I recently told my dad, 'mark my words, Dwight Howard is staying in Orlando' (oops, I blew the surprise of the first slide! D'oh!). He shook his head and, sarcastically said, 'okay, I'll mark your words. First athlete in history to stay with his team and not for the money'.
I returned his scoff with a double scoff and a loud 'harumpf' and walked off. As I drove home from my parent's house, with only my two year old in the backseat to hear my ramblings, I started thinking about 2012. Ya know, the year where me and John Cusack watch as the Orlando Magic cracks in half and sucks up a whole city into the ground?
Anyways, I put together some bold predictions. I'm used to losing and making crazy predictions (just ask my fantasy baseball league. We play for lunches every week. I always pay) so here it goes. . .
Yeah, I already said it. But I'll say it again: Dwight Howard is staying.
Why?, you very reasonably ask. Well, despite reactionary opinion, the Magic have done a fantastic job building around Dwight Howard since he came into the league.
This year's trades were a mistake. Everyone knows it and it set the Magic back by three rounds in the playoffs and seven wins.
But before that, the Magic were aggressive with trades and free agency and the Magic essentially kept going up as Howard grew with the team.
- 2003/04: 21 wins (no Howard)
- 2004/05: 36 wins
- 2005/06: 36 wins, just missed playoffs
- 2006/07: 40 wins, 1st round appearance
- 2007/08: 52 wins, 2nd round appearance
- 2008/09: 59 wins, NBA Finals appearance
- 2009/10: 59 wins, ECF appearance
Everyone is bound to have a rough year and that was 2011 for Dwight Howard and the Magic.
If Howard is smart he'll stay because the Magic have experimented with lineups and trades and are dedicated to building a championship, not JUST another winning team that's exciting but unsuccessful in the playoffs. Trust me, there is a difference.
And he'll leave because he is told to go.
I love Van Gundy. He is the greatest coach in Orlando Magic history and a funny dude. But it's either him or Otis Smith and I like Otis Smith a lot.
Smith is NEVER going to stop experimenting until he gets the right mix. This, as noted by Van Gundy himself, doesn't suit Stan the Man. He likes consistency. But what he forgets is that the Magic have been quite consistent for years despite the shakeups.
Van Gundy will no doubt continue delivering 50+ win seasons to Orlando but teams are slowly starting to pick up on his schemes.
As a Magic fan, if I told you in December that the Magic would have a first round matchup with the Atlanta Hawks I'd grab a napkin to wipe up all your drool. Now it's May and the Hawks are still playing.
Every top seeded team, save Mike Brown's Cavaliers, have got their revenge on Van Gundy the following year in the playoffs. Doc Rivers smacked Van Gundy in the face in 2010 after losing in '09. The Hawks, granted, with different coaches, reviewed the tape and defeated Van Gundy and the Magic soundly.
And it was a rookie coach no less.
No. Van Gundy's time it coming. . .only to be replaced by. . .
I know, I know. He said he was retiring. We've heard this before. But, mark my words!, there are those pesky words again, Phil Jackson will coach the Orlando Magic.
Why, you ask whilst shaking your head?
Because. I said so! And:
- If the Magic are going to pay $40 million for JJ Redick, they'll pay big time cash for Phil.
- When asked in 2009 who Jackson wanted to start a franchise with if he had the opportunity, LeBron James or Rajon Rondo, Jackson said 'Dwight Howard'.
- It's the next step in his career. Jackson was partly responsible for making Chicago a vital championship city. He maximized Shaq's abilities and made LA not only relevant again, but dominant. And he did the same thing again with Kobe in the late 2000s. Imagine what he could do for a dominant but still-forming superstar like Howard?
To me this makes the most sense. The Magic have a lot of good trade options to give to New Orleans (Jameer Nelson, Brandon Bass, JJ Redick or other variations) and they can not only get Paul but, perhaps, that back up true-center the Magic desperately need.
How ironic would it be if presumed Magic #1 pick Emeka Okafor ended up on the Magic?
With a freshly signed Howard, a dynamic and dedicated-to-winning PG, and Phil Jackson on board, could the Magic be stopped?
Even I won't be crazy enough to make championship predictions BUT I will say that if all that I say comes to pass er, rather WHEN it does (mark my words), the Magic will make a return to the Eastern Conference Finals they were so briefly accustomed to playing in.
Okay, that really isn't a bold is it? Nor is it irrational or good use of wishful thinking.
Okay. . .fine. . .the Magic are NBA Champions in 2012.