Denton: Magic Reach Halfway Point of Season

By John Denton
January 22, 2013

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The Orlando Magic will hit the halfway point of the NBA’s marathon season tonight in suburban Detroit, and while they have exceeded the expectations of many, they believe they are capable of so much more over the second half of the season.

Picked by one national media outlet to win only 16 games and be among the worst teams in the NBA following the August trade of Dwight Howard, the Magic shocked many by racking up several impressive wins early in the season. At one point a month ago, Orlando was 13-14 and threatening to make a run at a playoff slot in the Eastern Conference.

Injuries to Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis and E’Twaun Moore proved just how small the margin of error is for the franchise, and the Magic have since fallen on hard times. Still, at 14-26 and highly competitive even throughout games that they have lost, the Magic have given rookie head coach Jacque Vaughn plenty to be proud of.

``That’s been the best part of it – the resiliency,’’ Vaughn said Tuesday morning as his Magic prepare to face the Detroit Pistons (15-25) at The Palace of Auburn Hills (Mich.). ``You really don’t know your team until you start coaching the team. And I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the character of the guys in our locker room and what they care about and their approach. I’ve been pleased and (40) games in and we’ve had progress. That (making progress) is what we’ve talked about from Day 1.’’

The Magic notched two of their biggest wins of the season in Los Angeles, beating the Lakers and Howard in early December and toppling the Clippers in early January to end a 10-game losing streak. Orlando whipped Denver in the season-opener and also defeated the vastly improved Golden State Warriors twice. Orlando has also defeated the Pistons twice – winning 110-106 in Detroit on Nov. 16 and rolling 90-74 on Nov. 21.

Magic shooting guard J.J. Redick, one of the team’s steadiest players with his effort and jump shot, said the team paid little attention to outside expectations before the season. Redick said before training camp that Orlando would win more games than being projected, and he still thinks the team has another big run in it over the second half of the season.

``I don’t really care what other people’s expectations are; to me, I think we’re worse than my expectations and worse than most guys expectations because we all want to win,’’ Redick said. ``We’ve had a lot of games that were winnable. The stretch that really hurt us was when we had that home stand and had some games that we should have won and we lost.’’

Redick was referring to a Dec. 23-29 stretch of games against Utah, New Orleans and Toronto when the Magic dropped all three games. Because they have been so competitive – even during down times – the Magic have been in a host of close games. They are 3-6 in games decided by less than five points and 6-13 in games decided by six-to-10 points.

If, and that’s a big if, the Magic could have gotten over the hump in those games, they possibly could have had a truly special season in the works. But Redick said the Magic can’t afford to play such mind games.

``You could look at (all of the close games), but ultimately you have to live in the moment,’’ Redick said. ``There’s no sense in going back to the past because you can’t change your win-loss record at this point. We still have an opportunity to have a successful season. What that success is defined as I’m not sure. But I know that we’re capable of winning games and we have guys who want to win games.’’

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