7:36 PM EST, January 31, 2013
Although it's not yet mathematically official, it is emphatically apparent.
Brace yourself, Orlando Magic fans, because your team is now the worst in the NBA.
You may have the Bobcats and Wizards by a couple of games in the win column, but that won't last long. The Magic have now lost seven in a row, 18 of their last 20 and are well on their way to being the front-runner in the Shabazz Muhammad sweepstakes.
Coming soon: Fox Sports Florida announces Magic games will be shown on tape delay.
There was a time when the Magic's rhythmical playoff mantra used to be, "Blue and White, Ignite!" Well, now the Magic are back to ringing this rhythmical bell: "Ding-dong, y'all, for the ping-pong ball!"
That's right, it's time for Pat Williams to start getting in shape for the draft lottery. The Magic need another multicolored miracle from Williams, their founding father, resident lucky charm and the only man in history to ever win three draft lotteries.
"We have a ping-pong ball farm out at Disney, and every so often, Tinker Bell comes around and sprinkles pixie dust on those ping-pong balls," Williams told me once. "We haven't needed one in a while, but, nevertheless, those magical ping-pong balls are out there."
Good thing because the Magic need one now more than ever in the wake of the broken foot suffered by Glen "Big Baby" Davis on Wednesday – an injury that will likely end his season. Now, sadly, Magic fans are in that dark, forbidden place where no fan wants to be. They must root for losses because the more their team loses, the better the odds of getting the No. 1 pick.
In just half a season of the post-Dwight era, this is what Magic have been relegated to: They've gone from pursuing a championship to praying for ping-pong balls.
Now you see how silly all of that organizational spin was before the season. Remember when the Magic leadership – CEO Alex Martins, GM Rob Hennigan and Coach Jacque Vaughn – for some reason refused to use the term "rebuilding" when talking about the state of the franchise? Remember when there was the far-fetched pipe dream that the Magic might actually remain relevant and playoff-worthy without Dwight?
And remember when some fans actually bought into the belief that this year's team would morph into the second coming of the beloved "Heart and Hustle" team of 1999? Such a comparison is an insult to the Heart and Hustle bunch. That team, behind players like Darrell Armstrong, Bo Outlaw and a young Ben Wallace, didn't just play hard; they played incredibly, amazingly and relentlessly hard.
This Magic team doesn't even come close. In fact, I've never bought the propaganda that this Magic team plays any harder than any other team in the league. In fact, an argument could be made that this collection of players doesn't even play as hard as other teams in the league. If they did, why are they playing such horrid defense during this losing streak? Don't basketball coaches always tell you that playing good defense is about desire, hustle and effort?
Of course, none of this should come as any surprise because most everybody with any basketball acumen knew the Magic were going to be bad this year. But that doesn't make it any less frustrating for fans. Actually, it probably makes it more frustrating because fans don't have anybody to blame.
Usually when a team is exceptionally bad, you call for the coach or GM to be fired, but Magic fans can't do that. You can't blame Hennigan. He's the guy who took over a few months ago and inherited the task of trading the best player in franchise history. You can't blame Vaughn. He's the guy who took over for the best coach in franchise history and inherited a roster that not even Phil Jackson, Red Auerbach or John Wooden could win with.
The only person to blame is Dwight himself and what good does that do? Magic fans have been banging that drum for far too long.
Now the only thing to do is to accept your fate as the worst team in the NBA, swallow hard and ring that rhythmical bell.
Ding-dong, y'all, for the ping-pong ball!
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