June seems like a such a long time ago right now. Now don't get me wrong, it's not as if the Magic are pushovers in the NBA. After all, most teams would love to be sporting a 24-9 record at this point in the season.
Keep in the mind the number of acquisitions. Vince Carter and Ryan Anderson came to Orlando in a trade. Gortat was retained for a hefty price. Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass, and Jason Williams were all free agents signed by the Orlando Magic.
This particular team is absolutely loaded with talent in addition to the traveling all star squad they sport. A year ago, at the same point in the season the Magic were 26-7 and playing for the best record in the NBA.
So I ask again, where is the Magic? More importantly, where is the defense? The staple of the Magic a season ago may be perceived as a three point shooting team, but bare in mind the Magic finished the season second to none in defensive efficiency.
It all pretty much hangs on Dwight Howard's shoulders. You never want to pin the blame on one guy. But how is it this guy has yet to improve at all on his free throw shooting. In fact, his rookie year he shot 67 percent from the charity stripe. Every year after has been 59 percent, including this season.
As most superstars in the league continue to raise there scoring average each season, Dwight's scoring average has gone down in the each of the past two seasons. He can't even be considered a 20 and 10 guy anymore. Howard's averaging 16.9 points per game on the year.
My biggest fear is Dwight Howard becoming what Jeff George was in the NFL. So must talent, so much potential...and that's all he became.
Is Dwight Howard the best center in the league? Without a doubt, hands down, there is no competition. But is he a superstar or just a really good player? Down the stretch of the game, can you give him the ball in the low post and trust him to not get stripped as he so often does? Can you trust him to knock down the free throws? I just don't know.
Dwight is a physical specimen, he is an absolute beast. But muscle will only take you so far in the NBA. Dwight obviously is hitting the weight room in the off season, but maybe he should take some of that time to work on his low post game or develop a short jumper. Look at what a jump shot did for Amare Stoudemire. Does Dwight have the dedication to improve on the other aspects of his game? Only he can truly answer that question.
One thing is clear, as Dwight goes the Magic go. They are still a very good team, but they clearly are not great. Maybe the expectations were too high. Maybe they became over confident. Maybe they shouldn't have told their coach to be nicer.
There is one thing that separates the good teams from the great teams, discipline. The great teams have the discipline to stay focused regardless of the opponent. The great teams don't take nights off. The great teams don't take plays off. The great teams have the discipline to put together winning streaks throughout the season.
The Celtics and Lakers have each put together winning streaks of 11 games this season. These type of streaks put great teams in a position to fight for home court advantage in the playoffs. A long winning streak of this magnitude is something to Magic have not been able to accomplish.
Stan Van Gundy might need to go back to his Stan Van Grumpy ways. Maybe it's just what this squad needs to regain that swagger, that chip that drove them to the Finals. Just maybe, they'll regain that Magic!