Time For Orlando To Bring Back The Magic

Time For Orlando To Bring Back The Magic

This Magic fan is ready for a turnaround
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They say Orlando and the Disney Kingdom that inhabits it is "the happiest place on earth." Well, it’s been six years since my team, the Orlando Magic has been to the playoffs, and things are anything but happy.

Until recently, I’ve felt pretty spoiled as a Magic fan. We’ve had Shaq, Penny, Grant Hill, T-Mac, and Dwight all in the span of just under thirty years in our existence as a franchise. That many stars in so few years are incredible. Orlando has also made two finals, won the lottery three times, and have had some pretty exciting near-misses (What if Shaq stayed? What if Penny didn’t have Pringles for patellas? What if Grant Hill got a decent shoe to support his weak ankles? What if the refs weren’t trying to give Kobe titles? What if Vince Carter wasn’t trash in 2009?).

Dwight Howard, the last Orlando star, was traded following the 2011 season. Since then, one of the most painful rebuilds has ensued. Teams with similar timelines following their own rebuild launches are competing or beginning to compete (Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers) while Orlando has been left behind. Their poor decisions, being bad but not bad enough to land a top pick, and downright bad luck have sunk Orlando and stolen the spark of the franchise. Orlando has yet to crack forty wins, and their franchise lacks many inspiring options. With new management in place, this is the summer to turn it all around.

The blueprint for fixing a franchise in the NBA is taking risks on high-risk, high-upside free agents, shipping off old regime players, and through the draft. Orlando has tried to do this is in the past, but has lacked the necessary patience to see the plan all the way through. Trading lottery picks Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for Serge Ibaka after a semi-promising thirty-five win season was exactly the short-sighted decision that continually crippled the organization during the old management regime.

Orlando's free agent decisions have been sub-par as well: Bismack Biyombo was exactly the type of risk to take as a former lottery pick, but Orlando paid way too much for his services. Conversely, signing Jeff Green to a one-year, 15 million dollar deal was a lose-lose agreement. If he broke out (Green was a top 10 pick himself), Orlando would be stuck either losing him to another team or destined to bring out the wheelbarrows of money to keep him around. If he busted, Orlando was tied to a 15 million dollar anchor that tied up cap space. Making smaller money, medium year deals is the route Orlando must take, like the contract they handed to Jonathon Simmons.

Simmons showed great promise on the Spurs during the 2017 postseason, and the Magic handed what was considered a below-market value contract to Simmons (3 years, 20 million). He rewarded that good faith by setting career highs nearly across the board (including 13.9 PPG in 50 starts). Now, Orlando can use him as a potential glue guy or trade bait.

Orlando hasn't been a top free agent destination in years, and won't be this summer given their basketball situation and designation as a small market team. Players like LeBron and Chris Paul, therefore, are only pipe dreams. Taking risks on a bigger free agent that is young, like Jabari Parker or Zach Lavine, and players looking to rehabilitate their value like Mario Hezonja (improved a lot this year) or Rodney Hood could be in the cards. I predict realistically that Hezonja is brought back and Hood is signed on a flier.

At this point, guys like Evan Fournier and Bismack Biyombo are untraceable due to their bloated contracts. Orlando may as well keep them around and hope they turn it around into being worth anywhere near their contract values. Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross have both been casualties of the changing basketball tides, and need to be traded. The Ross trade didn't turn out as expected, and the Magic need to cut their losses while Ross still has a speck of value. Vucevic, meanwhile, has a good contract but needs to improve his Swiss-cheese defense and sulking attitude. He's been a net detriment for the Magic in recent years, and it's time for Orlando to move on from the Magic's longest-tenured player and lone prize left from the Dwight Howard trade.

The biggest source of optimism for Magic fans is easily the draft. Orlando doesn't have the best track record recently with their high draft picks, but I think completely attributing that to management is a poor take. Every year, Orlando has taken a player that most experts have pinned to them based on value and potential. The Magic have often gotten unlucky, falling just outside of when the elite prospects are off the board (like in 2014 when Andrew Wiggins-Parker-Joel Embiid went 1-2-3 and Orlando were right outside at four. Sometimes the lottery taketh away). Orlando got unlucky again this year, falling to pick six when the truly elite prospects are likely to go in the top two. However, taking a gamble on Michael Porter Jr., who is likely to slide due to a back injury and poor play during his few games he did play, could be a huge coup for Orlando.

Porter was often considered a top two pick in the NBA draft leading up to the season. His shooting, ability to get to the rim, and size (6'10" and a 7' wingspan) look to give him a Harrison Barnes floor and a Kevin Durant upside. Porter has had some great influences in his life, including former Blazers star Brandon Roy, and with some conditioning in the NBA, has all the tools to be a perennial All-Star. Essentially, he could be everything Michael Beasley was supposed to be.

Given the Magic's current roster construction, Porter's inclusion at small forward could be anything but smooth. Currently, the only true building blocks on the Magic roster are Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac. Gordon showed real progress this past year on the Blake Griffin comparisons he has received, improving his passing, scoring, rebounding, and most importantly, his shooting. Gordon is a restricted free agent and should be returning. Ideally, Gordon is a good number two or three option on a team, not the focal point he is currently. Gordon is strictly a power forward. Isaac, in my opinion, is playing out of position.

The Magic, in the few games he played after sustaining various injuries, cast him as a small forward. However, playing him at center may be best for him and Orlando. Isaac is a smooth, 6'10" athlete with a near identical profile to center Clint Capela (also 6'10" and a matching 7' wingspan). Both are exceptionally strong defensively, and show real potential as rim-runners and passers in a pass-happy offense. Isaac averaged 12 points per game, 8 rebounds per game, and just over 1 block and steal per game in college, all while shooting 34.8 percent from three. Isaac with a position swift projects to be Capela with a jump shot -- a true basketball unicorn and a real asset for Orlando. That position movement would allow Porter to man the small forward position.

