Magic Masters is Orlando Magic Daily's attempt to recognize the best in Magic history. In this edition, we are trying to rank the best teams in Magic history. To see the full tournament bracket, visit the introduction page. Today, we begin the second round:
The 1998 season is something of a lost season. I, honestly, cannot remember much from the 1998 season. The Magic made a big to-do about hiring Chuck Daly and Julius Erving in the offseason and used those two prominently in the team's advertisements. We were a half season removed from Penny Hardaway's player revolt that helped oust Brian Hill as the team's head coach.
Somewhere between the 1997 Playoff series that saw Anfernee Hardaway go nuts to stave off elimination against the Heat, the lockout-shortened season and the eventual rebuild of Heart and Hustle, the 1998 team gets lost in the shuffle.
It is easy to forget a team that finished at 41-41 and missed the postseason. There was just nothing spectacular about this team. Hardaway missed all but 19 games with an injury. Darrell Armstrong played his first full year as a starter and firmly embedded himself as a rotation player for the Magic. This was also Bo Outlaw's first year in a Magic uniform. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
But what else was there special about this team? This team was just bland... I don't know how else to say it. Even some of the teams I was too young to remember, I can still pore out details of what happened that year. I actually went to games throughout 1997-98 season and I cannot remember much about the year. Seriously, will someone fill me in? I really hate admitting that, I really do.
Nick Anderson had a good year. So did Horace Grant. Rony Seikaly was decent too. Derek Harper and Mark Price made things interesting as veterans on the team. But other than that, this team was nothing special.
And that is not boding well for this team's hopes of advancing in this tournament.
Except for the fact that it is going up against last year's team. We have talked extensively about the disappointment that has come from the 2010-11 season. A season that started with immense promise fell apart very quickly -- and really for an unknown reason.
First, Dwight Howard had an MVP season. He was superb and made the Magic good enough to keep opponents on their toes and lift up a mediocre supporting cast. and that might be describing things lightly. Howard may have turned in the best season in Magic history, and we still walked away disappointed.
The trades in December that sent out Rashard Lewis, Marcin Gortat and Vince Carter and returned Hedo Turkoglu, Gilbert Arenas and Jason Richardson. It threw the team out of whack and the Magic never quite regained their footing once the honeymoon phase ended in January. It was frustrating to watch. And now we know that the team is somewhat stuck in a mess created out of those moves.
Disappointment though hides accomplishment. We mentioned Howard already and the type of year he had -- ortherworldly. And it should be noted that the Magic won 50 games for the fourth straight season, the longest streak in franchise history. There was something to hang some kind of hat on there. But ultimately, a first round playoff exit was not what the Magic had in mind for 2011.
There is the stage. Here is the poll. Who is better?
Records & Expectations
Both these teams, it seems to me were disappointing. We know the 2011 team had championship aspirations at the beginning of the season, saw something go horribly wrong early in the year and made a move to correct it. And it failed. Big time.
A first round exit was not in the cards and the team struggled through the entire season to live up to the lofty expectations. This was a lost season that left more questions than answers for the following year.
From what I can recall, the 1998 season had expectations to match what the team did in the tumultuous 1997 year. The Magic expected a playoff berth, but did not foresee Hardaway succumbing to the first of his many ankle and leg injuries in his career. The team lacked the same type of punch with Hardaway out and Daly had his team playing at the slowest pace in the league.
This was a team that was never going to be anything more than a team making a first round exit. That is the truth of the matter. Nick Anderson was good, but back to playing above his talent level -- not to mention he was still piecing back together his confidence following the 1995 Finals. Rony Seikaly was a decent center, but not a centerpiece. And Darrell Armstrong was just a bundle of energy at this point in his career.
This team needed Hardaway to achieve its goals.
A .500 record was probably a good year for this team. In fact Basketball-Reference had this team with an expected 38 wins on the year. So, in fact, they finished three games better than expected.
That is probably a lot more than we can say of the 2011 team.
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When we talk about matching these two teams up, we are talking about a major mismatch. The 2011 team is a lot better than we will remember them in hindsight. This was still a good team... just not championship good as we all expected.
The fact is, the 1998 team has no one to match up with Dwight Howard. Jameer Nelson is a lotm ore polished than 1998 Darrell Armstrong, and can handle 1998 Mark Price or 1998 Derek Harper. Even Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu could probably have fun playing against the Penny Hardaway/Nick Anderson front court (and really that depends on how much you play Hardaway).
The 1998 team was one dimensional. On offense, it was Hardaway and really not much else. A bunch of solid players (or declining players) and then a lot of mediocrity. Boy, that sounds familiar.
The difference is Dwight Howard changes the game in a way that few players in franchise history and league history can. The 1998 Magic have no one to match up. I have a feeling he would really dominate this matchup. And you can see that as the WhatIfSports.com simulation has the 2011 team winning in a sweep pretty handily.
If only things were so easy in real life. Despite the disappointment, the 2011 team is my pick for the better squad.