No preview for the game today, just a quick Q&A with Eddy Rivera, from Magic Basketball:
The Magic are totally under the radar right now. Even though they are 7-3 in their last 10, there are some injuries and lots of questions. How are you guys looking heading into the playoffs?
Decent. The losses to the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks were probably games the Orlando Magic should have won, but didn’t because of certain circumstances that didn’t go their way — depth being a major issue in both losses. It’s tough to project the Magic heading into the playoffs because the team isn’t healthy. One of the main pieces to the puzzle, J.J. Redick, is still out with an abdominal injury and it’s unlikely he’ll return before the regular season is over. As such, it’ll be a little hard for Redick to get back into a routine of things, considering he’ll have to do it while the postseason is about to get underway. Plus, Orlando’s energy and effort in games has been so wildly inconsistent. As a result, things like consistency in conjunction with health, continuity, and chemistry are not in their favor right now.
When the the trades happened, I really thought a lot of holes were plugged up, and the team would be a legit EC threat. With Arenas moping, Nelson injured, and Van Gundy busy talking about the media’s obsession with Rose for MVP, looks like the focus isn’t there. Is the stage set for a 1st round upset at the hands of the Hawks?
Not necessarily, but the Magic are a lot more vulnerable now, as exemplified by the Atlanta Hawks winning the season series. This isn’t the same roster that went 41-8 a year ago before losing to the Boston Celtics in the 2010 NBA Eastern Conference Finals. Although Dwight Howard has improved, nearly everyone else that remains has regressed and even though Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson have been welcome additions to the team, it hasn’t helped that Gilbert Arenas has contributed nearly nothing.
Trading away Rashard Lewis and Marcin Gortat, especially Gortat, has been tough because it’s suddenly turned Orlando into a small team. Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson have more than capably filled in for Lewis’ absence, so they’re not an issue but not having Gortat around has hurt the Magic severely. That has put a lot more pressure on Howard to not get into foul trouble, thus being less aggressive defensively, because when he’s out of the game, Orlando’s interior defense gets butchered with regularity.
Probably too late to do anything about it now, but how can Arenas be engaged to live up to his abilities for next season?
Quite frankly, Arenas is a lost cause.
Howard has been saying the right things, but we’ve seen this movie play out enough over the last couple years to know better. How scared is this organization that Dwight will walk, or force his way out, the first chance he gets?
In my opinion, the Magic are more worried than scared. It seems that general manager Otis Smith is quietly confident that Howard will re-sign, but a lot of things can happen between now and 2012.
Speaking for myself, if there’s anyone that’ll buck the trend of leaving their franchise and moving on to a new one, it’s Howard. I think Howard wants to stay in Orlando and has the temperament to see things through, but the organization needs to hold their end of the bargain and continue to satisfy his desires of winning a title. The Magic have two chances to get it done — this year and next year. After that, anything goes. And going off a reliable source, if Howard isn’t in Orlando, then he’ll probably find his way to the Los Angeles Lakers. There’s no guarantee that happens, but it’s a strong possibility.
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