No team in the NBA was playing better than the Orlando Magic entering last night's game (okay, maybe the Bucks). The Magic had won 11 of their past 12 games, most in dominating fashion. It appeared all was well in the Magic locker room.
Well ... maybe not. Or, at the very least, it didn't take long for there to be some tension following a loss.
The Magic fell at the buzzer to the Hawks last night, which isn't the end of the world because the Magic were on the road playing a team in desperate need of a win to prove to themselves they can compete deep into the playoffs. However, it did lead to some real discontent in the locker room, as the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz reports.
Leave it to Stan Van Gundy to stir the pot.
Van Gundy just didn't throw Rashard Lewis under the bus after the Magic's 86-84 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday night. He left him there and let the wheels make an imprint on his backside.
Van Gundy blamed Lewis for failing to box out Josh Smith, who slammed home a game-winner to beat the buzzer.
"Unfortunately, we forgot to box out on the weak side, and Josh was able to make a great play. We became spectators and didn't block out," he said.
In response, Lewis muttered something about Van Gundy's offense, which ostensibly didn't give him enough touches (Lewis went 2-9 yesterday). Meanwhile, Matt Barnes, ever the loyal soldier this season, was complaining about not playing down the stretch, as Van Gundy went to a more offensive-minded lineup.
Well then. Taken out of context, all this stuff looks pretty bad. And yet, it seems like most of those who know the Magic best are not concerned.
Schmitz (who included the phrase "Controversy Breaks Boredom" in the title of his report):
The Magic and Van Gundy sparring after a loss. Classic stuff. And typical of a title-contender after a bitter defeat.
Combine a lockeroom full of egos and glow-in-the-dark personalities with a coach who can go nuclear, taking every loss like it’s the end of the world….and there can be explosions.
Everyone's right and makes solid points here. And in writing this post and starting this discussion here, I've probably spent more time thinking about it than anyone actually involved will. Again, such is the nature of professional sports. We could forget it all as soon as tomorrow night, when the Magic host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Maybe this is Orlando's MO, but doesn't it seem problematic that one loss in an otherwise torrid stretch sets off all this discontent? It does to me at least. For a team that's so incredibly talented, it could be the one thing that derails a deep playoff run.