Orlando Magic 2012-13 Schedule: Monthly Breakdown and W-L Predictions

Brett David RobertsCorrespondent IJuly 29, 2012

Orlando Magic 2012-13 Schedule: Monthly Breakdown and W-L Predictions

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    The Orlando Magic are a team clearly in transition.  This summer, they not only fired Stan Van Gundy in an attempt to please the indecisive Dwight Howard, but also sent GM Otis Smith packing.

    New GM Rob Hennigan inherits a complete mess.  He's saddled with the responsibility of trading Dwight Howard, and he recently brought in a new coach in Jacque Vaughn.  Fans and analysts alike have already criticized Hennigan for his lack of decisiveness in finding a deal for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.  But that is to be expected.  

    There have been numerous appealing packages offered to the Magic, but none of them seem to be exactly what Hennigan wants, and he realizes patience may in fact pay off if he holds onto Dwight until the trade deadline in February.  The fact that we don't know when Dwight Howard will be traded makes an analysis of their wins and losses difficult, since it is difficult to predict such a vast change at the drop of a Magic hat.  

    What kind of rabbit will Hennigan pull out of that hat?

    I'm not sure he even cares.  He's more interested in compiling draft picks than acquiring someone like Andrew Bynum, and he seems determined to run the team into the ground for a true and complete rebuild, to make a series of moves that would render the team so poor that they would have a shot at the No. 1 overall draft pick, with the opportunity to land the likes of Cody Zeller, Nerlens Noel, Shabazz Muhammad and James McAdoo, all of whom are projected to be the top four picks according to popular draft site NBADraft.net.

    Nonetheless, we're going to proceed under the following assumption: Dwight Howard will get traded the 23rd of February, as that is ordinarily around the time of the trade deadline.  

    That said, let's take a look at how this season may pan out for the Magic.

November Schedule

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    Friday, November 2nd vs. Denver

    Sunday, November 4th vs. Phoenix

    Tuesday, November 6th at Chicago

    Wednesday, November 7th at Minnesota

    Friday, November 9th vs. Brooklyn

    Tuesday, November 13th vs. New York

    Friday, November 16th at Detroit

    Sunday, November 18th at Toronto

    Monday, November 19th at Atlanta

    Wednesday, November 21st vs. Detroit

    Friday, November 23rd vs. Cleveland

    Sunday, November 25th vs. Boston

    Wednesday, November 28th vs. San Antonio

    Friday, November 30th vs. Brooklyn

Key November Games

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    1) Brooklyn (x3): Friday, November  9th at Home, Sunday, November 11th at Brooklyn and Friday, November 30th at Home

    The Nets are looking to be one of the contending teams in the East, and these games will serve as the first true measuring stick of where Magic may stand in relation to the best teams in the East. 

    The Nets have a talented cast and one of the best starting lineups in the league, after re-signing both Gerald Wallace and Deron Williams and bringing aboard former Hawks perennial All-Star Joe Johnson. 

    Add to this equation a healthy Brook Lopez and an emerging MarShon Brooks, and the Magic have a recipe for these games to be blowouts in the Nets' favor.  

    Jameer Nelson has always struggled with bigger point guards, and the 6'3" Williams fits the bill.  Joe Johnson also will give the aged Jason Richardson a lot of trouble, as Richardson no longer has the lateral foot speed nor strength in his knees to cover the more clever ball-handlers at the shooting guard position. 

    The perimeter defense will be a problem for the Magic, as it consistently has been, but coach Jacque Vaughn must stress the importance of it for the Magic to thrive without Dwight Howard.

    I firmly expect the Magic to lose by double digits in at least two of the three games.

     

    2) Wednesday, November 28th vs. San Antonio Spurs

    The Spurs appeared to be headed to the NBA Finals last season after sweeping both the Jazz and Clippers in the first two rounds of the playoffs. 

    They were eventually thwarted by Kevin Durant and the Thunder, after taking a 2-0 series lead and then proceeding to drop four straight.  

