The release of the NBA schedule let's the NBA fan know the stories the television networks want to emphasize. It lets them know the teams they believe will be competing for a championship and the ones the fans want to see.
Orlando is hardly far down on that list. The Magic will be featured on national television 14 times -- headlined by their lone appearance on ABC in February against the Heat in Miami -- and six more times on NBATV.
Of course that pales in comparison to the rival Heat (with 28 national television appearances including NBATV), Bulls (29) and Celtics (30). By that math the Magic would finish in the middle of the Eastern Conference. But even the Clippers got 20 nationally televised games, feeding the public's desire to see Blake Griffin before he hits YouTube.
You can read that anyway you want. The Magic were a constant fixture on national television last year and fell short of expectations. It makes sense that we will see them fewer times on the big stage this year.
In the Stan Van Gundy era, the team has always said it likes flying under the radar. Orlando did that when it shocked the league in winning 52 games and the Southeast Division in 2008 and then reached the Finals in 2009. But for a team that says it does not care about what the media says and just goes in and does the work, they sure like to complain about it.
"To be quite honest, I feel that no one in the media (gives us a chance), we do notice it," Howard said when asked about the media's expectations for the Magic (translated by Google Translate). "But it does not matter. We want to be respected by the teams we play against that's all that matters. The media can focus on the team they want, the one that wins the title is the one that plays best on the court, the media do not influence the outcome of games.
"I'm pretty sure, for example, that no one had predicted that the Mavericks would win the title this year. What matters is not what people say about you, but what you think. I believe in myself and my team. We'll get to the top and people will have to give us the respect we deserve."
There is not much new in Howard's statement about media pressure and expectations. It has been the team line for a long time. They are not worried about where the media places them in the Eastern Conference pecking order. But, yes, we have heard this chorus before.
At least in talking with the media, Howard continues to say the right things. He continues to say he believes the Magic roster as constructed has championship potential. Whether that is true or not is what the season will be fore.
But he is also, on the other hand, continuing to criticize the team for some of its missteps. Howard recently told AM 790 in Atlanta that he was upset the Magic left him out of the decision-making process that sent Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter out of town. The trades in December came to define the season and its failure to pan out led to the team's failures in the postseason. The issue of players having input on personnel decisions is a debate for another matter (one that I do not think is necessarily a good idea).
The past is the past and there is not a whole lot of point for rehashing it unless it is with an eye toward the future.
The Magic are staring down another season under the radar, whether they like it or not. Maybe they will use it as motivation and play beyond expectations as they did in 2008 and 2009. Or maybe this team is what the media thinks it is.
We will find out in November (hopefully) what kind of team the Magic actually have.
Photo via DayLife.com.