For one thing, you’ve got to be grateful to be walking the earth for another day, still having your wits about you.
But on the other hand, your team just had its most embarrassing loss of the season, your coach sounds apoplectic, your superstar’s intentions are unclear, and there is no way in hell you can convince yourself that your team is capable of winning that NBA championship that has eluded you throughout your ownership of the Magic.
Not after blowing a 20-point lead and losing on the road 100-84 against the Charlotte Bobcats, the worst team in the NBA.
Then again, when you’ve been around for 85 years, you come to learn when it is time to shake off a bad day. And maybe that is what Mr. Devos is doing this particular Wednesday, looking forward to the next four games — all tough ones against the Bulls, Pacers, Heat and Spurs — to use as the measuring stick for what will be the biggest decision the franchise has made since it low-balled Shaquille O’Neal in the summer of 1996 and lost him to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The trade deadline is now eight days away, and the Orlando Magic are going through one of the icier portions of what has been an up-and-down, hot-and-cold season.
“We will not play 48 minutes. We just will not,” Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy said after his tam blew a 20-point lead.
From Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer: “Rookie Bismack Biyombo – he of the near-triple double – summed up a 100-84 victory over the Orlando Magic this way: “Anything is possible when you work hard.’’ Which seemingly speaks both to Biyombo’s arrival (he finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocks) and the possible departure of power forward Boris Diaw. For the first time in 384 games, pre-dating the trade to Charlotte, Diaw did not play Tuesday. Whether Diaw ever plays again here seems in question. Diaw’s agent has asked that if his client is not traded by the Mar. 15 deadline, that the Bobcats consider a buyout that would free Diaw to play elsewhere. What’s undeniable is the energy and resolve that fueled a Bobcats team that had lost 31 of 35 games. They overcame a 20-point first-half deficit. They outscored the Magic – a team that had beaten them 13 of 14 previous times – 28-13 in the fourth quarter. And most impressively, rookie Biyombo played Orlando’s Dwight Howard, the NBA’s premier center, to a standoff. Howard finished with 15 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks. “He’s one of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever seen and he’s tough,’’ said Bobcats coach Paul Silas of Biyombo. “Before he came, he could hardly make a shot. Now he’s turning around and making them.’’ Silas spent the second half in the locker room after being ejected by referee Tony Brown. Silas’s son, lead assistant Stephen Silas, took over and drew high praise from the players for his rotation and play-calling.“Steve knows this game in-and-out,’’ said small forward Corey Maggette, who led the Bobcats with 29 points. “We executed just how Steve told us to do: Be patient, don’t get rattled.’’ And recognize a glaring mismatch. Shooting guard Gerald Henderson scored eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, continuously abusing J.J. Redick, also a former Duke star. Henderson made 4-of-6 shots in the fourth quarter, either physically overwhelming Redick or fading for jump shots.”
Resolution will come on way or another in the next eight days, with general manager Otis Smith saying he is actively involved in trade discussions with a handful of teams that would be willing to take Howard on as a rental.
Still, the decision will ultimately belong to Mr. DeVos, whose coach was flabbergasted by the beating his team absorbed.
From Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel: “We went up 20 points and everybody got selfish,” Van Gundy said. “We quit playing the way we played to get the lead.” Van Gundy said he felt fine after the stunning loss. He experienced mild chest pains Monday night in Toronto during the game, but kept coaching. Van Gundy, 52, continued to have pain and was sent to the emergency room at Mount Sinai Hospital as a precaution. He was cleared after tests determined he did not suffer a heart attack and left the hospital about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. Van Gundy hopped on a mid-morning flight for the Magic’s game in Charlotte. He said he was concerned “like anybody else in their 50s would be. I thought, ‘Man, I’m 52.’ It gives you some perspective.” Doctors told him he had an irregular heartbeat, but he said it runs in the family. “The doctors asked me how my pain level was, from 1 to 10. I said it was a one,” he said. “It was never that much pain. I didn’t feel like I was having a heart attack. But it’s good they checked me out.”
Whether they keep Howard or trade him, the Magic will continue to keep looking up in the standings at two teams that are better than them.
One of those teams is the Miami Heat, who had their full starting lineup intact — for most of the game, anyway, as they put a 30-point beating on the visiting New Jersey Nets.
From Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: “With center Brook Lopez sidelined, and with point guard Deron Williams having taken care of a week’s worth of his scoring allotment with Sunday’s 57-point performance in Charlotte, the Nets were kind enough to simply get out of the way in what turned into a 108-78 Heat rout. “The reality is tonight is we faced a team that probably, naturally, was a little bit deflated coming into this game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “To lose Lopez again probably was tough. And, at the same time, [they were] facing a team that was very motivated coming off our disappointing road trip.” After losses to the Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers, the Heat returned home whole — at least for a half — with (Chris) Bosh back after missing the three-game western swing in the wake of the death of his grandmother. Spoelstra praised his team’s ability to “own it” when it came to accepting the failures of the previous two games. “In the last two games, we did not play the way we’re capable of,” Spoelstra said. “And our guys owned it and sought out to make amends for that.” In their totality, the Heat simply were too much for an opponent looking ahead to the draft lottery, the possible acquisition of Dwight Howard either through trade or free agency, and next season’s move to Brooklyn. Of course, the Nets looked so bad that at one point in the fourth quarter, a fan blurted, “Dwight Howard is never going to play for you bums!” And that was before Eddy Curry got in and dunked on them.”
