By Josh Cohen
November 30, 2012
In Cohen Courtside, Josh Cohen examines the state of the Orlando Magic after games this season. He will tackle sidebar storylines and focus on topics that stretch far beyond the box score. There will also be some analysis on league-wide subjects.
ORLANDO -- Earlier this week, I wrote about how the Boston Celtics in one season went from having the second worst record in the NBA to capturing the title.
In 2006-07, the C’s were abysmal, dealing with a blend of injuries and frustration. Paul Pierce allegedly wanted to be traded, Rajon Rondo was in the infantile stage of his development and most assumed all Boston had for encouragement was a potentially high lottery draft pick.
The draft that year featured Greg Oden, who coming out of Ohio State was supposed to evolve into the next Bill Russell, and a scoring sensation by the name of Kevin Durant. You may have heard of him.
But like Boston’s failed luck throughout that discouraging season, it landed the worst possible draw in the lottery (No. 5 pick) and as a result a dim forecast seemed inevitable for one of the most celebrated franchises in all of sports.
Just several weeks later, however, the Celtics orchestrated a pair of trades that instantly reinvigorated Beantown basketball. They landed Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in two separate trades and convinced Pierce they had the perfect compilation of talent to compete for titles.
Boston went on to win the NBA championship that very first season of its new era. It was a memorandum in many ways for the rest of the league. It showed how a team in the NBA could be destitute in one season and renowned just a year later.
The Brooklyn Nets, Orlando’s opponent on Friday, clearly learned a thing or two from it.
Last season, the Nets, then in New Jersey, were appalling. Brook Lopez was injured practically the entire season; it was ambiguous whether Deron Williams would skip town and head to Dallas and after trading their lottery draft pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace didn’t have a prospect to build around.
One would have automatically assumed that its transfer across the river to Brooklyn was going to be a nightmare.
But with some brilliant front office coordinating and persuading, the Nets immediately went from the gutter to a contender. They convinced D-Will to stay, acquired Joe Johnson in a blockbuster deal, re-signed a plethora of talent, including Lopez, and added some of the best role players in the league, including Reggie Evans and CJ Watson.
It’s very likely that GM Billy King will win the Executive of the Year award. And he didn’t need to get Dwight Howard – like most people originally figured – to do a masterful job.
It was another opportunity for the Magic to examine a team that didn’t have to spend too much time in a renovation.
Sure, there were some bad years in New Jersey in between the days of Jason Kidd and Vince Carter and now. But it was glaring after trading for Williams two seasons ago and freeing up salary cap space and gathering other valuable pieces that the renovation wasn’t going to be too draining.
It’s very possible in this league to almost instantly escape a rebuild and enter prominence.
It’s impractical to know what exact direction Orlando will go in as it continues in this restoration. We do know the Magic will have cap space, a slew of draft picks and potential trade chips to play with.
Orlando is presently molding its young talent. We can already see some growth in the rookies, Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless. We see occasionally veterans such as Arron Afflalo and J.J. Redick guide this team to success.
But obviously, the roster as currently constructed is not the final product, not the sustainable package to try and compete for titles.
As this season marches forward, there will be some major decisions that will have to be made. Will GM Rob Hennigan make a big splash by the trade deadline? Will he be a big spender during the offseason? Will the team continue in this rebuilding effort for another season or two and not force perhaps disadvantageous moves?
The important thing to know, nonetheless, is that recent opponents like the Celtics and Nets have not had to wait long to reestablish championship potential. That should bring plenty of optimism to Magic supporters.
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