Even when Tim Donaghy isn't refereeing games, NBA fans are constantly cheated. It's easy to accept the notion that fans shouldn't blame their team's shortcomings on injuries, but doesn't it seem a bit unreasonable?
For instance, no one remembers that in 2001, the only odd year of the decade that the San Antonio Spurs failed to win a championship, their title hopes were devastated by dirty play by Juwan Howard, who committed an unnecessary flagrant foul on Derek Anderson in a blowout loss. People seem to not recall that Derek Anderson was a key part of that team. In fact, on a team with David Robinson and Tim Duncan, he was the second leading scorer.
Or how about the two years later, when Kevin Garnett shook his T-Macitis and finally led his team out of the first round and into the conference finals? The MVP that year did everything he could against a Laker team that was stacked with four future Hall of Famers. And though people might remember that Sam Cassel was hurt, don't forget that their back up point guard with the Ricky Williams-type dreadlocks, Troy Hudson was injured, as well.
The team's starting point guard by the end of the series was Darrick Martin. I know Kevin Garnett was elated last year when the basketball gods finally made it up to him last season, but contrary to what he said to Michelle Tafoya after winning a ring, I'm sure even he didn't believe winning with Martin getting crucial minutes was possible.
Sometimes I wish we could just turn off injuries like we were playing Live 09, instead of accepting the cliche that "it's simply part of the game."
The '09 Orlando Magic are nothing like the two aforementioned teams, except for the fact that they do sport a great record.
Many attribute their growth this season to fifth-year veteran Jameer Nelson. Yes, Nelson, the same dude who was drafted in 2004 behind the likes of Luke Jackson and Sebastian Telfair, has developed into more than just a legitimate starting point guard. His play this season practically forced coaches to vote him in as an All Star reserve.
However, seemingly right after the St. Joe's product accepted the huge honor, he found himself on injured reserve for the rest of the season. But don't let it injure your thought process, hoop fans.
With or without Jameer Nelson, the Orlando Magic had their work cut out for them. OK. enough stalling, let me get straight to the point:
There is no way that Dwight Howard and friends could have made it through the eastern conference regardless.
Point to their impressive record and ability to win on the road, and I'll point you to the Phoenix Suns of the past four years. Contest that the Suns relied too heavily on offense, and I'll respond that this Magic team still relies too heavily on the three-point shot.
When teams with great defensive bigs such as Detroit Boston and Cleveland (Ben Wallace, Rasheed, Kendrick Perkins) simply decide that they're not going to double team the post, those open three pointers that have been your bread and butter all season have suddenly turned into contested jump shots.
The Magic have great shooters on the perimeter, but when their shot is not falling, they are doomed. And even though Jameer Nelson had improved his handle and ability to create for others this season, their best playmaker is probably a 6-10 small forward who barely shoots more than 40 percent from the field. I really like Hedo Turkoglu's game, but let's play with this image.
Game seven of the eastern conference semi-finals. There is ten seconds left and you're down two. Which players' hands do you want to put the ball in?
A) Lebron James
B) Paul Pierce
C) Hedo Turkoglu
Remember because of his inability to hit free throws, Dwight Howard is basically rendered out of this situation. I didn't even mention potential first-round opponents like Joe Johnson, or Allen Iverson.
The Magic were destined for disappointment regardless of injuries. It will be interesting to see whether they make like the Rockets and Wizards and wait senselessly till their stars are completely healthy or if they try to get more pieces to make a legitimate title run in 2010.
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