The Orlando Magic are regressing. Last year they were embarrassed by the Lakers in the championship series. This year they are being embarrassed by the Celtics in the conference finals.
The Magic's bigwigs now have to make a momentous choice:
Are they satisfied with having a team that enjoys great success in the regular season? One that can destroy chump teams like the Hornets and the Hawks in the playoffs, and then overwhelm a puffed-up collection of losers like the Cavs, but that wilts against seasoned, aggressive, well-coached squads like the Celtics and the Lakers?
Or are Orlando's ultimate decision-makers truly motivated to win a championship?
If the latter is their ambition, then here are some moves that they must seriously consider:
Either hire Tom Thibodeau away from the Celtics, or hope that somebody else does.
Lock Dwight Howard in a gym for the entire summer with one of Pete Newell's big-man training videos, and don't let Patrick Ewing have the key.
Seek out and destroy what undoubtedly are traces of kryptonite hidden somewhere in the Celtics uniforms.
It's no secret that Vince Carter can't tell the difference between a good shot and a bad one, and is extremely soft around the edges. But his game is too small and his contract is too huge for any other team to swallow in any imaginable trade. The only recourse is to use VC off the bench, repeatedly call his number, and give him the hook when he misses three shots in a row.
Oh. And never ever play him in clutch situations.
Since J. J. Redick's presence on the court raises the IQ of all his teammates, he should inherit Carter's starting slot and playing time. Assuming, of course, that there isn't a sign-and-trade deal out there that lands Dwyane Wade in Orlando.
Jameer Nelson has plenty of heart, but he's slow, defenseless, and a subpar passer -- not the kind of repertoire that can lead a team to a championship. Either trade Nelson or use him as a backup to somebody else who is quick enough to turn the corner on screen/rolls and can attack the rim on his own recognizance.
Enroll Nelson and everybody else on the team in Passing 101, taught by Professor John Stockton.
Barring medical advancements that would make a pulse transplant a potential course of action, trade Rashard Lewis to anybody for anything.
Partner Howard with a power forward who can post up, rebound, hit an occasional jumper, and knock people down. Since he's already on the premises, how about Brandon Bass?
Stan Van Gundy has taken this team as far as it can go. Can him, and offer Phil Jackson the moon, the stars, and Uranus when Jerry Buss low-balls him.
Or hope that the Celtics beat the Lakers. It can subsequently be proposed that getting humiliated (again!) by the NBA champs proves that the Magic is still a serious championship contender.
If anybody salutes this particular flag, then the Magic's home games should be moved to Fantasy Land.