Cohen Courtside: Magic at Pacers Game 5 (5/8/12)

By Josh Cohen
May 8, 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.


INDIANAPOLIS -- Over the next few weeks, we will spend a lot of our time dissecting this season.

We will splurge a portion of that time recalling the Dwight Howard trade or no-trade drama; his sudden and devastating back injury and the “We All We Got” approach that fueled the Orlando Magic before losing in five games to the Indiana Pacers.

It was a fascinating season to say the least despite not advancing as far into the playoffs as one would hope.

But rather than expend much of our energy analyzing what transpired on the court, we will doubtlessly exhaust our efforts asking ourselves all of the “what ifs” and “what nows?”

Let’s be honest for a moment.

The Dwight-less Magic were a crew complete with heart, courage and determination. They never surrendered in spite of the unfortunate circumstances.

However, nobody should have expected Orlando to be the first team in NBA history to make a deep playoff run without its franchise superstar and one of the best big men of all time.

It just doesn’t happen in this league. For more proof, see the Bulls, who are dealing with the same obstacles without Derrick Rose.

The NBA playoffs are a superstar talent-driven tournament. If you have any reservation about that supposition, I test you to find me a team throughout NBA history that did not have a legitimate superstar and reached the conference finals.

I guarantee you will come up empty in your search.

We can only speculate, of course, but it’s a curiosity as to how the Magic would have done in the playoffs if Howard never got hurt.

If they had still met up with the Pacers in the First Round, a Howard-fueled Orlando squad would have likely crushed Indiana.

It’s just basic basketball.

The Pacers thrived in this series because they were able to relentlessly score and defend at the rim. If Howard is present, you can negate about half of the buckets and offensive rebounds Indiana got throughout the series.

That is no disrespect to the Pacers, who deserve to advance. They did exactly what any team should have done against a shorthanded and undersized opponent.

That is also not to insinuate that an asterisk should be placed next to the Magic’s 2011-12 season.

Sure, it’s irrational to claim that the results would have been the same if Howard was available. But injuries are a part of the game and many teams before this Magic team and many teams in the future will deal with the same problem.

Nonetheless, it will be an intriguing offseason in Orlando.

There are some free agency decisions to be made. Ryan Anderson will be a restricted free agent, while Jameer Nelson has an opt-out clause in his contract and may choose to become an unrestricted free agent if he desires to.

And of course, the whole Howard ambiguity will return. Dwight has one more year on his contract after deciding not to test free agency this summer.

There is the draft, of course, and the Magic will select 19th this year. Considering how much depth there is, you can expect Orlando to land a legitimate talent who can step in and play right away at that spot.

For now, there is some disappointment and frustration. Nobody wants to see a season end in the First Round of the playoffs.

But, when you step back and think about it, the Magic did exactly what you would have wanted from them under these conditions. They kept battling despite the absence of their best player.

How would you assess the Magic's performance in the First Round against the Pacers?
How would you assess the Magic's performance in the First Round against the Pacers?
Latest Opinions

Follow Josh Cohen on Twitter here