Magic Masters Opening Round: 2007 vs. 1990

Magic Masters is Orlando Magic Daily’s attempt to recognize the best in Magic history. In this edition, we are trying to rank the best teams in Magic history. To see the full tournament bracket, visit the introduction page. Today, we continue the opening round with our fifth matchup:

The 2007 team stands squarely in between two eras of Magic basketball. Brian Hill was something of a lame-duck coach as everyone began to realize his deliberate style of play was not getting the most out of his relatively young roster.

Dwight Howard was really beginning to blossom into a superstar, laying the foundations for the will he would exert defensively. Jameer Nelson was firmly entrenched as the team’s starting point guard. And Hedo Turkoglu was even beginning to show signs that he would be able to contribute in the future with his on-ball playmaking ability.

This was also the one year — the one year in seven! — that Grant Hill was completely healthy for the Magic. The promise of his contract coming off the books and giving Orlando some much needed salary relief after seven years of mediocrity with the Hill albatross hanging about the franchise’s neck. Not that Hill had a bad season. By PER he was actually Orlando’s best player on this strangely appealing team.

The Magic got this group to its first Playoff appearance since 2003, and met a merciless sweep to the hated Pistons. Still, this team provided a lot of hope for the future. Sure, that cap room turned into Rashard Lewis and Otis Smith briefly flirted with Billy Donovan before Stan Van Gundy became his man (the right man) for the job.

The 2007 season was the beginning of Orlando’s ascendance to a championship-contending team. It met expectations by reaching the postseason, although the team failed to get a victory. At the time, though, Magic fans had no idea what was to come. All they knew coming out of this season that the Magic were officially Dwight Howard’s team now.

The 1990 team was almost the exact opposite. It was the beginning.

An 18-64 record did not matter. Orlando, a growing city in Central Florida, officially had a professional sports team. The Orlando Arena sold out every night and people generally just enjoyed the games.

The rag-tag group of Nick Anderson, Otis Smith, Terry Catledge, Jerry Reynolds and Scott Skiles endeared themselves with a lot of hard work and fast-paced play. Adding in veterans like Reggie Theus and Sam Vincent helped keep things level and provide some consistency in the lineup.

Of course, nobody expected much as far as wins and losses. It was just about the feeling of having professional basketball in Orlando.

The team is remembered more for its moments and firsts. The first NBA game in Orlando, an exhibition victory over the defending champion Pistons. The last-second victory over the Bulls (thank Otis Smith for that). Defeating the Lakers for the first time. There were plenty of losses that year, but the 18 wins really stood out. And the O-Rena was really rocking for the first time.

There is the stage, here is the poll. Who’s better?

Record, Results and Expectations

 

Both of these teams met their expectations. There is no doubt about that.

After a four year absence from the postseason, the 2007 team got itself back into the Playoffs, even if it was for just a brief cameo. After the way the 2006 team ended its year, maybe a bit more was expected.

The Magic finished 40-42 that year and earned the eight seed in the Eastern Conference. Orlando seemed to build off the success from the end of the year, heading into December with a 13-4 record. It felt like, at times, the Magic were going to be the surprise team in the East. But it was young and soon suffered several strings of losses to fall below .500. The team hovered around that mark for the rest of the season.

Getting to the Playoffs was the goal and it was accomplished. Beggars were not going to be choosers after struggling through the last five years. It seemed like a long journey to get back after Tracy McGrady’s departure and the Steve Francis experiment.

Like I said before, the 1990 team was playing under almost no expectations. First, it was an expansion team so everyone realized how rare wins would be with a team full of mostly other teams’ castoffs. There are rarely expectations around these types of teams and the Magic did not receive a particularly high draft pick to get them started. Anderson was a good player, but not superstar quality. Especially straight out of Illinois.

The 1990 team was more about spunk and resiliency than wins and losses. Statistically, they might have been among the worst in franchise history. But of course they were, it was the first year. They were not supposed to be anywhere near good. They were just supposed to be fun.

I think they were.

We still talk glowingly of the way Smith played, the way Anderson played, the way Scott Skiles played. We remember Sam Vincent every time he comes to Orlando. We remember Jeff Turner’s sweet shooting stroke.

If we don’t, maybe we should.

Matchup

Off. Rtg. Def. Rtg. eFG% O.Reb.% TO% FTR
2006-07 104.9 104.1 50.0 29.3 16.3 27.6
1989-90 105.8 114.3 46.7 33.7 13.9 27.4

Game 1: 2007 112, 1990 98
Game 2:  2007 104, 1990 91
Game 3:  2007 117, 1990 101
Game 4:  2007 125, 1990 106

There is no doubt about this, the 2007 team was a better team. and just about every Magic team was better than that expansion team.

The 1990 team lacked any real size. Dave Corzine and Sidney Green alternated as the starter and neither was very good. Terry Catledge was the power forward, and he should have been a small forward. Jeff Turner is what we would call a stretch-4, and he before his time. The NBA just was not built to accomodate a player of his skill level (let’s just say he was not the player you build your offense around like you could even with a guy like Rashard Lewis, maybe).

Let’s just say Dwight Howard would have a field day inside against the team. Even Darko Milicic might have his way. Now THAT is saying something.

As fun as the 1990 team might have been to watch, there really was no substance. It just was not a good team. I cannot say that enough. They gave up 114.3 points per 100 possessions and shot only 46.7 percent effective field goal percentage! You never knew where points were going to come from and, oh yeah, they had no size.

There were nice wins and some good memories. Much more memorable than the 2007 team that simply set the stage for later success and spanned two eras of Magic basketball.

Your vote here really depends on your criteria for selection. Do you go for the team that made a bigger impact on team history and provided more memories? Or do you go for the team that was simply better?

If the 2007 team were a different, worse team, the 1990 team might get the edge. But the 2007 team was actually decent. Much more decent than the 1990 team’s memories. But I can be convinced otherwise.

Edge: 2006-07

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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