Give Me Some Magic!

By Vittorio De Zen.

I can’t wait to watch the Orlando Magic play next season.

There, I said it. Yes, I live in Toronto. I’m aware Vince Carter is on their team. I’m aware that they eliminated the Raptors from the playoffs in 2008 and stand as a significant barrier to the Raptors advancing deep into the playoffs for the next few seasons. Hell, I’m aware that J.J. Redick is on their team.

To the first point, I’m over the Vince thing. Even after this.

…Argh. Actually, watching that again kind of upset me. I was at that game. But, still, hear me out. The awfully one-sided Vince Carter trade that sent him to New Jersey took place in December of 2004. Since then, the Raptors have built around a new franchise player whose mother does not impact the team’s personnel decisions.

I’m not going to defend the way Vince Carter left Toronto, but Raptors fans aren’t doing themselves any favours with the way they hold this grudge. It’s as if all of our girlfriends dumped us almost five years ago and we still haven’t moved on. We’ve gotta let it go. We’ve gotta be bigger than that. This booing, it makes it about Vince, instead of our team. I don’t like that. I especially don’t like it after all of this time. It irks me the same way the “Beat L.A.” chants irk me. The Lakers don’t chant “Beat ____” at anyone. You know why? They’re the Lakers. They also don’t raise banners every time they win their division.

There’s another thing about Vince. I’m going to make a confession here: I love Vince Carter’s game. He’s smooth, he makes his teammates better, he’s got swagger, and, whilst he doesn’t soar like he used to, he still makes some unbelievable highlight-reel plays. He was my favourite player in the league during his time in Toronto and I could never turn around and hate his game after his departure. The fact is, even if I had become a hater, the reasonable part of me wouldhave to begrudgingly acknowledge that he is an extremely effective NBA player.

Orlando’s got Vince instead of Hedo Turkoglu now. This makes them better. To put it crudely, he does everything Hedo can do, except better and in a more exciting fashion. Vince has always been a team player and he is at the point in his career where he will have no problem with taking a few less shots than his norm. Yes, they lost Courtney Lee, a favourite of mine, but I do not believe this will impact them, as Michael Pietrus is at least on his level and J.J. Redick is a fine backup two-guard (I hate Duke as much as the next guy, but it’s true).

In addition to VC, it appears that the Magic have made two key additions to their frontcourt. Ryan Anderson, who came to Orlando from New Jersey with Vince, adds something they didn’t have before, a floor-stretching backup power forward for when Rashard Lewis goes to the bench. This gives coach Stan Van Gundy the option to play their four-shooters-around-Dwight game for as long as he wishes. Brandon Bass is a completely different type of player than Anderson, as his home is in the paint. He is a rebounding machine and is also capable of scoring on the block. There has been some speculation that he will start at power forward for Orlando, giving them a more traditional look. Bass was probably my favourite under-the-radar free agent this summer and, at his four-year, $18 million contract, he is great value and a great fit for this team, regardless of if he starts or comes off the bench.

The one question mark surrounding this team is what will happen with Marcin Gortat. The Polish Hammer has signed an offer sheet with the Dallas Mavericks for the full mid-level exception. Since he is a restricted free agent, the Magic can match this five-year offer if they choose to. Until recently, it seemed as though there was no way the Magic would match the offer, as they already have a very sizable payroll. However, there has been speculation that Orlando may hang onto him. This is big, as Gortat was, to my eyes, the best backup center in the league last season by a wide margin. His per-minute, pace-adjusted stats from last season are those of a starting-calibre NBA center. He is a skilled shot blocker and intimidating presence defensively, plus he runs the pick-and-roll as well as any big man in the league and has tremendous finishing ability on the offensive end. This guy is a huge luxury to have off the bench and it meant that they weren’t screwed when Dwight Howard got himself in foul trouble last season. As it stands, the acquisition of Brandon Bass would ease much of the burden of losing Gortat, but he is not a center and would not be able to go up against the Shaquille O’Neals and Andrew Bynums of the world if and when Dwight Howard picks up some untimely fouls against them.