    But that doesn't mean they aren't still a contender.

    Dwight Howard had one of his best career plays against Tim Duncan and the Spurs (see video), and will be looking to prove himself against Duncan, DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner (if you can read Bonner without laughing, you're a bigger man than I). 

    While we know Howard wants out of Orlando, his play did not suffer throughout the circus show last year, and I'm going to assume that he stays focused on what matters:  basketball. 

    That's really the only way you can approach a win-loss prediction, as intangible factors such as motivation and effort are difficult both to predict and to measure.

     

    3)  Sunday, November 25th vs. Boston Celtics

    The Magic have had a long-standing rivalry with the Celtics dating back to the 2007-08 season, when the Celtics brought their Big Three together.  The players have openly feuded, and tension has remained high. 

    The Magic defeated the Celtics in Game 7 in the 2009 playoffs, as the Magic went on to make their first Finals appearance since 1995.

    Boston will stand in the way again, most likely, for the Magic to make a return trip to the Finals (something that seems quite unlikely given that the team is rebuilding). 

    Jameer Nelson did not play in the series—he was still out with a shoulder injury—and it may have been a boon to the Magic that such was the case.  Nelson has perpetually struggled with the speed and length of Rajon Rondo, and this game will be no exception.  

    Expect the Celtics to set the tone early and continue to jump all over the Magic, just as they did when they held the Magic to a franchise-low 56 points in an 87-56 victory on January 23rd, 2012.  In that game, the Magic shot an absurd 24.6 percent from the floor with even Dwight Howard missing 11 of his 15 shots.

     

    November W-L Prediction:  8-7

    Wins:  Phoenix, New York, Detroit (x2), Toronto, Atlanta, Cleveland, Brooklyn (third matchup)

    Losses:  Denver, Chicago, Minnesota, Brooklyn (x2), Boston, San Antonio

Preview and Predictions for the Month of November

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of November: Jameer Nelson vs. Kyrie Irving

    This is more about what Kyrie Irving can do than what Jameer Nelson has done and will continue to do. 

    Irving set the bar high for himself after winning the Rookie of the Year award last season while averaging 18.5 points per game and 5.4 assists per game as a rookie. He also shot a stellar 46.9 percent from the floor.  

    Nelson has typically struggled with bigger point guards, and Irving is listed at 6'2", while Nelson himself is listed at a very generous 6'0" (Truthfully, he is about 5'9"). 

    Irving has size, speed and skill over Nelson, and this matchup is more about seeing just how badly Irving abuses Nelson, with the obvious implication that Hennigan may see what Otis Smith and Stan Van Gundy did not and trade the St. Joe's product.

     

    The Magic Have the Best-Case Scenario in November If…

    The Magic take advantage of the poor teams that they do play.  They play eight lottery teams, though several are vastly improved due to returning players (Minnesota, with Ricky Rubio) or a strong effort through free agency (Brooklyn, three times). 

    The Magic must beat the teams they are supposed to beat since they play so many difficult teams in November.  Even the Bulls without Derrick Rose will pose a serious threat to the Magic, so it's important that they beat the likes of Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit—three of the worst teams in the entire league.

     

    The Magic Have the Worst-Case Scenario in November If…

    Dwight Howard is traded.  I know I can say this about any month in this slideshow, but it clearly impacts the future of the Magic when they deal the disgruntled big man. 

    At any point, these predictions could take a serious turn if D12 finally ends his "Indecision" and allows the Magic to trade him to the team offering the best package and stops his nonsense about not being willing to sign an extension no matter where he lands.

