The Orlando Magic made no new acquisitions at Thursday’s trade deadline, but perhaps had the most productive day of any NBA team. Entering Thursday, most believed that center Dwight Howard would remain with the Magic, but to agree not to opt out of his contract at the end of the season caught most by surprise.
There was little flare surrounding the NBA’s trade deadline with the biggest name relocating being Golden State’s Monta Ellis; Ellis was once thought to be a piece that could wind up in Orlando. Orlando, however, stayed put with its current roster. Orlando’s record for much of the year has been among the league’s best, but the recent play of the Magic is enough to make one think that Orlando could be a force to be reckoned with down the stretch.
Since blowing a 20-point-lead and falling to lowly Charlotte, Orlando has seemed to play its best basketball. Orlando responded with a road win over the best team in the Eastern Conference, Chicago, and followed that up with a blowout of Indiana before coming from 13 points down to defeat the Miami Heat. The Magic did fall at San Antonio on Wednesday night, but played a four-quarter basketball game against one of the league’s best less than 24 hours after an emotional overtime win.
After Tuesday’s 104-98 overtime win over Miami, Howard claimed that he wanted to finish the year in Orlando. Howard has since got his wish and seems to believe that the Magic are contenders, something he had been reluctant to say publicly. There is some evidence that suggests Howard is correct. Without Jason Richardson in the lineup, the Magic seem to be a better, quicker team and DeAndre Liggins brings athleticism and a defensive mentality off the bench that neither Richardson nor J.J. Redick possess. Jameer Nelson seems to be resembling the type of player that made him an All-Star in 2009. Nelson has scored a season-high 25 points in each of his last two games and the offense runs through him down the stretch rather than through forward Hedo Turkoglu.
Choosing not to become a free agent at the end of the season not only gives Orlando certainty for what they have for the remainder of the year, but all the distractions that have surrounded Howard and his teammates this season become non-existent. It also gives the team one more offseason to find that pieces that will solidify itself as a contender. While the Magic didn’t make the moves many believed were necessary to become a championship contender this year, they did more than what was believed possible to solidify themselves for the short term.