There is no doubt now that the Dwight Howard saga is seeping into every nook and cranny of this franchise. The Magic feel like a sinking ship and the five losses in the last six games (all within the span of a little more than a week) has only exacerbated that problem.
We can question whether the team has quit on each other, on Dwight, on the coaching staff, on the season or whatever another time. I do not believe they have. They are just stuck in an extreme rut that we can analyze later.
These things happen for a reason and the favorites to blame right now are an imperfect roster, fatigue from six games in eight days and the Dwight Howard rumors hanging around.
The real question that has the Magic front office concerned right now is whether or not this run of bad play is going to hurt the bottom line: ticket sales.
By all evidence it has not yet hurt the franchise there. Orlando is still carrying a 100-plus game sellout streak and that does not appear to be stopping. But it was still pretty painful and obvious to hear the groans and boos after a lifeless effort Sunday against the Pacers in an early-eveneing game. The question is how long will fans be willing to take this lackluster (extremely lackluster, especially on the offensive end) play and keep ponying up the money for tickets.
This week, with three home games, could be the next stage of the test in the Magic fan's decreasing patience with this team. Orlando has to turn it around soon on the court to keep Amway Center full.
Above you see the average ticket prices for tickets available through TiqIQ, a sponsor of this blog. The Wizards and Cavaliers are obviously not big-ticket games, but even the Clippers are coming in at an uncharacteristically low of $89 average for a ticket. It is still pretty easy and affordable to get Magic tickets on the secondary market. In fact, as of 3:15 p.m. ET on Tuesday, the average ticket prices shown above have jumped up by varying amounts.
You can get tickets to Wednesday's game against the hapless Wizards for as low as $5 and an average of $47 (a 27 percent increase from Monday). You can also get tickets through a special deal from TiqIQ described below:
"After dropping four straight the Magic will look to right their ship on Wednesday against 4-17 Washington Wizards. This is a pretty big game for the Magic to get back in the W column and with Wizards struggling as much as they have the Magic should win this one going away. If you'd like to see it live then we've got a deal for you. Through our ticket partner TIqIQ, you can essentially pick your price via the TiqIQ "make an offer" feature from Score Big. For Friday night's game, a "3 star" seat that usually goes for $66+ (after all the shipping and handling fees) can be scored for an offer of about $31. But you need to make a fast break for this ticket deal, as it expires tomorrow (Feb. 1)! Make your offer today right here: http://tiqiq.us/7Jz."
To further entice you, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel wants fans to be the ones giving the Magic that last bit of energy they need. He wants Wednesday to be a playoff atmosphere as a show of extreme support for this team and hopes that this season can get turned around quickly.
Anything might work at this point.
In addition, tickets to Friday's game against the Cavaliers are still going for a low of $9 but the average price has increased from $54 to $59. Next Monday's game against the Clippers has also seen an increase to an average ticket price of $104, a 16.9 percent increase from yesterday.
There are some basic economics at play. The closer you get to the game, the more demand likely rises and the more tickets that are sold (or maybe I have that wrong, I only got a B in macroeconomics).
One thing these numbers do suggest in a very truncated form is that there is still a ton of interest in the Magic. That is not going away. Not now at least. The sellout streak appears safe as these tickets are already sold and, judging by the price increase, demand for tickets is still rising.
It does not take a careful fan to notice a bigger push to sell tickets on the Magic's broadcasts than in years past and that several high profile games -- like the recent matchup with the Lakers -- took a little longer to sell out than anticipated.
Again, the sense that this is a teetering ship is starting to sink fan optimism. And that inevitably affects attendance and ticket sales.
Still, interest in this team has never been higher. I cannot remember the Magic selling out games this consistently when the team was mediocre with Tracy McGrady or even this deep into the post-Shaquille O'Neal days. Many Orlando fans have hopped on the bandwagon and are staying on tight until this thing finally blows up and maybe a little bit after.
If the Magic continue to struggle, I would not expect the sellouts to continue. But it does seem there is momentum and, more importantly, devotion to the franchise that will last beyond Howard's departure.
That is a lot more than could be said for the way fans jumped off the ship following the bitter breakup with O'Neal and the empty arenas McGrady played to.