After dropping five of their last six games, frustration has set in for the Orlando Magic. Coach Stan Van Gundy is displeased with his team's lack of effort defensively, star center Dwight Howard wants his perimeter teammates to defend better, and I feel as though a lot of the team's fans wouldn't mind gutting the roster. If nothing else, take a look at the sharp drop in the Fan Confidence Poll, which is visible in the left sidebar.
Zach McCann points to Orlando's recent slide and cites it as evidence that the team, as presently built, won't contend for a championship this season. Further, "there is no quick fox for this team," and they "need drastic changes" if they hope to join the league's elite class, he says.
Eddy Rivera agrees, and cuts right to the chase with it. In his recap of Orlando's loss to the Denver Nuggets Tuesday evening, he writes, "Orlando isn’t an elite team or a championship contender." And a bit later? Another fair assessment of the situation:
Is this an overreaction? No, it’s not. It’s a harsh reality.
Is it time to panic? No, it’s not. It’s time to be honest.
But I believe Brian Schmitz, McCann's Sentinel colleague, has some good points to make as well. While their first West Coast trip ended as a failure, the Magic play four of their next five games against very good teams; the hardest part of this stretch of their schedule has yet to end. And if they pile up victories against the Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, and Boston Celtics next week, we probably won't refer to the West Coast fiasco again. We'll have moved past it.
Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated doesn't think it's time for Orlando to panic just yet. His piece, published yesterday, also includes this interesting observation:
Confidence is crucial for these Magic, perhaps more so than any of the other elites. They are not as fast as the Heat, as big as the Lakers or as physical as the Celtics. Their success hinges largely on defense and ball movement, dumping it down into Howard, and back out again for open threes.
Jenkins fairly points out that the Magic are in an unenviable position if management does decide to shake up the roster. "[Vince] Carter is not the chip he once was and [Rashard] Lewis' contract is likely too burdensome to move. The Magic do have depth, though probably not enough to enter the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes."
Entering the season, anyone looking at Orlando's schedule for the month could have told you it'd be a compelling team to watch. So far, though, that's view has only been true in the very worst sense.