All Great Things Come To An End
By Josh Cohen
June 14, 2009
ORLANDO -- What a season it was.
No, the Orlando Magic did not capture their first NBA championship in franchise history. They did, nonetheless, have the kind of season that kids today will look back on when they are older and say, “I experienced ‘Magic’."
Orlando’s memorable 2008-09 campaign ended Sunday when it fell to the Los Angeles Lakers, 99-86, in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
Sure, it’s disappointing to not see the Magic win the title. But, we all know this year was exhilarating.
It’s kind of like going skydiving for the first time, experiencing an unforgettable ride at Disney World or even watching your son or daughter get married. Some words that describe this season are; invigorating, breathtaking, celebratory and blissful.
“We were a championship-caliber team,” J.J. Redick said. “We were division champions, conference champions, just not league champions. We have a lot to be proud of.”
Most say it really began when Dwight Howard was selected first overall by the Magic in the 2004 NBA Draft.
If you have followed the history of the NBA, you know that superior centers are the most important, yet most intricate, position to fill to have a championship-quality team. Just think of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal and you will understand the significance.
‘Superman’ demonstrated to all of us this season that he is inching closer to reaching the plinth of interior dominance. He was an All-Star for the third straight year and was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Howard’s extraordinary 40-point and 14-rebound performance in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers catapulted Orlando to its second Finals berth ever.
“I have a lot of confidence,” he said. “I’ve got a great feeling that we’ll have a chance to be back.”
Rashard Lewis, meanwhile, proved he is the player the Magic expected him to be when they acquired him in 2007. ‘Eagle Eye’ improved immensely during his second campaign with the club and earned his second all-time All-Star appearance.
We will always wonder what could have been if the Magic’s other All-Star, Jameer Nelson, didn’t get injured. Before suffering a torn labrum in his dislocated right shoulder, Nelson was having an outstanding season. Although not 100 percent, he still battled back and returned for The Finals.
But of course, with some bad news came some good news. In need of a veteran point guard while Nelson was recovering, the Magic managed to swing a three-team deal to acquire Rafer Alston.
“I’ll always remember the day I got sent here,” said Alston, who immediately gave the Magic a lift and showed in the playoffs he still has plenty in the tank. “From that day on, I’ve been all smiles. I’ve loved every bit of this team, this city and organization. It was great from day one.”
From overcoming several last-second heartbreaking defeats against the 76ers, Celtics and Cavaliers to suppressing various adversities and doubts, the Magic staged one of the most awe-inspiring playoff runs in league history.
Against Philadelphia, many critics shut the door on the Magic after they went down 2-1. Similarly, against the defending champions, they were labeled too inexperienced and too diffident late in games before dethroning Boston in seven games.
Orlando showed it can battle back from seemingly insurmountable deficits in the conference finals. In its three road games of the series, it erased double-digit deficits before thrashing Cleveland in Game 6 at home.
Although they weren’t able to have the same fortune against the Lakers, the Magic will certainly take this brilliant ride to The Finals into next season.
There is no question that the entire organization will be even more determined, even more focused and even more passionate about capturing the NBA title in 2010.
The team does realize, furthermore, that they can’t achieve their ultimate goal without you, the fans. Your contributions were essential to the team’s success.
Until October, let’s continue reflecting upon the special times we all had in 2008-09 and start anticipating taking the next step in 2009-10.
|Rafer Alston (TOT)||77||76||
|Tyronn Lue (TOT)||44||0||
|Adonal Foyle (TOT)||10||0||