Final thoughts on Magic-Hawks: Orlando’s regression, Dwight’s plight and how Las Vegas got it wrong

This post has been four months in the making, the ultimate I told you so.

As most of you know, SportsChump doesn’t make many predictions.  If I’m confident enough about the outcome of a sporting event, I’ll just go ahead and put money on it, which is exactly what I did in the Orlando-Atlanta series.

When I first saw my service* list the Hawks as 5 to 1 underdogs, I immediately wondered how Las Vegas could make Orlando such heavy favorites.  I wasn’t even convinced Orlando was the better team, never mind five times better.

*For the record, SportsChump only condones gambling through one of our various sponsors

I recalled how displeased I was with Orlando’s mid-season trade, essentially dealing Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Martin Gortat for Jason Richardson, Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu.  In my mind, you don’t vanquish three proven commodities for three unproven commodities, and you certainly don’t do so in the middle of a championship run.

With Richardson and Arenas virtually non-existent, the trade left Orlando with no balanced offense.  They became way too reliant on Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, while Atlanta’s scoring could come from multiple sources.

Don’t believe me?  Excluding Game Five which the Hawks mailed in, the Magic had players score in double digits 15 times: Dwight five times, Jameer four, Hedo and Brandon Bass twice and Richardon and Arenas only once.  On the contrary, the Hawks had players score in double digits 22 times: Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford five times, Josh Smith and Kirk Hinrich three times and Marvin Williams once.

In essence, after Dwight Howard, the second, third, fourth and fifth best players in this series all wore Hawks uniforms.

Say what you will about Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis, at least you had to guard them.  Carter only played around 100 games in a Magic uniform.  At the end of last season, he was actually playing some of the best basketball of his career, shooting well over 50% from the floor.  In his only post-season with the Magic, he averaged 16 points per game.  His replacement, Jason Richardson, averaged ten.

Rashard Lewis was the most coveted free agent of the 2007 summer.  People forget the big shots he hit while taking Orlando to the Finals only two years ago.  In his first two playoff campaigns with the Magic, he averaged 19 points per game.  Combined Turkoglu and Arenas didn’t average that many.

Martin Gortat provided well-needed rebounding and rest minutes for Dwight Howard.  There were times I even uttered the words “You know, you really don’t lose much when Gortat’s in for Dwight.”  Earl Clark, a power forward the Magic acquired in the trade played six minutes the entire series.

Orlando wanted to shed its label of being a three-point shooting team, but did so BY ADDING THREE-POINT SHOOTERS!  Otis Smith, meet common sense.

I asked this question before and I’ll ask it again.  Why did someone not veto this trade?  I’m not saying that keeping Carter, Lewis and Gortat would have guaranteed a championship.  I am saying this was at best a lateral move on paper which proved to be far worse in reality.

The Magic panicked.  Unlike SportsChump, they gambled… and lost.

Friends berated me for selling my soul and betting against my favorite team but the last time I checked, Rich DeVos is not paying me to be a fan.

Either way, Orlando has now taken three giant steps backward for Magic-kind, from the Finals in 2009, to losing in the Eastern Conference Semis in 2010 to losing in the first round in 2011.  Fingers are understandably being pointed in every direction with Dwight’s impending free agency making every Magic fan nervous.

Orlando already suffered the loss of one big man.  They can ill afford to lose another.  But if they continue to make personnel moves like the one they made this mid-season, Dwight’s decision to leave Orlando will be that much easier.

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34 Replies to “Final thoughts on Magic-Hawks: Orlando’s regression, Dwight’s plight and how Las Vegas got it wrong”

  1. Otis Smith MUST go. He took a reasonably good team and trashed it. And this is a no-brainer;I predict that Dwight Howard will be leaving soon. He’ll look great in Celtic green.

  2. Chris

    As much I hate to say that but even if they hadn’t made the midseason trades the outcome against the Hawks would have remained the same . In essence this Magic team made a roll Charmin seem tough !

    Even with Rash’ or Vincesanity the Magic inevitably would have succumbed they’re simply nowhere as athletic as they need to be . Hell there are geriatrics in assisted living homes with more speed and agility than some members on this current Magic team .

    And need I remind you I said to you repeatedly the techs would come back to bite the Magic in the a_s and they did repeatedly. Dwight when he either got into foul trouble or was on the cusp of receiving a technical he had to sit out invaluable minutes during the series . All this time you said it didn’t matter. Discipline matters Chris , and Dwight doesn’t have it when it matters most . You merely looked at the stats and were like a dog in awe because you’d found another fire hydrant to pee on .

    Look at the team’s body of work and who’s actually stepping up and not merely at one person .

    tophatal …………..

  3. Pingback: FinalThoughts on Magic-Hawks, NBA | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  4. Thanks, RayRay.

