Cohen Courtside: Magic vs. Nets (3/16/12)



By Josh Cohen
March 16, 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.

INSPIRED MAGIC LOOKING MIGHTY STRONG


ORLANDO -- It felt like Amway Center shook a few times during Friday’s player introductions.

That’s how momentous it was to see the Orlando Magic’s beloved franchise player announced.

That’s how thankful fans are that Dwight Howard is still with the team after months of ambiguity.

And it was evident based on the Magic’s grand performance; the thunderous approval from the sold-out crowd was inspirational.

With a ton of weight off of his shoulders and with far more clarity one day after the expired NBA trade deadline, Howard delivered a dominant performance that further emphasized why the Magic spent every ounce of energy trying to convince him to stay.

"It was great," Howard said about the fans' deafening applause for him. "I thank all the fans that stuck with me all this time, showed me their love."

It was fitting that his 18-point, six-rebound and three-block effort came against the New Jersey Nets, the opponent rumored to have possibly received Howard if he had been traded.

Sometimes relief is most gratifying. And that sentiment, which is undeniably felt by Howard, his teammates and all fans of the team, could ultimately infuse utmost confidence in the Magic.

With a month-and-a-half and 21 games left in this compressed regular season and with the removal of all that undesired, yet inescapable, distraction, we will now start to finally grasp the composition of this team.

Assessing the Magic based on their thrashing of the Nets, who didn’t have Deron Williams or newly acquired Gerald Wallace, may not necessarily justify their potential.

However, as they have demonstrated for the last few weeks, the Magic’s chemistry, structure and solidity is as strong as ever.

We already know Orlando has the best center in the league. That shouldn’t be a secret considering every sports media outlet spent every last second dissecting Howard’s future.

But, Orlando is far more superior than some sort of one-man band. After an unsound beginning to the season, Jameer Nelson has returned to form. It’s not a fluke by any stretch any longer that both Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick have vastly improved. And we know based on their experience, Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Glen Davis are capable of having big performances in the playoffs.

Sunday’s contest in Miami will be another measuring stick to further understand this team.

If the playoffs started today, Orlando, if it were to advance past the First Round, would match up with its Sunshine State rivals in the conference semifinals. The Magic have already beaten the Heat twice this season if they were to win the regular season series, it would be a huge momentum boost if the two East powers clash in the playoffs.

As the postseason draws closer, there will be much more in-depth analysis about what would be most favorable for the Magic. Who would Orlando best match up with in the First Round? Would it rather play Miami or Chicago in the conference semis? Which players are able to maximize their skills against which opponents, etc. etc.?

Stay tuned.

Do you think the Magic will beat the Heat on Sunday?
Do you think the Magic will beat the Heat on Sunday?
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