Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Evan Heffron: Midseason Magic
Its like high school all over. Two friends have been planning a big party all year long. The invitations are sent out, the music has been shuffled into a play list, and the keg's on ice. Everything's ready roll except-
There's that guy. Comes and crashes the party (uninvited of course) before it even starts, and causes a great deal of commotion. I mean he wants to be part of the festivities too, right?
In the case of the NBA 08-09 season thus far, Mr.Dwight Howard is that guy.
KG's Celtics and LeBron's Cavs were the preseason locks to duke it out for a second straight year to see who will represent the Eastern conference in the NBA Finals. And deservedly so, but as of now, things appear a bit more nebulous than they did a little more than 2 months ago. It is true, the Orlando Magic at 33-8 currently are the ones to thank for that.
33-8 with wins over the Los Angelos Kobes, San Antonio Spurs, and New Orleans Hornets by 20 points. These guys can run with the big boys in the west, but the real tests await at the end of this month. The Boston 3 Party travels to Orlando tomorrow night, followed by a date with the Heat and the week after with the Cavs. This stretch will really be a gut check for the boys in blue as this semester of NBA play comes to a close.
Any rational sports can see the legitimacy of this ball club amongst the giants of the conference.
First, and most obviously, the Magic have, in my opinion, the most dominant player in the NBA Dwight Howard (let the hate mail start). 20 ppg, 3 bpg and 14 rebounds a game is down right stupid. His consistency and ability to take over a game in any given instant provides the fire for this team as they move forward. What complements a dominant post player the most are lethal outside shooters; Enter Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. Both are deadly from the outside. The inside out game these three guys run give their opponents no choice but to pick their poison. With 19 ppg and 17 ppg respectively Hedo and Rashard are legitimate scoring threats with all kinds of range to barrage their opponents with.
On top of it all, they have what every great team has. A workhorse at the point guard position. The pride of Hawk Hill, Jameer Nelson, is a gritty defender who has a knack for finding his shooters spotting up on the wings, as well getting to the hoop and drawing fouls at crucial moments. With 17 ppg and 5 assists a game Nelson is helping carry this team to uncharted territory. A place this team didn't even approach in the Tracy McGrady days.
This team really does have it all. The defenders, the shooters, the pure dominance off the glass, the bench play of former top picks Mike Pietrus and J.J. Reddick. Everything is rolling towards Orlando as we approach the midpoint of the NBA season, and the momentum could be swung even further in favor of the Magic if they pull out wins against Boston, Miami, and Cleveland.
KG and LeBron don't want to see that happen, for the sake of their planned festivities in mid-may. The "experts" don't want to see that happen to preserve the integrity of their preseason picks.
When it comes down to it, the Magic have their dancing shoes on, and their beer pong games ready. Watch out Eastern Conference, this team just wrote their own invite.
Party on Dwight.*