The Orlando Magic’s NBA season is in the books, with the team posting a 23-59 record. In what was largely a season to forget, some things stuck out more than others. This wasn’t all negative either, as we quickly discovered that rookie Victor Oladipo was a smart pick in last year’s draft. The team’s play on the road was without doubt the worst aspect of this year though, and changes need to be made to endure it doesn’t happen again. Changes will be made to this roster as well no doubt, as this team tries to make some sort of push towards the playoffs next year. Some might think that this can be done through drafting well and making smart acquisitions. It can, but having a grueling preseason is also something worth looking into, with as much work as possible done away from the comforts of home.
The Magic won four away games all year, losing 37. Even the Philadelphia 76ers, a team who lost 26 straight games, won double that amount, picking up eight wins away from home. Of course this makes Orlando the worst road team in the NBA this year, and their performances away from home were beyond a joke.
As a small sample size, the Magic beat the Brooklyn Nets at home on April 10 at home 115-111. This is the Nets team that is one of, if not the, hottest teams in the league since the turn of the year. Beating a team still jostling for playoff seeding position that late into the season is a boost to morale. Three days later in Brooklyn, Orlando fell to the same team 97-88. That kind of turnaround in outcome is understandable if it happens from time to time throughout the year. The Magic did play and lose to the Washington Wizards the night before that Nets game, although they were at home for that contest. But this behavior has gone on all season and is the reason they were out of playoff contention by about November.
As an interesting side note, the aforementioned Oladipo shot 3-for-3 from beyond the arc in that loss to the Nets away from home. Many things are expected of Oladipo, and already he has delivered on some of the promise, but shooting perfectly from beyond the arc is almost an added bonus for this team. Should he continue to get better at shooting from downtown, this team won’t lose as many games away from home next year. It is only a small statistic worth noting right now, but that kind of shooting is pretty encouraging for this team in their quest to win more games next year.
Looking ahead to next season, what this team needs before the campaign begins is a kick in the right direction. Get some more established players down to the summer league, to prove to the league that there will be no easy victories to be gotten out of this team. More than that, schedule most if not all of their preseason friendlies away from Amway Center, to get a feel for playing away from home. Hopefully picking up a couple of wins will boost confidence as well. Even looking into playing some European teams away from home, to experience different arenas and the passion of a different set of fans, couldn’t hurt in this team’s growth. They’ve lost an embarrassing amount of games away from home this season, so looking into more unique and arguably tough ways of breaking that losing mentality is something that should be done sooner rather than later.
The four wins away from home this year came against the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats and Philadelphia 76ers. That means the team didn’t win once against the Western Conference at their place all year, as well as going to places like the lonely Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics and not even managing to scrape a win. Also failing to pick up a win in places like Sacramento, Utah and even Los Angeles (against the Lakers) is not good enough either, these places have hardly been fortresses for the rebuilding teams they are housing.
Something radical needs to be done to ensure next season at least brings with it a genuine attempt to make the playoffs. That starts with taking care of business at home, which this team are alright at doing. Going 19-22 isn’t great but it’s where the bulk of this team’s wins have come from. A magic formula needs to be created to help get over the hump away from home, and coming at the problem from a different angle, why not submit this team to a difficult preseason, with the hope it kicks them into gear once the regular season begins?