    Let me just start off by saying I wasn’t happy about winning this bet or rather, I wasn’t happy about feeling the need to place it.

  5. Snake…

    I think I just threw up in my mouth. You’ll hate Dwight even more if he ends up in L.A.

    For the record, people, Snake was one of those who accused me of having conflicted emotions in that Magic-Hawks series.

    I agree with you on Otis. He blew that one spectacularly. But this is the NBA. Aren’t franchise players consulted on deals like this?

    I want to know how much Dwight wanted those guys gone or if he had any say at all. I know Arenas was Otis’ boy (BAD CALL) but don’t you think if Dwight wanted the roster to remain intact, it likely would have?

  6. They’ve taken three giants steps…… way ,way , way back and they’re now on the hook for $60 million plus unless they’re willing to eat the contracts for some pieces of crap they traded for because I can assure no wants Arenas , J Rich or Hedo Turkoglu unless it’s someone whose a complete moron !

    I can’t even see them buying out any of the contracts in question knowing the uncertainty in the offseason .

    tophatal ………………..

  7. The point is, Al, we’ll never know.

    I’ve been bashed for my Vince Carter support by many and again, I’m not saying this would have guaranteed a title. Far from it.

    But Carter was finally playing close to home and seemed to be enjoying it. Richardson and Arenas were useless!

    I still feel Dwight’s regular season performance, as you mention, statistically speaking, was enough to garner him second place in this season’s MVP voting. I also feel that his coaching staff needs to inform him that leading with his elbow is, in fact, a foul.

    He also needs to accept the fact that he will ALWAYS be officiated differently so there’s no sense losing his temper about it.

  8. That’s the worse part about it, Al. They’re locked into these guys, handcuffed.

    It’s not bad enough these recent playoffs sucked but they will next year too and that’s the year that will matter considering Dwight’s contract.

    Who in their right mind would take on that Arenas contract? Abe Pollin must be laughing his ass off right about now.

  9. Chris

    I’ve always maintained you base the success of an organization based on the financial business acumen of the executives . What the hell has the Magic got ? Otis Smith hasn’t that great a basketball mind and Bob Vander Weide albeit that he’s DeVos’ son in law , he essentially married into the family fortune .

    What the Magic need is a GM with real business savvy and one who can actually spot talent rather than going after overrated pieces of aging crap . Otis Smith clearly isn’t that !
    That seems to be coming with sports in C Florida at present . When it works it is great but when it sucks absolutely no one wants to step up to the plate and admit they made a mistake .

    Chris , Carter’s stats were on the decline and if anything Rash’ had become gunshy and afraid to attack the rim much less defend . The great divider was that they missed Gortat more than they’d care to admit . SVG was an ass to agree to this all but then look at his credentials as a coach ? Not exactly impressive is it ? All one can do is to buy into his animated whining and that’s it .

    Now For The Good News

    tophatal ………………

  10. Otis crapped out…no doubt. However, I give him props for rolling the dice. Gortat was the only piece he really gave away and SVG wasn’t playing him more than 10 minutes a game anyway.

    Hard to believe JRich wasn’t more of a factor. Everyone knew Turk and Arenas were damaged goods but I for one thought JR would come through.

    Sorry Chump, but the future definitely looks bleak for the Magic.

  11. “Rich DeVos is not paying me to be a fan.”

    LMAO at your above quote. You get it. You’re on you way to becoming a betting wiseguy.

  12. Al…

    It looks like the Lightning are doing things the right way these days, huh? Maybe teams can take a page out of their notebook.

    Originally I wasn’t crazy about the Rashard Lewis signing but that appeared to work for a short while. Either way, he was the only big free agent of that summer and someone was going to pay him max dollars.

    Maybe it’s time to give Nick Anderson that GM spot. Either way, we’re gonna have to do something to keep Dwight Howard in town.

    Re: Vince, he was actually shooting 47% from the floor and averaging 15 points for Orlando at the time he was traded.

    I know these posts always sound like I’m the ultimate Vince homer. I swear I’m not. I just feel that he was settling into a role with which he was comfortable. He never liked being the top dog and in Orlando, he never had to be. We didn’t need 28 a game from him. A consistent 16 was just fine. And that’s a hell of a lot more than they got from either Richardson, Arenas or Turkoglu this year.

  13. Agreed, Drew.

    And that’s what Magic fans are so concerned about.

    Dwight’s holding all the cards and the Magic have no more bargaining chips.

    I can MAYBE justify the trade if the Magic got younger talent in exchange for Vince and Lewis but Arenas and J-Rich are both 30.

    Alright, clean slate next season. We’ll see what happens but I don’t see how anyone can really expect much.

    I don’t. Not with the Heat and Bulls on the rise.

