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Do You Believe in Magic?

miller-article1“It starts with me in the inside,” he told David Aldridge, TNT NBA sideline reporter, after the Orlando Magic’s Game Seven win over the Boston Celtics.

He is Orlando Magic superstar center Dwight Howard, and he is exactly right. The Magic team starts and stops with the self-proclaimed Superman.

Only the real Superman could match up against Howard. No, Gator fans, I’m not referring to quarterback Tim Tebow defending Howard. Howard’s quote makes him sound cocky, but every superstar needs that mentality, especially in May and June.

And frankly it is about time he displays that mentality. In past seasons, Howard seemed to focus more on the entertainment and fun of the game than the ultimate win. His lack of killer instinct was brought up earlier during the NBA playoffs. All the unforgettable NBA players, past and present, have killer instincts. Prior to that call-out, Howard had a minimal killer instinct, like a paperboy attempting to collect his wages from customers.

Ever since then, Howard has been targeting wins and only smiles when the buzzer sounds and the Magic has that “W.” That is more like it.

I know we teach children that it’s all about having fun, but when you earn a little more than $6 million during a season in salary, winning has to be the top priority. Also, Howard makes approximately $20 million in endorsements. With all that money and status, the 6-11, 270 pounder had the right to call out his head coach Stan Van Gundy after the Magic’s Game Five 92-88 loss last week to the Celtics. The league’s best center knows that for his team to win games he needs to touch the ball every play.

Give credit though to the baby-faced 23-year-old. He didn’t tweet on Twitter about Van Gundy’s poor coaching tactics.

Rather, Howard tweeted about Game Seven exclaiming, “We’re going to the Conference Finals!!!!”

The perfect example of why you give the ball inside to Howard was displayed in Game Seven. In 38 minutes of play, he grabbed 16 rebounds, blocked 5 shots and scored only 12 points. Who needs to score when Rafer Alson, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu put up a combined 59 points. The concept is so simple. Start with Howard and finish with Howard. He’ll be able to set up any of his teammates for the basket.

The NBA defensive player of the year is a man on a mission. It’s evident when you gaze into his eyes.

I’m confident that the Celtics new Big Three of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rando saw that winning focus. That gaze started the fourth quarter onslaught in the series’ final game. While players were busy guarding Howard down low, the shooters were dropping three pointers all the way out near Gillette Stadium.

Former JU Dolphin basketball star and Jacksonville native Otis Smith should be given tons of credit for the franchise’s state. As the Magic’s current general manager, Smith has created a flourishing team. Yet again, it’s a simple concept. One superstar center feeds off precise shooters and vice versa.

As GM, Smith has registered a 151-95 regular season record, a .614 winning percentage, with two back-to-back Southeast Division titles. Even though the Magic is 13-14 in the playoffs in that three-year span under Smith, eight of those losses can be attributed to one of the most dominant runs in Eastern Conference history by the Detroit Pistons. The Joe Dumars-run machine made six consecutive appearances in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Magic took its spot. However, LeBron James and Co. stand in the way. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ eight-game playoff winning streak is intimidating.

Nevertheless, the Magic should have all the confidence in the world going into this series with the Cavaliers.

Howard will brush aside all the players the Cavs throw at him, especially if he gets the ball, which he will if he tweets enough about it. And, when he does, these Cavaliers will need horses to stop this Superman. But they better not be cavalier about their style of play against him because this Superman doesn’t need a Fortress of Solitude.

He’s building a new Magic Kingdom for his Orlando Magic.

17 Responses »

  1. Nice article on the Orlando Magic, dwight Howard and Otis Smith! Although I am not a basketball fan, I enjoyed reading it.

  2. As a Jacksonville University graduate at the time Otis Smith played for Jacksonville University, I am reminded of Smith's talents and successes and ties to the Jacksonville community. It's inspiring to hear of his most recent accomplishments with the Orlando Magic. With Smith's record of breaking J.U.'s school history on points and rebounds, I am sure he knows the formula on how to create a successful team. Interesting and informative article.

  3. Nice article. Waiting to see what you know about the Jacksonville Suns.

  4. Great article Richard. Keep up the good work.

  5. I don't mind Howard being cocky if he can back it up with results! Good article, Miller.

  6. This article makes me want to watch Howard play. Quite an accomplishment since I am far from a basketball fan.

  7. Great article Richard! After seeing Dwight in person dominate against the Knicks this March I have a new appreciation for his defense. This guy is an absolute beast. I do think they were fortunate to play Boston without KG however. One last thing, there is only one Superman at this time and he resides in Gainesville and wears #15,,,,,,,,,

    • Ditto: There is only one Superman and basketball isn't quite his sport.

      But, it's great to see the Mammoth Howard bring juice back to O-town. While sportsmanlike conduct weighs in with simple honesty and integrity, these guys are play to win, play to survive and play to dominate, as individuals and as a team.

      Would LOVE to see the Magic romp over Lebron and the Cavs again tonight. Bring big name attention back to Orlando, like the 90's with Shaq and Penny.

  8. Great article. It is refreshing to read comments that take a stand.
    Howard should be the one who carries the load for this Magic team.

  9. This really makes me want to go see a Magic game!!

  10. Good Insight into what it takes to be a winner! It is about time someone acknowledged that professional sports is big business and those who are paid to "play" should be expected to produce results for their franchise.

  11. Living in Philadelphia, I am big into baseketball. I am in Jacksonville this week and picked up this paper. I have to say that I enjoyed reading this article. Nicely written. Howard is great.....

  12. This article was very interesting and informative. Great work!

  13. I know very little about Basketball, but the headline caught my attention, and the article was interesting enough to keep reading. It was refreshing to see someone confess that winning actually is a priority when salary is about 6 million! Will the Magic man be able to pull it off against the Cavaliers? The article makes me want to tune in and watch Basketball for the first time in my life!

  14. Yes, I believe in MAGIC. I also believe in the talents of Lebron. His last minute shot at the buzzer still plays in my mind. I've watched it over and over again. The Cavs really pulled it out with the "miraculous" game winning shot. Let's see what happens in Game 3 tonight for more drama in Orlando. I will be there!!! GO MAGIC!!!!!!!!

  15. Traveling through Jacksonville over Memorial Day weekend, I read your column and was impressed by your sports' acumen.

    Though I agree that D. Howard may be the league's best center, he must graduate to the superstar level by being tested. He has not been tested enough, yet. If you remember, there was another NBA center for the Magic (O'Neal) that was swept and schooled by the Rocket's veteran superstar, Olajuwan.

    Can he make his teammates around him better, as superstars do?
    Can he match up against the challenging Los Angeles Lakers in the Championship?

    He must pass the test!