It's no secret that the Orlando Magic use media barbs to motivate them. But now that they're 33-8 at the halfway point of the season, and have completed a four-game road trip in which they dispatched the Western Conference's three division leaders in addition to setting an NBA record for most three-pointers made in a single game, there won't be as many cynics, "haters", skeptics, or what-have-yous. At this point, any NBA observer who doesn't respect what the Magic are doing is ignorant. Nobody should doubt this team anymore.
Make the jump to read the nice things people are saying about this team, and why it's important for the Magic players not to be satisfied with the praise they've received lately.
In addition to John Hollinger's endorsement of the Magic last week, and Sports Illustrated's feature on Jameer Nelson (both stories are linked in this news update on this site), we now have more professionals recognizing this team's legitimacy. To wit:
Today, Hollinger's power rankings, based entirely on a mathematical formula, have the Magic as the league's top team. Note that the Magic's strength of schedule in the last 25% of their games is .533... and their margin in their last 25% of their schedule is +11.55.
An anonymous Eastern Conference scout telling ESPN.com's Marc Stein that he thinks the Magic are "the best team in the league right now," before adding:
"The East is going to hinge on who gets Orlando in the second round. And if it's Cleveland, I'm going to pick Orlando in that series."
Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who knows a thing or nine about winning NBA championships, telling the L.A. Times the Magic, "seemed to learn from their playoff experiences."
The Magic are too talented and too well-coached to let the sudden flurry of praise get to them. They've shown great poise this season, coming from behind to win several games on the road, and playing coolly and calmly. But part of being poised is knowing how to stay humble. Championships aren't won in the media, where opinion changes quickly--remember how many outlets wrote off the Magic as illegitimate before the season started?--nor are they won in January. No, championships are won on the court, in June. If the Orlando Magic's play so far this season is any indication, the team has what it takes to win it all. As long as they avoid getting ahead of themselves, they stand as good a chance as anyone else to bring some hardware home to The City Beautiful.