December Schedule

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    Sunday, December 2nd at L.A. Lakers

    Monday, December 3rd at Golden State

    Wednesday, December 5th at Utah

    Friday, December 7th at Sacramento

    Sunday, December 9th at Phoenix

    Wednesday, December 12th vs. Atlanta

    Friday, December 14th vs. Golden State

    Saturday, December 15th at Charlotte

    Monday, December 17th vs. Minnesota

    Wednesday, December 19th vs. Washington

    Friday, December 21st at Toronto

    Sunday, December 23rd vs. Utah

    Wednesday, December 26th vs. New Orleans

    Friday, December 28th at Washington

    Saturday, December 29th vs. Toronto

    Monday, December 31st vs. Miami

Key December Games

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    1) Sunday, December 2nd, vs. L.A. Lakers

    There had been discussion over the offseason of a deal that would send Dwight Howard to the L.A. Lakers in a complicated trade that may have involved the Cleveland Cavaliers taking on Andrew Bynum while shipping out valuable lottery picks to the Magic. 

    The drama surrounding this game will have more to do with Dwight Howard's trade situation and far less to do with who actually wins the game.

     

    2) Golden State (x2):  Monday, December 3rd at Home and Friday, December 14th at Golden State

    Why is this game of any importance?  Have the Warriors ever been that relevant?

    No, not really.  But they are about to be. 

    The Warriors lack depth but make up for it with what could be one of the best young starting fives in the league.  They dealt Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks for the perpetually injured Andrew Bogut, but if Bogut can stay on the court (not to mention starting point guard Stephen Curry with his bum ankle), the Warriors will have a tough team inside and out.

     

    Consider This (Incomplete) Depth Chart

    • PG- Stephen Curry / Jarrett Jack
    • SG- Klay Thompson / Brandon Rush
    • SF- Richard Jefferson
    • PF- David Lee
    • C- Andrew Bogut / Andris Biedrins

    That eight-man rotation could potentially be as good as most of the Western Conference. 

    Will it contend?  Unlikely.  But it will give the Magic an idea of how to rebuild, as the Warriors had been in free fall since the 2007 playoffs when they upset the Dallas Mavericks as the No. 8 seed in the first round. 

    The Magic have a lot to learn from this example, and Thompson should be an interesting prospect to watch.  He made Monta Ellis expendable, and at 22 years of age, he has a bright future ahead of himself after averaging 18.5 points per-36 minutes as a rookie.

     

    December W-L Prediction:  8-8

    Wins:  Jazz (x2), Kings, Hawks, Bobcats, Wizards (x2), Raptors (home)

    Losses:  Lakers, Warriors (x2), Suns, Timberwolves, Hornets, Raptors (road), Heat

Preview and Predictions for December

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of December: Andrew Bynum vs. Dwight Howard

    Though Howard has consistently dominated Bynum, it is still a square-off between the best center in the league in Howard and the runner-up. 

    The thing is, the difference between first and second here is almost enough to render the comparison invalid.  

    Bynum has the tools to be as good as Howard, but he lacks the natural athleticism and fluidity that allows Howard to dominate in the post. 

    Howard is more explosive, is stronger and can jump much higher.  It's always posed problems for Bynum, and this game will serve as a reminder to Rob Hennigan that he has made the right decision in not accepting Bynum in return for Howard as the main chip in any potential trade with the Lakers.

     

    The Magic Have the Best-Case Scenario in December If…

    They continue to showcase Dwight Howard.  As long as Howard isn't sulking and being "Vince Carter, the center version," we're going to have to believe the No. 1 priority is proving that Howard's back is healthy enough for teams to roll the dice on renting him, since he doesn't seem open to outright agreeing to an extension. 

    Howard has said he wants to explore free agency. Bully to him, but in the meantime, the Magic are going to have to show the league that Howard is healthy and productive in order to net the maximum value in any potential trade.

     

    The Magic Have the Worst-Case Scenario in December If…

    Dwight Howard gets injured and has to undergo surgery.  Yes, I realize this could just as easily happen in November, or even any month following December, but by mid-December the wear and tear of the NBA season will begin to take hold on both Howard and his teammates.  Injuries start to appear. 

