It wasn't long ago that the Magic were sitting comfortably in the third spot in the Eastern Conference. As the season winds down, they now find themselves in the sixth seed and missing out on home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Howard has been all over the place with regard to his commitment to the death. After finally deciding to stick around for the rest of this season and next by terminating his waiver option, Howard brought more drama into the organization by reportedly asking for his head coach, Stan Van Gundy, to be fired at the conclusion of the season.
Whether true or not, the request is quite bizarre considering that Howard shouldn't be making those decisions, as well as the fact that there are still over 10 games to be played this season. This is the type of move that can destroy team chemistry.
In a sense, by declaring that he wants Van Gundy replaced for next season, Howard has already given up on the team this season. If he really wants Van Gundy gone, he knows that the Magic can't have too much success in the playoffs.
When the playoffs come around, the Magic are going to need to band together and rally around Howard and Stan Van Gundy. With his commitment less than stable, it's hard to see Howard being able to hold it together and put his trust in Van Gundy enough to have success in the playoffs.
With all the drama between Howard and Van Gundy, in addition to the back spasms that cost Howard two games, the Magic are in deep trouble come playoff time. Their Superman has exposed all his weaknesses throughout the season, basketball or otherwise.
At 15-12, the Magic are one of the better road teams in the conference. So going on the road in the first round of playoffs doesn't exactly equal a death signature. If the playoffs started today, the Magic would open up on the road against the Indiana Pacers. It's a matchup that would seem to favor the Magic, as they won the season series 3-1. They also won both games played in Indianapolis.
A first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics is also quite possible at this point. This matchup could mean an early exit for the Magic. It will be tough for a team lacking in chemistry to beat the Celtics' chemistry and experience come playoff time.
As they showed for much of the season, the Magic are capable of going as far Howard will take them in the playoffs. For much of the year, they appeared to be just footsteps behind the powerhouses Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. There seemed to be some distance between the top three and the rest of the pack. That space has disappeared, and the Magic have dissolved into the rest of the pack. They are more than capable of climbing out and rising through to have success, but, ultimately, Dwight Howard will fail the team—if he hasn't already done so.
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