With the working week winding to an end, let’s check the pulse of all things pinstriped.
Who won the week that was?
In a week dotted by a pair of disappointing defeats, it’s hard to single out any particular player as one who shined. Some irrefutably top shelf contributions did emerge, however, in the digital realm – please step up to the podium and accept your award, Magic Twitter!
First up, a cracking trade announcement that charmingly channeled the aesthetic of ‘high school nerd figuring out Photoshop’:
Having already elicited a chuckle, they then went out and landed a gut-buster with their very next sequence of tweets:
Welcome to the O, Cash Considerations pic.twitter.com/rEpr4y0dpQ— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) February 10, 2022
Then, a T-Ross cherry on top:
The Magic may not have won the trade deadline. The team may still be mired in an interminably long losing season. But at least today they were able to generate some fun vibes for a starved fandom. Kudos.
The upcoming slate
This week’s schedule: at Jazz (tonight); at Suns (Sat); at Nuggets (Mon); vs Hawks (Wed)
Four games. Four cities. Four states. Four opponents a combined 52 games over .500. The Magic’s chances? Probably zero.
Phoenix have been nigh on unstoppable this season so we can safely rule that one out, even if the Suns decide to rest some of the key cogs in their impressive machine. Both Atlanta and Denver have found some swagger of late, each going 7-3 across their last ten and shoring up their respective spots in their conferences. It’s probably safe to pencil in the pair of contests as losses, particularly considering that the tilt against Atlanta comes at the end of a four-games-in-six-nights stretch and on the back of a taxing road trip. The Magic aren’t a team that can overcome circumstances that increase the degree of difficulty.
Utah, by their own standards and relative to those of these particular peers, have been a little sloppy recently – they lost 7 of 8 during a skid in late January and have fallen out of the West’s upper echelon. However, that swoon was the result of injury more than any deeper fundamental concern, a fact which the recent return of Donovan Mitchell – and a four-game winning streak – has helped to reinforce.
So, what might the Magic have to say about the outcomes of these four games? The smart money will be on ‘not a lot’, but this is the NBA and stranger things have certainly happened. As we near the All-Star break teams are a little lower on energy than usual. Some of these sides will be acclimating new rotation pieces on the fly. And hey, Orlando has snagged upset victories over both Utah and Denver already this season. If we crank the optimism all the way up to eleven, maybe a sneaky win isn’t as far-fetched as some might think. Right?
The crystal ball says …
0-4. The reality of a rebuilding campaign and my own eternal sports pessimism means I cannot in good faith tip the Magic to win a game this week, despite some of the improved efforts dotting the team’s recent resume.
The next week is an important one for …
The Tank. Don’t look now, but Orlando are no longer in possession of the league’s worst record. While that’s good for a short-term morale boost, it’s ultimately a slight downgrade of the team’s lottery chances – even after the recent smoothing of odds. That’s bad.
Many of the Magic’s ping pong ball rivals across the league used the week of the trade deadline to signal their own tank job intentions. Portland tore it down. Washington pulled the pin on Beal’s season. Indiana imbalanced their team in the present for a realignment still to come. The Rockets, Thunder and Pistons all did nothing to help their side right now. The Kings Kangzed.
In terms of the on-court product, these teams very well could combine to form an Eek Eight as each of the respective loss columns swell. Not one among them figure to be in the business of winning games across the remainder of the season, a fact which sits interestingly alongside the Magic’s decision to … do nothing at the trade deadline.
The only players that cashed in their pinstripes were a pair who haven’t seen even a second of court time this season, replaced on the roster by a new arrival who also figures to be out for the remainder. And although that sort of neutral maneuvering doesn’t figure to impact the Magic’s outlook, it has to be noted that they held onto Gary Harris, Terrence Ross and Mo Bamba, all key rotations cogs when healthy.
Orlando is an already bad team that didn’t add any meaningful talent at the deadline. In a tanking context, that’s good! But they also didn’t get demonstrably worse, even as they’re theoretically expecting to welcome back contributors like Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac and while many of their closest peers got a headstart in the race to the bottom. That’s bad.
The team the Magic have now won’t necessarily be the one that the team closes the season with – buyouts remain a chance, while the strategic resting of all manner of minor ailments figures to be a part of the team’s injury report all too soon. However, they’re not the odds on ‘favorite’ to finish with the league’s worst record, a fact which should cause some consternation among fans.
No matter your perspective on the front office’s decision to undertake this full-scale rebuild, right now it’s inarguably true that losing games is in the team’s best interest. The trade deadline didn’t really help the Magic in that regard. Time will now tell just how strong the team’s tank game happens to be.
A figure for thought
6 – the number of players the Magic have had rostered at one point or another who have not yet played a single minute for the team this season.