    The Magic need to remain injury-free to give themselves the ultimate flexibility when it is time to pull the trigger on the Howard deal.

January Schedule

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    Wednesday, January 2nd vs. Chicago

    Saturday, January 5th vs. New York

    Monday, January 7th at Portland

    Wednesday, January 9th at Denver

    Saturday, January 12th at L.A. Clippers

    Monday, January 14th at Washington

    Wednesday, January 16th vs. Indiana

    Friday, January 18th vs. Charlotte

    Sunday, January 20th vs. Dallas

    Tuesday, January 22nd at Detroit

    Thursday, January 24th vs. Toronto

    Sunday, January 27th vs. Detroit

    Monday, January 28th at Brooklyn

    Wednesday, January 30th at New York

Key January Games

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    1)  Saturday, January 12th, vs. L.A. Clippers

    The Clippers are now not only exciting, they are also very good. 

    We're talking about a team that was considered by many experts to have a legitimate chance at contending until veteran combo guard Chauncey Billups went down and necessitated the acquisition of a far inferior gunner in Nick Young. 

    Losing Billups' leadership and outside shooting crippled the Clippers far more than most expected.

    This game will be a good measuring stick for some of the young talent on the Magic.  J.J. Redick will get a chance to further his defensive efforts against Billups, and Andrew Nicholson will be tested by the highest leaper in the NBA in Dunk Contest champion Blake Griffin.  

    This game won't mean quite as much as if the Clippers were an Eastern Conference foe, but the matchups involved will be worth keeping an eye on, and DeAndre Jordan will undoubtedly push his luck against Dwight Howard (assuming, again, Howard is still on the Magic), as he is one of the few with the size and athleticism to go toe to toe with Howard at the rim.

     

    2) Wednesday, January 6th vs. Indiana Pacers

    This will be the Magic's first shot at revenge against an Indiana team that knocked them out of the first round of the 2012 playoffs in only five games. 

    The Magic were, of course, without Dwight Howard, and while Glen "Don't Call Me Big Baby" Davis stepped up beyond what we even knew he was capable of, the Magic had no chance of beating a Pacers team that has as much depth as most of the premier teams in the league.  

    Whether Dwight Howard even cares to look at this as a revenge matchup after sitting the entire series out is a matter of debate, but that's a debate I couldn't care less about.  Magic fans want Howard out as badly as he wants out himself at this point.

     

    January W-L Prediction: 7-7

    Wins:  Chicago, New York (at home), Washington, Charlotte, Detroit (x2), Toronto

    Losses:  Portland, Denver, L.A. Clippers, Indiana, Dallas, Brooklyn, New York (road)

Preview and Predictions for January

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of January: Tyson Chandler vs. Dwight Howard

    The Magic face the Knicks twice in January, and these could be among the last games for Dwight Howard in a Magic uniform, with the February trade deadline beginning to near. 

    Tyson Chandler won Defensive Player of the Year last season (somehow, he was left off the All-NBA First Defensive team) and held Dwight Howard to 12 and eight points, respectively, in their two meetings. 

    How many centers are capable of keeping Howard that well under wraps?  Clearly, Chandler deserved not only the award but also to be on the first team instead of Howard.  This game could be a statement game for Chandler and the Knicks.

     

    The Magic Will Have the Best-Case Scenario If…

    The offers for Howard begin pouring in so that Hennigan has time to deliberate which offer is the best. 

    Let's face it:  This season is not as much about competing as it is finding the best deal for Howard.  The Magic are going to be a middling team with or without Howard at this point, so let's not pretend that wins and losses are all that there is in the equation at this point. 

    Hennigan will be more focused on seeing what deals he can get for Howard than even evaluating the play of the Magic as a team.

     

    The Magic Will Have the Worst-Case Scenario If…

    Again, silly—but if Dwight Howard gets injured.  The Magic have to hope his back is healthy and he is in top form in the month of January.  Any signs of weakness will severely damage his trade value and could even potentially result in no trade occurring at all, leaving Howard to walk in the offseason as the Magic receive nothing in return. 

