A city without a star

Reuters Pictures/DayLifeThere was no gathering at a bar awaiting a decision. The decision had already been made. It was likely made first way back in the lockout or in December when Dwight Howard first requested a trade or shortly after he professed "loyalty" and then found, in his mind at least, the Magic were not what he thought they might be.

There was no collective mourning session in Orlando on the night of August 9, 2012 when the news came down that the Magic had finally, mercifully traded Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers. It came as suddenly as every other rumor that crossed the newswires in Orlando during the last nine months.

It stormed in Orlando on August 9, 2012. Viciously. Violently. The lightning brightened the night sky and the thunder deafened the roar of the constant twitter updates. The rain and time put out any fires that might have been set to Dwight Howard jerseys on the night the trade was reported.

There is no telling what reaction will be in the coming days when the deal becomes official. Many were already sick of the constant back and forth and uncertainty. It may be a long time before Howard is welcomed back to the city he called home and the city that embraced him for eight years.

It certainly feels like lightning had struck twice and left Magic fans in a state of shock.

In 1996, during the Olympics no less, Shaquille O'Neal decided he would leave the Magic for the Lakers. He left Orlando with nothing for its troubles and left devastation for the franchise for 5 or 12 seasons — depending on how you measure time in Orlando through the Tracy McGrady/Grant Hill years. It took a full decade before the Magic were back at a Shaquille O'Neal-level.

It may take that long to get back. At least, this time the Magic seem to realize that this process will take some time and requires dropping the floor and bottoming out.

But Orlando fans are going through the same feelings they went through 16 years ago. There is anger and despair over the future of the franchise. There are fans threatening to burn jerseys in massive public displays of anger. There are fans upset that they are already committed to season tickets for next year.

Orlando is going to be bad for at least two or three years. And for a fan base that went through 12 years of mediocrity, a half-filled building and the threat of relocation in the interim is not thrilled for that prospect. The short-term for the Magic is not good. This is a team that wants to go to the lottery and get high draft picks.

AP Photo/DayLifeA lot of losses on the year and that is a frustrating feeling.

As Magic fans slept on the deal, some did begin to come around. Orlando did get rid of some of its bad contracts — Jason Richardson and Chris Duhon — and brought in at least five picks including three first round picks and then their own potentially high lottery picks. Then there are the players they get back.

Orlando fans are upset the team did not get equal value.

That was never going to happen and many are beginning to realize that. Arron Afflalo is not a superstar player. He is not delivering the Magic a title like Dwight Howard could. He is not going to sell out Amway Center and he likely will not make the price of tickets a fair value for many season ticket holders.

Orlando is going to be awful for a few years. Magic fans are still trying to wrap their heads around what just happened and what the Magic will look like. And the going consensus is that Magic fans understand the need to bottom out and want to see the team bounce back as quickly as possible, knowing full well that a championship does take a trip to the bottom first.

Nobody is happy with where the short term sends the Magic. A lot wonder what the long term means for the Magic. There is trepidation and there is uncertainty.

AP Photo/DayLifeBut mostly there is relief. Relief that the drama is finally over and we can move on.

For the first time in a year, Magic fans can speak about the future with some semblance of certainty. They can see the formations of a rebuilding plan and they can see assets in the cache to use to begin the rebuilding process.

Hope can be powerful.

And considering where the Magic were for the last year, even the smallest semblance of hope is powerful. The deal may be a bad one, but the Magic are finally moving forward.

Catharsis will come. Analysis will come. Some fans will jump off the bandwagon and wait for the next big move to bring the Magic closer to a championship. That goal still seems very far away.

But Orlando is moving forward, even if there is one last gasp of anger for the former franchise center and for the management for taking a deal with nothing to be excited about for the 2013 season to come.

Philip Rossman-Reich

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily

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