Friday, December 28, 2012

Magic In The Air

The Orlando Magic had lost their last three games, and were hungry for a win coming into a Friday night affair with the struggling Washington Wizards. The Magic were 12-16 so far, and in the midst of their first season without superstar center Dwight Howard, who negotiated his own trade out of Orlando after a long and drawn out saga, that may have sabotaged the position of former head coach Stan Van Gundy.  In a 4 team 12 player deal executed over the summer, the Magic brought back sharpshooter Arron Afflalo and journeyman Al Harrington from Denver, former St. John's standout Moe Harkless and Montenegrin big man Nikola Vucevic from Philadelphia, plus forward Josh McRoberts and guard Christian Eyenga from the Los Angeles Lakers. In addition to shipping Howard to L.A., the Magic shipped guard Chris Duhon and forward Earl Clark to the Lakers, sending Jason Richardson to the Sixers. Orlando also received five draft picks. It became clear with the departure of "Superman" that the future was now in the Magic Kingdom. Orlando was slowly turning the page on the Howard era, and looking to star point guard Jameer Nelson, along with Afflalo to carry the load.
Verizon Center ready for Wizards vs. Magic

The Wizards came into Friday's game still looking to end what had been a dreadful 8 game slide, dating back to December 11th in New Orleans.

I arrived at the Verizon Center administrative entrance at 4:45 P.M., and was greeted by the same desk attendant who'd worked the last game, so I knew I would have to wait til 5:00 P.M. to get into the building. During the 15 minute wait in the lobby, I found time to set up my personal camera, so I could take a few pictures before checking in for work at 5:30 P.M. I was able to watch a few Magic players take part in their pregame rituals, including rookie power forward Kyle O' Quinn, who was greeted by a conglomerate of current students and alums from his alma mater, Norfolk State.

A Magic trainer stretches rookie forward Kyle O'Quinn

I was under the impression that my personal fan photography goal for the night was going to be 200 shots, the same as the previous game, but was challenged to get 300 or more, which I barely accomplished, but succeeded in nonetheless. One of my personal favorite pictures that I took with the Nikon provided to us, on this night, was a quick shot of a young fan desperately hoping for an autograph, who quickly turned and posed with Wizards small forward Martell Webster, who was taking his time, mingling with the crowd on his trip back to the locker room from an early shoot around.
The next superman? Magic rookie forward Andrew Nicholson could be a big part of Orlando's future

By the time the game was under way, I had already eclipsed 100 shots for the night, my fastest accumulation of pregame fan photos to date. By halftime, I was well over 200, when I realized I really had to make a trip to the restroom. I quickly ran back to the office, and deposited my camera, and went on a quick detour in search of a sanitary facility, which I was told by a reliable usher on the 2nd floor, was located all the way up on the 4th floor. So I ran upstairs to what turned out to be another filthy, urine-laced mens room and back downstairs to pick up my camera again and start shooting. It was only then did I realize that there was only one quarter left, and I still needed over 80 shots to reach my goal of 300. I almost frantically rattled off exactly the amount of pictures I needed to reach 301 shots for the night, just in time to hear a raucous roar from the crowd, and see fans spilling into the concourse from their seats, as though their team had just won a title. The Wizards were victorious, finally, by the score of 105-97 over the Magic. Jordan Crawford, still coming off the bench, had a huge game, leading Washington with 27 points and 6 assists. Brazilian center Nene had his best game of the season with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Arron Afflalo led Orlando with 26 points, and lethal shooter  J.J. Redick chipped in 23 points off the bench, 15 of them coming on 3-pointers, but the Wizards prevailed, snapping their 8 game losing streak, and sending the Magic to their 4th straight loss.