    If Jacque Vaughn is smart (or more to the point, follows Hennigan's orders), he'll limit Howard's minutes in the weeks approaching the February trade deadline.

February Schedule

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    Friday, February 1st at Boston

    Saturday, February 2nd at Milwaukee

    Monday, February 4th at Philadelphia

    Wednesday, February 6th vs. L.A. Clippers

    Friday, February 8th at Cleveland

    Sunday, February 10th vs. Portland

    Wednesday, February 13th vs. Atlanta

    Tuesday, February 19th vs. Charlotte

    Wednesday, February 20th at Dallas

    Friday, February 22nd. at Memphis

    Saturday, February 23rd vs. Cleveland

    Tuesday, February 26th at Philadelphia

    Wednesday, February 27th vs. Sacramento

Key February Games

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    1)  Friday, February 1st at Boston

    This will be the second matchup against the Celtics after facing them at home on November 25th. 

    By this time, the Magic's fate will be a little clearer.

    At this point in the season, I've predicted a record of 23-22.  Yes, without Ryan Anderson and with Hedo Turkoglu only getting worse, the Magic are destined to be a .500 team, even with a disgruntled Dwight Howard aboard still working the glass for putbacks and blocking shots.  

    The distraction Howard provides will make it difficult to focus on the better teams, and this game against Boston has "disaster" spelled all over it. 

    Not only  have the Magic had immense troubles with Boston in the past, but now they'll be dealing with the media circus and speculation surrounding Howard.  In no uncertain terms, this game could be a very lopsided victory for the Celts.

     

    2)  Friday, February 22nd, at Memphis

    This will be one of only two games against the Memphis Grizzlies.  

    The importance?  For starters, the Magic never faced Memphis in last year's shortened season, so it will be interesting for Magic fans to get a look at what life could be like without Dwight Howard (assuming he is dealt just before this game) against a team with a tough interior offense and defense.  

    Andrew Nicholson and Glen Davis will be tested immensely by All-Star forward Zach Randolph, and the likely starting center Gustavo Ayon will have a lot to prove against a top-tier center like Marc Gasol.  

    Basically, at this point, we're rolling with the assumption Howard will be gone.  That gives all matchups from this point onwards a different significance, as the rebuilding effort will be underway. 

    As for the Magic's speculative roster at this point in the season, your guess is as good as mine, or anyone else's.

     

    3)  Tuesday, February 26th vs. Philadelphia

    I'd like to call this game a rematch of the 2009 first-round series in which the Magic defeated the 76ers 4-2, but the rosters are so radically different that to make such a claim would be absurd. 

    What has happened since then?

    Quite simply, the 76ers have continued to get better, while the Magic have steadily deteriorated since that time.  This game, likely one of the first couple in the post-Howard era, will serve as a painful reminder to fans that the Magic are rebuilding while the Sixers are simply building, possibly towards something special.  

    The Sixers took down the top-seeded Bulls in the 2012 playoffs (albeit without '10-11 MVP Derrick Rose) and will look to build on last season's success as teams begin to make their final adjustments post-trade deadline and prepare for the playoffs.

     

    February W-L Projection:  4-9

    Wins: Cleveland (x2), Charlotte, Sacramento

    Losses: Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, L.A. Clippers, Portland, Atlanta, Dallas, Memphis, Philadelphia

February Previews and Predictions

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    Best One-on-One Matchup: Gustavo Ayon vs. Kwame Brown

    You probably think I'm joking, but I'm actually not. 

    Ayon is going to be the starting center at this point in the season, unless Howard is kept and left to walk or another capable center is brought in to replace him. 

    Ayon is a good player and a hard worker, and he came into the league as a 27-year-old rookie, already very seasoned.  

