Impatience is growing as the Dwight Howard saga rolls on. It does not take a whole lot for Magic fans to get jumpy and antsy for this thing to end. Each rumor is met with the instant reaction of knowing how important this one move will be for the Magic’s immediate future.
There is impatience. Everyone wants to move on and begin building the 2013 roster (let alone the roster for the next five years).
But all the Magic have done in this free agency period has re-signed Jameer Nelson, picked up J.J. Redick’s option and watched Ryan Anderson say a heartfelt good bye to the team he spent the last three years playing for.
These are all minor moves, not the major move the whole league is waiting for and that has paralyzed the Magic.
The whole Dwight Howard saga has raised several questions about Orlando as a free agent destination. This is the third star player that has simply said Orlando is not good enough. Whether it is because the team failed to build a winning team or alienated the star, Orlando has not been able to retain its star players. The players many Magic fans think could and should have their jerseys hanging in the rafters of Amway Center left bitterly.
Dwight Howard, Shaquille O’Neal, Tracy McGrady and Anfernee Hardaway (although he is not really in the same class though because injuries took away a lot of his previous skill) all left on bad terms. Then there is the other half — the Darrell Armstrongs and Nick Andersons of Magic history — who are universally loved in Magic lore.
This is the category that Jameer Nelson and J.J. Redick fall into (not to the same level, but you get the point). Career starters and role players who have an undying love for Orlando. Nelson took a pay cut to stay in Orlando and secure some form of long-term future. Redick has spoken nothing but great things about Orlando and he has made it his home.
Even as Ryan Anderson signed a contract with New Orleans, leaving Orlando for now, he expressed how appreciative he was of the fans and how much he loved living in the City Beautiful:
“I’d love to just give a thank you to everybody,” Anderson told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. ”I don’t know how else to do it, but it was literally a pleasure living in Orlando, being around the fans. They’re the best fans. Orlando’s always a place that, when I go and visit, it’ll be kind of like a second home. I loved it there. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
And therein lies the main crux of the question Mike Bianchi asked late last week after Jameer Nelson agreed to terms with the Magic and the Magic decided to keep Redick for the final year of his three-year deal. Why do so many stars want to leave Orlando?
That is the negative way to look at it. The positive spin: Thank goodness so many role players, so many of those players fans love to love, want to be in Orlando.
Think about it.
Darrell Armstrong played nine memorable seasons in Orlando. Nick Anderson played 10 seasons. Dennis Scott played seven for the Magic. Pat Garrity played nine years in Orlando. Bo Outlaw lasted five seasons in one stint and then another three and then came back as a community ambassador.
Nelson will enter his ninth season in Orlando and Redick will enter his seventh for Orlando. And you figure the Magic will want to keep Redick around a little longer when he becomes a free agent next summer.
Yes, some of these players played for the Magic because the team valued them more than other teams. Some lasted longer because of contracts the Magic gave. The point is, for the most part, these guys came to Orlando and stayed. And most of those names are players we generally have fond memories of. No ill will at all. And these are all guys that still talk glowingly of Orlando — the NBA Summer League broadcast started with Rick Kamla asking and Dennis Scott confirming that Scott’s time in Orlando was the best seven years of his life.
The plain fact is, and this gets the team no closer to a championship for sure, role players come to Orlando and fall in love with the place. And the fans fall in love with them.
The fact that stars want to leave Orlando is not an indictment of the city. Players love coming to and moving to the city. It just does not have what the stars want. it is not a big media market and it does not have the exposure that New York or Los Angeles can provide.
Whether or not the Magic have to go through another tortuous relationship with another star player down the road is a question well worth debating. It is one we will find out the next time Orlando happens to get a star player.
There is nothing wrong with Orlando. It is a place players want to be and come to love.
There is a star that will feel that same love. We thought it would be Dwight Howard. And I think even Howard loves the city of Orlando. So too does Shaq (he still lives here after all).
At some point, Orlando will get the right personnel to convince a star to stay for the long term and commit to the city and the team.
Keep cheering hard, Magic fans.