They are halfway between improvement and arrival. Halfway between a good streak to start the first half of the season and a bad streak to end it. Halfway between being forgotten, again, and being a team worthy of notice.
They are the Orlando Magic.
They live on the border.
Here at the NBA All-Star game, they are a team on the fringes. Currently, they not in the playoff race. They do not have a representative in the all-star game. They are below .500, just another team in the NBA.
And when might it change for the Magic?
Orlando started the season a surprising 19-13. Since then, Orlando has suffered a 2-15 streak. They are a team capable of coming back from 18 down to beat Atlanta in overtime, and they are capable of losing a 19-point lead to Charlotte in the fourth period.
The difference, says the Orlando Sentinel, is a team made up entirely of role players.
Think about it. It will be the fourth straight season the Magic hasn’t had an all-star representative. In a stars’ league, that’s tough to take. The closest thing the Magic has to a star is center Nik Vucevic. There doesn’t seem to be a player who, night in and night out, can lift the Magic in the fourth period.
Still, other teams are looking at the Magic as potential trade partners. Vucevic has been mentioned, naturally. So has Channing Frye.
The Magic also has to resist throwing in the towel. The last three seasons, Orlando won 20, 23 and 25 games. Now at 23-29, the Magic has to resist folding.
“I’m aware that basically the last three years at this point in the season, the season was over in mid-January,” coach Scott Skiles told the Sentinel. “Not mathematically. We’ve got to fight that urge to give in. Right now, we’re not doing that successfully.”
Can the Magic get back into the race? Right now, they’re in 11th place in an eight-team playoff.
“We’ve made considerable progress,” general manager Rob Hennigan said. “We’ve shown we’re capable of doing it. Now it’s a matter of harnessing it consistently. I think the root of our frustration has been inconsistent play. The next step is closing (games) out.
“The flip side of the coin is that we’re still very much a work in progress. It shows we’re still building, still climbing. But we believe our guys will eventually figure it out.”
Don’t the Cleveland Browns say the same? The Padres? Bad teams begat bad teams. It’s the way of the world.
For the Magic to break the cycle, they need to find an outstanding player through trade or the draft. They need to mature. At present, only the Philadelphia 76ers are younger than this Magic team. Even Hennigan has wondered if his team is too young.
Around the Magic, the only thing that is old is this feeling of a season slipping away.
Here at the all-star break, it is a familiar, gnawing feeling. The team still isn’t ripe enough to compete. How this team gets from just another team to one that counts depends on a team blossoming.
ESPN has suggested a trade of Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon for James Harden. The Magic has been mentioned as a possible landing spot in case the Clippers trade Blake Griffin.
Either way, such a trade could make you notice the Magic again.