By Josh Cohen
October 11, 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 -- While at Amway Center on Thursday watching the Orlando Magic’s first home preseason game of this new and in many ways refreshing era, I repeatedly asked myself a relatively unpredictable question.

Is the NBA due for a Cinderella story? Is the league ready for something rather extraordinary or at the very least extra surprising?

It’s only been two months since the blockbuster Dwight Howard trade and despite not having an opportunity to demonstrate what they are capable of on the court, the reinvigorated and determined Magic have been unjustly shoved and cuffed by all the critics and detractors.

After two preseason games, there is an inclination – while probably not yet spread around the country – that the Magic will exceed expectations and be far more competitive than all the naysayers have suggested since mid-August.

With that stated, could the Magic – and yes it will depend on your original projections of what the team would accomplish this season – overachieve and be viewed at season’s conclusion as a major success story? 

Well obviously, Orlando is not presently a championship contender nor is it a team assumed to make a deep playoff run. But can the Magic – amid all the disparagement – rise to the occasion and reach the postseason?

Right off the bat when you inspect the landscape of the league the last several years, the Denver Nuggets – after trading Carmelo Anthony – evolved into an extremely competitive playoff team.

You can argue – while it’s extremely premature and perhaps unwarranted to make comparisons and contrasts since we are only in the preseason – that the Magic have more depth, more versatility and more youth than the Nuggets.

We will learn more for sure when Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and Maurice Harkless return from injury.

But after two exhibition contests – though generally meaningless in terms of results especially when an opponent like the Sixers stay with some of their starters in the fourth quarter while the Magic resort to all backend reserves – Orlando looks formidable. Unless my vision is starting to decline, the Magic appear very well balanced, very well organized and very committed to proving all those cynics incorrect.

We can highlight each player’s abilities, but quite frankly that kind of sports commentary is a tad redundant. To sum up Orlando’s roster in a nutshell, however, they are underrated. There is enough talent across the box score for optimism to rise.

No, I am not insinuating the Magic can realistically compete with the very best like the Heat, Lakers, Celtics or Thunder. That is for another year when the rebuilding stage takes one of its final turns and the development is in place to compete for titles.

For now, though, it’s not unreasonable to imply that Orlando is in a position to challenge for a playoff spot and fully move on mentally from the Howard era.

So I once again raise the initial question that I continuously asked myself during Thursday’s game vs. Philadelphia. Is the NBA ready for a Cinderella story and are the Magic the team to wear the glass slipper?

What would such a “magical” and remarkable story consist of? What would the final results have to entail for all those detractors to turn the corner, shake off their initial expectations, express approval and apologize?

It’s rather convoluted to thoroughly answer this question because there isn’t a precise answer or definition to what a “successful season” consists of.

Probably at minimum it’s a playoff berth, but like it was in 1999-00 when the Heart & Hustle Magic team stunned the masses and finished with a .500 record, just being in the mix and having a chance to win every night may be plenty.

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