What a season full of countless emotions, rumors, and storylines. Look no further than Dwight Howard, who has epitomized a wild and crazy past few months. D12 can't keep his mouth shut or stop changing his opinion, yet has sleepwalked into another MVP worthy season. Seven 20-20 games will help your cause for sure. Superman went from being guaranteed to be a Laker, then a Clipper, then a Net, and now maybe a Maverick. Many sportswriters still believe that the DeVos family will trade Dwight before the March 15th deadline. Like most of this 2011-2012 Lockout campaign, mental and physical toughness will need to grow and develop with this squad if we want to be in decent shape come playoff time. Yes I still think we can compete for that title.
You have Glen Davis going through what might be his worst personal calendar year of his life, and it's only February. Hedo Turkoglu is as inconsistent as ever. Jameer Nelson and Jason Richardson have battled through career-worse seasons riddled with injury and slumps. The Amway Center is sometimes as quiet as a church at times despite the exciting action that occurs in front of the paying consumers. Some of that has to do with fair weather fans that all teams have, but a lot of the fingers should probably be pointed at this Dwight trade rumor mill controversy that casts a shadow over the entire City Beautiful. You have some of the loyal supporters and season ticket holders already putting their money in their pockets and their cheers deep into their souls before #12 has even left town. In many ways it's caused folks to label this shortened season a lost year. It will be if Dwight departs and nothing positive results from the upcoming postseason.
I've said it once and I'll say it again, the Orlando Magic are bigger than just one person. That's why RDV and the rest of the front office should and will wisely put Dwight's potential exit from Orlando solely on Howard's big brawn shoulders. But here we are having won 8 of the last 10 games with those two losses coming in overtimes. 20-11 with a 4-game trek away from Amway Center ahead of us beginning Sunday afternoon in Miami and culminating Thursday evening in Atlanta. In between those challenges will certainly be an intriguing visit to New Jersey on Wednesday. Those Nets fans will definitely look to give Dwight a warm welcome. Atmosphere is expected to be awkward. Don't let Superman's statistics fool you, he's been holding back at times and it's excruciatingly obvious to anyone that knows the game of basketball. It might indeed cost him a fourth straight Defensive Player of the Year award if not careful. Will we see D12 begin to show faith as the Magic sit in a solid 4th place in the Eastern Conference? Or will Dwight's mind be on his multiple All-Star Weekend parties?
Stan Van Gundy isn't the only one reaching for the TUMS. The scrutiny SVG and Otis Smith have received at times has reached the levels of embarrassing and ridiculousness. Especially for Stan though, it's horrifying that Magic fans would so easily want to send away a top 5 NBA mind and the greatest coach in franchise history. I will be enraged at Otis though if he gives into D12's request to bring a washed up Stephen Jackson onto this team. At least Big Baby and Wafer for Bass was a fair trade, especially with Brandon now hurt and him being a free agent this summer had he stayed with us. The roster of support surrounding Dwight has been criticized, yet that same group of men has negated Howard's terrible play time and time again this season. Our Orlando media could easily rip Dwight to shreds, but despite being annihilated by Howard and the rest of America, those media outlets like the Sentinel still refuse to chide our franchise center. That comes from loyalty and respect this community has for the superstar that Howard will never find anywhere else.
Let's get back to focusing on these next four games before Orlando gets to put on a show for the world (That'll definitely make '92 look like a small time experience). Mark Price is starting to do some miracle work as Dwight is finally shooting above 50% for the season from the free throw line. Baby steps. The Heat were dispatched fairly easily the last time these two sides met at Amway. Revenge and a wanting to show dominance will be on Miami's mind for sure. After that comes yet another matchup with the Bucks, their 3rd meeting in nine days. Nice schedule work, Stern. I'm hoping we crush both Milwaukee and the Nets before we head into Atlanta still seeking our own redemption after we lost to the Hawks in overtime in front of our home fans on February 10th. Expect more ugly, defensive basketball in the ATL. I'll be curious to see how many Magic men actually get more rest on this road trip than they will throughout All-Star Weekend. Discipline and energy will need to be at their peaks if the Magic want to return home with smiles on their faces. I will be ecstatic if we go into the Break 23-12. I just don't want us to continuously be teased every couple of weeks on whether or not this team is legit. Either way, Stan must be salivating at all the practice and supposed rest time ahead.
Photos courtesy of the Orlando Sentinel.