Two weeks ago Jameer Nelson whispered in the ear of Bulls guard Derrick Rose loud enough for the world to hear “see you in the second round.”Â It’s now safe to assume that the Atlanta Hawks overheard Nelson’s dismissive comment and have used it as the perennial “bulletin board material” in their first round match-up against the magic.Â After getting trounced by Orlando by an average of 25-points last spring, Atlanta rallied to winÂ 3 of 4 this year and to take a 3-1 lead in this year’s playoff match-up.
Most will point to Orlando’s hamfisted midseason trade as the culprit.Â Yes, the trade was stupid and only made the team worst from every standpoint imaginable.Â Still Orlando played well enough to secure the 4th seed in the east and the match-up that they wanted.
I think Orlando’s problem runs deeper than the trade, this team lacks coherent leadership.Â Nelson’s on-camera snub of Atlanta made for good copy, but given how closely these two teams are matched this year, it was a boneheaded move (not unlike his penchant for fouling 3pt shooters).
GM Otis Smith and head coach Stan Van Gundy spent the summer taking shots at the Miami Heat then had to spend the season watching Miami manhandle their squad.
Looking at the Magic over these past two years it is now becoming obvious that the team from management on down is under the impression that they, and not the Lakers, won the NBA title in 2009.Â Since 2009 Orlando has carried itself as the team to beat and their elite counterparts have obliged by doing just that.Â Van Gundy and Smith have not helped matters by commenting on the travails of seeming every other team in the league.
This year’s moronic trade was nothing shy but an attempt to take it back to 2009.Â The only problem with that is that it’s 2011.Â While the rest of the league moved on, Orlando has been waiting for the start of game 6 of 2009′s NBA finals.
As bad as the trade was, this malaise can not solely be blamed on the players currently on the roster or those who’ve fallen short of management’s expectations the last two years.
When Smith, Van Gundy and their players are ready to stop talking and get back to playing basketball, the rest of us will be waiting.