Dwight Howard

NBA Season Preview: Orlando Magic


Last season: 52-30, fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Lost a close first-round series to the Atlanta Hawks in six games.

Head Coach: Stan Van Gundy, if he can manage to not go insane while continually asked about the Dwight Howard situation all season.

Key Departures: None … yet. (OK, not entirely true.) Gilbert Arenas was waived using the team’s amnesty provision, and Brandon Bass was sent out of town to the Celtics.

Key Additions: Glen Davis, who isn’t necessarily better than Brandon Bass, but may be a better fit alongside Dwight Howard. And, Davis has had success in postseasons past containing Howard, so there’s that.

Best case scenario: It’s unfortunate for Magic fans to hear, but it’s true nonetheless: The best thing for the franchise would be to trade Dwight Howard sooner rather than later, for the most assets it can get in the best possible package. Orlando’s current roster isn’t capable of getting past the second round of the playoffs, and the team doesn’t have many attractive assets of its own to bring in the level of talent it’s going to take to make Howard think it’s worth it to stay.

For that to happen: Orlando will need to seek a trade with one of the three teams that Howard has reportedly agreed to sign a new contract with: The Lakers, Mavericks, or Nets.

In New Jersey, Howard would be paired with an elite point guard in Deron Williams, on a franchise with an owner who has unlimited cash to throw at additional free agents. The same can be said in the short-term in Dallas, though the Mavericks’ assets are aging ones that wouldn’t help Orlando in the long run. The Lakers might be the best spot for both Howard and the Magic, but only if the Magic get the younger Andrew Bynum in a deal, along with some picks that would have to come from getting a third team involved in the talks.

More likely the Magic will: At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. Reports surfaced that the plan was to shut down trade talks for Howard and play out the first part of the season, perhaps postponing the inevitable until the trade deadline, which has been extended this shortened season until mid-March. The team then said nothing has changed in their thinking, so honestly, nobody knows. All we know now is that the Magic’s roster as is can’t contend for a title, and Dwight Howard can leave after this season as an unrestricted free agent if he so chooses.

Prediction: Dwight Howard is moved before the trade deadline, and Orlando finishes — just barely — with enough wins to make the playoffs.

DeMarcus Cousins out for Kings vs. Warriors Saturday

DeMarcus Cousins, Nicolas Batum, Marvin Williams
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As if Golden State was not already a prohibitive favorite Saturday night.

DeMarcus Cousins, who has missed the last two games for Sacramento with a strained back and that will continue Saturday. Our old friend Bill Herenda tweeted it first.

Not only are the Kings 1-6 without Cousins, but they were also on their way to beating Charlotte Monday until Cousins had to leave the game.

Golden State will likely be without Harrison Barnes in this game after spraining his ankle in the last game. Expect Andre Iguodala to get the start, or if interim coach Luke Walton doesn’t want to mess with the bench rotation he could go with Brandon Rush.

Good news: Anthony Davis listed as probably vs. Utah Saturday

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Watching Anthony Davis fall to the court clutching his knee, not being able to put any pressure on his leg as he was helped to the locker room, it was frightening Friday night in Los Angeles.

It turns out it’s not that bad. After the game the injury was described as a “knee contusion” and not the serious damage that was feared. Saturday the Pelicans said Davis was good to go.

Whew. Nobody wants to see Davis miss time.

The Pelicans had won three in a row until they ran into the Clippers Friday night. Davis has played better of late — the New Orleans defense is 7.2 points per 100 better when he is on the court — and New Orleans has gotten better point guard play out of Ish Smith.

Stephen Curry abuses Sun’s Price with behind-the-back, pull-up three (VIDEO)

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That is just cruel.

An on-fire Warriors team dropped 44 on the Suns in the first quarter Saturday, and Curry had 19 of those points going 5-of-6 from three. The Suns’ had no defender who could begin to hang with him. Certainly not Ronnie Price, who came in off the bench and got abused for his efforts.

Curry finished with 41 points, never had to set foot on the court in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors improved to 17-0 on the season. Just another day at the office for them.

Philadelphia has dropped record 27 in a row dating back to last season

Brett Brown

We tend to think of record streaks having to be in one season, not broken up across two.

But if you can suspend that, the Philadelphia 76ers are now the owners of the longest losing streak in NBA — and major professional sports — history.

With their tough two-points loss to Houston Friday night, the Sixers have lost 27 in a row. The Sixers dropped their final 10 last season and with the loss to the Rockets are 0-17 to start this one.

That bests the 26-game losing streaks of the 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and these same Sixers from 2013-14. Looking across sports, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of 1976-1977 also lost 26 in a row, which when you consider the length of the NFL season is pretty embarrassing.

The Sixers struggles are born from a plan by GM Sam Hinkie (and approved by ownership) to get better long-term by being bad now and hoarding draft picks. It’s a strategy that can work if Hinkie nails the draft picks (the book is out on how Hinkie is doing on that front). And they are committed to it through at least this draft.

But don’t think for a second the players and coach are trying to lose.

If you have watched the Sixers play their last few games you know the players are trying hard to get that victory (and almost have a couple of times). The effort is there, they are just outmatched and lack the kind of presence at the end of games to execute under pressure (something a couple of quality, regularly-playing veterans might help, but that’s another discussion). They have the point differential of a team that should have a couple wins; they just haven’t been fortunate. It happens. Go ahead and blame management if you think this plan is an abomination. Just don’t question the desire or effort of the players or coaches, that is not in doubt.

The Sixers play at the Grizzlies Sunday, then have maybe their best shot at a win for a while when they host the Lakers on Tuesday.