By Josh Cohen
November 2, 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 -- Inside your social circles over the past two months, you have probably had at least 4,329 debates about the new-look Orlando Magic.

It’s almost certainly gotten heated at times.

It’s created everlasting back-and-forth arguing, analyzing and ambiguity.

You know you have that one friend (really your antagonist but you pretend to be his or her friend because it’s too exhausting to contend with that irritating drama) who disagrees with you on everything just to get under your skin.

You’ve eternally debated the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade. Some admire the new direction and flexibility Orlando has created. Others, on the other hand, just can’t stand to hear the term “rebuilding” as it relates to their favorite teams.

You’ve bickered about projected win totals – maybe laughed when you noticed that ESPN article that implied the Magic would win just 16 games this season. Even Glen “Big Baby” Davis thought that was hilarious. Most people did.

You’ve already started jotting down your wish list.

Magic Fan Y’s catalog includes: High draft pick in 2013, Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless starters and borderline All-Stars by 2014 and a prized free agent in 2015.

Magic Fan Z’s directory includes: Playoff campaign this season, silence all the critics with terrific balance and energy and overall development of the Magic’s young players.

You have the supporters, the naysayers and those waiting on the sidelines refusing to offer an opinion until they get a better look at the team.

What are you hoping for this season? What would you categorize as a “successful” season?

You prefer a thrilling voyage into the playoffs and competitive once they arrive? You rather endure typical growing pains and attain a high draft lottery pick in June?

Regardless of what you aspire the Magic to be this season, we always need to understand and accept the structure of the NBA.

Unlike the NFL where every team is either slightly above average, average or slightly below average and there are no distinct reasons why teams win championships anymore because about 20 teams every year have a chance, the NBA is far more direct, unambiguous and authentic.

Parity and competitive balances removes the glamour that surrounds teams and eliminates the potential for anything extraordinary. Parity lessens the thrill of surprise and removes awe-inspiring moments. The NBA is the opposite and that’s one of many reasons why this is the greatest pro sports league in the world.

Giant favorites and striving underdogs exist in this league and that makes the storylines even more intriguing.

If you want my opinion, I will tell you that the Magic, who are inevitably playing the role of the ruthless underdog, will be far better than what many prognosticators have suggested.

Friday’s home opener against the Denver Nuggets – a team some have predicted to finish in the top four of the Western Conference – presented an unfeigned sample of what you could see every time the Magic take the court.

They were crisp, efficient, tenacious, unselfish and filled with unremitting energy and desire.

Everyone was involved – from the starting five to the last man off the bench.

It was just one game and we must understand that there will inevitably be some bumps in the road this season. That’s what happens during the infantile stages of a transition period.

But, the Magic are a team that is capable of not only making the playoffs but being competitive once they get there.

There is undoubtedly a chip on the shoulder of each player on the Magic after all the criticism and disparagement they endured after the Howard trade. They all want to prove they are far more superior to what they have been labeled as.

So now, after one marvelous performance that may have already hushed the cynics, what’s your consensus?

Are you ready to ignore the critics and conclude Orlando is more than capable of enjoying a fine season in this new and refreshing era?

Or do you need more time and more games to make a more patent assessment?

Regardless of your present outlook, you must be rather ecstatic after Friday’s invigorating win. If you happened to be at Amway Center for the game, you would have thought the Magic just won a decisive playoff game. That’s just how much optimism circulated around the arena.

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