The NBA season begins tonight. You’ve got six teams playing, and five of them are broadly relevant this year: Heat (back-to-back champions), Bulls (perennial attendance leaders + Rose’s return + contender), Pacers (viewed by many as the team that can dethrone the Heat), Clippers (potential favorite out of the West), and Lakers (essentially always relevant, even with Kobe sidelined). Then, there’s the Orlando Magic … the last Eastern conference team to make back-to-back Finals, but now lacking Dwight Howard and in the process of a rebuild centered on young guns like Victor Oladipo, most recently of Indiana (the Hoosiers, not the Pacers).
I have a random spot in my heart for the Magic. I first started getting into basketball around the 1992-1993 season, which is when Shaq was drafted and arrived in the NBA. The first spring that I was really focused on NBA playoffs was ’94, when the Knicks made the Finals (I grew up in NYC). By ’95, I was fairly engrossed in basketball on a regular basis; I was also a fat nerd and a high school frosh, so it was something that gave me conversational topics here and there. The ’95 Finals was essentially the Rockets sweeping the Magic away, although some games had moments.
I watched those two Finals with Dwight Howard, and whenever I casually see a Magic game on the TV I’ll check it out for a bit, but I didn’t really know much about the team headed into this season, so I wanted to use this post as a way to do a smidge of research. It’s not exactly short-term bright; this article (by a kid I’ve pounded a few drinks with here and there) says their playoff chances are 0.2%, their title chances are 0.0%, and in general, they should win about 24 games. Some long-term questions involve unloading the veterans and questioning Jacque Vaughn as coach. Shield your eyes when looking at the depth chart. Of course, every corner of the Internet must have some positivity.
The last half-decade or so, the Magic have been right around the middle of the NBA in terms of attendance — this goes for when they were winning the Eastern Conference, and it goes for last year, when they had the worst record in the NBA. The picture isn’t completely rosy, though — FOX Sports broadcasts of games are down significantly, and there’s questions about whether the reported figures are wholly legitimate. (In fairness, it’s hard to sell out NBA games with an inferior on-court product.) Their brand-spanking new arena (well, relatively) has debt problems — the bonds are junk, and repossession or auction could be a future issue. It likely wouldn’t affect the Magic, who signed a 25-year lease back in 2007, but it could cast a specter.
This is the 25th anniversary season, though, so the focus should be on having a grand ol’ time. That first year wasn’t amazing; they went 18-64 and Jordan hung 52 on ’em in December.
The future is bright, though. Note here, here, here and here. It might take a bit to get there, and the arena situation might encounter some less-than-stellar financial moments, but the Magic can and should eventually move from the 12-13 range in the East to the 6-8 range in the East. Sometimes, the only way to rebuild is to straight scrap it all. Meanwhile, one of my favorite things in the world is overzealously-produced fan videos set to rap — especially for 20-or-so-win teams. So, I leave you with that for the ’12-’13 Magic: