Magic's Eastern Conference losses not yet cause for concern
By DAVID STEELE
Orlando Magic Play-By-Play Announcer
Feb. 7, 2011
It has been a difficult couple of weeks for the Orlando Magic.
Three games against the top three teams in the Eastern Conference. Three losses. Now it seems the Magic, once considered a top title contender, have, in many quarters, been written off for 2011.
After Orlando lost to the Bulls in Chicago 99-90 on Jan. 28, longtime NBA scribe Sam Smith opined that the Magic's "window for a championship seems to have closed."
One week later, the day after the Magic's 104-100 loss at home to the Miami Heat, respected Heat beat writer Ira Winderman blogged, "How could anyone come out of this game and consider Orlando a contender?"
After a 90-81 loss to the Eastern Conference leading Boston Celtics on Sunday, even Magic coach Stan Van Gundy admitted there is a gap between his team and the defending conference champs.
"We're not even in the same ballpark as these guys." Van Gundy said. Then he followed up with an important qualifier: "We can be. But we're not right now."
That's where the view from Orlando differs from the view of outsiders looking in. Others may have tossed the Magic aside as a serious threat in the Eastern Conference, but Van Gundy knows what his team is capable of achieving.
He is aware that there have been too many defensive lapses and too much inconsistency on offense.
He has seen his team lose close games because of a failure to execute properly in the final minutes.
But he knows the current roster has been together for only 7-1/2 weeks and has played only 26 games together.
He knows that there are 30 games left in the regular season.
He knows he will get some much-needed time with the team on the practice floor in February, as seven of the eight remaining games in the month will be played at home.
He knows he has Dwight Howard. And if he can pull the rest of the roster up just a bit around him, Howard is still the great equalizer, the best defender in basketball, and the league's most dominant inside force on the offensive end.
Others may have dismissed the Magic as an inconsequential team for 2010-11, but the NBA season is a long and winding road, with many twists and turns and unforeseen events. If the Magic do not make improvements by April, there will be reason for concern. Until then, reports of their demise may be an exaggeration.