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Orlando Magic News for February 19th: Everyone Likes an Underdog; Otis Smith Has Swagger

  • NBA trade deadline: Team-by-team evaluation
    Chad Ford of ESPN Insider ranks the 13 teams that decided not to make a move at the trade deadline from best to worst.

    6. ORLANDO MAGIC

    Positive spin: The Magic were the most stacked team in the league coming into the season. And although their play has been inconsistent, they have won eight of their past 10 games. No need to make a panic move.

    Negative spin: Cleveland got better. Perhaps a lot better. In fact, the Cavs have now addressed the two issues that allowed the Magic to beat them last season: Shaq can guard Dwight Howard, and Antawn Jamison should be able to hang with Rashard Lewis. No matter how stacked the Magic are, they're no longer the favorites to win the East.
  • Several Teams Still Have Questions As Stretch Run Looms
    Eric Freeman of The Baseline takes "a look at what's at stake for several teams" with the regular season winding down.

    Can the Magic Get Right?

    Orlando was the only one of the top three teams in the East not to make a move at the deadline. This makes sense when you look at their roster -- they're loaded with talent and have the most objectively good players of any team in the NBA. For whatever reason, the Magic haven't been able to put it all together, and these last few months of the season are their chance to get things right before things start to get really serious.

    The Cavs and Lakers are deserving favorites, no doubt. But a cohesive Orlando squad is arguably just as dangerous, with no clear holes in a rotation full of capable, experienced players. More than any deadline deal, the Magic sorting out their system is the one thing that can change the NBA landscape in these final few months. The rest of the league will be watching them closely.
  • Pursuit of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade shaped deadline deals
    Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated states there are three reasons to believe that the Orlando Magic have the best chance to disrupt a possible NBA Finals matchup between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers. Here's one of them:

    They have plenty of inspiration. It's too early to dismiss the Magic. They've been inconsistent, but that's to be expected after the moves they made this summer. Their starting five has been together for only 21 games. Yet they alone have the combination of youth, depth and star power to contend in the East against Cleveland. They also have the not-so-old memories of knocking off the Cavs last season.

    "People say we're overrated,'' Lewis said. "There's always negative talk about the Orlando Magic. Even though we made the Finals, we still got a little bit of negative feedback, negative talk. It doesn't bother us at all -- if anything, the negative talk keeps us burning, and so all we have to do is go out there and show them.''

    This is not such a bad thing to be: a deep, talented underdog with Finals experience.

More after the jump.

  • FanHouse's 2010 NBA General Manager Swagger Index
    Bethlehem Shoals and Tom Ziller of NBA FanHouse ranks every general manager by swagger.

    7. Otis Smith, Magic. He signed Rashard Lewis to a super-max deal because Lewis fit the team. He took on Vince Carter as if he did. He's got Marcin Gortat and Brandon Bass both feeling itchy for playing time and wishing they were elsewhere -- all he seemed to get out of it was screwing over the Mavericks because it gave him pleasure. I don't know if it's swagger, but Smith really does not give an eff about wandering off cliffs. I think he's so at peace with himself and his various excesses that he figures eventually, the wind and tide will carry the Magic back up to the clouds. These are leaps of faith by a man who simply doesn't sweat, which is cool, but kind of too spacey. Smith would be number one with a bullet if he had one-sixtieth of his coach's belligerence.
  • 21 Questions: Mid-Month Love
    Sandy Dover of SLAM ONLINE asks some questions.

    11. Why is Shaq bullying Dwight Howard over a nickname Dwight had no control in being given to him? What’s wrong with Dwight being "Superman II" anyway? There were a few different incarnations of Superman in the comics! Isn’t Shaq missing out on some marketing opportunities?

    19. Is the Orlando Magic’s unwillingness to experiment with lineups going to be their undoing in the Playoffs (per Charles Barkley’s sentiments)?
  • Comparable Careers By Quality and Shape, Part II
    Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference takes a look at old-school players and lists their new-school equivalents by using a method (explained here) to determine the quality and arc of two players' careers. For instance, Brandon Roy could be regarded as this generation's Anfernee 'Penny' Hardaway. Or James Worthy can be compared to a modern-day Rashard Lewis.

  • 11 NBA Teams Set to Pay Luxury Tax
    UPDATE: Here's the luxury tax bill the Magic will be footing at the end of the year.

    Magic: $12.07 million and Spurs: $8.853 million. Orlando and San Antonio wanted to make a run at a title this season, and had to pick up marquee players off the trading block to do so. Neither acquisition (Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson, respectively) has worked out aces, but regret doesn't seem to be in play: the Magic are still excellent, and S.A. had little choice but to swing for the fences with Manu Ginobili wearing down and Tim Duncan getting closer to "old."