Cohen Answers Popular Questions

By Josh Cohen
January 26, 2011

I have kept track of some of the more popular questions that Orlando Magic fans have at this point of the season and decided to provide my answers and analysis to a few of the more striking curiosities.

QUESTION: What facet of the Orlando Magic sets them apart from the other championship contenders and what do you think is most lacking?

ANSWER: Both my responses are probably very simple and obvious.

But let’s be honest, no other team in the NBA has a Dwight Howard to rule the paint and intimidate opponents. Aside from his pure size and structure, however, D12 has advanced his offensive capabilities and has become a more astute player. He has shown to be more careful avoiding unnecessary fouls and remains the team’s most dependable defensive stopper.

NBA championships are generally won in the paint and often when the league’s best center is in his prime, his respective team captures the title.

History proves it. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan have combined for 29 NBA titles and generally all led their teams to the trophy when they delivered monster performances in the postseason.

As far as what is deficient: Most observers would probably say team defense, but I think the combination of Stan Van Gundy’s resume and persistence to get his players focused on that end of the floor and the fact in the playoffs every team plays with a sense of urgency and relentless energy tells me that isn’t a big issue.

To me, the more noteworthy concern is the absence of an unambiguous go-to scorer in the critical moments of a close game. Not suggesting in any way that Orlando doesn’t have “options” because it does. The Magic are, by and large, one of the best offensive teams in the NBA and certainly one of the most dangerous 3-point shooting squads.

However, championship teams tend to have a player that in the pivotal stages of the fourth quarter can indefatigably attack the rim, get to the free throw line and be relied on to hit daggers. The Lakers, for example, have Kobe Bryant. The Celtics, similarly, have Paul Pierce. The Heat have Dwyane Wade and/or LeBron James. The Spurs have Manu Ginobili.

When the Magic acquired Vince Carter in 2009, they expected him to be this kind of player. But generally, VC didn’t deliver or have the opportunity to showcase this asset. Last month, moreover, when Orlando attained Gilbert Arenas, I think most analysts and observers assumed he would hold these responsibilities.

Since joining the Magic, though, Arenas has not shown to be the same player he was when he was one of the most electrifying scorers in the NBA during his years in Washington. Injuries over the last three seasons may just simply not permit him from providing those kinds of benefits. Gilbert, nonetheless, still has fantastic court vision and remains very unselfish and more focused on assists than points.

Nonetheless, Orlando may be able to avoid this dilemma because it has so many weapons. As long as its 3-point attempts are falling, the Magic will have an answer.

QUESTION: If you had to predict the Eastern Conference seedings at the end of the season, what would your forecast be?

ANSWER: If I had to forecast the final playoff seedings, I would be confident to say the Knicks will be the No. 6 seed, I would feel comfortable suggesting the Hawks would be the No. 5 seed, I feel optimistic the Sixers will end up with the No. 7 spot and that either the Celtics or Heat will be the No. 1 seed.

Outside of these predictions, it’s very difficult to conjecture the ultimate seedings. I still think the Magic will be no lower than No. 3 because I’m convinced they are a more talented team than the Bulls, who have somehow overcome injuries to Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.

Not that anyone should start scoreboard watching in late January, but we may learn more about the Celtics in the upcoming weeks. For the first time this season, Boston heads West for a relatively intricate road trip. If it succeeds, last year’s second half tumble may not happen again. If it fails, watch out for the plummet down the stretch of the season.

There may also be interferences in this whole forecast because we are still a month away from the trading deadline. If any teams upgrade their roster with a blockbuster move, the radar can dramatically change.

Josh Cohen
QUESTION: If you had to rank the most influential players in Orlando Magic franchise history, who would be in your top five?


1) Dwight Howard

Howard has already and continues to transform the Magic into a sports franchise that is recognizable to the entire world. On, we get visitors from fans from dozens of countries. Howard has helped spread the team’s popularity to a wide range of demographics – both with his outstanding play on the court and his charismatic personality.

2) Shaquille O’Neal

O’Neal very quickly converted the Magic into a championship contender after being drafted in 1992. It was also the first time in the team’s short history that they were among the elite teams in the NBA. Shaq became a fan favorite before his departure and his size and stature was unprecedented at that time.

3) Nick Anderson

Anderson is essentially one of the pioneers of the franchise. He was the first ever draft pick of the Magic in 1989 and spent 10 years playing for the organization. Always a role model for the city of Orlando, the Chicago, IL native is now a Community Ambassador for the team.

4) Tracy McGrady

When McGrady signed with Orlando in 2000, there were many that doubted him to fulfill the expectations that were handed to him. But T-Mac immediately became one of the most spectacular offensive players in NBA history. An All-Star in each of his five seasons with the team, the central Florida native was a scoring champion twice while playing for the Magic. While it was a sour conclusion for T-Mac in Orlando, he may always be regarded as the most exhilarating scorer in the team’s history.

5) Tim Duncan

Yes, I know. This one may be kind of unusual since Duncan never played for the Magic. But he almost did. In 2000, when the Magic had a ton to spend on free agents, the franchise came very close to landing Duncan and, in effect, uniting him with their other prized signees, McGrady and Grant Hill. It’s very possible that if Duncan opted to join Orlando, the Magic would have captured multiple NBA championships by this time.

QUESTION: You once wrote about an idea to hold a one-game elimination tournament at the end of the regular season to decide the No. 8 seeds in each conference. Will it ever happen?

ANSWER: I think it should, but these kinds of revolutionary adjustments, especially when it relates to scheduling, are difficult to establish.

I’m a believer that the primary purpose of professional sports is to maximize its entertainment value and give people something to constantly be engrossed with so they never leave the product.

We see how awesome – in spite of the stakes being much higher since it results in the champion – the NCAA Tournament is and how much excitement it creates. But imagine if eight teams from each conference competed in two separate one-game elimination tournaments to determine the No. 8 seeds. It would be madness!

There would be a variety of ways to pull it off. For instance, all of the teams participating can convene at one location and have hours and hours of basketball without pause. I think fans would embrace it.

But like most things, devising a plan and executing it so everyone involved is content with it is very complicated.

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What do you think the Magic need to improve the most on?
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Who do you think is the most influential player in Magic franchise history?
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Would you like to see the NBA include a one-game elimination tournament for each conference to determine the No. 8 seeds?
Would you like to see the NBA include a one-game elimination tournament for each conference to determine the No. 8 seeds?
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