Magic 8 Ball: Eight Burning Questions For The 2009-2010 Orlando Magic
Last season, the Orlando Magic dazzled many by forcing their way into the NBA Finals.
Dwight Howard and crew took out the Boston Celtics, who greatly missed the leadership and size of Kevin Garnett. They then shocked the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, knocking them out of the playoffs and moving forward to the finals.
Eventually, they came up short to Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers, losing the series in five games. This was the second finals defeat in the team's first twenty years.
Now Orlando faces an enormous task, return to the finals and finish the job. The Magic must do so without two of last years starters, Hedo Turkoglu and Courtney Lee. To ease the pressure, Orlando has brought in Vince Carter and the underrated Brandon Bass.
Here are eight questions the the Orlando Magic must address in the coming season. Let's see if they have a few more tricks up their sleeves.
Will Vince Carter work in Orlando?
Vince Carter used to be called "Half Man-Half Amazing". Lately, "Vinsanity" has been more of a question mark.
The man who electrified fans at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest and consistently made runs at the scoring title every year is now viewed as selfish and a complainer.
In Toronto, Carter looked alone and frustrated by his lack of support. Later, in New Jersey, he wasn't the only missing piece on a team that needed front court help desperately. After the Nets got rid of Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson, Carter, again, looked alone on a rebuilding project.
Now he comes to Orlando, a real and relevant contender, with something to prove. Vince has his sights set on an NBA Championship and must realize that the only thing that matters is winning.
Can Dwight Howard do more on offense than dunk?
During the '08/'09 playoffs, ESPN writer Bill Simmons called Dwight Howard "the worst great player ever." Though thrown off by the comment at first, it started to make sense.
True, Howard is a phenom and his numbers are mind boggling, but he tends to fade a bit when the game is on the line.
Dwight needs a go-to move and increase his consistency working the post. With improvements in those areas, he would be a truly dominant force.
Dwight Howard needs to polish his offensive game before he can polish his MVP and championship trophies.
Does Shaq push Cleveland
Shaquille O'Neal was the man in Orlando, who selected him with the first pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. The arrival of Shaq put the Magic on the map and, eventually, in the NBA Finals.
The big man bolted for Los Angeles as soon as the opportunity arose, winning two championships. After a rift developed with Kobe Bryant, it was off to Miami, where the "Diesel" won another ring alongside Dwayne Wade. Soon, Shaq was off to Phoenix, playing for an increasingly irrelevant Suns team.
Now O'Neal is teaming up with LeBron James in Cleveland. The Cavaliers are desperate to win the big one before their window closes, with LeBron up for free agency next year.
Orlando will have to step their game up to compete with the Cavs' sense of urgency.
Can Jameer Nelson stay healthy?
Jameer Nelson went down last February with a labrum tear in his right shoulder. Believed to be a season ending injury, Orlando went out and picked up Rafer Alston, aka "Skip To My Lou". Alston filled in well, but the Magic brought Nelson back in time to play against LA in the Finals.
Nelson's return seemed to be too little, too late. Some of the team chemistry was lacking and Orlando was unable to defeat the Lakers.
Rafer Alston was included in the trade that brought Vince Carter to O-Town, leaving only aging Anthony Johnson and Jason Williams to back up Nelson.
The Magic are going to need as much Jameer Nelson as they can get this year.
Is Stan Van Gundy a championship coach?
Good coaches win games, great coaches win championships. That was the sentiment in Miami when SVG, along with D. Wade and Shaq, came up short in the finals. Stan Van was let go the following season and Pat Riley took the reigns. The Heat went on to win a championship that season.
That in mind, let's see how long of a leash Stan Van Gundy is given this season.
How much will Hedo Turkoglu be missed?
Hedo Turkoglu, aka "Turkish Jordan", turned his career around in Orlando, winning Comeback Player of the Year honors and playing a major role in last years playoff run.
In search of a bigger contract, Hedo tested the market in the offseason. Turkoglu announced he would be signing with Portland before really signing with the Toronto Raptors.
Orlando is left to figure out how to replace a 6'11 sharpshooter. The answer may be free agent acquisition Brandon Bass. The team has plenty of scoring options and looks to improve on the other end of the floor.
Are the Magic really better than the Boston Celtics?
A lot of folks believe that Orlando wouldn't have made it past Boston in their seven game playoff series had Kevin Garnett been healthy. Celtics' Paul Pierce even went on the record calling the Magic "poodles".
We will see who the real "big dogs" are as KG returns to action this season after recovering from a serious knee strain.
As added insurance, Boston signed Rasheed Wallace from Detroit. Wallace provides size, depth and passion (how ever misguided it may be).
Garnett must be watched to see if he returns to 100% health and can spark the Celtics team this season.
Does the role of Rashard Lewis increase?
Rashard Lewis was brought to Orlando from Seattle to provide an extra scoring option. With Hedo Turkoglu headed north of the border, the Magic need 'Shard more than ever.
Lewis, along with Mickael Pietrus, seemed to be, somewhat, underused in last summer's playoffs. Both stepped up big when the game was on the line.
Let's see how Rashard Lewis handles an increased workload now that Orlando needs him more than ever.