Back in February, after the Magic lost to the Miami Heat on national television, I wrote a pretty hostile FanPost where I was critical of the Magic players and staff, particularly Otis Smith and the transactions he has made since the 2009 Finals.
"An era is over, Magic fans," I said. "The Dwight Howard era that began so promisingly in 2004 is over. We are witnessing the death rattle."
I went on to say, rather prophetically: "My money says the Hawks finally send us home in the postseason."
Believe me, I'm happy to admit that I didn't mean this when I said it. I intended it as a jab, a mean-spirited joke.
Life is funny, though, isn't it?
I'm ashamed of this Orlando Magic team. I'm ashamed of the players, of Stan Van Gundy and, of course, Otis Smith. Smith's relentless manipulation of the Magic roster since July, 2009, have driven this franchise into the ground.
And I don't know whether to blame Stan Van Gundy, the players, or both, but the team we saw tonight was not the team we saw on Tuesday night. They did not execute even similarly. They continued to force the ball inside to Howard, and/or to take ill-advised shots, to turn the ball over. It was shameful.
And I am ashamed.
I am going to work very hard in the coming week not to watch the Chicago Bulls sweep the Hawks.
I still believe Stan Van Gundy is a championship-level coach. And, like Doc Rivers, I have a terrible feeling that he will move on and win an NBA title elsewhere.
What does the future hold for this Magic team? Otis Smith "likes this team", a team that couldn't make it beyond the first round against a team we have dominated the past two seasons, with prejudice. Stan Van Gundy apparently can't motivate this team to play their best when it counts; at least, not anymore.
We're locked in with Hedo Turkoglu for three years. A guy who looked so out of place this series, I found him unrecognizeable, and wondered whether or not he'd ever played basketball in his life. At his age, he will only decline.
And he's ours to the bitter, bitter end.
Just like Gilbert Arenas, the guy who wanted to keep piranhas in his house and guns in his locker, the guy with the surgically reconstructed knee, the guy who this season, like Turk, has often looked like a guy who has never played organized basketball in his life. He showed flashes of his ability, at times, sure. But is that even close to enough? Is he worth even half of his salary? Is he a guy who, teamed up with Dwight Howard, can take the Orlando Magic to (at the very f***ing least) the second round of the playoffs?
Apparently not. And next season he turns 30 years old. With three years left on his ungodly contract.
I'm very afraid as a Magic fan, a lifelong Magic fan, that we are entering another dark age. Maybe the worst in franchise history.
At least when Shaq left we had Penny.
I'm afraid that the Dwight Howard era, as I predicted, is over, and that our financials are so foolishly, so recklessly encumbered that it'll be years before we can even start thinking about picking up the pieces. And who can we trust to do so? Otis Smith?
Like I said in my February post, what are the odds that we get the number one pick in the NBA Draft? And that another future Hall of Fame center happens to be there?
Maybe we'll blow it on a promising player overseas who never crosses the Atlantic. It has, after all, happened before.
I'm a heartbroken fan, and I'm sure I'm not alone. And what hurts the most is knowing that this is probably just the beginning.
Never thought I'd find myself hoping for a lockout. But I'm not sure I can face a 2011/12 season.