Monday, October 26, 2009

Undefeated Preseason not Meaningless

So Orlando went 8-0 in the preseason, the first undefeated preseason in the franchise's history. The players and coaches shrug off the success as just an incidence of playing "games."

But despite the seeming blase attitude of the team around this -- minor -- accomplishment, it is something worth at least praising in some respects.

Going undefeated over a long stretch of games means something is going right. From what I was able to watch when the Magic's starters went up against their opponent's starters, the Magic won. Late in games -- think Dallas and Chicago specifically -- Orlando executed down the stretch and pulled out victories.

Certainly the defense was not where it needed to be, the team turned the ball over far too much and, oh yeah, it was preseason so I would not have been surprised to hear anyone say they were trying 100 percent. But the team found ways to win and that is ultimately what this team will be judged on.

And eight wins in a row is no laughing matter. These are (still) NBA teams after all.

An undefeated preseason is no sign that Orlando is going to win the championship. It is a sign that the team is going to be very good and that something did, again, go right. Eight in a row is no fluke -- and it seemed like teams kept their starters in as long as Orlando did.

Think of what happened the other way. In 2003, Orlando won a single preseason game. Everyone kind of shrugged this off as an unfortunate circumstance of the preseason and nothing to be worried about. But then-head coach Doc Rivers did not shrug it off. As The Orlando Sentinel would later report, the team knew something fishy was up after the Magic stunk it up in the preseason.

Those concerns proved to be true as the Magic lost 19 straight after topping the New York Knicks in overtime in the first game. Rivers was fired and Orlando was on its way to a 21-61 season.

There is some coincidence between preseason struggles and regular season failure.

Orlando certainly has done something right then in going undefeated in the postseason. What that is might be hard to tell. It would have been nice to see, for the coaching staff at least, how this team reacts to losing -- even in the preseason. We will not learn that until the first game of the regular season. But the Magic were down plenty and found a way to come from behind to win too.

An undefeated preseason is a somewhat insignificant feat, but it does tell something. I do not think a team that goes undefeated for an entire preseason can have a poor season.

The Magic clearly have made some moves that will help the team and things are generally working. That is a good start for a team trying to integrate so many new players and trying to win a championship.

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