The Orlando Magic finished one of the messiest, more tumultous season's in team history Tuesday. with an ugly 105-87 loss to the Indiana Pacers that was actually a game for three quarters. Orlando hung around, played enough defense and hit enough shots to dodge and parry with the Pacers ... and then Indiana got serious or something and outscored Orlando 36-16 in the fourth quarter.
The Magic showed heart and I wanted them to win, but it's probably best that this offseason start as quickly as possible. They MAY have to find a new head coach, they WILL have to find a new GM, and they DEFINITELY have to draw up Dwight Howard's exit strategy, or a long-term contract. If they want to remain competitive -- and they can if the rest of the team stays remotely intact -- they have to keep Dwight. His defensive presence changes shots at that end, and his rebounding makes it possible for Orlando to hoist hundreds of 3-pointers a night; Dwight can clean the glass and get second chance buckets. The Magic were never really competitive in the Indiana series after Game 1 because all they got were first chances (and hit very few of them).
Oh, and Jameer Nelson and J.J. Reddick are in the last years of their contracts, and Ryan Anderson is a restricted free agent. There's a lot of chess pieces to move.
Now we're on to the next season here in town (well, besides UCF football). The Orlando Solar Bears, who will return to the ice in mid-October for the 2012-13 ECHL season, will announce who their NHL and AHL team affiliates will be at an intimate gathering at the Ice Den at RDV Sportsplex in Maitland on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The announcement is open to the public.
I'd say the leading front runners for the NHL team are the Florida Panthers (who currently share the Cincinnati Cyclones with Nashville), Carolina, and Tampa, who share the Florida Everblades in Ft. Myers right now, and they'd probably push to keep Tampa, of the two.
Should it be the Florida Panthers, their AHL team is in San Antonio.