May 10, 2008
If you disrespect anybody that you run in to,
how in the world do you think anybody’s s’posed to respect you?
If you’re walking ’round think’n that the world owes you something cause
you’re here you goin’ out the world backwards.
Respect yourself! If you don’t respect yourself,
ain’t nobody gonna give a good cahoot, na na na na
- The Staple Singers, “Respect Yourself”
The Orlando Magic have been playing the “we don’t get the respect we deserve” card all season long. Throughout the regular season, as NBA writers and pundits handicapped the Eastern Conference they almost exclusively zeroed in on the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons as its best two teams—and the only ones capable of winning a title. The Magic, who led the Southeast Division for almost the entire season and finished with an impressive 52-30 record—their best since the 1995-96 season, and good for 9th overall in the league—all the while wondered why they weren’t ever being included in the discussion.
In some ways, they’re right to have felt a little slighted. They won 12 more games compared to last season and boast a First-Team All NBA player in center Dwight Howard, who at just 22 years young is already the most dominating pure big man in the league (more on Superman Howard here). They also employ Hedo Turkoglu, recently voted the NBA’s Most Improved Player, as well as one of ETB’s favorite under-the-radar superstars in Rashard Lewis. They stood toe to toe with the Pistons in splitting the regular season series two games apiece, and even bested the Celtics 2-1. And as I mentioned a few days ago, the Magic are one of the NBA’s most prolific three-point shooting teams.
They got it done during the regular season, dispatched the Toronto Raptors in a tidy five games in Round 1 of the playoffs, and today at 5pm will try to even up their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series with the Pistons at 2-2. Clearly, this Orlando Magic team isn’t exactly chopped liver and are on their way up.
Still, they have some growing up to do collectively as a team. Repeatedly playing the disrespect card will only get you so far, and at some point becomes a detriment to your on-court performance. It’s not something you really should be worrying about—teams who’ve been there, done that, know better… especially come the playoffs. Respect is earned, not awarded because you think you deserve it. Win, and you get respect.
It’s really as simple as that.
More on the Orlando Magic and the Orlando-area media after the jump…
The Magic seem to not understand that, however. Ever since this series began, the Magic have been crying foul about every little question or criticism floated their way. It started when Pistons reserve center Theo Ratliff made the rather innocent—and true—statement that the Magic were “a finesse team.” He said this after Lewis gave him a hard foul in Game 1 and Pistons’ baby-eater Jason Maxiell quickly came over to his defense. “It’s Rashard Lewis. He’s a 3-man (a small forward),” he said, when asked whether he knew teammates had his back.
All Ratliff meant is that he can handle himself against smaller guys—another true statement. It wasn’t a putdown, it wasn’t an insult, it wasn’t anything more than saying what everyone in the league knows. The Magic are not a rough-and-tumble team that enjoys grinding it out and getting physical.
No big mystery there… and here’s the shocker, Magic fans: it’s no big deal!
The label “finesse team” doth not mean “bad team,” “soft team,” or “inferior team.” Yet when told of Ratliff’s comments by members of the chip-on-their-shoulder Orlando media (more on them below), the defensive Magic let their inferiority complex get the better of them. “Who? Theo who? I’m getting sick of people calling us soft,” said PG Jameer Nelson. “Tell (Ratliff) he can come out to the 3-point line and guard me. He can have a lot of energy… for five minutes,” Lewis said.
If an innocent comment like Ratliff’s is what the Magic need to get themselves pumped up, fine. They made a mountain out of a mole hill, however, and it was yet more tangible proof that this team is fostering an unhealthy inferiority complex, especially in regards to the Pistons. Perhaps it has something to do with losing nine straight playoff games to Detroit until finally winning Game 3 on Wednesday. And maybe it has something to do with not winning a playoff series, period, in over a decade until this year.
One way or the other, they have some issues… and so does the Orlando-area media.
When it comes to inexperienced playoff teams, there’s nothing like a win to get them, their fans, and their beat writers and radio personalities pounding their chests like King Kong on the top of the Empire State Building. After Chauncey Billups left Game 3 with a strained hamstring (he’s questionable for today’s game), a game the Magic went on to win big, Orlando-Sentinel writer/blogger Brian Schmitz subtly implied that Billups and the Pistons deserved the injury:
The Magic know what it’s like to be hamstrung. Now the Pistons do.
