Frustration won the season for Orlando Magic as group reached the end

The Orlando Magic's frustrating season has finally led to the rebuild so many have called for. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic's frustrating season has finally led to the rebuild so many have called for. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

99. 38. Final. 110. 73

Aaron Gordon did not confirm he requested a trade from the Orlando Magic in his first media availability since the trade rumors began to pick up this week. He certainly did not deny it either.

The pall of the NBA trade deadline hung over the Magic throughout the first half. The team looked listless in falling behind by 24 points. Their offense was uncharacteristically imprecise, turning the ball over on seemingly every possession in a ragged effort. The defense was not much better with the team struggling to corral offensive rebounds and make the kind of second efforts necessary to upset one of the West’s top teams.

The Magic fought back. They snapped to attention and they cut the deficit down to five in the fourth quarter.

Something was always off. The team never could get all the way over the hump. It was always a turnover or a misstep, a missed boxout or a tough shot.

The Magic were always climbing uphill. They were always making up ground.

A perfect metaphor for the way the Magic have had to play the last seven years with Gordon. The team had momentary victories and looked ahead to a promising future. But so much of it has gone unrealized.

Frustration has taken over this season. The injuries. The losses. The inconsistency.

The Orlando Magic’s frustrations built up from a decade-long rebuild have finally boiled over. There is no saving this group and the players know they need change as much as the franchise does.

The Magic are back to where they started again. A place no one who has been through this ringer wants to be again. And that frustration has bubbled over almost everywhere as the team tries to figure out what comes after a lost season.

The real conclusion is that it is a breakup. The Magic are at least ready to teardown. Everyone is ready for it.

"“There have been times that I expressed my frustration to management,” Gordon said after Tuesday’s loss. “Frustration with the losses, with the injuries, with the way we’ve been playing, how we’ve been playing and how many losses have accumulated over the year.s It’s just my frustration boiling over. I think a lot of people share that sentiment with me of frustration.”"

This has been a frustrating season. More frustrating than usual.

But it is made more frustrating by the potential that seems to have been squandered and the progress, hard-earned as it was, that has been halted.

The last two years have had their share of frustration after that breakthrough season in 2019. Orlando failed to build upon the playoff season and the 42-40 year the team had that season.

Instead, the Magic backslid back to irrelevancy and back to the deep Lottery. Back to the part of the standings that make every franchise think twice about what comes next. The place in the standings where holdovers feel the uneasiness of their place in the team’s plans.

Orlando suffered through injuries in the 2020 season. The team’s biggest question mark and potential for growth in Jonathan Isaac missed more than half the year with a knee injury. Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon both missed significant time.

And then everyone missed time in the bubble it seemed — Jonathan Isaac with a torn ACL, Aaron Gordon with a strained hamstring and Evan Fournier with an illness.

The 2021 season proved to be even more difficult. No team has lost more games to injuries than the Magic. And it simply became too difficult to sustain.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Steve Clifford said after Tuesday’s 110-99 loss to the Denver Nuggets the Orlando Magic continue to play hard. After falling behind by 24 points in the first half and looking ready for the trade deadline to finally create change, the team fought back to get it within five points.

At the decisive moments, the Magic got sped up and missed critical shots or got out of position defensively. The Nuggets made all the plays to finish the game.

Fournier scored a season-high 31 points, trying to prove he was not ready to let go of the team and the group he had played with for the last seven seasons. But the team not been able to play that way consistently.

The pieces never coalesced and came together. They showed plenty of times — including as recently as Friday in the win over the Brooklyn Nets — they can play at that level.

Nobody wanted this to fail.

"“We’re all disappointed,” Fournier said after Tuesday’s loss. “It’s not easy going through what we are going through with all the injuries and all the rumors surrounding the team. The core guys that have been together for a while, we do trust each other. We love playing with each other. It’s just a matter of putting everything behind us and just look forward and fight.”"

Like so many things, Orlando just fell short, lacking the ability to break through to the next step.

Unfortunately, the legacy of this trio — Gordon, Fournier and Vucevic — is one of failure and loss. They have just one winning season and two playoff appearances together.

There have been a lot of iterations of the roster around them and they were not always considered the core parts of the team. There was a constant change with the head coaches. Management eventually changed. They had to stick together.

Their trip to the playoffs was a victory for them. But even that came with a tinge of failure — Fournier and Vucevic both struggled in that 2019 playoff series with the Toronto Raptors. The team never delivered a home playoff win to victory-starved Magic fans.

There was a lot left undone. That adds to the disappointment.

But everyone also sensed this was the end.

It felt that way at the end of the 2020 season. The Magic felt like they needed to begin a reset and move on from these players. They were given one more chance.

And even that chance got taken from them thanks to injuries to so many starters and even the key players themselves. This season was just patently unfair.

More from Orlando Magic Daily

Anyone would be frustrated with so much being out of their hands. Anyone would be frustrated with being so close to a breakthrough — testing that ceiling to try to climb up only to get knocked back down.

Fournier said Gordon’s frustrations were shared elsewhere on the team. Nobody held his trade request against him. They support him and want to keep playing with him if they can. This year has tested everyone throughout the franchise.

But it is true too that everyone can sense the end.

Orlando has one more game to play together before the trade deadline. It is still uncertain whether Gordon and Fournier, two players likely to get moved ahead of Thursday’s deadline, will play. They may have well played their last game in a Magic uniform.

Despite some hiccups in the first half, Fournier and Gordon both did their best to do the orange pinstripes they were wearing proud. They may have one more opportunity to play for their team and their teammates they have played with for seven years.

"“As of right now, I’m an Orlando Magic,” Gordon said after Tuesday’s game. “I have been here for seven years and developed a home here and a sense of love and community here. As long as I have Magic on my chest, I’m going to give everything I have. I’m focused on Phoenix tomorrow and getting that win.”"

One win will not release all the frustration that has built up and finally seemed to overflow from these past seven years. One win will not change what the Magic are going to do Thursday or change this team’s future.

dark. Next. A three-team trade is the way to go for Aaron Gordon

But the Magic are going to change. It is as inevitable as it has ever been. The frustration of the past seven years is getting put behind. And the team is prepared to move forward without these two core players.