Why didn’t I write about them before? For a couple reasons: 1) Life sometimes interferes even with the most dedicated bloggers, and 2) I needed some time to wrap my head around the thought of Malik Allen being a number one backup center.
Okay, on to the roster overhaul. First, I have no idea whether it will work. My guess would be that it doesn’t — mostly because, for it to work, Gilbert Arenas needs to return to ’06-’07 Agent Zero, and Hedo Turkoglu needs to revert to the walking mismatch who was Orlando’s go-to playmaker in their 2009 Finals run. To expect either of them to return to their former selves requires a leap of faith I’m not ready to make.
More likely, Jason Richardson will end up being Orlando’s most important acquisition from the trades. Which is fine… unless you’re actually trying to win an NBA championship, in which case you need at least one player who can create at the end of games. Richardson isn’t that guy, and neither is the Arenas we’ve seen since his return, and neither is the zombie living in Hedo’s body the past two seasons.
It’s clear Orlando made these moves to win an NBA championship now, and to entice Dwight Howard to stick around when his contract expires. But how much closer are they to a championship? They have SO many question marks in their lineup now.
How do Jameer Nelson and Gilbert Arenas fit in the same backcourt? Who becomes the playmaker come crunch time? Can this team stop anyone? Will Dwight Howard get into more foul trouble than ever before because his perimeter defenders act as a funnel straight to him? Is the trio of Ryan Anderson, Malik Allen and Daniel Orton REALLY Orlando’s only backcourt bench help? Is one ball going to be enough for this psychotic, half-crazy (entirely crazy?), shot-happy (no pun intended for Gilbert) crew? Does Hedo Turkoglu’s heart even still beat?
Okay, so the Magic probably aren’t done trading yet. I don’t see J.J. Redick sticking around (there isn’t really a spot for him anymore), so he’ll probably get swapped for some big man help. Even so, the perimeter questions still stand. All of them. Call me crazy, but I don’t see any of these new Magicians A) fitting in well with Stan Van Gundy’s style, B) stopping a soul, or C) taking over come crunch time. In their primes, yes. But these folks aren’t in their primes anymore. In their Magic opener, Hedo (shocking nobody in Toronto or Phoenix) still sucked, and Arenas came off the bench and shot 2-11 (also shocking nobody). Will they improve with time? I assume. But don’t expect any of these guys to be stars, in Orlando. And the Magic need at least one of them to be capable of star production.
(Side note: Malik Allen played 13 minutes in his first post-trade action, registering 0 points and 1 rebound. That next trade can’t come soon enough.)
In conclusion, I like the motives behind the trades, but not the trades themselves. Otis Smith knew his Magic, as they were constructed, weren’t going to win a championship. So he pulled the trigger, drastically changing a team that was only a step shy of a championship in the first place. More GMs should be built like that. The NBA should be about winning championships, and anything else should be uncivilized.
Just take a look at the Atlanta Hawks. As presently constructed, they have zero shot of winning a championship or even coming close. But they just signed Joe Johnson for $120 million, apparently so they can continue their string of first- and second-round playoff runs for the foreseeable future. It’s like when the Celtics traded away Joe Johnson so they could rent Tony Delk and Rodney Rodgers. Sure, the trade helped them reach the Eastern Conference Finals, but I promise: no matter what happened, a lineup of Kenny Anderson, Paul Pierce, Tony Delk, Antoine Walker and Tony Battie was never taking down the Shaq-Kobe Los Angeles Lakers. What’s better — reaching the Eastern Conference Finals or keeping your most promising rookie since Paul Pierce? What’s more important — reaching a low ceiling, or trying to make that ceiling a little higher?
Back to the Magic, I admire the stones Otis Smith displayed while trying to shake things up. But the overhaul seems a lot more like Steve Kerr’s failed Shaq experiment in Phoenix, rather than the Rasheed Wallace trade that spurred Detroit to the 2004 title. Trading for big names doesn’t always equate to success, and I have a feeling Otis Smith will soon kick himself that he didn’t spend more time trying to acquire Carmelo Anthony.
Basically, the Magic traded two old, over-the-hill big names (and Marcin Gortat) for two old, over-the-hill big names (and Jason Richardson). They changed, indeed.
But are they any closer to the elusive NBA championship? I think not.