To say that the Orlando Magic are in trouble with Dwight Howard's injury is an understatement. The All-NBA center has been remarkably durable over his career, missing just 12 games over eight seasons, five of those this season as Howard deals with a herniated disk in his back that could end his 2011-12 campaign.
Over the last four seasons, the Magic have a record of 200-93 (.685) when Howard plays, and just 4-8 (.333) when he sits. Not only is Howard a great player that makes a huge impact on both ends of the floor, but Orlando's offensive system under Stan Van Gundy is completely tailored around having a dominant low post presence who can open up the perimeter for a bevy of shooters. Howard is one of few centers in the entire league with whom the system would work; needless to say, the Magic do not have a proxy on the roster, which forces Orlando out of its comfort zone. (Losing Hedo Turkoglu during this spell hurts, too. That's one less creative playmaker Van Gundy has at his disposal, especially problematic given the pre-existing lack of playmaking ability the team has dealt with since the 2008-09 season.)
Can the Magic actually fall out of the playoffs with Howard on the shelf? Orlando's magic number is two: any combination of two Magic wins and Milwaukee Bucks losses will confirm the team's participation in the postseason, likely against the Indiana Pacers. The Magic swept the Bucks 4-0 this season within the span of three weeks.
For more on Howard's injury and the Magic's prospects, visit Orlando Pinstriped Post.