Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic: The Forgotten Power in the NBA
Summer headlines featured "Lebron's Decision!", "Kobe has surgery", and "Kevin Durant brings Gold to USA" and so many more. This summer was the year of the free agent and the realigning of the conferences.
Now the East is filled with supposed power. The "Super Heat", the aging Celtics, and the reloaded Chicago Bulls. Not once this summer, apart from a few ill-publicized signings has anyone spoken about the Orlando Magic.
The Magic are a mere two seasons removed from an appearance in the NBA Finals and sprinted to the Eastern Conference Finals last season before falling to the Celtics.
Led by defensive player of the year Dwight Howard, the Magic has retooled their roster slightly and have fallen into the shadow of the Heat by doing so.
Resigning JJ Redick was really the priority of the summer but Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson came along for the ride as well.
The Magic are now deeper and more talented at skill positions that they weren't at last season. Brandon Bass has had a season to adjust to the system, Duhon is a steady back up for Nelson and Richardson's shooting replaces the inconsistency of Matt Barnes.
The Magic now need stars Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis to revamp their game and lock-down defender Mickael Pietrus to remain healthy.
Carter was surpassed last season in the playoffs after poor play by Redick who finally has created a role for himself in Stan Van Gundy's rotation.
Now Carter has to reinvent his game after his noticeable drop in athleticism. Known for his high flying acts in his youth, Carter will now have to transform much like Kobe Bryant has and learn how to consistently finish at the rim by either posting up smaller opponents or taking advantage of the mid-range jump shot.
Carter still has the talent to do so and with Redick hot on his heels for starting minutes he has the motivation to do so.
The Magic may be the "other" Florida team, but that doesn't mean they're second rate. Howard and company still have all the fire power to reach the NBA Finals again once they choose to do so.
Van Gundy always brings the best out of his teams defensively and with a dominant center like Howard controlling the paint the Magic will continue to be a defensive power in the NBA.
However for the Magic to remain an Eastern Conference power, all of their hopes will fall onto the shoulders of Howard, Lewis, Nelson, and Carter.
The four main options in the high octane offense, the Magic need them to get rolling early and stay focused throughout the season so they are capable of really exploding in the playoffs.
Carter and Nelson are the key players down the stretch as they will have the ball in their hands when the game is on the line. Nelson proved against the Celtics last year that he can carry the Magic on his shoulders and Carter has historically been a clutch performer.
If Carter returns to form and becomes the Magic's replacement for Hedo Turkoglu, something he only managed to do on rare occasions last year.
As long as Howard remains inside however, the Magic will remain on top of the East and a contender for the Eastern Conference crown.
The Magic haven't left Florida, they are merely hiding in the shadows, waiting for their chance to take control.
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