Even if they choose not to match the contract offered to Gortat, Orlando should be contenders again next season. The return of all-star point guard Jameer Nelson, at full-strength, along with GM Otis Smith’s impressive additions to the roster, have me wishing the season would start already so I can see these guys play. I rooted for them all the way through the 2009 playoffs, despite the protestations of my friends here in Toronto, and I’m not going to apologize for being excited about the brand of basketball they’re going to bring to the table next year.



Filed under Orlando Magic

8 responses to “Give Me Some Magic!

  1. Great read man. Favourite quote:

    “…They also don’t raise banners every time they win their division.”


  2. You also forgot to mention they got Brandon Bass, and may match the contract for Gortat.

    They basically replaced Hedo with Carter and Bass, allowing Lewis to move to small forward. They are a much better team, head of the class in the east.

  3. Ryan

    Good article, but honestly, Fuck Vince

  4. vittoriodezen

    @Raps fan – Haha, yeah, the division title banner fills me with embarrassment even though its purpose is the opposite. Same thing with my red “Atlantic Division Champions” t-shirt. Sigh.

    I did mention Bass and Gortat… Last couple of paragraphs, dude. But yeah, totally agree that they’ve cemented their spot in the upper echelon of the East. If they keep Gortat, they’re downright terrifying.

    @Ryan – I understand the sentiment… I just think at this point it really doesn’t reflect well on us when we boo him at games.

  5. Al

    Man you are kidding yourself if you think Orlando is improved by moving Vince in and Hedo out. Vince is a chemistry killer. If he is so great as a team player then how come he didn’t win more games in NJ, with Kidd and Jefferson. I mean seriously J. Kidd didn’t even like playing with him and he is the most unselfish player in the game today. This is the problem with the NBA today everyone values dunker athletes with no team ethic. Hedo does little things Vince has never done in his career. He was Orlando’s X factor the past couple of years and in my opinion their second best player. Now the Raptors have retained their 3 best players while adding one of the Magic’s best. Anyone who thinks the Magic improved by losing Gortat, Turkoglu and Lee and getting Carter and Bass is return are kidding themselves. The Magic will be lucky to sniff the eastern conference finals again this year, let alone the finals. Their best chance in the next couple of years to win it all just passed when they faced the Lakers.

  6. vittoriodezen

    You’re right that last year might have been their best chance, it’s very difficult to get to the finals two years in a row. With that said, I think they have as good a shot as anybody else in the East.

    I just don’t understand the Vince bashing and I have to disagree with you on the Turk thing. How far should those Nets teams have gone? Would they have won more games with Turkoglu instead of Vince? I actually don’t think they underachieved in the Kidd/Carter era – they had three good players and little else.

    Where did you hear that Kidd didn’t like playing with him? All I’ve heard from the Nets’ organization is that he was a great teammate and a good mentor for their younger guys, off the court. On the court, he’s a very willing passer and he was fine with Devin Harris becoming the #1 scoring option last year.

    I don’t want to bash Turkoglu too much, he’s a good player, but I can’t really think of anything he does on the court that Vince doesn’t.

    While the Gortat/Bass argument is a fair one if the Magic end up letting Dallas have the Polish Hammer, your comment smells a lot like a dressed up “I like Turkoglu, I hate Vince” to me.

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  8. “I mean seriously J. Kidd didn’t even like playing with him and he is the most unselfish player in the game today.”

    – That says a lot. Kidd never outwardly said he doesn’t like Vince, but his body language always indicated that. I remember in one game in New Jersey, Vince “went down” again and fell to the floor, and Kidd just went straight to the bench with this pissed-off look on his face like “I can’t believe he’s pulling this shit again.”

    You can look at that in anyway, everyone has their own interpretations. Vince’s actual skill set is mesmerizing, without a doubt, and I have no idea how the Magic will fare with him, but I’d definitely agree that the man has no heart. Maybe being in the twilight of his career and playing at home will actually make him play with a purpose again.

    But all in all, yeah, fuck Vince. Booing him can be looked at both ways too, it can seem like we aren’t over him, but it can also just be fans having a great time heckling their #1 rival.

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