Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Long Summer in Disney World

Is it over for the Magic? By losing Game 5 and effectively blowing their shot at an NBA title, the Magic may have put the lid on an opportunity that may not come around for another 14 or so years. Maybe that's a bit extreme, but that's how long it took them to make their 2nd Finals appearance after being swept by Houston in 1995.

After watching the Magic get manhandled in Game 5, and previously in Game 1, some were wondering how the Magic made it this far to begin with. Games 2, 3 and 4 were nail biters through and through, but the Magic never seemed to have enough to close out the Lakers when the time came. It was clear that the Magic were outmatched by the mighty Lakers throughout the entire series.

Now, the Magic face a tough road back to the Finals. The East is full of contenders and the East's wannabes are fast becoming legitimate challengers.

In Boston, Kevin Garnett will be back in full force next season; Ray Allen trade rumors have been swirling since Boston was eliminated in the semis, however.

In Cleveland, LeBron James will come into the next season with a vengeance and hopefully a little help when it counts. We may even see a diesel powered LeBron James. A lot depends on whether or not the Suns are willing to part with the Big Aristotle.

In Chicago, the Bulls showed they have the fortitude to compete with the big boys of the East.

In Philadelphia, the Sixers are looking a little better with each passing year, as Andre Iguodala and Co. are hoping that Elton Brand's return to the lineup next season will be enough to get a little closer to the ultimate prize.

In Miami, Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers now have a year under their belt and the Heat still has this guy named Dwyane Wade.

In Atlanta, the Hawks have made the playoffs the past two years, taking Boston to 7 games in 2008 and defeating Miami in the first round this season. Can they take the next step in 2010?

In Detroit, the Pistons seem to be on a steep decline, but I'm hesitant to count them out.

It is difficult to imagine the Magic returning to the Finals next season, although it was difficult imagining them advancing to the Finals this season, but they did it. Games 2, 3 and 4 were hardly fought battles that thrilled and entertained the masses. The Magic just did not have that one guy who could have made that buzzer beater shot (nothing against Courtney Lee, that was a real tough lob and layup for anybody, but I bet he's still beating himself up over it…he shouldn't), nor did they have the stuff to close out the Lakers in Game 4, which proved to be a crucial blow to the Magic.

It leaves us wondering if things would have been different if LeBron James was on the floor. Would he have been able to hit that final shot that would have sent his team to a critical Game 2 win? Or, as was the case against Orlando in the Eastern Finals, would he have lacked the supporting cast? Watching the Cavs is a lot like watching a George Clooney movie with a supporting cast of Nicholas Cage, Steven Segal and Keanu Reeves. The big names may sell a few more tickets, but you know you're only going to be disappointed.

It's hard to say who will emerge in the East next season. The same goes for the West, although it seems that if Los Angeles holds onto their team they will be mighty hard to beat. If Orlando is to cling to any sliver of hope of returning to the Finals, they have to hold on to Hedo Turkoglu, who, according to his agent, will opt out of his contract this offseason. He is the wildcard in determining how competitive Orlando will be next season. Turkoglu was the only man on the roster who could create his own shot in the Finals and he stepped up big time when he had to. Rashard Lewis hit his share of clutch shots, but he is all but guaranteed to return next season, barring some unforeseen circumstance. Same goes for Howard. If they want to make another run, securing Turkoglu is key.

Written By Danny Hobrock