After marking time and then falling off the face of the NBA during Grant Hill’s residency, the Magic aren’t about to play violins for the Pistons. They finally whipped Detroit to join the series in progress Wednesday night, this time benefitting from a Pistons injury.
Cue the coincidence jingle. Billups was a Magic player for, oh, a few minutes, in town long enough so his salary could be used to create cap room… to sign Hill from the Pistons. Cue the coincidence jingle again. Billups was at the center of the big clock controversy in Game 2, making a 3-point shot that should not have counted. It’s not nice to mess with Father Time.
Then came this juvenile, Bush League little knee-slapper concerning Rasheed Wallace.
When I wrote my Game 3 postmortem and said the Orlando Magic should savor the victory while they can, one Magic fan and ETB reader just couldn’t take it and weighed in the following in our comments section (spelling, capitalization corrections made):
Opinionated tripe. The three-pointer absolutely changed momentum. I watched the game… and we split the series with Detroit this season. Guess we just got lucky those two times?
Yet another example of someone writing from the past, unable to see that these Pistons are not what they once were—getting old, tired legs. They are on the downhill ride it’s just a question of when everyone will start to see it. Orlando is on the way up and if they’re not better today, they will be very soon. Funny how when we blow them out it was us playing at the absolute best we can, but when they do it it’s because they’re just the better team. Philly took two from them? PHILADELPHIA? Come on bandwagoneer, re-evaluate your tired thinking and actually admit that we sink the threes because that’s what we do, we train for it.
Jameer Nelson Photo Credit: Icon SMI
All of this after one win. (Mitch, though I may disagree with your points, we do still sincerely your participation and for reading the site. Really.) On that note, today the Detroit News‘ Pistons beat writer, Chris McCoskey, wrote a revealing blog entry about his experience yesterday on Orlando sports-talk radio, a story that really brings it all home about the Magic and their media’s self-respect issues. Please take a moment to read the whole thing; here’s just an excerpt:
There is a real provincial, homeristic approach to the media down here. Whenever one of the Orlando foofs asks a question to a Piston, it’s usually something like, “How good is Dwight Howard now?” Or, “Are you surprised at how well the Magic are playing against you guys?” The tone of the questioning is always, don’t you love us? It’s gross, really.
So I go on this talk radio show down here Thursday afternoon. This guy — I don’t remember his name — says, “Now that the Magic have control of the series…” And I stopped him. Control of the series? How does being down 2-1 with two games still to be played in Detroit give the Magic control of the series.
But, you know his line, the Magic were robbed in Game 2 by the evil clock guy in Detroit (nevermind the Magic wetting themselves down the stretch, making two buckets in six minutes, or their 19 turnovers) and they killed the Pistons in Game 3 and Billups was questionable, blah, blah, blah.
I said from the Magic point of view, sure, they probably feel like the tide had turned. But I said the Pistons didn’t feel that way at all. Well, the jackass just couldn’t accept that. He must asked me three more times, in three different ways, if the Pistons feared the Magic now. I was like, Dude, they have a healthy respect for the Magic, they always have. But they don’t fear them. My God, get a grip.
I was thinking about this — early in the series, the Magic players made a big deal about not being intimidated by the Pistons, not backing down and all that. But where did that come from? The Pistons never talked like they were out to punk the Magic. They never talked like they didn’t respect them. The Pistons were actually surprised that the Magic had that mind-set. So where did it come from? It came from the Magic’s own inferiority complex. They are the ones who felt punked. Their media buys into it and perpetuates it.
“It came from the Magic’s own inferiority complex,” says McCoskey. And I couldn’t agree more.
If anything, however, all of this should make today’s game, and the rest of the series, that much more interesting, Billups or no Billups. I don’t think the Magic have it in them to win three of the next four games against the Pistons, but stranger things have happened. And like I said, the Magic are a good team… albeit one with a self-inflicted chip on their shoulder.