    Ayon's per-36 stats from last season are 10.6 points per game, 8.8 rebounds per game and 1.5 blocks per contest.  Now that he'll be receiving starter's minutes, this game will be a chance to see what he is capable of against a bad center like Kwame Brown.  

    It's hardly a marquee matchup, but at the same time, the importance of it cannot be underestimated.  Remember:  We're talking about a rebuilding team at this point, and victory may sometimes be found not in the final score, but rather in the pieces that are coming together to form the future.

     

    The Magic Will Have the Best-Case Scenario If...

    The young talent begins to get playing time and come together.  By this point in the season, it will be clear that the Magic cannot make the playoffs with their current roster. It will clear the way for seldom-used young players to see some time on the court.  

    The likes of Earl Clark and Daniel Orton (provided they are a part of the team at this point) may see their most significant minutes since their NCAA days. 

    Justin Harper may get meaningful minutes as well and attempt to showcase his shooting skills that made him an early second-round selection (32nd overall) in 2011.  

    The Magic will also look to showcase any young talent they receive in return for Howard, naturally.  This best-case scenario centers more around developing players than actually winning games, sadly enough for the loyal fans that will continue to pack the Amway.

     

    The Magic Will Have the Worst-Case Scenario If…

    Dwight Howard is still on the team.  It seems everyone in Orlando, and even around the league for that matter, is sick of hearing about Howard and his wishy-washy attitudes toward the Magic and free agency in general. 

    Everyone at this point will be long past the point at which "Good riddance" suffices.  Only the most delusional fans even entertain the idea of Howard remaining in Orlando, and even they may be tired of the selfish superstar by this point in the year.

March Schedule

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    Friday, March 1st vs. Houston

    Sunday, March 3rd vs. Memphis

    Monday, March 4th at New Orleans

    Wednesday, March 6th at Miami

    Friday, March 8th vs. Indiana

    Sunday, March 10th vs. Philadelphia

    Tuesday, March 12th vs. L.A. Lakers

    Friday, March 15th at Oklahoma City

    Sunday, March 17th at Milwaukee

    Tuesday, March 19th at Indiana

    Wednesday, March 20th at New York

    Friday, March 22nd vs. Oklahoma City

    Wednesday, March 27th vs. Charlotte

    Friday, March 29th vs. Washington

    Saturday, March 30th vs. Atlanta

Key March Games

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    1)  Friday, March 1st vs. Houston Rockets

    This game may be very significant. 

    It could be Dwight Howard's return to the Amway.  It could be his chance to be booed so hard he breaks down into tears and begins to rue the manner in which he jerked around Orlando fans and management.  

    The Rockets have been one of the teams interested in "renting" Howard for the season in the hopes that they can re-sign him. 

    Again, games at this point won't matter much for the Magic, with the playoffs more or less counted out, but what will matter is booing Howard, assuming Houston is his destination.  

    Houston has put together the best package to date for Howard, offering all three of their 2012 first-round draft picks (Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones), Marcus Morris (2011 first-round pick), Patrick Patterson, second-year standout Chandler Parsons and the expiring contract of veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin.

    As to why Hennigan didn't jump all over this offer when it was reported by Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN just about two weeks ago on July 14th is a mysterious matter in and of itself. 

    I don't know what Hennigan is waiting for, because a better offer will not emerge.  That said, it seems quite likely this game could be Howard's return to the Amway.

     

    2)  Friday, March 15th vs. OKC and Friday, March 22nd at OKC

    Sadly, the importance of these two games against the defending Western Conference champs are more about seeing how bad the Magic have become in the post-Howard era. 

    They could barely compete with the Thunder with Howard, so without him it should be a painful couple of games to watch.  It will be a reminder to Magic fans that rebuilding will take quite a few seasons. 

    It will be a while before the Magic can match up against elite teams like Oklahoma City again.

