Over the next few weeks Orlando Magic Daily will be taking a look at the things that went right and wrong this season as Orlando ended its season with a disappointing first-round loss to Indiana.
The season WAS a circus from the very beginning. And it got tiresome and tough to follow.
The Magic were the laughing stock of the league for their inability to keep a lid on things and seemingly bungled handling of every step along the Dwight Howard road to who knows what. Not that Howard helped with his constant waffling.
Nobody was coming out a winner. And the ones that took the heat were the fans, who are undeserving of another franchise center walking out on them (all while maintaining a home in the area).
It was a great gamble that Alex Martins and the DeVos family played trying to wait out Dwight. It could have cost them everything, and it still might. But even they probably could not guess how much turmoil and bad press would come from a zany season like this one.
The whole year was a gigantic game of chicken. A test to see who would blink first between management and Dwight Howard. Nothing else mattered. Not the games. Not the offseason maneuvering. Not the other players.
The 2011-12 season was a selfish season full of political power plays and generally the things we do not like about sports.
Off the court drama is not what anyone needs at any time. It is an unfortunate side effect of making games a business though. And the Magic have known this decision was coming. The franchise could only hope that it would not become the season-long drama it became.
Dreamers can be so foolish.
Orlando likely asked Dwight Howard to make a decision before he was completely ready. He seemed to think that he would always have until the end of the season to fully make up his mind. So it came as perhaps some shock when Howard went public with his trade demand, turning what should have been a quiet, internal struggle (ending with everyone blaming the franchise and not the superstar) into a public battle of leverage and words. Promises and distrust. Truths and half-truths.
It was ugly. No fan base should have to go through something like this in the public arena.
Yet, there were the fans stuck in an ugly divorce with both sides trying to convince them they are the good guys, the "good parent" so to speak. And they keep telling the fans it isn't their fault. So why do fans feel so damn guilty and jilted?
There is a lot of naivete going on within the Magic organization this year.
It started with Howard thinking he could force his way out publicly and not look like the bad guy. It continued with Alex Martins and the Magic saying they would do what they could to trade Dwight while still asking him to play as hard as he could for them. Martins held out ont he belief that Howard deep down wanted to stay, and that might be/have been true. But it created a scenario of insanity.
And I did not even mention the Bob Vander Weide incident. Or that March 15 press conference where Dwight Howard professed his loyalty to the franchise and the city.
It seemed every step and misstep from Vander Weide to Howard to Martins to Stan Van Gundy seemed to do more to embarrass the fan base and bring the franchise into ridicule than to, you know, actually try to win games and a championship. That is the whole point, right?
It got to the point where Magic fans went from understanding Dwight and his frustrations with Otis Smith's poor moves to despising everything Howard came to represent to, well, where we are now. A seeming inevitability.
The Magic might have reached the point they should have reached in March now. A do-or-die, sign-or-trade moment that Howard likely wanted to avoid but could not. The magic were late to this realization and that is the unfortunate part for fans.
By holding out hope that he would eventually re-sign, they set up the media circus this season became. It might all pay off in the end if Howard does eventually sign that long-term extension. Only then will the insanity of this season be worth it.
Until we reach that point, it was a long, ridiculous season that could have long-term effects on the fan base. You really hope that the Magic know what they are doing. This gambit with Howard was dirty and hard to watch.
It took all year to get to a resolution... and we may not quite be there yet.