Orlando not satisfied after outsing Boston
By Antonio Gonzalez
Associated PressORLANDO, Fla. ó The walls at the Orlando Magic’s headquarters are mostly bare. There are no champagne-splashed championship photos. No NBA title trophies or rings.
All that keeps the practice court from being completely blank are a few division title banners and one for an Eastern Conference championship.
“Low-hanging fruit,” Magic general manager Otis Smith loves to call them.
Fresh off a Game 7 win over the defending champion Boston Celtics that propelled the Magic into the Eastern Conference finals, fans in Orlando are ready to party like it’s 1996, when the team last made it this far.
But there’s nothing yet to celebrate.
A series with the Cleveland Cavaliers and MVP LeBron James begins Wednesday, and the architect of this Magic team wants to make clear that it’s time the franchise take the next step.
“We have to stop talking about making it to the conference level and start talking about winning a championship,” Smith said Monday. “And then we have to stop talking and start doing.”
In its 20th year as a franchise, Orlando has had more disappointments than highlights.
Shaquille O’Neal bolting for Los Angeles after the ’96 season. Grant Hill’s constant injuries and Tracy McGrady leading so many teams to promising regular seasons that always ended in the first round.
Now Orlando is halfway to a title. It’s won eight playoff games, and its eight more wins away from reaching the ultimate goal ó yet so much remains a mystery.
The Magic is full of young players, most of whom have never played this deep in the playoffs, and two rounds have done little to answer the questions that consistently crop up on such a streaky team.
Can Orlando play physical? Will it shoot such a high percentage when the pressure gets greater? Will Dwight Howard be the leader the Magic needs him to be? Will coach Stan Van Gundy crumble in the big moment?
“We’re one of four teams left now, so our chances got a lot better,” Smith said. “But we’re playing the best team in the NBA, so some would say are chances just got worse.”