Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic: Being Put to The Ultimate Test

Brandon Ribak@reebokforthreeSenior Writer IDecember 9, 2009

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 05: Dwight Howard #12 of the Orlando Magic scores against Mikki Moore #33 of the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on December 5, 2009 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

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For a team that surpassed Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics and LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in last year's postseason, the Orlando Magic oddly enough seem to not receive as much credit and respect as they're due.

Lets take a look back to the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals where each and every  ESPN NBA Analyst predicted the Cavaliers to win .

Against all odds, Orlando came up victorious. After a dominant series performance by Dwight Howard (25.8 PPG, 13 RPG, and 1.1 BPG), including a Game Six 40-point extravaganza, the Magic were able to simply create havoc on both ends of the floor. Orlando caused extreme mismatch problems on the offensive end and prevented the entire Cavaliers team, with the exception of James, from playing their game.

Once it was digested that Orlando was about to make an appearance in the NBA Finals for the first time since the '94-'95 season, analysts and commentators, Charles Barkley in particular, began to hop onto the Magic bandwagon.

But after a quick five-game series, the high talks about the Magic began to digress and they entered the offseason just like every other team.

During the offseason Orlando managed to pull off an incredible deal that sent superstar Vince Carter and unknown forward Ryan Anderson to the Magic. In addition GM Otis Smith signed young gun Brandon Bass, versatile Matt Barnes, and veteran point guard Jason Williams.

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With five new players on the roster many believed that Orlando would lose their team chemistry and ultimately disinegrate as a team.

Since tip-off on October 28, Orlando has won 17 of the 20 total games played, ranking with the top record in the NBA. Not to mention, the Magic were without star forward Rashard Lewis for the first 10 games of the season, Vince Carter for four games due to injury, and Ryan Anderson for five games due to injury.

On top of missing part of their core for close to half of the games played thus far, starting point guard Jameer Nelson went down with a knee injury on Nov. 16. While he has been sidelined for the past 10 games the Magic have compiled a fantastic 9-1 record.

For a team (that obtained five new players in the offseason) to hold such a tremendous record so early on in the season despite major setbacks (missing 'Shard and now Nelson for 4-6 weeks) and while in the process of developing team chemistry, the Orlando Magic have undoubtedly been through it all in the matter of 21 games.

With the best road record (10-2) in the league, the Magic have been put to the ultimate test thus far this season. Although they still remain in the shadows of the Celtics, Cavaliers, and Lakers, Orlando will stay on top of the Eastern Conference this year and inch their way back to the NBA Finals for another attempt at winning it all.

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