Believe it or not, we are less than one month away from the first Magic preseason game. Orlando will open training camp on October 1 and open the preseason in Mexico City against New Orleans on October 7. So how will we get ready? By counting down to the beginning of the season on November 2 against Denver. Let's continue:
It is late in the day, and I am more in the mood to just throw some highlights up rather than write anything particularly long. This clip really should need no introduction, but here is one anyway.
On May 30, 2009, the Magic had the opportunity to win their second Eastern Conference Championship. To do so, Orlando would need to continue to slow down LeBron James and the heavily favored Cavaliers. After James pretty much single handedly won Game Five to extend the series, there were concerns that James could single handedly win this series.
Dwight Howard, in perhaps his finest and biggest performance in a Magic uniform, made sure that did not happen. This was an absolute take down from Howard and he dominated the game offensively and defensively in a way he had not. At least not so clearly and in such a big spot.
Howard finished with 40 points and 14 rebounds, making 14 of his 21 shots and 12 of his 16 free throws. It was good for a 71.3 percent true shooting percentage. He added four assists and a blocked shot. He posted a 149 offensive rating that game. And a moment of ecstacy.
(I am getting goosebumps watching this video… OK, here come the waterworks):
As much as fans may hate Dwight Howard right now, try not smiling when you think of that moment.
Magic fans often refer to the mid-1990s as the good old days; a time when the Magic were relevant, when the team offered something the entire city could rally around. Back then, Magic games were commonly shown at sports bars and it wouldn’t be rare to see a Magic bumper sticker or a flag waving from someone’s car. The good old days are back, my friends.
For the first time since 1995, the Magic are headed to the NBA Finals. So put on your Magic hat, put on the old Magic theme song, and party like it's 1995. Forgive me if I’m getting a bit hyperbolic, but I know the Magic fans are with me. The NBA Finals never seemed possible. Too much went wrong this season. But this team grew up in the playoffs and evolved into an elite team that won’t quit, that won’t go down without a fight under any circumstance.
Not all championship teams are that way at the beginning of the season. It takes some tough times (struggling against Philadelphia in round one). It takes adversity (Jameer Nelson’s injury). It takes inner-conflict (Dwight Howard’s touches). It takes growth (Courtney Lee’s emergence). It takes seemingly insurmountable odds (down 3-2 to Boston). It takes adjustments (Rafer Alston). It takes unity. It takes teamwork.
Now, the Magic are right there. The ultimate dream is no longer a dream. It’s now a goal. Led by a career performance from Dwight Howard, the Magic put LeBron James out of his misery by defeating the Cavaliers 103-90. The Magic jumped out to an early double-digit lead, and essentially put the Cavs away with a second-quarter outburst. Orlando led by 18 at halftime and — except for a brief lapse at the beginning of the third quarter — never let the Cavs make a game of it.
Good times. And they will be here again.
Just 40 more days until the journey starts again.