It’s been a rough week for those of us who still call ourselves Magic fans. There’s not a lot of us left but man, we are in the thick of it.
First, back on Valentine’s Day, Orlando finally and officially declared the Serge Ibaka experiment dead and traded him to Toronto. This trade sans context isn’t really that bad, considering his defensive struggles and loss of athleticism this season. But when you realize what they had to give up to obtain him last summer, and the series of moves that led to the acquisition of Ibaka, it all showed either a lack of a plan or the inability to stick to one.
I’d say it all culminated with this midseason trade, but every Magic fan knows that’s not true. Because here’s the thing: collectively, the Magic fan base felt nothing after the Ibaka trade. Nothing. Didn’t even affect us. We were ready to accept a fall to the bottom five with a player we cashed in chips for and see him walk in the summer. We expected it, and expected more crappy moves to follow. And the organization hasn’t earned any higher expectations.
The only thing Magic fans had expectations for was this year’s Dunk Contest. Aaron Gordon is probably the only player on Orlando’s roster that Magic fans would truly be angry about if he were traded. He’s all we care about; ergo, the Dunk Contest was the only thing left to care about this season.
And all we were given was a goddamn metaphor.
There was a lot of promise with this situation. Magic fans got to get their hopes up. This was an opportunity that just made sense. At the time. Now, the failure makes even more sense in retrospect. Copy and paste those last five sentences and they’ll apply to nearly anything in last decade of the franchise itself.
The parallels aren’t hard to see. The travesty that robbed Gordon of his title last year was like the 2009 Finals; it gave us something to expect in the future. As Magic fans, we should know better than to have expectations. His excruciatingly long, awkward tank job with the drone dunk reminded me a lot of Dwight Howard’s waffling and eventual exit. His second dunk started with grand ambitions and showed promise but was never completed. Sounds a lot like the rebuild the Magic are currently struggling through, doesn’t it?
It was the one thing the Magic still had, and it became an embarrassment starring our most beloved player on one’s of the league’s biggest stages. You can send off Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Channing Frye, and Dewayne Dedmon for nothing and watch them excel elsewhere. Three coaches (plus an interim) can cycle through in five years. You can even show a complete inability to develop players or put together functioning rosters, and we won’t blink. We’re used to this. But Gordon’s Dunk Contest sequel sucking harder than the Thor sequel is what broke us. This was all we had! We are prisoners in Magic jail, and they just took away our hour in the yard.
The organization can’t even take a break from torturing us over All-Star Weekend. It was the cruelest thing Magic fans have had to sit through. And that’s not nothing: two seasons ago we were frequently seeing Willie Green in crunch time lineups. We only get to take solace in blaming Betsy DeVos, the least qualified and least popular president’s Cabinet member ever, because her family literally owns the Orlando Magic. This franchise really is something else.
So for roughly 24 hours I was thoroughly defeated, thinking thoughts like “well if a ball bounces our way we could have the 1st and 23rd picks in the draft” and “what’s the most we could get for Jeff Green?” It was perhaps the lowest I’ve gotten as a Magic fan.
Then Sacramento traded DeMarcus Cousins away for a figurative bowl of scraps.
WE’VE GOT THE KINGS BEAT, BABY, THINGS ARE LOOKING UP!