MIAMI — The events of Dec. 18, 2010 — exactly one year ago today — will be remembered as a crucial turning point for the Orlando Magic.
Gortat" href="http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-12-18/sports/os-orlando-magic-trade-20101218_1_stan-van-gundy-jameer-nelson-mickael-pietrus" target="_blank">The team completed two major trades:
Enough time has passed to begin drawing a conclusion: Not only did those moves backfire in 2010-11, but they ultimately might cripple the franchise for years to come.
For a moment, though, let’s try to put those deals into context at the time they were made.
In mid-December last year, the team was regressing — and regressing badly. The Magic had lost three of four games on a disastrous West Coast road trip.
It wasn’t just that they lost those games. It was how they lost them.
• On Dec. 9, Dwight Howard: The Magic 'folded' in their 97-83 loss to the Trail Blazers" href="http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-12-10/sports/os-magic-blazers-game-1210-20101209_1_stan-van-gundy-jameer-nelson-orlando-magic" target="_blank">after a 97-83 loss in Portland, a seething Dwight Howard said, “Until everybody steps up on the team and mans up, then teams are going to throw their best punch at us and we’re going to fold.”
• On Dec. 10, the Utah Jazz 117-105" href="http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-12-11/sports/os-magic-jazz-game-1211-20101210_1_stan-van-gundy-brandon-bass-dwight-howard" target="_blank">Magic lost 117-105 in Salt Lake City. After it ended, Howard said almost nothing. The normally gregarious All-Star was stone-faced. When asked if he saw an improvement in the team’s intensity from the night before, he responded, “I don’t know.”
• On Dec. 14, the road swing came to an end with Denver Nuggets" href="http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-12-15/sports/os-orlando-magic-dwight-howard-121410_1_dwight-howard-big-guys-stan-van-gundy" target="_blank">a jarring 111-94 loss in Denver. After Carmelo Anthony had scored 35 points, Howard essentially threw Carter under the bus, saying, “Our wings got to do a better job not allowing their man just to get to the rim every play.”
Just four days later, Carter — a player whom Howard and many others in the organization had lost faith in — was gone.
General Manager Otis Smith had determined, rightly so, that the Magic could not reach the NBA Finals with Carter playing such a prominent role. (Never mind for a moment that Smith actually had traded for Carter back on draft day in 2009.)
But while the front office diagnosed the problems correctly, the front office didn’t solve the problem.
In fact, it may have made matters worse.
After a nine-game winning streak from Dec. 23 through Jan. 8 with the new players, the team lost its momentum.
And we all know how the season would end: with a first-round defeat to the Atlanta Hawks in six games.
• Richardson showed some late-game fortitude at times, but he never found a comfortable role within the office. A drop in his scoring average was expected when he came from Phoenix (19.3 ppg), but he also experienced significant declines in field-goal percentage (.470 with Phoenix to .433 with Orlando) and 3-point percentage (.419 to .384). . . . Even worse, Richardson had a rough playoff series. His confrontation with Atlanta center Zaza Pachulia in Game 3 led to Richardson’s one-game suspension for Game 4. And, before Game 5, Richardson stepped on glass and needed seven stitches on the underside of one of his feet; the Magic won that game, but he was severely hobbled in Game 6.
• Turkoglu showed flashes of his old self at times, but his game dropped off considerably after a mesmerizing 17-assist performance in a road win over the Dallas Mavericks on Jan. 8. He slumped badly in the playoffs, shooting .294 from the field and .233 from 3-point range.