Orlando Magic: The Thrill is Back

Last night I remembered why I love this game.  Normally a mid December tilt between the Orlando Magic and the Minnesota Timberwolves wouldn’t garner this kind of emotion.  I’m sure the vast majority of people that tuned in were mainly concerned with seeing Ricky Rubio dazzle with impossible passes.  He didn’t disappoint, as one in particular to Greg Stiemsma got many ooh’s and ahh’s from the crowd in Orlando. But something special happened last night with a young team, and the question to be answered is what will management decide to do about it this year.

As a Magic fan, I spent the last year rising and falling with the Dwight Howard saga.  I’ll always remember the Howard era as one of disappointment.  There was something left on the table and we didn’t grab it.  I thought the trip to the Finals in 2009 was going to be the first of many.  It looked that way in 2010 as the Magic sawed through the eastern conference until Vince Carter went to the free throw line.  The trade came in late 2010 and it seemed as though the magic in the Magic was back, but that fizzled in the playoffs to the Hawks.

Last season was so frustrating to watch.  It was a train wreck from start to finish.  The whole ordeal really soured me on basketball, and the NBA.  It seemed like it was just another case of one team with all the stars.  Howard, Bryant, Nash, Gasol, on paper it seemed they would never lose.  But games aren’t played on paper and this season has been so enjoyable to watch.  I’ll admit, I’m taking great joy in seeing the Lakers struggle.  I realize it wont last, that in April they will be very good, both on paper and on the court.   As much as the Lakers losing gives me great joy, the way the Magic are playing this year is even better.

Going into this season no one expected much of Orlando.  Would they tank to get a high lottery pick, would they trade away the veterans to get younger and make this basically a nothing season?    Rookie coach Jacque Vaughn isn’t coaching like a rookie.  He’s making the right moves every time, from coaching style to using players correctly.  Last night in the first half the Magic were getting lit up inside by the Wolves, and Vaughn dusted off Josh McRoberts who hadn’t played in two games, to come off the bench and help stem the tide in that first half.  McRoberts added some size and quickness to the Magic frontline, and on the offensive end was very active in drawing his defender out of the paint to open up the lane for penetration.

After the game last night, the raw emotion displayed by Glen Davis and J.J. Redick was so refreshing to watch.  In this era of almost “watered down” sports, where all the players are friends off the court, it was incredible to watch this Magic team really WANT this victory.  They wanted to prove to their fans and more importantly to themselves that they have bought in to this coach and to this season.  The Orlando Magic are a joy to watch.  Yes they will have nights where they just don’t have the talent to get over on an opponent, but they will not go quietly.  This squad competes every night, and the veterans are pushing the young guys to be as good as they possibly can be and learn.  Its now up to management on what to do with this season.  Most experts rate the draft class of 2013 as a weak one, and the majority of the draft picks Orlando gained from the Howard trade are 2014 and beyond.   Rob Hennigan and ownership has a tough question to answer, and i know what that answer will be if left up to this team.

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