Each week, Tyler Lashbrook will let loose on whatever Orlando Magic subjects capture his interest. Welcome to Ty Tuesday. - ED
As I'm typing this post, the Orlando Magic own a 10-20 record and are, somehow, not completely out of playoff contention in the ocean of sadness that is the Eastern Conference. The more relevant thing, though, is that the Magic have won their last two games, beating an oddly constructed Detroit Pistons team and the Atlanta Hawks who, at 17-14, are firmly planted as the third seed in the aforementioned, dreary East.
Previous Ty Tuesdays
Previous Ty Tuesdays
Our latest Mailbag, in which we addressed management's opinion of the team's win/loss record this season, started an interesting discussion--one debating how and why fans can actually cheer for losses. That sets us up with two black and white sides to this argument: one group roots for the team to win every game it plays, while the other roots for losses so the team positions itself for a high pick in a loaded Draft class.
The reality, though, is that each side isn't as black and white as it seems. Fans rooting for wins act as the more conventionally normal group and--in the big scheme of things--the larger base. Because rooting for your favorite team's success on a night-in, night-out basis is, to the core, what being a "fan" is. The mindset of this contingent is normally uniform and some form of "Why would I invest all this time and care in a team and then want them to not succeed in the short term?"
The other group is one made of fans "rooting" for the team to lose games. In the latest Mailbag, I said that I might be too naïve to think that Orlando's management would actually root for losses. In the same sense--and I could be completely wrong here--I find it hard to believe that Magic fans actually want the team to lose as many games as possible. On the surface, it looks ironically barbaric to actually root for your alleged favorite team to lose.
But, to counter, fans who want the Magic to win as many games as possible are, at first glance, gullible. Orlando isn't winning a championship this season; it isn't winning a championship next season unless the quixotic dream that LeBron James opts out of Miami and signs with Orlando somehow comes true. Look a little further down the timeline and the hope is that the Magic eventually become a decade-long contender, one molded out of the same team-building ideas that formed the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder, coincidentally Orlando general manager Rob Hennigan's first two NBA pit stops.
In that sense, rooting for wins now seems a little like a waste of time. And while that mindset is fine--albeit a little weird--winning a few games here or there isn't going to hurt Orlando's future as much as some fans may think. The Magic aren't separated by such concrete ideas; instead, the franchise seems to have a plan, at the least.
The caveat here is that neither side of the fan base--and no one really, in general, other than Magic management--really has a grasp on that plan. Hennigan seems to have a hold of what he wants to do: spend money on cheap contracts, collect assets without shipping out veterans for the sake of doing so, and holding out until a player or two can change the team into a winner. He appears not interested in grasping for fool's gold in the form of expensive contracts, often the building blocks of the league's most shiny and underachieving rosters--a mindset utilized by former leadership.
Build a roster based on hard-working, blue-collar guys and hope the right deal comes along--whether through trade, free agency or the draft--that can send the team into legitimate championship contention. In other words: build smart and practice patience--the latter trait serving as a main vehicle for the fan base's division. Patience: meaning that this team isn't built to contend for championships yet. But that doesn't mean that the team can't scrap its way to a win here or there.
A couple of wins this season doesn't skew the Magic's long-term game plan. What will, however, is how Orlando's players--both veterans and young guys--play and develop as a team. That's why it was so much fun watching Maurice Harkless run out for easy transition buckets against the Hawks, or Victor Oladipo playing more and more capable as an initiator of the offense in the last two games, or Tobias Harris fighting through an early shooting slump against Atlanta to finish with 17 points, or Nik Vučević completely outplaying Andre Drummond, or the team, as a whole, scoring 109 points in two straight wins.
Those wins have put the Magic at 10 on the season, halfway to last season's total. It's highly unlikely--given the current roster--that Orlando actually sneaks in the back end of the playoffs. The roster simply isn't good enough, even in a pitiful Eastern Conference, which takes us back to Hennigan's mindset: patience.
It's something every Magic fan will have to continue to practice and it plays a part in the dividing of the fan base. But the common denominator in both sides of Orlando fans is they ultimately want the franchise in the best position possible to succeed. Fans rooting for wins every night out may look a little naïve and fans rooting for losses may seem tasteless, but each group truly has, what they assume, is Orlando's best interests in mind. And that's where both sides can find middle ground.