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Sunday, December 19, 2010

When The Smoke Clears...Magic Make Things Appear.

So there I was, it's 11 AM on a Saturday, I'm gettin' my head kicked in by a Statistics final, and my phone goes nuts. Texts. 3 missed calls. Twitter alerts. After I turned my test in, dried my tears of failure, it was time to see what the fuss was abo...DAMN! So Orlando is trying to do what the Cavs and the Raps couldn't do and and now the Nuggets and Hornets are trying so desperately to do: keep the Franchise content with his lot in the NBA landscape. Dwight Howard's locked in until 2012, and best believe, as jokey and "aw shucks" as he seems, he's got a shark's eye on the moves of the Heat, and the Bulls, and the moves that CP3 and 'Melo make. It's a business, the leagues Last Dominant Big wants to win. the Magic have been Mavs East (regular season juggernauts who look lost when they get ousted in the playoffs), so Orlando rolled the dice: Said "our bad",bringing back Turk, along with athletic streak scorer Jason Richardson and enigma Earl Clark, while shipping out the gutless VC, Martin Gortat, and Michael "Peaches" Pietrus. Almost simultaneously, they admitted that 'Shard Lewis fooled 'em into giving him that utterly ridiculous 119 million dollar (goddamn) contract and swapped him Gilbert Arenas, AKA 2010's fontrunner in the "Mike Vick Comeback Award". For some reason the rumbles seem to be that 1) Orlando panicked, that 2) replacing VC with Arenas/Richardson is a somehow a downgrade, and that 3) Turkoglu being brought back is pointless. Well, let's see...
1) Define "panic". Is it panic because, while the Magic looked unstoppable at times last season, especially in the 1st 2 rounds of the playoffs, the front office realized that the throttling they recieved by the Lakers 2 years ago and the thrashing the Celts laid on them in the '10 would continue if the Magic didn't make some significant moves? This team isn't the Blazers or the Thunder, being built painstakingly and lovingly via draft and shrewd midlevel free agents; the "let's be patient and let it marinate" tact won't fly, D. Howard's clock is ticking. Panic or not, this is what a GM is SUPPOSED to do; see your teams weaknesses and try to improve on them.

2) Richardson is a MUCH better defender than VC, and J-Rich in last year's playoffs was SPECTACULAR, providing timely scoring and clutch play. Arenas? For all the baggage; the bad knees, the bonehead gunplay, the silly "faked injuries", Arenas still has to be feared by the opposition for his scoring and his fearlessness in the clutch. Sure, the shooting percentages don't look good, but how quickly we forget the insanely clutch play Arenas showed just 3 years ago, when he was turning his back and celebrating while the ball was still in-flight on a last second shot he put up. Plus take into account that Gilbert was handed the keys to 2 of the most dysfunctional franchies out there, G-State and Washington. A team with strong leadership in Van Gundy  and an exceptionally bigger star like Orlando should bring out the best in Gil while keeping his insanity in check. Give me Arenas/J-Rich over Carter any day, hands down.

3) Championships aren't won by stars, they're won by stars driving the engine built on role players. Turk in Orlando was a unique thing. he was a role player who carried himself like a star, but THE STAR WAS COOL WITH THAT. Why they let him leave is baffling to me, and it's cool to see Otis Smith pretty much shrug and say,"my bad, lemme get that back and try again." He was good when he had 2 things; the ball in his hands and someone to pass to. He was bad when he was expected to do "little things" and be a catch-and-shooter. This is a win-win; he comes back to the situation that made him look so good, and Orlando get the ONE thing that really made them devastating; the 6-10 guard who can create a matchup nightmare for anyone. And Lewis? Lewis was like paying Lambo money and having it show up with a Camry engine: Camry's are ok, but Lambo money should NEVER be spent on one. At least he should bring some professionalism and shooting to the Wiz, alleviating the Arena/Wall overlap, and shoot ALOT of 3s.

Honestly, the thing that may hurt the Magic in the short-term is the absence of Gortat and "Peaches", leaving the bench pretty dang thin. Somehow Gortat got labeled as a "starter" talent which is foolish, but the guy was quality in his short stretches. Same with Peaches; he might never be the player HE thinks he is, but his shooting, D, and athleticism will be missed, at least by Chuck Wagon. I dug watching the Polish Hammer and Air France when they'd dominate lesser second units, or when they were plugged in with Howard and Nelson and were part of a ridiculous 23-4 scoring run.
Memo to the Heat and the Bulls; Orlando may have been stumbling, and they haven't been a "story" all year. They realized that they were juuuust a cut below the Celts and Lakers,  while the Bulls, Spurs, and Heat are all bristling with talent, so they made a huge gamble. At the very least the Magic now are a team to watch as they try to integrate new variables into the always elusive "team chemistry" while attempting to slug it out with the NBA big boys, and at most they've thrown their hats into the ring with the rest of the contenders. Can't wait to see Nelson running with Agent Zero on one wing and J-Rich on the other with Howard rumbling down the middle behind them. Your turn, N'awlins!

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