     

    March W-L Projection: 4-12

    Wins:  Milwaukee, Charlotte, Washington, Atlanta

    Losses:  Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, Miami, Indiana, Philadelphia, L.A. Lakers, Oklahoma City (x2), Indiana, New York, Miami

March Previews and Predictions

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    Best One-on-One Matchup: Hedo Turkoglu vs. Kevin Durant

    Really, this should be quite funny. 

    Hedo's deterioration has been pronounced and accelerated since the 2009 season, while Durant is a three-time scoring champ and, at the age of 22, only getting better. 

    There's absolutely no way that Hedo holds Durant under 40, and the Magic are going to have no answer for him at all, especially without Dwight Howard lurking to cover the blunders of Turkoglu and others. 

    There is, of course, the possibility that the Magic have already dumped Turk by this time as part of the Howard deal, but when it comes to this year's Magic team, we're working with so many unknowns.

     

    The Magic Will Have the Best-Case Scenario If…

    They can manage even five victories.  They face 10 playoff teams from last year in the 16 games.  This is the toughest month of the schedule, and it is coming in the post-Howard era, most likely. 

    Fans, be prepared to be depressed.

     

    The Magic Will Have the Worst-Case Scenario If…

    They go on a 10-plus game losing streak.  The funny thing, of course, is that this isn't really as worst-case scenario as much as it is quite likely.

April Schedule

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    Monday, April 1st at Houston

    Wednesday, April 3rd at San Antonio

    Friday, April 5th at Chicago

    Sunday, April 7th at Cleveland

    Wednesday, April 10th vs. Milwaukee

    Saturday, April 13th vs. Boston

    Monday, April 15th vs. Chicago

    Wednesday, April 17th at Miami

Key April Games

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    1)  Monday, April 1st at Houston

    This game is important for the same reason as the home matchup. 

    They could be entering Dwight's new house and seeing firsthand the effect that D12 has on a defense that Kevin McHale has already coached to be very good.  

     

    2)  Wednesday, April 17th at Miami

    This will be the last game of the season, and it is quite likely that Miami sits out their Big Three, so it will give the Magic a chance to close out a horrible season with a moral victory. 

    Hours after the game, fans will begin wonder just who might be available for the Magic to snag with their lottery pick.

     

    Projected W-L Record: 1-7

    Wins:  Cleveland 

    Losses:  Houston, San Antonio, Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, Chicago, Miami

April Previews and Predictions

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    Best One-on-One Matchup: Andrew Nicholson vs. Tim Duncan

    Welcome to the NBA, rook. 

    Tim Duncan has been around the block enough times that Nicholson should be able to take some notes and go to school. 

    From reports coming out of summer league, Nicholson sports an impressive mid-range jumper and good footwork, something that has made Duncan a four-time champion.  If Nicholson wants to succeed in the NBA, he'll be wise to learn from the example of a player who is arguably the best power forward in NBA history.

     

    The Magic Will Have the Best-Case Scenario If…

    They can go .500 this month and give fans hope leading into next year.

     

    The Magic Will Have the Worst-Case Scenario If…

    They end the season on a poor note and lose to the remaining poor teams on their schedule, demoralizing fans and players alike.

Conclusion: It's Going to Be a Long Season Once Dwight Howard Departs

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    Record at All-Star Break: 25-27

    Full Season Record: 37-52

    As you can see, the Magic's season hinges upon when they trade Dwight Howard. 

    It makes these predictions pretty precarious, but it is going to be a season of transition, chaos and discord for the Magic. As I wrote previously, I don't envy new Magic head coach Jacque Vaughn at all.

    It's going to be challenging for Vaughn and management to rebuild the team and keep fans patient. 

    The Amway Center provides enough great restaurants and bars to keep people coming, but the crowds may begin to thin out after the Magic go a predicted 12-25 after the All-Star break.

    Times will be rough for Magic fans, but they've been through it before in 1995, when Shaquille O'Neal bolted, and the franchise eventually reached the Finals again 14 years later. 

    Still, you can bet fans are hoping there won't be such a drought before the Magic battle for the Larry O'Brien trophy again.