It is hard to find a good angle for the Magic when it comes to the NBA Finals. After all, Orlando is about as far away from the Finals as a team can get having finished with the worst record in the league.
Draft preparations are well underway and the Magic are looking forward to the beginning of the 2014 (or maybe even the 2015) season.
Excuse me if the content here gets a little fluffy. Like this post:
In this year's NBA Finals there are four players with Magic ties participating. All were key players for the Magic for various years and have a place somewhere in the pantheon of Magic accomplishments. In helping you decide who to cheer for in this postseason -- answer should always be "Not the Heat" -- here is a guide to the Magic rooting interests for former players participating in this year's Finals:
Tracy McGrady, San Antonio Spurs
Orlando Magic career: 4 years, 28.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2 NBA scoring titles, 4 NBA All-Star Games (3 starts), 2-time First Team All-NBA, 2001 Most Improved Player of the Year
2013 Season: Playoffs -- 4 games, 0 points, 4 rebounds, 17 minutes
Should You Cheer for Him?: Tracy McGrady has had a long, struggling road to get to this point -- his first NBA Finals. A few seasons after leaving Orlando, his body simply gave out on him and knee injuries sapped him of all his scoring greatness and athleticism. He has been wondering around the NBA hoping to stick somewhere and contribute but has struggled to do so for long.
Amazingly, McGrady was 32 and pretty much out of the league. The Spurs called him up for their Playoff run shortly after his season in China (where he averaged 25 points per game) and asked him to accept a much-reduced role in San Antonio for the chance to contribute to a championship team.
McGrady went from all-world player to human victory cigar this postseason.
Still, everyone around the league is happy that one of the league's best players for a clear 5-7 year stretch is finally getting to experience and contribute even in a small way to a championship bid.
McGrady's exit from Orlando was not pretty. He clashed with management, demanded a trade away from his hometown team and grew frustrated with the team's inability to win. It took a long time for Magic fans to come to grips with the T-Mac era. Orlando fans -- and fans around the league -- could not be happier now for McGrady.
Absoluely cheer for him
Mike Miller, Miami Heat
Orlando Magic career: 3 years, 14.1 PPG, 38.0% 3FG%, 2001 NBA Rookie of the Year
2013 Season: Regular Season -- 59 games, 4.8 PPG, 41.7% 3FG%, 15.3 MPG; Playoffs -- 10 games, 2.1 PPG, 27.8% 3FG%, 8.0 MPG
Should You Cheer for Him?: Believe it or not, Mike Miller is the only second player in Magic history to win Rookie of the Year, joining Shaquille O'Neal. No Dwight Howard. No Penny Hardaway on that list. Just O'Neal and Miller.
Perhaps it was Miller's cameo on the Magic and his sidekick nature to Tracy McGrady that has him so disassociated with the team that drafted him. He had his most successful seasons with the Grizzlies and has bounced around the league some since then. Last year, he was a key cog for the Heat, putting in seven of eight 3-pointers to score 23 points in the Game Five clincher over the Thunder in last year's Finals.
Miller just does not have a big tie to the Magic. And, now, playing for the Heat, Magic fans have little reason to cheer for him.
If you own his jersey great, but Magic fans have no clue why you love him so much
Rashard Lewis, Miami Heat
Orlando Magic career: 4 years, 16.3 PPG, 39.9% 3FG%, 1 NBA All-Star Game, 2009 NBA Finals
2013 Season: Regular Season -- 55 games, 5.2 PPG, 38.9% 3FG%, 14.4 MPG; Playoffs -- 8 games, 1.6 PPG, 4.4 MPG
Should You Cheer for Him?: During the Magic's run to the 2009 NBA Finals, Rashard Lewis was the clear difference. He was the definition of a stretch-4 and a guy that helped create the position. He is what the "mold" of a stretch-4 was at the time. Cleveland had no answer for his ability to both defend the power forward spot and step out and hit 3-pointers. He was a key difference in that series and even had a good Finals.
Why Lewis suddenly fell off in 2010 and then really fell off in 2011 is just about anybody's guess. The PED suspension sure did not look good and knee issues dogged him for the next two years after Orlando traded him to Washington.
While Lews' contract was a constant source of ridicule for many years, there was no denying that Stan Van Gundy's use of Lewis was what put the team over the top. And Lewis was not one ever to complain about no longer being a small forward. He took to the new position and the new experiment without a peep. He never pulled contract ranks or complained. He did his job and did it well.
Sure, it would be nice to see Lewis win a championship, just to make up for 2009
Orlando Magic Career: 1 year, 17.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG
2013 Season: Regular Season -- 7 games, 3.0 PPG, 7.3 MPG; Playoffs -- 0 games
Should We Cheer for Him?: Yes, Juwan Howard is technically still in the league, even after 19 NBA seasons. The last standing member of the Fab Five has latched onto the Heat once again in chase of his "second" title. This time he even played a decently big role as cheerleader, giving a halftime speech during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals that spurred Miami to the win.
I always respected Howard for the work he put in during that 2004 season. He was not spectacular and not what the Magic hoped for or needed. He was a power forward forced to play center and it did not work. Not to mention he could not defend. Yet, I respected him for always playing hard even if it was not much more than scoring points for that abysmal 2003-04 team. Someone had to be the second best player on the team, I guess.
Otherwise though Howard is just a footnote in Magic history or maybe the pariah for a team that disappointed in every way possible. The only good thing about his season with Orlando is that helped the franchise land another Howard.
Judging by who we care about that have Magic ties on these two teams, it is pretty clear who Magic fans should be rooting for. Plus the fact they are the Miami Heat . . .
Root for the Spurs, Magic fans