Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Raptors (1/1/12)



By Josh Cohen
January 1, 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.

THIS LOOKS FAMILIAR


ORLANDO -- Our very own Glass Half Full detailed it well in his latest blog entry; this Magic team resembles the one that advanced to the NBA Finals in 2009.

Naturally, the personnel are different. There is no Rashard Lewis, Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, or heck, Tony Battie for that matter.

But the resilience, the buoyancy and the spirit are extremely similar.

When Hedo Turkoglu buried his arena-erupting 3-pointer with 3:35 remaining in Orlando’s astounding comeback victory over Toronto on Sunday, you couldn’t help but make all the comparisons.

And when Ryan Anderson followed that shot up with his own colossal 3-ball on the next possession, it became appropriate to officially label Amway Center the home of ‘magic’.

While it may have just been the fifth game of the season for the Magic, it was an imperative one. Triumphing after trailing by 16 against a team that recently had given Orlando problems was critical.

Like the 2009 team that overcame a myriad of obstacles during their epic playoff journey, this team has already proved it can dominate or surmount impediments when required to.

There is still plenty for the Magic to improve upon, but you can’t help but love the energy and “never say quit” attitude.

In contrast from last season when Orlando depended on Dwight Howard to have monster performances every single night, this year it already appears the Magic have that perfect balance across the box score.

For a team with championship aspirations and an enduring distraction on the side, this is exactly the kind of start to the season the Magic needed.


STAR IN THE MAKING?


It’s hard to believe Ryan Anderson was virtually a toss in when the Orlando Magic acquired Vince Carter from New Jersey in 2009.

Gradually, the 6’10 multitalented forward has evolved into a premier performer – one that could ultimately be labeled the most improved player in the NBA.

Like his predecessor, Rashard Lewis, Anderson’s confidence in every shot he takes along with his relentless pursuit for every rebound gives the Magic undeniable comfort when he is on the floor.

Including his 24-point, five-rebound performance against the Raptors on Sunday, Anderson’s stat line in every game this season has opened the eyes of everyone around the league.

Assuming this is no coincidence and it’s justifiable to believe this is the new and improved Anderson from now on, a very essential question must be raised.

Is Anderson a legitimate star and one that the Magic can depend on against the other elite power forwards in the East (ex. Kevin Garnett, Chris Bosh, Al Horford, etc.) or is he the perfect chip to showcase in potential trade offers?

It’s an ambiguity that President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith must dangle with every day.

There is neither reason nor validation to mention specific “superstar” caliber players that may interest Orlando in any trade possibilities.

But we all are aware that Dwight Howard, who recently requested a trade, had previously proposed that staying in Orlando long term could depend on the Magic adding another first-rate talent to the roster.

As a result, it’s extremely intricate to assess the position that would be best for the Magic.

If Anderson’s inimitable abilities are irreplaceable then one must conclude that he is untouchable and an integral part of the future of the Magic.

Perhaps Anderson is the "star" that Howard alluded to over and over again during training camp and it's just now been revealed for everyone to see.

It creates an intriguing debate, but importantly, Anderson has been absolutely sensational after five games this season.


STIFF COMPETITION


While the Magic’s win on Sunday was stirring and a big confidence boost, the rest of the league’s scoreboard shows just how stellar Orlando’s main competitors are.

Miami thrashed Charlotte; Chicago stomped all over Memphis and Boston – now with Paul Pierce back – cruised past Washington.

One can already argue that aside from Oklahoma City, perhaps, the top four of five teams in the NBA are in the Eastern Conference.

It’s incontrovertible that the Magic will have to contend with the Heat, Bulls, Celtics and Knicks to get to the NBA Finals. But until Orlando squares off with any of those powerhouses, it remains ambiguous just how the Magic match up.

Later this week, Derrick Rose and the mighty Bulls come to town – in what will certainly be a must-watch game.

With the way the Magic are gelling and with some surprise improvements from some key players, it seems to me that Orlando should be mentioned in the same conversation as any of the other elite teams.

And if they beat Chicago on Friday, you can be assured that the national media will notice. Instead of debating what will ultimately happen with Dwight Howard, the talking critics will analyze the Magic’s potential of hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy this season.


Does this year's team after five games look like the 2009 team that advanced to the NBA Finals?
Does this year's team after five games look like the 2009 team that advanced to the NBA Finals?
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Who do you think is the Magic's toughest competitor in the East?
Who do you think is the Magic's toughest competitor in the East?
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