By Josh Cohen
February 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.


ORLANDO -- It’s very hard to judge the Orlando Magic after their victory over the despondent Washington Wizards on Wednesday.

After a forgettable week that included a few excruciating defeats, the Magic’s triumph over the Wizards didn’t clarify much.

Most importantly, though, Orlando ended its recent four-game skid. It wasn’t particularly pretty or inspirational, but it was a night premeditated to brush off its latest problems.

Still handicapped because of Jameer Nelson’s concussion and Jason Richardson’s knee soreness, the Magic depended on Dwight Howard’s power game; Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick’s hot shooting and Hedo Turkoglu’s clutch scoring late to avoid further disaster.

"It was a little rough for us tonight but in the end, we got the win," Howard said. "That's the only thing that matters."

Still, there is plenty of uncertainty facing the Magic.

It’s possible, on one hand, Wednesday’s desperation win could help alleviate some of the pressure encircling a team with championship aspirations.

Considering its opponent, on the other hand, a back-and-forth tug-a-war against the meager Wizards wasn’t exactly a redeeming performance and once advanced adversaries walk into Amway Center, performance will have to improve dramatically.

There were some healthy facets, nonetheless.

For one, Howard, who has been struggling mightily at the free throw line, connected on 11 of his 16 attempts and during one stretch made 10 straight.

Also, both Anderson and Redick are becoming more and more reliable. Some wondered if their superb starts to this season were just aberrations. But again on Wednesday, both enjoyed spectacular performances (Anderson: 23 points, Redick: 21 points).

Anderson deserves a spot in the All-Star Game later this month and Redick should be a candidate for either Most Improved or Sixth Man of the Year honors (even though he started on Wednesday).

"The main thing I tell J.J. is to stay aggressive, coming off screens, looking for his shot," Howard said. "Don't waste it, just let it fly."

In addition, Von Wafer has surpassed all expectations and is undoubtedly the Magic's most aggressive attacker. He has shown blazing speed off the dribble and can periodically hit those step-back jumpers. Isn't it amazing how in the last few years, it's been the "toss-in" players like Anderson in the Vince Carter trade and Wafer in the Glen Davis deal that have actually proved to be productive and dependable assets?

It also sounds like there will be a change in the backend of the Magic's rotation. Larry Hughes, who appeared in nine games and most recently served as the backup point guard to Chris Duhon, was waived following Wednesday's game.

But back to Howard and the inexhaustible drama surrounding his indecisive future.

Though he is clearly distracted and his offensive progression has been placed on some sort of hold, Howard, by and large, looks happy and encouraged.

After a monstrous dunk over JaVale McGee in the fourth quarter, he jumped for joy and greeted his teammates with so much animation.

There remains so much confusion regarding the decision President of Basketball Operations Otis Smith will make by the mid-March trade deadline. Some have already concluded that Dwight will be dealt, while others still believe if the Magic are playing high quality basketball past the All-Star break, they will keep him for the entire season and hope to persuade him to stay long term.

With the kind of schedule the Magic have coming up, which includes games against the Pacers, Clippers, Heat and Hawks, much will be revealed in the next 10 days.

Should Ryan Anderson be named an All-Star reserve this season?
Should Ryan Anderson be named an All-Star reserve this season?
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