PlayBook: A Little Orlando Magic

By Fraser Lockerbie

Dwight Howard is a Laker and Orlando is a little less magical.

Half of the people can be part right all of the time, some of the people can all right part of the time, but all of the people can’t be all right all of the time.

I think Abraham Lincoln said that, or at least Bob Dylan did. Think he said that, that is. He was known as a man to mince words, and though he didn’t always make sense he seemed to always make sense, which is more than we can say for this professional farce of a basketball league we keep hearing about and stumbling over.

Word out of L.A. is that Dwight Howard is heading to the Lakers in exchange for a pile of clean socks and some expired coupons from a Chick-fil-A somewhere outside Sausalito. Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan is ecstatic, proclaiming this a fine day for the Florida franchise.

“Never in the long history of the NBA has a GM been so hopelessly inept as I was here today,” said Hennigan to an empty room, a press conference long since devoid of any press still pretending to be interested in the goings-on in Orlando. “We have so thoroughly fucked the dog on this one that no one will ever respect us as a professional sports franchise ever again. Ever. We turned down Brook Lopez, MarShon Brooks, a year of Kris Humphries and four unprotected picks from Brooklyn. We turned down any combination of Kevin Martin, Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Chandler Parsons, draft rights to three players AND multiple first-round picks from Houston. It’s amazing; no one has ever fucked something up so bad.  It’s fucking historic.”

Indeed. Many people will remember this day as the day it all went sideways for Orlando; not only did they lose the best center of a generation, but they lost him to the Lakers, a one-time Finals rival and a twice rude mistress, having already stolen in another life the then-best center of that generation.

Adding insult to injury is the perplexing pile of players they did receive in return: G Arron Affalo and F Al Harrington from Denver, F Moe Harkless and C Nikola Vucevic from Philadelphia, F Josh McRoberts and G Christian Eyenga from the Lakers and five draft picks spread out over five years. But no Gasol. No Bynum. And no real return on investment. Somehow the three best players involved in this whole sordid affair (Howard, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bynum) ended up elsewhere, anywhere, everywhere except Orlando.

Selah. The Lakers are Finals-bound now and Orlando will have to make do with whatever comes of Affalo and Al and the five protected picks they poached from perennial playoff contenders.

Meanwhile, the rest of the league is reeling in the wake of a big team that just got bigger. Acquiring Howard without having to give up Gasol is a big deal; the Lakers now have four bona fide stars who are at any given moment at least worth considering for a double team and a fifth man in Metta World Peace that will be so wide open for the wide-open three that it will be difficult to miss. Gasol can finally stop pretending to play the high post, Kobe can let up on having to play 48 minutes of half-court defense and  Nash can pretty much do whatever the hell he wants with all the weapons at his disposal. And which of the small-ball big threes will stop them? The Bulls? The Heat? The Thunder with Kendrick Perkins look like the only team standing in their way, but one wonders with all that experience whether it will matter much when push comes to shove, when winning or losing a seven-game series means deciding which player isn’t worth guarding, which Los Angeles Laker is the weakest link: Kobe Bryant or Steve Nash?

That’s an unsettling thought to have to enter into a new year with. Coming off a Finals loss to the newly crowned kings in Miami, the Thunder thought that next year would be their year, that their time would come and come again. But they were only part right, and they can only ever be that part of the time. But that’s better than being Orlando, who won’t be all right for any amount of time for a long time.


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