It's been a while since we've been able to say that. But with the Hawks losing Al Horford for at least 3 months, and the Heat trying to put Dwyane Wade's ankle together, that's where the 8-3 Magic men sit. Of course, it helps when you go 3-0 on your first West Coast trip with a fourth away game coming on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day at noon in New York. Those Knicks have huge health concerns of their own with Amar'e and 'Melo. Are the pieces falling into place for Orlando early on despite the up-and-down Superman roller-coaster? We'll see as Monday also kicks off our only back-to-back-to-back. All three of those Magic West victories at Sacramento, Portland, and Golden State came while wearing our cherished yet cursed black jerseys. In beating the Blazers, we finally knocked off a playoff team in one of the best home court advantages in the NBA. That Rose Garden is always boisterous. In defeating the Warriors, the Magic also finally notched a nationally televised win.
Stan Van Gundy is proving to be thriving under the role of underdog. Let's not forget, SVG's lowest win-loss percentage through his now 5th season is 63.4%. He's making Chris Duhon more than useful at backup point guard (Better numbers across the board from last season), and Von Wafer is cracking the rotation. He hasn't had enough reps or touches, but Von is shooting 55.6% from the field and 88.9% from the free throw line. It's great timing too as we don't know how long Jason Richardson's recent knee bruise will keep him out.
Hedo Turkoglu is continuing to play like he did a few years ago, except he's somehow shooting career-highs in FG% and 3-PT%. 14.4 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3.3 rpg, 48.4 FG%, and 47.3 3-PT% shooting isn't something to casually ignore. Along with all of Turkey voting for him, there's a reason why Hedo is the 10th highest voted forward in the Eastern Conference All-Star voting currently. It's baffling how under-the-radar Turk's performances have gone. Then again, in the case of the Warriors win, Hedo's 20 points and 9 assists would easily be overshadowed by Dwight Howard's 45 points and 23 rebounds. Not bad to break a Wilt Chamberlain record. Take that Shaq. Hedo makes it ok for Jameer Nelson to have bad games because Turk just finds a groove as a point forward.
The ball movement hasn't been this phenomenal since *gasp* the 2008-2009 team. We're still a little 3-point happy, but it's great to see these guys run and attack the rim. Dwight is also playing a lot more like he did 3 years ago where defense came first. Add to that his career-high 2.3 assists per game. Who said the Magic don't have offensive weapons? A few wins and some deep bench play and all of a sudden this team looks quite nice. They looked great last season too until injuries started piling up and the Hawks were able to take advantage of Orlando's poor health.
So far we've been able to work around Jameer's neck spasms, Quentin Richardson's chemical burn, Glen Davis' hip contusion, and now J-Rich's knee bruise. Just keep enjoying the ride, Orlando. We're quickly coming upon our All-Star Weekend, and hey, our team is pretty damn good at this moment in time. Can the wheels fall off and we end up in doomsday mode? Of course. But basketball life is pretty solid right now. Who knows, maybe we'll be in a better position to grab a Monta Ellis or Deron Williams come the trade deadline. Again, stop believing what the mass media is reporting on Dwight. No one knows a thing but Howard, his people, and that Magic front office. The less one over-analyzes the situation, the better.
Photos courtesy of Yahoo! Sports and the Orlando Sentinel.