Orlando has been down on its luck lately, but it has the perfect opportunity to turn it around. Strolling out a lineup of DJ Augustin, Evan Fournier, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, and Jonathan Isaac wouldn't be good this year, but with another draft pick and a year of seasoning, Orlando could be on its way to being a team with championship potential. The Hawks, Heat, Hornets, and Wizards have been beating up on Orlando in recent years. It's high time Orlando brings back a little magic.

Cover Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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A Thank You Letter To The Best Teammate I've Ever Had

There's no "I" in team.
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We all have those amazing memories when it comes to sports. Sometimes it is from winning tough games, but most of the amazing memories that we have come from the teammates that we shared those wins with. Teammates are the people who you spend so much time with that you eventually become a family. Teammates do more than help just win a game; they can be there through everything. There's always that one teammate that stands out from the rest, and this letter is for you.

Thank you for being selfless.

Looking back, I remember a lot of teammates. Some were great and some were not that great. I've had teammates who have only cared about their playing time. I've had teammates that have only cared about if they score more goals or more points than anyone else. You did not care about that. If the coach told you to play a position that you did not want to play, you still played it without a complaint. If I was tired at a certain position and wanted to switch you, you did it. You never complained about where you were playing or how many goals you had; you just wanted the team to win.

Thank you for having my back.

The best kinds of teammates are the ones that support you no matter what you do. I got a red card? That referee is stupid. I got into a fist fight during a game? You were the first one next to me swinging. Some girl makes fun of me on social media for messing up in a game? You were roasting her in her mentions. Even if I was right or wrong, you always supported me no matter what I did.

Thank you for seeing me at my worst and building me back up.

There are always times in an athlete's life where we run to the point to where we need to throw up. There are times where we go through games and miss too many shots. There are times where we get a little too mad at our coaches and feel as if we cannot deal with it anymore. You were the one that got me through it. When I was in the middle of a run and my lungs were burning, you stayed right next to me and reminded me that there wasn't much longer to go, even if there was. You always reminded me how capable I was by yelling at me and telling me to go score. You've seen me tired, sweaty, crying, screaming and throwing up. After all that, you still went out of your way to build me back up and I cannot thank you enough for that.

Thank you for making me love the game.

Without people like you, I would have had a very rough ride through my sports career. I have had teammates that have made me go home crying because they were so mean and rude. I have had teammates who have only cared about themselves. Without you, I would've forgotten what a good teammate is. Looking back, all I remember is the celebrations, the screaming random songs in cars and us hating each other's exes automatically... Then talking about all these things at practice. Thanks for being a leader with me. Without you and the rest of the team, I would not have loved the sport that I played.

Cover Image Credit: Cheap Seats Photography

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The Excitement Of The NBA Playoffs Without Lebron James

The NBA playoffs are among us and it is my favorite time of the year. The time for the NBA to shine is the playoffs, but this year's rating has seen a bit of decline.

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The NBA playoffs are a very exciting time for the typical NBA fan and I sure love nothing more than to kick back and watch the action. The excitement and the number of games on are unreal and they start one after another so every game can be watched without another one interfering with the other. The games have so much more than typical basketball and people are disappointed this year because Lebron James missed the playoffs for the first time since 2005. The last 14 years he has been dominating the NBA playoffs and this year was different so the ratings are plummeting.

The series are a best of 7 making it a long fun series of games with so much on the line. I have watched many of the games and highlights and have truly appreciated the greatness I am watching. The lower seeded teams have been doing well against the best teams and are giving them a run for the money. We have had a few fun blowout games that are interesting because you are seeing a team dominate the entire game and hit many great shots and make big plays. The good teams are still winning most of the games, but at least we have some close games that come down to the buzzer to make for great competition.

We then have young stars like Damian Lillard and Ben Simmons who have been giving us some amazing stat lines and leading their team to big first-round wins and both making huge highlights so far. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and James Harden have been the big stars having great games and contributing heavily to both their teams and the ratings to make the playoffs fun. Even without Lebron, these guys are still showing us how fun basketball is to watch and play.

The style of team basketball many of these guys are playing with is amazing to watch. I am all about teamwork and there is a new player doing something spectacular and having a standout game every night with the help of their team. The Los Angeles Clippers rallied for the biggest playoff comeback in NBA history by coming back from 31 down against the defending champions the Golden State Warriors. It is nice to see teams like the Clippers, Magic, and Pacers who do not have a standout star play great team basketball. These teams are losing most of their games, but they do not have the talent these other teams have. They are going out and playing well as a team every single night and working to make sure everyone is contributing on offense and defense to have a chance to win.

Damian Lillard even hit a buzzer beater to win the series over the Thunder the other night and it shows us how much of an impact one player can have on the whole game. The excitement of the upcoming free agency period is vastly hyped, but the current teams are so well set up for success that the next 2 rounds of the playoffs will be the ultimate tests for all teams to see who will play each other for the championship.

Everyone thinks the Warriors will once again host the NBA Larry O'Brien Trophy and be the top team in the league for the next year, but there are a few teams that have been quite impressive all season and have the momentum in their favor just as much as the defending champions. There will be plenty of big games to come and I am positive the players will put on a huge showing to make these playoffs memorable for all true NBA fans. Lebron is my favorite player of all time and I love watching him play especially in the finals for the title, but the ratings should still be high due to the great competitive game of basketball and the amazing moments we get to enjoy all throughout the playoffs. I encourage any basketball fan to tune in for these games and I promise you will not be disappointed with any of the games.

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