INDIANAPOLIS — Time for a pop quiz.
Quick, who has the longest active playoff streak in the Eastern Conference?
The Miami Heat?
The Chicago Bulls?
It's the Orlando Magic, you knucklehead.
Your Orlando Magic.
You know, the franchise everybody is now taking shots at because the Dwight Howard-Stan Van Gundy canker has bled into today's opening-round playoff game against the Indiana Pacers? The franchise Dwight requested a trade from before the season so he could go play for the pitiful Nets? The franchise that fans and media members like to pick apart because the Magic have never marched through the playoffs and won a championship?
Well, at least the Magic are in the playoffs most every year. That's more than we can say for Dwight's once-preferred team — the Nets — who haven't been to the postseason in five years. Or Sacramento, which hasn't been in six. Or the Minnesota Timberwolves, who haven't been in eight. Then, of course, there's the Magic's opponent tonight: the Indiana Pacers, who haven't won a playoff series in a half-dozen years.
For the vocal minority of Internet assassins out there who keep calling for Magic owner Rich DeVos to sell the team to somebody who "knows" basketball, be careful what you wish for. You might just end up with another Michael Jordan, who bought the Charlotte Bobcats and quickly turned them into the worst team in NBA history.
The reason I bring all this up is because I think we've lost all sense of perspective in this disconcerting season littered with negativity, injuries and endless Dwight drama. There is now a perception out there that the Magic are just some bumbling, stumbling franchise run by a bunch of basketball buffoons.
This just isn't true. Though I do believe DeVos should bring in an independent basketball mind from outside the Magic family to give the franchise a fresh perspective, I refuse to believe the Magic are a bad organization. In fact, I think the Magic are a good organization. Just not a great one.
But guess what? There aren't that many great organizations in the NBA. There are the Lakers. There are the Celtics. And there are the Spurs. Other than that, I'll put the Magic, their coach and their ownership up against anybody. In fact, during the past five years, the Magic have the fourth-most wins in the NBA, trailing only the Lakers, Celtics and Spurs.
Certainly, a championship is the goal, but since the Magic joined the league 23 years ago, only seven franchises have won titles. And at least the Magic have had two cracks at it. Half the league has never played for a championship during that span.
The Magic have spent, even overspent, on players (see Rashard Lewis) to try to bring a championship. They have blown through the NBA salary cap for five straight years trying to surround Howard with enough good pieces to win a title. Criticize the personnel decisions of GM Otis Smith all you want, but you can't criticize the Magic's lack of effort.
Go ahead and be dispirited if you want as the Magic enter the playoffs; I choose to look at it another way:
At least they are in the playoffs – again.
Hey, Magic fans, how would you like to be the Buffalo Bills? They haven't been to the playoffs in 12 seasons. Or the Cleveland Browns (nine seasons). Or the Pittsburgh Pirates, who haven't even had a winning season in 19 years. Or the Kansas City Royals, who haven't been to the postseason in 26 years.
Or the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals, who haven't been to the playoffs in three decades (1981).
Do you think fans from those franchises feel bad for the tortured, tormented Magic fans who have had to suffer through six-straight playoff appearances? Awww, poor babies.
I'm not saying Magic fans shouldn't be disappointed about this dysfunctional Dwightmare of a season, I'm just saying it could be worse.
A lot worse.
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