We do not have much to do at a time when basketball is supposed to be taking over all our lives. So here it is Orlando Magic Madness, our Magic tournament.
There is obviously not a lot going on right now in the world of the Orlando Magic or basketball in general.
The league and the entire sports world is on hiatus. So there is no NBA, no NCAA Tournament, no anything. Well, almost anything. NBA 2K is still dutifully simulating the NBA season on their engines. That is . . . something.
We are hungering for something to get us through these dark terrible times without basketball. This is supposed to be basketball at its best. This is the time of year we see the game played at its highest level.
This week was supposed to be the week the Orlando Magic played arguably its two biggest games of the year against the Brooklyn Nets, solidifying their playoff spot one way or another. This week was supposed to the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Like I said, basketball at its best.
We are all killing time in our social isolation while we flatten the curve and wait for basketball to get back. But we all still want to fill out brackets and find some basketball competition to get us through.
That is what we are here for.
We are here for #MagicMadness.
To pass the time over the next few weeks, it is time to build your bracket of the 64-best Magic players and vote on who is the best — or however you want to vote, I am not looking for anything specifically.
I have split the best players in Magic history into four historical regions — The Shaquille O’Neal era, the Dwight Howard era, the Tracy McGrady era and the Expansion/Rebuild era. There are a few crossovers, but not many.
Seeding is not scientific at all. I used our Top 25 players in Magic history that we did back in 2016 as an initial guide (it might be time to update that. . . I have to save something for the summer). Seeding was done by my own individual judgment.
What we will do is each day, I will list the matchups from each region on Twitter and Facebook for you to vote on. You can use whatever reason you want to vote on (be sure to share your reasons in the comments or replies, if you would like). The winners will advance in the tournament, the losers will not.
And the winner of the tournament will win #MagicMadness.
The first round is listed in the Tweet above. Here are some of the more interesting matchups and my take on the matchups to watch in round one. See you on the voting fields. Interested to see your brackets too!
And yes, I realize the final four are probably obvious. And the brackets are rigged to avoid that predictable final four.
Here are my intriguing first-round matchups:
Shaq Era — (11) Sam Vincent vs. (6) Terry Catledge
The first matchup to profile features two players from the Expansion Era that I have moved into the O’Neal Era region. They were both part of the expansion year and left the team fairly quickly after.
Sam Vincent averaged 10.1 points per game and 4.6 assists per game playing largely alongside Reggie Theus as the team’s starting point guard in the inaugural year and then next to Scott Skiles thereafter as he struggled to stay healthy after tearing his ACL.
Sam Vincent built his reputation in the league defensively.
So did Terry Catledge. Terry Catledge averaged 15.3 points per game in four seasons with the Magic. He ultimately left the team when Shaquille O’Neal moved in. But before then, the 6-foot-8 power forward was one of the best scorers on those original teams.
He averaged 19.5 points per game and a hair less than 15 points per game in his next two seasons. He was one of the Magic’s best scorers in those early years.
My Pick: Terry Catledge
Expansion/Rebuild Era — (14) Jonathan Isaac vs. (3) Nikola Vucevic
I imagine this battle between two of the Orlando Magic’s current stalwarts is going to be one of the most heated among the first-round matchups.
Nikola Vucevic came to replace Dwight Howard and has done about as well as he can under the circumstances. He has been a consistent double-double player — averaging 17.0 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game in eight seasons with the Magic.
But, among certain sectors of Magic fans, his name and his game is a live grenade for debates and throwing things into the fire. Nikola Vucevic is unpopular because he is not the superstar player the Magic need. He represents a frustrating era in Magic history.
Jonathan Isaac represents the future. And everyone is really excited to see what that future looks like. He showed plenty of promise. When we do this again in five years, rest assured Jonathan Isaac will not be a 14-seed.
My Pick: Nikola Vucevic
Dwight Era — (13) Serge Ibaka vs. (4) Steve Francis
A few years down the road, people will probably be surprised to reminisce that both Serge Ibaka and Steve Francis played for the Orlando Magic. If they remember they played for the Magic at all, that is. But both players had some pretty solid play in a Magic uniform, even if their stays were pretty short.
Steve Francis was nearly an All-Star in his first year with the Magic in 2005, averaging 21.3 points and 7.0 assists per game. In his season and a half in Orlando, he averaged 19.4 points and 6.5 assists per game. Francis is one of the few players in Magic history to hit those numbers and he ranks a lot higher in the all-time rankings then you might think.
Serge Ibaka is kind of the same way. In his half-season in Orlando, he averaged 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. That was the highest scoring average in his career. He stepped up to the plate as the featured player, at least individually.
Ultimately, both players did not make it with the Magic because they did not want to be in Orlando. That is probably why history will forget them despite some solid statistics.
My Pick: Steve Francis
Orlando Magic Daily Orlando Magic are either ahead for a rebuilding team or behind as a playoff team
More headlines around FanSided:— There are no easy decisions for Orlando Magic, Evan Fournier — Orlando Magic should retire jersey numbers to honor its history — Markelle Fultz became more than a comeback story in Orlando Magic's win over Los Angeles Lakers — Orlando Magic Madness 2020: Jonathan Isaac represents the future — Orlando Magic: Ranking the last 10 first-round picks
T-Mac Era — (9) Juwan Howard vs. (8) Drew Gooden
I think this is the most interesting matchup fo the first round because this was an actual matchup that occurred on the floor during the 2004 season. It was one of the ongoing storylines in that disastrous season.
Orlando signed Juwan Howard to fill in as a small-ball center — I swear they were ahead of their times . . . maybe too far ahead of its times — and play alongside Drew Gooden — that was not so much ahead of its times — to bolster the lineup with Tracy McGrady. It turned out Juwan Howard could not play center (the Howard that could play center was a year away) and Gooden bristled at the thought of giving up his power forward spot.
Look, a lot of things went wrong that season. Howard averaged 17.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in his lone season in Orlando. He did the best he could really with the situation he was in.
Gooden averaged 12.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game in two seasons with the Magic. He never quite lived up to his full potential as one of the top picks in his draft and the promise he showed his rookie season after Orlando acquired him.
My Pick: Juwan Howard
I am eagerly looking forward to the results and seeing all your brackets for #MagicMadness. Enjoy this welcome distraction!