Only three times in 18 tries has a team visited Florida to take on the Heat and Magic in back-to-back nights--in any order--and won both contests, and nobody's pulled it off since the Portland Trail Blazers did so on March 7th and 8th, 2011. During the compressed 2011/12 season, the trip has proven particularly brutal: to date, three of the four teams to complete the back-to-back have been swept. Only the San Antonio Spurs managed to salvage a split, as they earned an 85-83 overtime victory against the Magic one night after suffering a 22-point blowout at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The Orlando Magic found nothing to like about their performance from the middle of the second quarter onward in their 108-86 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. They did not defend and allowed the Knicks to hit just over half their shots. The Magic also went long stretches without scoring a single point.
But afterward their concerns went beyond defensive and offensive Xs and Os.
They questioned their own willingness to work.
"We have to make a conscious effort to just go out and play hard every night," point guard Chris Duhon said.
"I think there's a lot of times throughout the year where we kind of take days off or just think we can shoot our way back in games. For us to really think of ourselves as a championship team, we've got to have an identity. We don't have that every game. When we do have it, when we bring it, we compete with anybody we play and beat anybody. And when we don't, nights like this happen."
The usually superstitious Jason Terry will have a different look for Friday's game. Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post explains:
Nelson and teammate Bill Bellamy bested Terry and Jadakiss in a CrossFit Relay, featuring four staples of the CrossFit routine: a shuttle run, burpee box jumps, air squats, and ring rows. The Magic point guard just barely finished his ring row exercise before Terry, in the process ensuring the 12-year veteran, arguably the league's most superstitious player, won't wear his signature high socks and headband during Friday's game, marking the first time in his career he won't have his beloved accessories.
Had Terry prevailed, Nelson would have had to wear the socks and headband.
Our pal Jeff Garcia over at Crossover Chronicles saw Ryan Anderson's recent casting of the Magic as Star Wars characters and ran with it:
It all started when Glen Davis said the Magic need "Jedi force" for the rest of the season and Anderson just ran with it.
"Stan (Van Gundy) is definitely Yoda. Dwight (Howard) is Luke Skywalker," Anderson said. "I'll take Han Solo. I love Harrison Ford."
Well Anderson, as much as I respect your casting call, I might disagree with a few of your selections for characters.
There are few things more important to Jason Richardson than his NCAA national championship ring, which he won as a freshman at Michigan State in 2000. Because he moves around so much, the ring has been kept at his uncle's house in Michigan for the past half-decade, along with his other basketball trophies and valuables.
Or so he thought.
Richardson, after putting together a new trophy case, asked his uncle for the ring last week to be put on display. His uncle didn't have the ring, saying he hadn't seen it since sending it to Michigan State for a repair several years ago. And when Richardson called the Michigan State athletics office, they didn't have it either -- they hadn't seen it in years.
Richardson then began to freak out.
Jeff Fox of Hoops Manifesto and a bunch of the Bloguin basketball crew got together for our third quarter awards. See who we think is the league's MVP and award winners at the three-quarter pole. Here is what Jeff wrote on Dwight Howard:
"Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen are the only active players to log more NBA minutes in the careers than Kobe Bryant, yet Kobe is the only one still playing at an All-World level. With his injury woes behind him, Dwyane Wade joins his teammate and MVP front-runner LeBron James in his rightful place - First Team All-NBA. While James might be the current leader in the MVP race, he's going to have to work for it because Kevin Durant is following closely on his heels. The only certainty surrounding Dwight Howard at this point is that he is the best center in the league."
When the dust settles, 23 years of arena history will lie in a pile of rubble.
That's the plan, anyway."
"Recently on Twitter, Myles Brown and Eddy Rivera had a brief, albeit telling, discussion that involved Dwight Howard, free-throws, and the definition of 'elite players.'
Note: Myles Brown is great. He has a very entertaining Twitter account (@mdotbrown) and knows a ton about the game. So I'm not picking on him. I'm just picking up on one of the things he said and running with it.
I'll spare you the details and get to the point. Myles basically argued that Dwight is not a closer and go-to guy in part because he can't hit free-throws. At first, it made sense. You don't want to put the ball in a guy's hands that is a liability at the free-throw line. It's not safe!
But does this really mean he's not a top five player? We know in our heart of hearts that Dwight is most definitely a top five player in the league, but when Myles Brown called that into question partly on account of his ability to hit free-throws? I started pacing (at least in my head)."
"One of the reported reasons why the Orlando Magic didn't offer starting power forward Ryan Anderson a contract extension prior to the January deadline to do so is the uncertainty surrounding Dwight Howard's future with the team. Orlando was leery of making a big financial commitment to Anderson without knowing if Howard would remain with the team beyond the 2011/12 season. The theory holds that Anderson, who's converting 40.6 percent of his league-leading 6.7 three-point attempts per game, is only as productive as he's been because he shares so much floor time with Howard, who draws defensive attention away from Anderson, enabling him to launch from deep with impunity.
While it's hard to argue against the fact that Anderson benefits from playing alongside the league's top center, the numbers indicate Anderson doesn't exactly need to share the floor with Howard--or with any other dominant low-post player--in order to be successful."
"The most intriguing aspect of Dwight Howard staying in Orlando was neither loyalty nor his shunning of a presumably fiercer spotlight. It was that Howard, whether through naïvete or clarity, willingly surrendered the opportunity to surround himself with a stronger supporting cast. To extrapolate from this reality and make sweeping statements as to his character is absurd. Yet at the same time, Howard's decision flew in the face of recent convention, of the allegedly crystallizing era of super-teams. That market size and the chance to win titles might dominate super-team construction seemed a decent enough assumption. But then, LeBron James dismissed the former, and now, Dwight Howard, at least for a year, has ducked both.
There's a fascinating symmetry to the Howard-James-Wade-Paul (arguably the four most valuable players of the past five years) axis, the first generation to start the phenomenon in earnest. Due to the nature of their respective first extensions, James and Wade entered free agency together, and Paul and Howard were on schedule to do the same this summer. But while James and Wade upgraded their supporting casts, it’s tough to make the case that either Howard or, strangely, Paul have done anything of the sort."
"Howard's soap opera began months ago when he announced he wanted to be traded. There's no news in the pampered class expressing discontent. The great DiMaggio held out for money. Koufax and Drysdale dared O'Malley to go cheap on them. Hank Stram, during a Wilt Chamberlain holdout, threw passes that Wilt caught over the crossbar, only to hear the big man say, 'I want to play quarterback.' Howard's story, however familiar, is different because of its scale."
"This has not been about the Orlando Magic or the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets or Dan Fegan, the agent who neither signed the necessary paperwork nor appeared at the peacemaking news conference Thursday in which Dwight Howard reintroduced himself to his fans.
Howard sat in between Magic CEO Alex Martins and GM Otis Smith and announced, 'I'm too loyal.'"