The Orlando Magic and their superstar big man 26-year-old Dwight Howard come to Chi-Town tonight to battle the NBA-best 33-8 Bulls and the reigning league MVP 23-year-old PG Derrick Rose.
With the NBA trading deadline a mere seven days away, all of the ubiquitous, swirling and often divisive trade talk surrounding First-Team All-NBA C Howard will be at max volume for the next week. Will the 25-15 Magic trade their cornerstone as he wishes, or will they play out this shortened season and try to resign him this summer?
The speculation and uncertainty may be taking its toll on Howard’s team. On Tuesday night Orlando lost to the league-worst Bobcats 100-84 after blowing a 20-point lead. In his postgame comments coach Stan Van Gundy questioned their collective desire to compete and improve. Howard had 17 boards and 15 points in the defeat, and the Magic were outscored by Charlotte 28-13 in the fourth quarter.
Coach Tom Thibodeau’s squad leads the NBA in assists per game, rebounds per game and is second in points allowed. On top of that, the Bulls are an impressive 15-2 at the Madhouse on Madison II. In addition, the Second-City Ballers are on a season-high eight-game winning streak after besting the Bucks at the buzzer in Milwaukee last night, 106-104. The all-everything, 4th-year Rose finished with 30 points, 11 dimes and 8 boards and hit the game-winning step-back long 2-point shot with no time remaining.
The Magic have dropped their last four contests against Chicago. A win tonight could change many people’s thinking about the direction of Orlando, most critically Howard’s. It would also be a strong start to a tough stretch of games over the next six days. After tonight, the Magic play Indiana, Miami and San Antonio – all before the 3/15 trading deadline.
As for the Bulls, who sit two games ahead of the Heat in the Eastern Conference, a W would be a great way to kick-off a six-game homestand and stay above the Miami juggernaut in the standings.
Kevin Harlan and I will be teaming up for this evening’s Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls broadcast at 8:00 PM ET on TNT.