With apologies to Dwight Howard
January 6th, 2008

In my season preview of the Orlando Magic, written back in October and located here, I wrote something that looks a bit stupid in hindsight. At this point, I’d quite like to try and weasel my way out most of it.

The following are some quotes that I stand by:

It would be very difficult if not impossible to provide a commentary on the Rashard Lewis sign-and-trade while also managing to take an interesting or unique viewpoint, or to say anything that hasn’t already been said. So I won’t. But I will recommend that you look at the figure that he signed for (listed above), and think long and hard about whether he is worth it. And if you come up with any answer other than “no”, keep looking at it until you do. In 2013, a 33 year old Rashard Lewis is going to be being paid nearly $22.7 million.¬†

So now, ask yourselves whether the trio of Hill, Milicic and Diener (who should, without a doubt, have played over Carlos Arroyo all of last season, and who is now nicely lined up for a breakout season) is going to help any more than Rashard Lewis on his own. It’s a tough answer, but either way, the Magic’s player personnel¬†did not improve much. If at all.

Last season’s mediocre performance suggests that the good run to end the 2005/06 season was nothing more than an aberration. With better coaching and better performance this season, the Magic have the opportunity to show that it was last season that was the anomaly instead. If Orlando gets breakout performances from one or perhaps a couple of young players (specifically looking in the directions of Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick), they could contend for the open Southeast Division title.

If you only read those three passages, then I wrote a damn fine piece. However, I ended it like this:

Perhaps a more realistic expectation, though, would be for a low playoff seed once again.

Well, that’s proven to be wrong so far.

Currently, the Magic reside atop the Southeast Division, with a record of 22-13. Their nearest rivals in the division are the Washington Wizards at 16-15, who apparently just lost Gilbert Arenas for the rest of the season. And in third place are the Atlanta Hawks, who are trying to justify my playoff call with a 15-16 record and a damn tough schedule thus far.

The Magic are the third seed in the East thus far, which is no mean feat given how the top two teams (Boston and Detroit) are by far and away superior to the rest of the conference. Now obviously they’re inevitably going to lose this third to the mighty and surging Chicago Bulls (you heard it here first), but even so, they should still come fourth in the East. And that’s not a “low playoff seed”.

So somewhere along the line, barring dramatic implosion, I’ve made a boo-boo.

I stand by my views on the Rashard Lewis deal, as he hasn’t been even nearly worth it thus far. I also can’t be expected to have predicted the Keith Bogans Jumpshot Spectacular that’s bizarrely given unto us by the Lord this season, although I won’t be entirely surprised if he regresses to somewhere near his career norm any day now. The point guard play still isn’t great, although I did overlook the fact that Carlos Arroyo’s contract is expiring, which always leads to him giving forth more focused production. And I strongly admire the team’s efforts to sabotage their team’s good play with a poor trade, needlessly shipping Trevor Ariza to the Lakers for Maurice Evans and Brian Cook, two players who offer nothing that Orlando couldn’t have gotten from within.

But mainly, the prediction is my own fault, and it’s rather to simple to see why. I did not adequately account for the fact that Dwight Howard is, quite simply, really good. Whoops. Sorry, Dwight.

Posted by at 8:04 PM