Denton: History of Success Bodes Well For Magic

By John Denton

ORLANDO -- The Orlando Magic are undoubtedly in a transition phase now after trading Dwight Howard and re-tooling both the front office and coaching staffs. But the franchise’s long-standing track record of success should provide hope to Magic fans that brighter days are again dead ahead.

The Magic hired Rob Hennigan as the team’s new general manager in June and he set the franchise on a new course when he picked Jacque Vaughn as the team’s 10th head coach. Both Hennigan and Vaughn have successful track records and championship pedigrees and are hoping to establish a similar team-first culture in Orlando.

And after Hennigan culled four-year college stars Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn out of the NBA Draft, he executed a blockbuster four-team, 12-player deal. In trading Howard, Chris Duhon and Earl Clark to Los Angeles and Jason Richardson to Philadelphia, the Magic cleared significant salary cap space for the future. The Magic also acquired a centerpiece player in Arron Afflalo, promising rookie Maurice Harkless, veterans Al Harrington, Nikola Vucevic, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga and five future draft picks.

Orlando will enter the 2012-13 season hoping that a veteran core of Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis, J.J. Redick, Afflalo and Harrington can help the franchise keep alive an impressive stretch of success over the last two decades.

The Magic have been in the playoffs each of the past six seasons, the longest such streak in the Eastern Conference. The Magic reached the second round of the playoffs in 2008, got all the way to the NBA Finals in 2009 and went back to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010. They have been in the postseason each of the past two years, losing in the first round.

Whether it’s been with Shaquille O’Neal, Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson, Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill, Darrell Armstrong, Rashard Lewis or Howard and Nelson, the Magic have been able to build an organization that has been both successful and sustainable. Orlando’s star power over the last two decades has kept fans in Orlando enthused and it has kept the team in the hunt for its first title.

Here’s a look at just how successful the Magic have been over the past two decades:

  • In the last 20 years, the Magic have had the fourth-most seasons with a .500 record or better with 16. Only the Spurs (19), Jazz (18), Lakers (17) and Rockets (17) have more winning seasons over that period of time. Orlando has had a winning record each of the past five seasons, including 59-win seasons in 2009-10 and 2010-11. 

  • By comparison, franchises such as the Clippers (three), Wizards (six), Celtics (nine), Sixers (10), Knicks (11), Pistons (11), Mavericks (12) and Bulls (13) have had fewer winning seasons over the past 20 years. 

  • In the last 19 years, the Magic have reached the playoffs 14 times. That also ranks fourth in the NBA behind only the Spurs (18), Lakers (17), Heat (15) and Utah (15) in playoff appearances. The Pacers and Suns also have 14 playoff berths over the last 19 years. 

  • Since the 1994-95 season, the season that Orlando first reached the NBA Finals, only 10 teams have gotten to multiple NBA Finals. The Magic did so in ’95 and ’09, losing to the Rockets and the Lakers. 

While the Magic could be about to enter a rebuilding phase next season, that shouldn’t necessarily cause Magic fans to sound alarms. In the 1999-2000 season, after the Magic traded away Horace Grant, Hardaway and Anderson, the famed ``Heart and Hustle’’ squad under Doc Rivers, Ben Wallace and Armstrong finished with an inspiring 41-41 record.

And after the Magic traded McGrady to Houston in 2004, the franchise nabbed Howard in the draft with the first overall pick in 2004 and steadily climbed back to 52 wins by the 2007-08 season.

Now, the Magic are about to embark upon another rebuild. Hennigan and Vaughn have young and dynamic personalities and are considered by many in NBA circles to have bright basketball minds. The core of returning veterans should keep the Magic competitive in the time being, while the promise of draft picks, young players and salary cap space lend hope for the future.

If the past has taught anything it’s that the Magic have a long-standing history of success, giving hope that the franchise will rebound quickly and soon be back in title contention. The franchise clearly has management in place to ensure that the winning ways of the past continue for years to come.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.



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