Denton: Magic Making History

By John Denton
January 10, 2011

ORLANDO – The last time they were a part of a winning streak as long as the one the Orlando Magic currently possess – nine games and counting – Dwight Howard was the nation’s best high school player and J.J. Redick was America’s best collegiate player.

So even though they have avoided talking about their winning streak the way a baseball pitcher might not broach the topic of a no-hitter, two of the Magic’s cornerstone players marvel at the roll the team is on now so quickly after making two blockbuster trades. Both are big believers in momentum, and even though the Magic (25-12) don’t play again until Wednesday in New Orleans they can feel the surge of positive vibes coursing through the team right now.

``I take a lot of pride in (the win streak),’’ Redick admitted. ``Things have turned around very quickly and everyone still recognizes that there is still a lot of work to be done. … But absolutely, I believe in momentum. There are plenty of good teams and plenty of good players and a lot of it does come down to confidence, momentum and cohesiveness. And right now we have those things going for us.’’

Do they ever? The Magic haven’t lost since Dec. 21, putting together a nine-game win streak that equals the franchise record set twice before in 1994 and 2001. In 22 years, the franchise has never won double-digit games, but that chance comes Wednesday night in New Orleans (22-16) against a Hornets team that won in Denver on Sunday.

Along the way, the Magic have beaten elite teams (San Antonio and Boston), taken care of business against bad teams (New Jersey, Cleveland and Golden State) and twice they’ve won on the second night of back-to-backs on the road (in Cleveland and in Dallas). The streak started with a 123-point destruction of the Spurs and the record-tying ninth victory came Saturday in Dallas after a furious comeback and a performance for the ages from Hedo Turkoglu.

But Howard, the Magic’s emotional and physical anchor, said the Magic have continued to play well because they’ve approached each night as another game instead of openly trying to extend the longest streak he’s been a part of since his high school days in Atlanta. He said that the Magic practiced on Monday with the intensity of a team on a losing streak, not a winning one.

``We don’t even think about it to be honest with you. We haven’t even talked about a winning streak and it’s not like we’re trying to have the longest winning streak in NBA history,’’ Howard said. ``We’ve just been talking about getting better and reaching our peak at the right time. We want to have momentum going into the playoffs. Right now, it’s early. I’m glad that we’re playing good basketball, but we’ve got to keep it up.’’

Even though the Magic dramatically altered the look and feel of its team three weeks ago by trading Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus for Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Earl Clark and Turkoglu, Orlando is playing with the chemistry of a team that’s seemingly been together for years.

John Denton
In the nine games since the streak began, all eight of the players in coach Stan Van Gundy’s regular rotation has averaged double figures in scoring. The ball movement is up dramatically – the Magic are averaging six more assists a game after the trade than they were before – and the belief once again is that they are one of the NBA’s elite teams.

``I’m not really surprised because we have a bunch of guys who are all professionals and are very unselfish,’’ said Turkoglu, who had set new career highs for assists (17) and steals (five) last week while also notching the third triple-double of his career. ``Maybe we surprised people doing this in such a short period of time, but we’ve bonded together quickly and no matter what we go out there and play defense, rebound and share the ball. We enjoy being together out there and I think that’s showing to everybody.’’

In a cruel, twisted sort of way, Van Gundy and some of his players feel that all of the adversity that the Magic have gone through this season helped harden the squad and bring it even closer. The Magic had two games – one in the preseason and another in New York – canceled because of unplayable court conditions.

In the middle of a December roadtrip, they endured a team-wide virus that left them with just eight players – and actually won that night in Chicago. And there was an incident in New Jersey where the Magic’s team bus got stuck in the snow and the players and coaches had to walk back to the hotel together.

There was an ugly skid in which the Magic lost eight of nine games – ``it felt like 40 games,’’ point guard Jameer Nelson said – sparking the blockbuster trades with Washington and Phoenix. Orlando lost its first two games after the trades – in large part because they didn’t even have time to fit in a practice – but have since been on an unstoppable tear.

``It’s been different, there’s no question. I’ve been through enough in life (through basketball) to know that it’s been different,’’ Van Gundy said. ``In some ways you do build a resilience to it. I once worked for a (coach) at Fordam named Nick Macarchuk who one of the favorite things he’d say to our guys all of the time was, `Anytime, anywhere and under any conditions.’ That’s been a little bit tested with us so far this year. You go out with eight guys and you win a game. We sort of having the feeling now that if we just do what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to win the game.’’

John Denton writes for E-mail John at Submit a question to John for his mailbag segment at