Unless you’re a Cleveland or Boston fan, the winner of that series should be irrelevant to your rooting interests in the Eastern Conference Finals.
LeBron James is the best player in basketball and has won league MVP in consecutive seasons. For the second consecutive season the Cavaliers had the best record in the NBA. Who wants to see the favorite win? Everyone likes the pull for the underdog, right?
The Boston Celtics have a reputation as a bit of a dirty team. They have several emotional players who are prone to outbursts and have two of the least likeable players in the NBA on their team in Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace. Paul Pierce is famous for suffering from what looks like a devastating injury only to quickly return to the game like nothing happened. Maybe Pierce has an uncanny ability to heal or maybe Pierce is an excellent actor, which is the way many feel. That’s up to you to decide. Plus the Celtics, with their three Hall of Famers, Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen already have rings after they won the NBA Championship in 2008.
If you don’t support the Cavaliers or the Celtics, it’s simple: Pull for the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Yes, the Magic have a current superstar in Center Dwight Howard and they have a former superstar who is entering the final stages of his career in Shooting Guard Vince Carter, but they, more so than any other franchise, play like a team.
Howard, Carter, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson, who have each been All-Stars at one point during the last four seasons, are all taking fewer shots this season.
And they’re not complaining.
Last summer, Jameer Nelson took several of his Magic teammates on a trip to his hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The group played paint ball, ate cheese steaks, and even watched Nelson hit a home run at Citizen’s Bank Park during batting practice. Nelson invited newcomers Carter and Matt Barnes and both players bought right in, attending the trip.
As everybody knows by now, Howard is one the happiest, most fun-loving players in the entire NBA. He always has a smile on his face (and for some reason has been criticized for it). He has been heavily criticized and often that criticism is unfounded. He reaches out his fans on his blog and through social networking sites like facebook and twitter.
Howard is one of several Magic players that has done a lot of good in the community.
Carter helped build a rehab facility in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Barnes, along with Bobby Jackson started Athletes vs. Cancer, which was founded to raise awareness and funds for cancer research. Both players lost their mothers to cancer.
Adonal Foyle founded the Kerosene Lamp Foundation, whose mission is to “to empower youth and revitalize communities. Using basketball as a bridge, KLF will promote education and health awareness, provide free basketball clinics and build/refurbish basketball courts.”
The team also sponsors several events in the community and have raised great sums of money through the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation.
There are other reasons to cheer for the Magic:
- Orlando is known for their offense, but they get it done with defense. Orlando ranked third in the league in defensive rating and first in opponent’s field goal percentage.
- They have fun before the game as evidenced by their pre-game “Magic Show,” which you can see below.
- They have players from Poland (Gortat) and Guadeloupe (Mickael Pietrus).
- Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy is one of the brightest minds in basketball no matter what Shaquille O’Neal says.
- If you’re a stat-geek, the Magic do a lot of work with advanced statistics and Van Gundy is very stat-savvy.
- General Manager Otis Smith, the architect of the team, played for the first Orlando Magic team in 1989.
- Assistant Coach Patrick Ewing still doesn’t have a ring.
- The Magic have Jason Williams AKA White Chocolate. And yes, he can still dazzle you with a fancy pass or two (you can see an example below).
- The Magic are entertaining on offense. They broke a league record for 3-pointers made in a single season and Howard dunks more frequently than any other player in the NBA.
- Third-string Point Guard Anthony Johnson is referred to as Dad because of his age, but once and while he can still pull off a “dad dunk.”
- Brandon Bass is a rapper who also specializes in trading funny insults with Johnson after games.
- Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick have their own rap group named “James Clay.”
- It’s okay to cheer for Redick now unless of course, you’re a North Carolina fan. Redick is Orlando’s hardest working as evidenced by him winning Orlando’s “Iron Man” award.
- Reserve wing Mickael Pietrus is an interesting character to say the least.
So there you have it, plenty of reasons to pull for the Magic next week.
(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger, a contributor on the Fansided Front Page and at Sir Charles In Charge. Subscribe to his RSS feed, add him on Twitter to follow him daily and you can get the HTD app here).