One of the defining personaliy traits of the Orlando Magic under head coach Stan Van Gundy has been their "underdog" mentality. Through the media, Van Gundy has conveyed the idea that the NBA and its fans do not afford the Magic enough respect. It all came to the fore last year as Orlando made what many observers termed an "improbable" championship run, despite the fact that intelligent analysts like Kevin Pelton were writing in February of the Magic's championship pedigree.
And while making the Finals with midseason pickup Rafer Alston running the point, instead of the injured All-Star Jameer Nelson, was pretty surprising, it's not as though Orlando was some middle-of-the-pack team that caught some lucky breaks.
We're again seeing this dynamic play out this year, which prompted Zach Lowe of CelticsHub to again urge Van Gundy to stop playing the disrespect card. "He knows better," Lowe wrote.
Magic fans have adopted Van Gundy's view, to an extent. Around the internet and in these pages, they've spoken up about the preference the league and media both have to see LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, and not the Magic, who are, in Dwight Howard, led by a less dynamic franchise player.
But I'm beginning to wonder if analysts are really still missing the point on the Magic. Here's what's popped up in recent days:
Before anyone can hoist that gold-plated trophy at the end of June, it has become quite obvious that the Orlando Magic will have to be dealt with. All eyes are on LeBron James finishing off the Bulls and Kobe Bryant trying to rescue the Lakers from their latest identity crisis. But turn your attention to the Magic for a minute, and you might see what I see -- a team that is more than capable of beating both of them.
If [Rashard] Lewis and Nelson continue to play like this, and Howard and [Vince] Carter return to the mean, the Magic are winning a championship this season.
Said all along: Magic win the title this season
I picked Spurs in October, but today I'd lean Orlando.
I know that sentiment isn't unanimous. Guys like ESPN's Skip Bayless, Tim Legler, and Bruce Bowen still aren't sold on Orlando, which frequently comes up in the comments sections of these pages. My response? Consider the source. If I may be frank, should we put more stock in what Bowen says than in Dwyer, for instance?
I didn't think so.