On the eve of the NBA's trade deadline, the Orlando Magic are not about to make a move to increase their chances of winning a championship. The team may move veterans Terrence Ross, Gary Harris or Robin Lopez (we have Robin right? Or Brook?) to acquire draft picks because it's all about finding a star player for the Magic. Nothing else really matters.
So, while the rest of the NBA will try and figure out if the Nets and Sixers really will make a Harden for Simmons trade, we look back to the biggest trade deadline deal the Magic ever made.
In 2009, the Magic entered a February 2nd game against the Dallas Mavericks with a record of 36-10. The team was among the best in the league and had a dominant inside game with Dwight Howard and outside shooting of Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis. Jameer Nelson was having his best season. He was scoring almost 17 points a game and five assists and was shooting over 50% from the field and a blistering 45% from the three-point line. On this night against the Mavs, Nelson tore the labrum in his right shoulder when he collided with Dallas' center Erick Dampier. The Magic lost to the Mavs and then had to make a decision. How long would Nelson be out? Would he be lost for the season? Who could they find via trade for a team that was competing for an NBA championship.
Two nights later, the Magic blew out the Clippers at home 125-96 with veteran Anthony Johnson playing point. But could Johnson, at age 34, carry the load the rest of the season if Nelson was out?
The Magic lost two of its next three as they headed to the all-star break. With the trade deadline approaching, Orlando went in search of a point guard.
On February 19th, the Magic pulled the trigger on a deal that brought in then 32-year old veteran Rafer Alston. Alston came from Houston in a deal that saw the Grizzlies send Kyle Lowry to Houston, the Magic sending Brian Cook to the Rockets as well and Orlando sending Adonal Foyle and MIke Wilks and a first-round pick in the 2009 draft to the Grizzlies. That 2009 pick was DeMare Carroll, who played 11 seasons in the league.
Alston had played for four teams before coming to Orlando but gave the Magic the spark they needed. The team went 20-9 after he put on an Orlando uniform. Alston averaged 12 points and five assists and stabilized the position as Dwight continued to dominate inside and the pre-Warriors system of shooting lots of threes and letting Dwight do his thing saw Orlando finish at 59-23.
Despite the 59 wins, the Magic were a 3rd seed in the east. Orlando beat Philadelphia in the opening round and then won a game seven at Boston to advance to the conference finals. Orlando finished off LeBron and the Cavs in six games and advanced to the franchise's second appearance in the NBA Finals.
As big as Alston's trade was to help this 2009 run, one of the biggest debates about the Magic is the decision to bring Jameer Nelson back for the finals after the thought was his shoulder injury would sideline him the rest of the season. Nelson went 5-14 in the four games played and his return seemed to have messed up the chemistry of the Alston-Anthony Johnson combo that worked in the previous three rounds. The Magic didn't lose to the Lakers because Jameer Nelson played, but it just felt funky and it makes you wonder what could have been.
What if Jameer never got hurt, would the Magic have won the title? Maybe. But when he went down the Magic went out and found a veteran who became a fan favorite and Orlando didn't skip a beat.
As the Magic may make a move or more and pick up a future first and a few second round picks, we can look back at the trade deadline deal that helped keep a title contender in contention and make a run to the finals. Rafer Alston, aka Skip 2 My Lou, was the best deal at the deadline the Magic made.
Final thought: Alston was a second pick of the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1998 Draft. Also taken in the second round that year was Rashard Lewis. Two picks after Alston, Cuttino Mobley was taken. Mobley was part of the famous deal where Orlando sent Tracy McGrady to Houston.