The Orlando Magic seem to be rolling, and then reality sets in, as it did in their 87-56 lost to the Boston Celtics Monday Night.
One day the Magic look like bonafide championship contenders, and then the next, they make you wonder why Dwight Howard hasn’t requested to be traded sooner. Their most recent loss though, is a prime example of why Howard will leave; why Howard must leave.
For all the criticism surrounding Howard, the fact is that his heart lies where the best opportunity to win a championship is, and that’s not with the Magic. Those who have bought into the mirage that is the current Magic will eventually come to see the error of their ways.
Orlando is far from a contender, and there’s no way around it. Ryan Anderson has turned heads, but Howard needs a consistent and proven supporting cast. His 18 points against the Celtics led the team, and no one else reached double-digits, including Anderson.
But isn’t that only one game, one bad loss? Yes and no. This was obviously just one horrid loss, but dominant teams don’t fall to a reeling Boston team that is down Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. This is the danger that is the Magic. They can be an impressive bunch, but are also an inherently consistent bunch as well.
In order to retain Howard, the Magic need to obtain a player who can help shoulder the two-way burden that the center is currently bearing on his own. They need a sidekick who is capable of stepping up when Howard is having an off night. As impressive as Anderson as been, he is unproven and simply not the answer. And as for Jameer Nelson, his talents seem to be disappearing faster than Greg Oden’s chances of playing this season.
So, why can’t Orlando just go out and find a player to pair with the dominant Howard? Because they have no assets and no cap space. For the past few years, the Magic have been a team held together by Howard and a plethora of unwarranted contracts. They swapped Rashard Lewis for Gilbert Arenas last season, and while they were able to amnesty Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu’s contract isn’t disappearing anytime soon.
If anything, in their desperate attempt to hold onto Howard, the Magic have actually damaged their chances. They have shown how flawed their organization is and how inept they are at putting competent and dependable role players around their cornerstone.
But don’t take my word for it, just take a look at Jason Richardson’s now near immovable four-year $25 million deal. Even if he was putting up his usual instant offense—which he isn’t—this was an investment not worth venturing.
Don’t chastise Howard for trying to plan an escape from Orlando, because if anything, he’s doing the team a favor. He’s giving them the opportunity to capitalize off his departure now, as opposed to watching him walk away for nothing later.
Call Howard a narcissist. Call him a coward. Call him a quitter. Go ahead, call him whatever you like. It won’t change the fact that the Magic have been playing over their heads since the season began. This latest loss has revealed the team for what they are: A group of marginal role players with obnoxiously unwarranted contracts, and Dwight Howard.
And that’s simply not a recipe for title contention. Not now, not ever.
Dan Favale is an avid basketball analyst and firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His work can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.