|Magic glum after season-ending loss to Pistons|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 14 May 2008 10:15|
He had no idea what he was going to do for the next few days or weeks. He and the rest of the Magic honestly thought they'd still be playing basketball, even if few others seemed to.
``It just feels like today's an off day and we'll go back at it tomorrow,'' Lewis said. ``I didn't have plans to be going home, so I don't know where I'm going.''
Lewis didn't even want to watch the rest of the playoffs. Maybe the NBA Finals, he said, but it was just too soon to tune in now.
``I'll hear about it,'' Lewis said.
Despite their disappointment, the Magic have plenty to celebrate. The team won 52 games and its first division title in 12 years. They advanced to the second round for the first time since Shaquille O'Neal was here, and landed a player on the All-NBA first team for just the third time in franchise history.
But for the second consecutive season, the Magic were run out of the playoffs by the Detroit Pistons. They weren't swept this time, but the players said this 4-1 series exit hurt more.
``We believe in ourselves a lot more than we did last year,'' Jameer Nelson said.
Coach Stan Van Gundy thought that was a good sign.
``We've gotten to the point where guys feel a lot pain and are disappointed losing,'' Van Gundy said. ``I know it was only five games, but it was a pretty hotly contested series. I think that's probably the most significant stride of the season, is that guys feel bad about it.''
Though Orlando won only one game in the Pistons series, they had a decent chance in every one but the first. A shot made here, a turnover erased there, and they could still be in it.
``We were right there,'' Nelson said. ``A couple games slipped.''
Dwight Howard, who at 22 made first team All-NBA, didn't know what to do with himself either. Rest. Get ready for USA Basketball this summer. Play video games and try to forget about NBA basketball.
``I don't know anybody on our team who slept last night,'' Howard said. ``I know everybody was up thinking about it. But it's going to make us stronger.''
The Magic will have a busy offseason. Five players are free agents: Maurice Evans, Keyon Dooling, Carlos Arroyo, Pat Garrity and James Augustine. In addition, Keith Bogans and Adonal Foyle have player options.
Evans was acquired with Brian Cook in a midseason trade that sent Trevor Ariza to the Los Angeles Lakers. He started 47 games for Orlando, averaging nine points, and fit in well with its freewheeling 3-point game.
Dooling signed with Orlando three years ago, and emerged as its best defensive option at guard. Arroyo started 20 games, at one point seeming to win the point guard job from Nelson. But Van Gundy consigned him to the bench during the last third of the season. Garrity appeared in only 31 games and Augustine in 25.
What the Magic really needed all year was a true power forward. Ten-year veteran Tony Battie's season ended before it began when he injured a shoulder practicing before training camp against Howard. Battie had rotator cuff surgery and tried to return late in the season, but wasn't ready.
Nowhere was that absence more evident than in Orlando's series against the physical Pistons, who jammed and knocked around Howard and collected a seemingly endless series of offensive rebounds, particularly in Game 5.
``We'll have his presence back next year, sort of a year younger because he had legs that he didn't use this year,'' general manager Otis Smith said of Battie.
Smith would like to see Howard develop more offensively by adding a short jumper or a turnaround jumper.
``Something that he can go to that he doesn't have to constantly bang,'' Smith said.
From the rest of the players, he wants a continued hunger. The Magic said all year they were motivated by last season's playoff sweep, and felt like they had something to prove. Now that they've tasted success, Smith wants to make sure they don't lose that edge.
``What we tried to stress upon the guys is we're going to have to work twice as hard to get back to the same place, and we're going to have to work three times as hard to reach our goal,'' Smith said. ``It's not easy. There's no guarantees in this business. You can have a good year and then turn around and have a horrible year.''