The undermanned Orlando Magic are on the brink of elimination in the NBA playoffs at the hands of Milwaukee Bucks. What did fans think was going to happen?
Sports fans are a fickle bunch, that much we know for sure. This has likely always been the case, but the invention of social media and people’s desire to jump onto these platforms while watching games has only highlighted this fact even more.
After a particularly good performance, it is commonplace to see fans proclaim their love for a player, how they deserve a lifetime contract and such. After a poor game, this player needs to be traded immediately, if another organization is foolish enough to take them. At the very least they should be relegated to the end of the bench.
Why are we bringing all of this up now? Well, the Orlando Magic are 3-1 down against the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round of the NBA playoffs and on the brink of elimination, and the positives of how they’ve played so far have been lost in a sea of negative remarks on social media. The players aren’t going to defend themselves, so somebody has to do it (even if defending Evan Fournier is not something which is easily done at this moment).
If you’re a fan of the Magic and you’ve had a go at players on Twitter or Instagram after a loss, what exactly did you expect? Fandom is a funny thing, we blindly follow our hearts against our better judgment time after time. There is no problem with that, in fact, you could argue there’s more pride for fans in wearing the losses over celebrating the wins.
But if you objectively look at this series, the Bucks have been one of the best regular season teams of the last 10 years easily and had a chance to crack 70 wins before the season came to a halt. The Magic have been, not that. They’re a more spirited bunch these days, which is great to see, and fans should have gone into the series with all of the optimism in the world.
Optimism, however, should not be confused with ignoring the facts. Optimism is sneaking a game, or if you’re really feeling lucky, two of them. Guess what? The Magic did that already, as a ridiculously undermanned squad beat the Bucks to take a 1-0 series lead. To go onto Twitter that night was to see Nikola Vucevic being given the keys to Orlando and Markelle Fultz enter the MVP discussion.
But the facts are different. Maybe, possibly, if the Magic had been at full strength they could have made more of a series out of this. If Jonathan Isaac hadn’t torn his ACL, or both Aaron Gordon or Michael Carter-Williams were able to make it onto the court up to this point, then they would have given the Bucks more problems.
Too many injuries for Orlando Magic to overcome
However, none of those three have played, and neither has Mohamed Bamba. Instead, the Magic have turned to Vucevic who has actually lived up to the billing as the organization’s best player, putting up monster performances across the board to do all he can to keep the Magic competitive. Is he worth $100 million across four years?
Probably not, especially if he is your best player. Then there is only so far you can go as a team. But that can’t be changed now and Vucevic has at least been their best player, as well as the second-best performer in the series. Given that Khris Middleton is also out there, a much more well-known name who also plays at an All-Star level, this has been great for the Orlando Magic.
You’re not being asked to celebrate mediocrity though. There have been times, both in the regular season and so far in the playoffs, when the Magic players haven’t played hard enough. That should be ridiculed, there is no excuse for that. But as long as they do all they can to try and win, then you shouldn’t have a problem when they lose. The Bucks are a much better team with an MVP winner in Giannis Antetokounmpo, and that’s ok.
In fact to have not gotten swept despite missing so many key players is something which head coach Steve Clifford and his staff should take pride in. The previous front office set the franchise back years, and the current people making the decisions have done a really good job of trying to move forward.
That takes time and patience. It also requires some good fortune and draft picks going your way. As a fan, if you can see that for what it is, then you understand that what is happening now is just a part of the journey. A journey that may ultimately end in failure or another rebuild. But to be outraged by the Orlando Magic being in the position they’re in right now? That’s madness.
These words don’t exempt somebody like me either. I am not speaking from a position of not being criticized. I too am a fan of sports and have lived through this and this, believing in the moment that the team I wanted to win was going to, even against the voice of reason in the back of my head telling me that wouldn’t be the case.
The only difference is I wasn’t outraged and felt the need to personally go after players afterward. Players who, as long as they are doing their best against superior opponents, then I am ok with it. Hopefully, by the end of this series, all Orlando Magic fans will feel the same way about the roster currently in place.