Denton: Magic & Cavs Share Similar Situations


By John Denton
October 15, 2012

CINCINNATI – If any franchise knows exactly what the Orlando Magic are going through now as they try to dig out from a summer in which they lost all-star center Dwight Howard, it’s the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It was just two years ago that the Cavaliers were devastated by the free-agent defection of LeBron James, who announced to the world that he was ``taking his talents to South Beach,’’ to play for the Miami Heat.

Similarly, Howard forced his way out of Orlando last summer. He demanded a trade, and was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers in August in a four-team, 12-player blockbuster.

The Magic (0-2) and Cavs (2-2) face off tonight at 7 p.m. in Cincinnati at U.S. Bank Arena. The game is not being televised in Central Florida, but is being broadcast by the Magic Radio Network.

There are numerous similarities between the two former franchise players in Cleveland and Orlando. James was the first overall selection in the 2003 NBA Draft, while Howard was drafted No. 1 overall by the Magic in 2004. James played seven seasons in Cleveland before leaving, while Howard was a fixture in Orlando for eight years. Both led their teams to the NBA Finals – James in 2007 and Howard in 2009 – only to come up short.

Cleveland plummeted after losing James, going 19-63 in 2010-11 and 21-45 last season to finish in last place in the Central Division each of the past two years. But that allowed them to draft point guard Kyrie Irving first overall and power forward Tristan Thompson fourth in 2011 and shooting guard Dion Waiters fourth this past June.

Cleveland coach Byron Scott wasn’t around when James played for the Cavs, but he is in charge of picking up the pieces and rebuilding the franchise. He said he knows exactly what the Magic are going through after losing Howard. Although Orlando is expected to once again contend for a playoff slot after keeping together a veteran core of Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis and Hedo Turkoglu and trading for veterans Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington. Still, Scott said, the Magic are in for a rebuilding period to get back to contending status.

``It’s a process and it takes time,’’ Scott said. ``(Magic coach) Jacque (Vaughn) is coming in like I did, having no relationship with LeBron whatsoever. I knew LeBron, but I had no attachment. Same thing with Jacque, who has no attachment to Dwight Howard. For him, it will be easier to move on, but for the city it’s a little more difficult and for the organization it’s difficult as well.

``But to have a coach in there with a clean slate and understanding that it’s going to take time when you lose a franchise player like that is a good thing,’’ Scott continued. ``It’s not one of those overnight successes. It’s not going to happen in a year and it’s going to take a little time. But you’ve got to stick with the process and not depart from it. If you want to build for the long haul it will take two to four years, probably.’’

John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at jdenton@orlandomagic.com or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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