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With football season winding down and Christmas on the horizon, its that time of year when the NBA officially moves toward the front of the sporting crowd. With a full slate of five Christmas Day games and league GMs clamoring to make more trades than ever before, the Orlando Magic find themselves firmly installed in both categories. On December 25th, the Magic will play host to the Celtics with a newly-tinkered roation. Though they turned over nearly half of their roster in two separate trades, don’t expect much to change down in the Magic Kingdom.
Orlando has hovered around the top tier of the Eastern Conference for the majority of the Dwight Howard era. Having reached both the Eastern Conference and NBA Finals with no titles to call their own, Orlando GM Otis Smith decided to turn his team on its ear, making a giant gamble in shaking things up, not yet halfway through the season. Smith dropped two former All Stars in Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis and two integral role players in Mikael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat. Add to that the offseason loss of Matt Barnes to the Lakers, and you may be wondering how on Earth can this possibly be the same Magic team? By the time you’ve had your fifth glass of Egg Nog and the sun sets on another Christmas, I promise you’ll have your answer.
When I say names like Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, and Hedo Turkoglu, who makes you nervous as a Celtics fan? The exact details of the deals are as follows: Orlando gets Gilbert Arenas from Washington and Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark from Phoenix, while giving Rashard Lewis to Washington and Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mikael Pietrus, a 2011 No. 1 pick and $3 million to Phoenix. On the surface, it looks like Phoenix is trying to rid themselves of the Richardson/Turkoglu debacle, and set themselves up to have some cap space down the road. Vince Carter’s basically the same person as Richardson at this point, so it’s one of those deals where each team is basically swapping problems, hoping a change of scenery will reignite a once dominant player. Turkoglu can’t even get off the ground anymore, and his breakaway dunk fail from Monday night has already circled the internet countless times. To get rid of Gortat somewhat surprises me too, as he actually provided a bit of stoppage in the paint beyond Dwight Howard. With him gone, the Magic are continuing to get smaller, a problem when the Celtics can go bigger than just about any team in the league.
The wild card in the deal is Arenas. Everybody knows his story: the talented weirdo who’s practical joking went too far when he decided to bring guns into the Wizards’ locker room early last season. There was no doubt he’d be shipped out from Washington, but what remains to be seen is if he’s actually grown up. He’s still a point guard and Jameer Nelson is still Orlando’s starting point guard. Right away, this could be an issue. Assuming he was essentially swapped one-for-one with Rashard Lewis, I don’t know how many other GMs pull the trigger. Lewis always gave the Celtics fits, his speed and range often created mismatches, and Kevin Garnett often admitted he was one of the tougher covers in the league due to his ability to play inside-out. Logic tells me that Smith and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy also like what they’ve seen from Ryan Anderson and aren’t averse to the minutes he’ll land in Lewis’s departure.
At the end of the day, the Magic are still Dwight Howard and the Gang. You can rotate the cast around him, but until someone truly differentiates themselves, who in that group truly scares the Celtics? Sadly for Arenas, the marquee name in this upheaval, the scariest thing about him is his gun collection.