The Philadelphia 76ers had to thank the Orlando Magic several months ago. If the Magic had been able to keep Dwight Howard, they never would have traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers, who then wouldn’t have sent Andrew Bynum to the Sixers. At the time, the Magic seemed to pave the way for the Sixers to return to glory -- yet wound up sealing a much uglier fate for Philadelphia on Feb. 26.
The Sixers hit rock bottom in a 98-84 loss to the Magic at home, dropping them to a season-worst 22-33. This wasn’t supposed to happen for a number of reasons, although Bynum’s season-long injury is the most obvious scapegoat.
Nevertheless, even a Bynum-less, struggling Sixers team should have beat a Howard-less Magic squad that was 15-41 and had lost 10 straight road games. Instead, Orlando blew out Philadelphia in the last three quarters, like it would have done if Howard was still around.
The Magic’s horrible season was one of the few things that had made the Sixers look better. As bad as Philadelphia has made out in the Bynum trade so far, to say nothing of Los Angeles's struggles with Howard, Orlando had still done even worse. Fortunately for the Magic, no one expected anything from them after this summer’s trade, unlike the Sixers and Lakers.
While Orlando may not recover from losing Howard for some time, Philadelphia may take even longer to recover if Bynum never takes the court. It seems like a short time ago that the future was bright for both franchises, and now they are buried under the smoking crater of their trade together.
But although the Magic have been buried lower, at least for this season, they still dug the Sixers’ grave a little deeper on Feb. 26. This loss was the ultimate wake-up call on how far Philadelphia has fallen, and how unlikely it is to ever climb out this year.
The Magic had opened a whole world of possibilities for the Sixers last summer, when they made Bynum expendable for the Lakers. However, Orlando fittingly closed the door just as suddenly last night, although Philadelphia had nearly slammed it shut well before then.