Some Magic fans braced for the unbearable, feared the worse.
ESPN’s John Hollinger predicted 16-66. Royce Young of cbssports.com had it 17-65.
Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen said, “The No.1 pick should be the goal” for the Magic.
My esteemed colleagues, Mike Bianchi and George Diaz, both said the Magic would finish 28-54. (They should have called each other first since both are also seen occasionally wearing Members Only jackets.)
I said the Magic would go 36-46. I'm on the right track.
After all, I did win 37 cents in the big Powerball drawing last week.
I just figured the Magic had enough veterans and there really were (are) a lot of bad teams (like the Lakers.)
No one can tell you that 7-10 is reason to throw a party. And It doesn’t mean a lot after just 17 games, with more losses ahead, but the Magic already have accomplished a franchise-wide goal, post-Dwight.
They will not be a league laughingstock as some forecast on the floor or a chaotic mess off it.
When the Dwightmare was over, this is what CEO Alex Martins and GM Rob Hennigan wanted the Magic to be about in their rebuild.
They knew the record was going to be unsightly, but Martins and Hennigan wanted the team to play hard and together and not embarrass itself in the basketball community. Sounded corny and clichéd, but, so far, mission accomplished.
Sure, they all privately giggled after the Magic shocked Howard and the Lakers. Make no mistake about it. Howard dragged the franchise through the mud, so they were tickled to see him get his comeuppance by a cast of players that Dwight didn’t think were good enough to help him win.
The Magic are controversy-free, at least publicly, and that’s by design.
Everybody is under orders to stay in line and avoid leaks. Big Brother is watching.
Not even the emotional Big Baby Davis has acted out, and even news of a team meeting last week didn’t reveal any tumultuous details.
The Magic are back to resembling professionals --- or at least are on their way to regaining that status.
The win against the Lakers showed how an underdog team can play the game if you are focused and determined and hungry.
The victory was no fluke. It also revealed something about the resilient and professional (there’s that word again) character of the guys in the Magic’s lockeroom, considering the club lost to the Brooklyn Nets earlier this season by 39 points and were struggling as they headed West.
Rookie coach Jacque Vaughn outcoached Mike D’Antoni, executing the Hack-a-Howard (oh, the irony) to perfection. D’Antoni should have inserted creaky Pau Gasol or gone small as soon as Howard was being fouled intentionally and heading to the line to hurl bricks. But D’Antoni clearly was more concerned about offending Howard.
Vaughn is calm on the sidelines, and particularly cautious and non-controversial with the media. He seems to have his team's ear. He has stuck with developing rookies and youngsters.
The Magic have a long way to go to accomplish what Howard and Stan Van Gundy did the past five seasons. But it’s a start toward establishing the respectability needed on the ground floor of a major rebuild.
Brian Schmitz is the Magic Insider for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@magicinsider.