HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — There is a very real possibility that we have seen the last of this Orlando Magic team as a true contender in both the Eastern Conference and the league.
And before you dive into your best Stan Van Gundy impersonation, listen up. The Magic coach agrees with us. His team has taken it on the chin from both the Heat and Celtics in the past four days and it was clear that 2009 Eastern Conference champs don’t belong in the same conversation with those two teams.
“Not even close, not even in the same ballpark as these guys,” Van Gundy told the Orlando Sentinel after Sunday’s loss in Boston, when asked about the gap between his team and the Celtics. “We can be, but we’re not right now. I think that showed today.”
We’re not sure they can handle the Bulls or the Hawks either. All four of those teams sit above the Magic in the standings this morning. The potential of a first-round playoff matchup in Chicago or Atlanta might have sounded good in the preseason, but not so much now.
If we’re being honest about this team right now, we have to look at what they’ve done up to this point. And as my main man David Aldridge pointed out in his Morning Tip, it hasn’t been anything spectacular:
After losing to the Celtics Sunday, Orlando is 2-4 against Miami and Boston this season. Since the nine-game winning streak in late December and early January that included wins over the Spurs, Celtics, Knicks and Mavericks, the Magic is 7-8.
We said we’d wait a while to make any lasting judgments on the trade that brought Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to town. We were skeptical initially, and we remain such with the Magic running in place the way they are right now.
Like many, we assumed there was another deal or two on the horizon after the blockbuster trade went down. But Magic GM Otis Smith hasn’t done anything else, yet.
Dwight Howard still needs some assistance. And with Brandon Bass injured, that need will be magnified in the coming weeks.
Howard didn’t sound like a happy man after Sunday’s loss to the Celtics, which included him picking up his 14th technical of the season for elbowing Kendrick Perkins in the chest.
Howard blasted his teammates for not getting him the ball enough in the second half. “You saw the game,” he said after getting just six shots in the second half. “We stopped doing what we do, playing inside-out.”
And then he suggested that his team needs to get,”mentally tougher.”
If only it were that simple Dwight.
You need some serious personnel tweaks to fix what ails you. Just look at the competition. None of the other top teams in the East have as glaring a chemistry mismatch as you do right now. The man formerly known as Agent Zero came up with a big zero in the scoring column against the Celtics. He still doesn’t seem totally comfortable with his role.
There’s no way the deal works with Arenas playing like a shadow of his former self, which is all we’ve seen from his thus far. So maybe it is time we take the Magic off of the contender list in the East, as the Prime Minister suggested earlier this morning.
What say you?