luck into a Tim Duncan and prove they're smarter at targeting talent (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili). Might work if they can come close to duplicating the uniqueness that defines the Spurs.
Dwight, L.A. need one another
The Lakers shouldn't do anything different in dealing with Dwightmare II than what the Magic tried to do in dealing with the original Dwightmare: Ignore all the drama and convince Dwight Howard to stay.
Lest we forget, the Magic jumped through so many hoops here to appease Howard that they could have become a halftime act.
The first instinct of some fans and media members: The Lakers should let Howard walk. That's foolish.
People in L.A., including Magic Johnson, are upset after Howard got himself ejected from the playoff finale.
It was dumb on Dwight's part. But I'm betting the Lakers' front office is shrugging off Howard's bone-headed decision and preparing to sweet-talk the free agent into re-signing for $118 million.
They have no choice. The Lakers have anointed him as the superstar heir to Kobe Bryant.
Dwight has no choice. His image would be unsalvageable if he bolted. Plus, he'd leave $30 million on the table. That was no big deal until Dwight's back reminded him he is no longer indestructible.
Even after Howard embarrassed the Magic and rewound his trade clock, the Magic still tried to talk him into coming back. They sent new GM Rob Hennigan to L.A. to present Dwight with a bushel of olive branches during his rehab.
The Magic had to remove the emotion in hopes of keeping Dwight and their franchise humming along. The Lakers will do the same.
This 'n' that
LeBron James wins his fourth MVP award — and it's an outrage. How can you give it to a 75.3 percent free-throw shooter? Seriously, James, 28, should one day pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time MVP total of six. ... The Chicago Bulls need to stop this madness and declare Derrick Rose out until the first frost. ... Kobe has issued a cease-and-desist order to stop the sale of his memorabilia from his old high-school and early Lakers days. Unbeknownst to Kobe, his mom received $450,000 up front for the items and a New Jersey auction house is suing for the right to peddle them (valued at $1.4 million). And, yes, coming soon: Happy Mother's Day. ... Add another injured center to the Magic's potential lottery list, joining Nerlens Noel: Maryland C Alex Len is out four to six months after surgery for an ankle-stress fracture. Maybe the Magic should trade down to get a cornerback. ... Phil Jackson must be advising the Detroit Pistons by Skype.
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