Apr 18, 2011, 3:36 PM EDT
Magic fans don’t want to draw the line connecting the dots. You can’t blame them. But the loss to Atlanta seemed to move those dots toward being in a straight line.
And if things don’t change Dwight Howard could connect them himself and devastate the Orlando franchise.
The starting point is here: every time Dwight Howard rejects talking in any detail about his future free agent plans — he can opt out in the summer of 2012, but rightfully says that is too far away to think about — he falls back on two themes.
One, he really likes Orlando and its fans. Secondly, that he wants to win championships.
You can be sure that part two outweighs part one. He has said as much.
That brings us to Saturday. When the Atlanta Hawks smacked the Magic around pretty good in a win. Howard was a monster — 46 points on 16-of-23 shooting, with 19 rebounds. Jameer Nelson pitched in 27 points on 18 shots.
After that, the remaining seven Magic who played had 20 points on 8-of-34 shooting (23.5 percent). And their defense was about that good as well, with Howard having to block shots and try to clean up his teammates mess.
The Magic need more talent on the roster. Here’s the problem: With the moves the Magic made this year to bring in Gilbert Arenas and Hedo Turkoglu, the Magic are pretty locked into this roster. There is no easy overhaul or shake up. All players can be moved, but the Magic would have a hard time getting someone to take on Arena’s contract and give them a valuable player in return.
Suddenly the idea of the Magic wining a ring with Howard and this unit looks about as daunting as climbing K2.
It’s not just we outsiders who can connect the dots. Nate Drexler over at the Magic Basketball blog wrote this.
I hate to start making LeBron James comparisons from 2009, but this is looking too similar. You’ve got a league juggernaut that has been with the same team since the beginning. He was the centerpiece of a budding organization, the reason for an economy boost in the city, the MVP on a perennial playoff contender, and the owner of zero NBA championship rings….
It’s probably too early to start panicking and burning jerseys, but losing to Atlanta in the state-of-the-art Amway Center does not bode well for the Dwight faithful.
Magic fans are worried, and you can’t blame them. Howard could leave the Orlando Magic in a Carmelo Anthony situation next season — telling them he will opt out at the end of the season and walk, so they have to trade him or get nothing.
But we are a long, long way from that. For one, the Magic still should bounce back in this series — the Hawks killed it from the midrange in a way that is not sustainable. Secondly, we have no idea what the economic landscape will look like with a new collective bargaining agreement in place (if there is a franchise tag, the game changes for Howard).
But that loss to the Hawks cast a long shadow, and it could make things pretty cold in Orlando in the future.
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