Wednesday night, the Orlando Magic wrap up their twenty fifth season as an NBA franchise. One where they trotted out the best players and significant members in the teams history, but I can’t help but to think about what could’ve been.
While they are far from the worst franchise in league history, you could argue they have been the worst managed. Being located in central Florida where it’s sun drenched ninety percent of the time, surrounded by family friendly fun with a mix of young adult exuberance—nightlife—and a tax free state. Let me say that again, a TAX FREE STATE. You would think they would’ve attracted top tier free agents that would’ve brought more than two NBA Finals appearance and won at least one World title.
So without further or do, here is my list of Magic mistakes.
Shaq put Orlando on the basketball map on and off the court in 1992.
Without a doubt they should’ve done everything possible to keep him in uniform. I know he left the Magic Kingdom as Free Agent, but he should’ve been offered outrageous extension the moment it was possible. He is the kind of player you give the keys to the franchise to—not a Dwight Howard. All O’Neal did was win three titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and the most hurtful one for magic fans, one with in state rivals the Miami Heat.
2.) Not keeping Doc Rivers. This one could easily be number one on my list.
Rivers has won an NBA Title and been to another Finals since being fired by Orlando.
His teams overachieved in his first tenure as a NBA coach. During his time, the Magic front office were “maneuvering” to draw in a trio of free agents. This left Coach Rivers and his teams very handicapped to do any winning in what was a very loaded Eastern Conference in the early 2000’s. The rest is history, Rivers was fired and eventually moved on to Boston where he won one title, made the NBA Finals twice and the Eastern Conference Finals two other times. Now he’s considered one of the top two coaches in the league along with the San Antonio Spurs Gregg Popovich.
3.) Trading away Ben Wallace.
Wallace was a 4 time DPOY and his Pistons knocked out the magic in the playoffs 3 seasons.
Wallace was an after thought in the 2000 sign and trade with Detroit to bring Grant Hill to Orlando. Even without the injuries to Hill this would’ve stung. Wallace was a four time defensive player of the year winner and two time rebounding champ with the Detroit Pistons. He was the anchor behind a team that won an NBA Title and played for another. To make matters worse, his Pistons teams eliminated the Magic three times (2003,2007,2008) in the playoffs during his time in the Motor City.
4.) Trading away Tracy Mcgrady to the Rockets for Steve Francis.
T-Mac was a two time Scoring Champ and 1st Team All NBA as a member of the Magic.
Could you imagine T-Mac playing with a young Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson? Those two were drafted the summer he was traded. I firmly believe Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley stunted Dwight and Jameer’s growth in their first couple of seasons. T-Mac went on to flourish alongside an often injured Yao Ming in Houston. McGrady alongside a raw, athletic Howard would’ve been the exceptional one-two punch management was going for when it courted Tim Duncan to play with McGrady in 2000.
5.) Courtney Lee misses an alley oop to win game two of the 2009 NBA Finals.
The Magic have one victory in two trips to the NBA Finals (2009 & 1995). That’s 1-9. Oh how different the 2009 Finals would’ve been had that Magic stolen game two and home court advantage from the L.A. Lakers, just three days after being blown out by 25 points in game one. Orlando would’ve returned to central Florida tied 1-1 with three games to play and a psychological advantage for a young team. The Magic went on to win game three behind a record setting shooting performance before losing in overtime in game four and succumbing to the pressure of elimination in game five. Just imagine playing game five tied at two games and the pressure it would’ve put on the more experienced Lakers or even the Lakers having to hold off a confident, underdog Magic team up 3-2 with two games in L.A. In my opinion, the Magic would’ve finished off the Purple & Gold and completed their improbable run of knocking off three consecutive favorites—2008 defending champion Boston Celtics, MVP LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavs and Kobe’s Lakers—and Dwight Howard, and Stan Van Gundy would still be in Black & Blue.
6.) Firing Stan Van Gundy.
SVG has the best win percentage in Magic history at .657.
SVG was and still is the best overall coach in team history. He has the best win percentage in team history at .657. Letting former General Manager Otis Smith cut SVG lose to appease Dwight Howard may not sting right now, but his coaching style is perfect for young players who are still learning the game. No knock on Jacque Vaughn, but SVG has a college temperament that young players need to maximize their potential. He’s not afraid to get into the face of his players. That’s what guys in their rookie to third year need. I think SVG also needs them to, the Magic were in a youth movement when they brought him in before the 2007-2008 seasons. His style is the reason they went from being swept in the first round (2007 playoffs) to NBA Finals in two seasons. This move will sting again when he resurfaces with another franchise and excels like Doc Rivers.
7.) Not resigning Hedo Turkoglu and trying to replacing him with Vince Carter.
“Turk” won Most Improved Player of the NBA in 2008 as a member of the Orlando Magic.
“Turk” was a matchup nightmare throughout the 2009 Playoffs. His size, playmaking and scoring ability was what led that team to the Finals. Dwight was great in key games—especially against the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals—but remember he missed the first round clincher against the scrappy Philadelphia 76ers and it was the shooting of the Magic that propelled them to a blowout victory of the Celtics in game seven at the “New Garden” also without All Star point guard Jameer Nelson. Who facilitated all that? Turk. Former GM Otis Smith should’ve worked out a favorable two year deal to keep Hedo around while he was in the peak of his prime. Vince Carter was a shell of himself long before he made his “homecoming” to central Florida, that’s why he was shipped off to Phoenix after a season and a half. To make matters worse, Otis Smith brought Turk back, well after his prime, which hurt on the court and financially due to the large contract he received after his spectacular playoff performance.
So there you have it. My most Un-Magical moments in Orlando pro basketball history. I want to hear from you, are there any I missed?