Cohen Answers Most Curious Magic Questions

By Josh Cohen
December 11, 2010

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: Should there be concern about the Orlando Magic’s current losing streak?

ANSWER: Not really.

The stomach virus epidemic disrupted the team’s rhythm during their Midwest road trip and carried over to their home defeat to the Atlanta Hawks.

Subsequently, it’s extremely common for Eastern Conference teams to stagger when they head out West and play in notoriously demanding cities like Portland and Salt Lake City.

It’s a research study I want to conduct at some point, but for reasons that can only be assumed, playing on the road, especially across country, against reasonably good teams is exceedingly difficult.

The NBA is the one sport in the pro ranks where home court is among the chief elements in determining an outcome. Reasons such as travel fatigue, crowd noise, altitude (in Denver and Utah) and quick turnarounds are believed to be primary factors.

The only trepidation I have has nothing to do with the Magic’s play. Since Boston and Miami are both playing well and are each expected to finish with better than 60 wins, it’s imperative for Orlando to keep pace with those other East powers to put themselves in position to get a higher playoff seed and home court advantage in the later rounds.

QUESTION: What team do you think is the Orlando Magic’s toughest opposition in their quest to win the NBA championship this season?

Josh Cohen
ANSWER: The Los Angeles Lakers are championship proven and exceptionally balanced. The Boston Celtics are defensively virtuoso and seemingly always resolute for important games. The Miami Heat, while not very deep, include a core that is extremely athletic and occasionally unconquerable.

No disrespect to the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks or Chicago Bulls, but those aforementioned three teams, in my opinion, are likely the Orlando Magic’s most threatening challengers.

No Magic fan should worry about the Lakers yet because, let’s face it, they are in the opposite conference and if Orlando advances to the NBA Finals, it must indicate that it is worthy of hoisting the trophy.

The Heat will not have an answer for Dwight Howard or Jameer Nelson in a seven-game series and I think the Magic would wear Miami out with their depth and chemistry.

It’s completely fair to say that the Celtics have been the most dominant team overall in the NBA thus far and it’s especially impressive since they have played many games without a true center. If Boston is at full strength come playoff time (which is always questionable with its aging players), it is probably Orlando’s most intimidating challenger.

QUESTION: Which starting lineup for the Orlando Magic do you think would result in the most success?

ANSWER: I was very ecstatic when I learned that Head Coach Stan Van Gundy decided to implement Brandon Bass into the starting lineup and slide Rashard Lewis to the small forward position against the Utah Jazz on Friday.

While it may contrast to the last three seasons when the Magic played small and concentrated on floor spacing and outside shooting, championships are generally won in the paint. Bass, as a result, who is enjoying the best season of his NBA career, must receive extended minutes to help compliment Howard in the post.

In effect, I am a proponent of a starting line featuring Howard, Bass, Lewis, Carter and Nelson. Although this card may limit Quentin Richardson’s production, it may elevate Ryan Anderson’s.

Once he returns from a sprained foot, Rhino can serve as the primary backup power forward while J.J. Redick and Mickael Pietrus can remain the principal reserve wing players.

QUESTION: What do you think the Orlando Magic have to improve most upon?

ANSWER: The Magic are having an extremely difficult time scoring fast break points. In fact, in its last six games, Orlando has accumulated just 18 total fast break points. It is ranked last in the NBA in that offensive category.

It’s noticeable that the Magic are just simply not an overly athletic team and are most effective in half-court sets. When its 3-point attempts are not falling, Orlando struggles.

I also believe the Magic need to be more consistent on both ends of the floor. On some nights, Orlando is a stalwart defensive squad with a relentless approach to rebuff its opponents from attacking the rim. Other nights, however, it loses its defensive focus and relies exclusively on its offensive arsenal.

Usually in cases like this when a team is mysteriously inconsistent, it signifies that they are still trying to learn their identity. Lewis is still getting acclimated to his in-game transition from power to small forward, Richardson and Duhon are still adjusting to the team’s schemes, and I sense that Howard is evaluating his teammates to see what needs most improvement.

QUESTION: What are your thoughts of some of the big names that are reportedly being shopped by their respective teams?

ANSWER: I wrote an article entitled “Be Careful With Trade Rumors” over the summer when names like Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony were being mentioned throughout the media in trade speculation. While extremely entertaining and mind-stimulating, trade rumors can be very disingenuous.

Not to scrutinize fans because I understand how exciting it can be stir up trade proposals, but we all need to be realistic when conjuring up trade ideas. While growing up in the New York area in the mid-90’s, I recall local fans suggesting that the Knicks should acquire Charles Barkley from the Phoenix Suns for Charles Oakley and Greg Anthony.

Sure, New York would have loved to team Patrick Ewing up with Barkley to form a dominant inside duo, but anyone who thought the Suns would relinquish their best player for two decent role players had lost their minds.

Finalizing a blockbuster trade in the NBA is perhaps the most complex facet in all of sports. In any trade, salaries have to match and both sides have to feel the deal would provide significant benefits to their respective franchises (both on the court and in their wallets).

Although it may not be as compelling as dishing out trade ideas, I will just say that I think this season’s trade deadline will be very eventful based on the fact that there are several star names that are being discussed in possible trade talk.

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