  14. Here’s what I wrote in the post, Al.

    “I’m not saying that keeping Carter, Lewis and Gortat would have guaranteed a championship. I am saying this was at best a lateral move on paper which proved to be far worse in reality.”

    Agree or disagree?

  15. So what was your consolation prize (aka; how much did you win off your bet)?

    I’m sorry man, but I think Otis might have screwed you guys out of keeping Dwight on the team…

    Maybe there will be another freakish center coming out in 2013…

  16. Chris

    Like I said about ownership when you have the right people in place from the outset success usually isn’t all that far behind . Oren Koules and his buddies literally brought the Lightning to the brink of financial ruin and he was there barely a year . Jeff Vinick comes hires Yzerman and the rest is history as they say .

    You see it simply makes sense to hire people who actually know what the hell they’re doing .

    chappy C’mon man feelin’ sorry for Otis ? Hell if he’d boffed your lady you’d wanna kick his a_s ! Otis Smith can’t spot talent much less spell the damn word !

    Chris you wanna know what a good lateral move is _______.. sneaking the last bit of food off a sibling’s plate just as they’re about to stick their knife in it. The trades made by Smith were a complete joke ! They’ve essentially tied the organization to a bunch of stiffs financially and they will have a hard time getting rid of them via trades and it’s still going to cost them should they seek to buy out those contracts . So you tell me was the gamble worth when they could have stuck with what they already had ? Does anyone think anymore as to business side of a deal rather than simply looking at the presumed success that they think will happen ? This wasn’t a gamble it was sheer buffoonery on the part of the M

  17. cont’d Magic and they now look like complete idiots from top to bottom ! That’s essentially a mom-n-pop organization where the business and competitive acumen being shown borders on being damn infantile ! There’s no common sense being shown there !

    tophatal ……………..

  18. Chap…

    I’d rather not discuss my meager winnings.

    Let’s just say I won but am more proud about scouting out the Vegas line askew. It’s not like my bankroll can afford wiseguy status… yet.

    Freakish center? Might it be Sullinger you speak of?

  19. Al…

    The Lightning are on their game. Six straight? They even have me watching. I may even have a hockey post up soon. What’s the world coming to?

  20. Chris

    If you’re now gettin’ into hockey I’m gonna have to take up smokin’ crack LOL,LOL,LOL !!

    No it’s a good thing for the Lightning and well deserved after the Oren Koules and Len Barry fiasco . Who’d have thought that the turnaround would be so swift ? Never mind that numb nut Dumiq was simply as usual kissin ass when Koules was at the helm of the Lightning as its owner . That guy (Dumiq) can’t be objective even if his life depended on it. Is this what sports’ radio has to sink to within the Tampa Bay area ? A bunch of clueless hacks like Sileo and Dumiq !

    tophatal ……………..

  21. Chris

    You of all people know Vegas never gets it wrong they simply lure schmucks in to get ’em to lay their bets while they simply sit back and laugh at them .

    ” The house always wins even when it appears that they’re losing ” .

    The Determining Factor ………

    tophatal ……..

  22. Chris

    How much of a d_ck is the Steelers’ Rashard Mendenhall ? How the hell can this guy come out and ‘tweet’ that it’s so intolerant to be lauding the death of Bin Laden ? What in his eyes Bin Laden deserves a pass ?

    Here’s simply another reason why an athlete more often than not should be seen and not heard when they’re conversely dealing with an issue outside the their scope of intelligence !

    tophatal ……………..

  23. I was thinking Sullinger, but I don’t think they’ll have the top pick in the draft until Dwight is out of town, and I’m pretty sure Sullinger will be off the board by then…

  24. Crack, Al?

    It’s a seller’s market still so beware. But seriously, if you’re a local, how can you not be drawn into what this Lightning team has accomplished.

  25. Mike, great website, by the way. Thanks for swinging by.

    Yes, a lot of the pundits out there (i.e., Barkley, Kenny Smith, Michael Wilbon) are saying it’s not time to panic in Boston just yet.

    As much as I like those three guys, I think I might have to disagree. I’m not sold big on Miami winning Sames One and Two as much I am as how they won those games. I don’t think the outcomes were all that close, and the Heat right now look like they’re clicking on ALL cylinders.

    Maybe Otis Smith can always use the “Well, we were probably going to lose to the Miami Heat anyway” defense when keeping his job.

  26. Chap…

    Maybe Golden State can land Sullinger.

    I bet THAT put a smile on your face, didn’t it?

    We all know you don’t have to be the worst team in the league to land the top draft pick so you never know what can happen.

  27. Oh it did put a smile on my face! I think you have to have ping pong balls to be the top pick, and the way I see it the Warriors are more likely to have them than the Magic…

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