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Thursday, December 6, 2012

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for November: 24. Orlando Magic

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of November 30th): 5-9  ,  fourth place Southeast Division

This Month:
Team Statistics and League Rank (as of November 30th)

Points Scored: 91.7 (27th)
Points Allowed: 95.2 (10th)
Team FG%: .438 (20th)
Opponent’s FG%: .437 (9th)
Rebounds per game: 43.5 (9th)
Opponents rebounds per game: 43.7 (25th)
Turnovers per game: 16.0 (22nd)
Opponents turnovers per game: 13.5 (28th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

Worst Player of the Month: Glen Davis

After carrying the Magic offensively at the end of last season, there were high expectations for the one fans affectionately called “the Big Baby;” unfortunately, however, they have yet to materialize.  Sure Davis has posted somewhat decent numbers of 14.9 points and around 9 boards per game, but he has not looked nearly as dominant as he did in the playoff where he filled in the void of Dwight Howard so handily.  His .418 shooting from the field does not give Magic fans much comfort either as it looks as if he is not putting as much effort getting his points in the paint rather choosing instead to score from the perimeter.  It would be such a shame to see Davis fall back into bad habits of not fully utilizing his physical gifts and abilities choosing instead to simply take the easy way out to not endure the physicality of playing in the post.  He showed not only Magic fans, but the entire NBA that given the opportunity, he can take over a team and become a potential franchise player; right now, however, all he has shown is he is only willing to do the bare minimum which is rather unfortunate.  
First Player of the Month: Nikola Vucevic

No one expected a throw in of the Dwight Howard mega-trade to have such an impact as Nikola Vucevic who went to a mere rotation player in his rookie year in Philly to becoming a starting center for the Orlando Magic.  He in by now way has replaced Dwight Howard’s immense All Star presence, but his current production has given Orlando fans a pleasant surprise and a glimmer of hope for what will most likely be a very long season.  Vucevic has proven to be quite the capable starter averaging close to ten points and nine rebounds per game while leading the team in blocked shots which 1.1 per game.  It has only been a month into the NBA season, but Vucevic has already tallied five double-doubles in points and rebounds in just 13 games played.   Hopefully that will be the start of something great for the Magic as this unheralded hero continues to battle for his team on center stage.

For a team that came into the season will very low expectations, the Orlando Magic have been playing quite well, to say the least.  Despite having a less than stellar record, they have managed to keep their games competitive only losing by a rather small margin and keeping at par statistically with their opponents.  The Magic started the season by winning their two first games by rather impressive margins—the Denver Nuggets by 13 points (11/2/2012) and the Phoenix Suns by 21 (11/4/2012) two days later.  Unfortunately that quick start would abruptly come to an end as the Magic would stumble losing their next five games.  The Magic bounced back, however, by winning three of their next five games beating the Detroit Pistons twice—the first on the road (11/16/2012) and the second rather convincingly at home (11/21/2012)—and a rather close one against the Cleveland Cavaliers (11/23/2012).

Nonetheless, Orlando was unable to maintain the momentum as they lost their last three games at home to finish the month of November including and overtime thriller against the Boston Celtics (11/25/2012) before being manhandled by the San Antonio Spurs (11/28/2012) and the Brooklyn Nets (11/30/2012).  For a team that had just lost its franchise player for the past seven years, Dwight Howard, and are currently on the long road to rebuilding, that is not too shabby, especially considering how much of a mess the team was left in after the fiasco.  The Magic finished last season with both their coach and general manager fired after a two year long tumultuous storm cloud of trade demand, threats and uncertainty.  Now the storm is finally over and the Orlando Magic can finally move on as the source of all their troubles is now residing in Tinseltown and they have a roster of new faces, a new coach in rookie Jacques Vaughn, and a new rookie GM in Rob Hennigan to right a ship that has been sent off course.  Although the journey to respectability may be long and difficult, Magic fans can hold solace and relish the fact that their former star player, Dwight Howard, has not been doing that great either.

After being given an automatic bid for the NBA Finals by pundits and analysts during the preseason, the Los Angeles Lakers’ start of the regular season has been underwhelming to say the least.  After a rather embarrassing preseason performance, the Lakers entered the regular season losing four of their first five games—three of those games to teams that they should have beaten.  They shamefully lost their first two games against an underhanded Dallas Mavericks team that neither had Dirk Nowitzki or Chris Kaman (10/30/2012) and a weak Portland Trailblazers team that they had no business losing to (10/31/2012).  That poor start led to team officials to panic and unceremoniously fired head coach Mike Brown, a highly respected coach in the NBA, making him the “Fall Guy” for the Lakers’ poor performance.  As of now the Lakers have bounced back somewhat slightly winning six of the next ten games, but LA still remains at a distant third place in their Pacific Division with a sub .500 record.

Magic fans must be tickled pink by the delicious irony of the situation—their team’s star player gripes about being stuck on a declining team to only get sent to the same situation on another team.  And while the Lakers try to trudge their way out of the huge hole they made for themselves, the Magic are essentially on easy street not having to worry about any spectacular expectations being put on it.  One can go as far to say that the Magic are actually exceeding expectations playing as well as they have in the past month while the players they acquired in that monumental trade have performed quite impressively thus far.  Both Aron Afflalo (acquired from the Denver Nuggets) and Nicola Vucevic (via the Philadelphia 76ers) have performed rather admirably as they have been posting career highs for their new team while Moe Harkless, the first round pick that was sent in that deal, has played well enough to earn a place in the starting lineup.  And that is not even the best part—the Magic still have a first round picks coming from each of the three teams in that deal along with a HUGE trade exemption and the likely chance that they will receive next year’s number one overall pick in next year’s NBA draft courtesy of Uncle David Stern.

To add even more a refreshing twist to this ironic situation is that the Magic started their month of December by handily beating the Los Angeles Lakers on their home court Staples Center to the tune of a 10 point margin (12/2/2012).  Here the Magic, a team that was expected to be a perennial loser, had beaten a much touted and much more talented Los Angeles Lakers with three superstars at their disposal as if they were some lowly bottom ranked team.  Some can claim that karma is to blame for the current struggles of Dwight Howard and his Los Angeles Laker team, but credit should be given to rookie coach Jacques Vaughn for keeping Orlando mentally prepared and focused during this early part of the season.  Win or lose, the Magic under Vaughn’s guidance have shown themselves to be just as tough and confident as they were when Dwight Howard was still on the team.  And despite their less than stellar start, Orlando might raise some eyebrows once the season starts coming to a close with teams battling for the final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.