Curry’s old team, the New York Knicks, are struggling through a post-Linsanity dip (combined with a Boston Celtics surge) that is solidifying their grip on the No. 8 seed in the East.
They made a nice second-half comeback on the road against the Dallas Mavericks, but Dirk Nowitzki scored nine points in a late 14-0 run.
From Frank Isola of the New York Daily News: “The Knicks’ comeback came with Carmelo Anthony on the bench. The Mavs’ comeback came with Anthony on the floor. A bizarre and ultimately frustrating fourth quarter for the Knicks was a 12-minute exercise in futility for Mike D’Antoni’s best player. Somehow, Melo was invisible even when he was visible.
“It was just one of those nights,” Anthony said. “It gets frustrating out there when things aren’t going your way.”
The Knicks overcame a 19-point third-quarter deficit only to collapse in every way imaginable over the last four minutes. Meanwhile, the Dallas Mavericks had no trouble involving their star forward, Dirk Nowitzki, and rode the NBA Finals MVP to a 95-85 victory. The loss was the Knicks’ second straight and they are 18-20 entering Wednesday night’s game in San Antonio. Moreover, they are 2-4 since Anthony returned to the lineup. His partnership with Jeremy Lin is officially off to a slow start. In fact, Anthony admitted that it’s been difficult for him to adjust to no longer having the ball to make plays. “Any time you go from having the ball and me distributing and now just waiting for it to come to me . . . that’s part of the adjustment for myself,” said Anthony, who scored six points, none in the second half.
The Knicks are now 2 1/2 games behind the Boston Celtics, who got seven of Paul Pierce’s 30 points in overtime of a 97-92 victory over Houston. Boston has won five straight since the All-Star break, including two in a row in overtime. Houston has lost four in a row.
Kevin Garnett grabbed 13 rebounds, giving him a career total of 13,100 — one more than Shaquille O’Neal.
From Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: “The Celts, who have won five straight and the last two in overtime, are about to put their tired joints to an endurance test with their first game of the season against the division-leading Sixers tonight in Philadelphia. The C’s, at 20-17, are percentage points behind the 22-17 Sixers. Their past troubles considered, the Celtics are grinding out the kind of wins that would have routinely eluded them three weeks ago. “It was a grind game, it was probably one of the ugliest games we’ve played in awhile,” said Rajon Rondo, who didn’t score beyond the first quarter last night in his nine-point, 12-assist follow-up to Sunday’s epic triple-double against the Knicks. Instead, Rondo was a reflection of last night’s ugliness, including the open transition layup he missed with 30 seconds left in regulation, setting the stage for Goran Dragic’s game-tying baseline jumper with three seconds left for an 84-84 deadlock. “No excuses,” said Rondo. “There were a lot of things going on on that play, and it didn’t work out. It was a recipe for disaster.” But Rondo, like everyone else, appears to be developing an immunity to these problems.”
One problem the Los Angeles Lakers cannot seem to shake is their inability to win on the road.
General manager Mitch Kupchak is just as busy as Smith, his counterpart in Orlando, in looking at potential deals that can re-elevate his team into the upper echelon of its conference.
The Lakers dropped an 88-85 decision to the Detroit Pistons, making them 6-13 away from the Staples Center, where they are 17-2.
From Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: “Whatever gratitude they earned with their victory against Miami was whisked away with an 88-85 overtime loss at the Palace. Bryant couldn’t find his shot, Metta World Peace returned to Earth and the Lakers’ reserves uncorked their worst game yet. … Bryant blamed his woeful eight-for-26 shooting night on fatigue related to the whiplash injury and concussion he suffered in the All-Star game. He played with incredible efficiency in his first three games after a hard foul from Dwyane Wade that also caused a broken nose. But he disintegrated Tuesday after ditching the clear mask he had been wearing for a black mask with smaller dimensions. He missed five of his first six shots and traded the black mask for an equally small clear version. Nothing helped. His one solid moment, a 19-footer that sent the game to overtime with the score tied at 78-78, was quickly forgotten after he missed all three of his overtime attempts. He finished with 22 points. “Everybody just kind of played tired,” Bryant said. “I definitely was a little tired. I should have stayed in bed like I’ve been doing instead of coming to shoot-around [Tuesday] morning.”
In Tuesday night’s only other game, Josh Smith had 27 points and nine rebounds, leading the Hawks to their third straight victory, 101-96 over Indiana. Smith scored 13 points in the first quarter, 11 in the third, and fell three points shy of his season high. He will go up against a more worthy opponent tonight as the Hawks visit the Heat.