By Dan Savage
January 17, 2012
PLENTY OF REASONS FOR EXCITEMENT


The last nine days have been extremely kind to the Orlando Magic.

They’ve racked up five straight wins, swept two sets of back-to-back games and notched four consecutive triumphs on the road.

Orlando has earned victories with Dwight Howard being dominant, including a 45-point, 23-rebound effort against Golden State, and with him posting modest numbers, notching just eight and 10 against New York.

The Magic have displayed tremendous versatility, getting a career night from Ryan Anderson, solid performances via J.J. Redick, clutch shots from Hedo Turkoglu and a consistent spark off the bench courtesy of Von Wafer.

Even Redick has seen flashes of greatness in this squad, admitting, “this team has a chance to be the best we’ve been in my six years with the Magic.”

That’s no empty compliment, considering Redick was an integral part of Orlando’s 2009 NBA Finals squad.

They’ve even witnessed an improved mindset from offseason addition Glen Davis, who was brought in as a defensive stopper in the fourth quarter of the Magic’s victory over the Bobcats on Tuesday.

“I thought he raised our energy,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy explained. “He made some hustle plays that got us going.”

However, the thing that should have most people around the organization excited is that this squad has not come close to hitting its potential.

Orlando has consistently played inconsistent defense. Take the first half against the Bobcats for example. The Magic allowed them to score 50 points on 48.7 percent shooting from the field, before tightening up after the break.

"At some point, if we want to be good, we're going to have to become a defensive team," Van Gundy added. "So far we have not really made that commitment as a team that we want to be great, or at least that we're willing to do what it takes on the defensive end of the floor."

In addition, Jameer Nelson has been up and down, not yet looking like the All-Star point guard of 2008-09 or the clutch performer of Orlando’s 2010 NBA Playoff run. He’s averaged just 8.7 points per contest, while connecting on only 43.5 percent of his shots from the floor and 29.6 percent of his attempts from long range.

They’ve also had to deal with an injury to a key starter. Magic shooting guard Jason Richardson has sat out the past two contests with a sprained left knee.

Yet, Orlando still finds itself boasting a 10-3 record, which is good enough to lead the Southeast Division and rank third best in the NBA.

“We’ve got a lot of experience, we have the best big guy in league, arguably, the most dominant player and a lot of solid pieces,” Redick said.

That certainly sounds like the recipe for a bright future in The City Beautiful.




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