I am transfixed. I wrote previously of my lack of identity as an NBA fan as a wanderer with no favorite team, but these Magic, oh my G-d, these Magic. I, along with everyone else in America, felt that Dwight Howard was robbed a few years ago when his sticker dunk lost to Nate Robinson’s shortness and Gerald Green’s cupcake in the 2007 dunk contest.
We were rooting for Stan Van Gundy after he “resigned” from the Miami Heat a few years ago. He was the scrappy underdog with the everyman mustache and we loved him. This spring, we fell in love with Hedo Turkoglu for who else was playing the point forward hybrid as beautifully as him, let alone at that level of exposure. But now, Hedo is gone, replaced, in a sense, by Vince Carter.
This has been perhaps the most scrutinized move of the NBA offseason. This is not the Vince Carter of 2000; Vinsanity is a thing of the past. I’m not sure too many Magic fans are longing for that at this point, but the fear is that the lethargic, apathetic Vince Carter of years past will resurface and bring the team down. I, for one, am not worried about that.
What has been forgotten is that Carter is simply better than Turkoglu. Carter scores not only more frequently, but more efficiently as well. His 21-5-5 on 44 percent shooting line replaces Turkoglu’s 17-5-5 on 41 percent shooting. This is the ideal place for him now. At age 32, he isn’t the player he once was and he never was a natural leader so playing second or third option behind Howard and perhaps Rashard Lewis is a spot where he can flourish.
While Carter has gotten all the press, picking up Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass, Jason Williams, and Ryan Anderson while retaining Marcin Gortat, arguably the best back up center in the NBA is huge as well. These players give the Magic a depth that is simply unprecedented and unmatched in the association. The starting five is nothing to scoff at either as you have last year’s Defensive Player of the Year, an All Star point guard, one of the league’s most well rounded guards in Carter, the versatile, great three point shooter Rashard Lewis, and a fifth variable most likely to be the defensive stopper Mikhael Pietrus.
While the Magic did make it to the Finals last year, they did it without their all star point guard, Jameer Nelson. Having him healthy and adding the depth they did, makes this an even better team than the one who made it to the Finals. This almost makes anything less a disappointment, which is certainly understandable. This is a team that is, in my mind, the best in the NBA. Lots of talk has been had about the additions of Ron Artest, Shaquille O’Neal, and Rasheed Wallace to the perennial powers the Lakers, Cavaliers, and Celtics respectively, but none of these moves improve those teams as the Magic have improved themselves.
This team made it to the Finals just a few months ago and since then have improved a considerable amount. Quite simply, that should strike fear in the rest of the NBA.