Sunday, April 20, 2014

Magic Much Better at Protecting Amway Center in '13-'14

I already made my remarks on how awful Orlando's 4-37 road record was this season. Let's focus on a much brighter note. The Magic finished 19-22 at Amway Center. The franchise completed its 4th season in the still state-of-the-art facility. It's not .500 ball, but it's better than the twelve home victories earned last season in Head Coach Jacque Vaughn's first campaign. You would hope it's a sign of this Magic roster growing and developing its talent. I'm sure the 25th Anniversary festivities and wearing those legendary throwback black pinstripes helped. Below is a chart of the Magic's wins per season. Excluded are the '99 and '12 Lockout seasons.

The inaugural ‘89-‘90 18-win Magic managed twelve victories at the O-Rena. I was age 1 so I don’t recall that campaign unexpectedly starting off 7-7. I will unfortunately forever have the dreadful ‘03-‘04 21-win Magic campaign imprinted in my brain. That debacle of a season yielded a franchise-worst 11 home victories.

Looking at this season's home-away splits, you can see why Orlando played so much better at home. The Magic averaged 100.1 points per game at home and an awful 92.9 away from Amway Center. Orlando rebounded and assisted better at home which led to improved field goal percentages. Orlando was also more aggressive in front of its supporters with better blocking and more trips to the free throw line.

The line graph above displays an underlying problem: Amway Center just isn’t nearly the formidable place that the old O-Rena was. It wasn’t for Dwight’s remaining time as a Magic man and it certainly isn’t now. The difference being the O-Rena was a basketball venue first and not the spacious multi-purpose facility Amway Center is. No one feared the Magic at home last season. Thankfully, growth and maturation of the youth seemed to translate into fewer home blowouts and more victories.

An outstanding home support for any basketball game can legitimately provide a swing of several points in your favor. Some of that is opponents missing free throws that they usually drain, but mostly it’s producing enough crowd noise where refs will give the home side the benefit of the doubt on a 50/50 play. Those add up in the course of 48 minutes. This year's and last year's Magic squad has been nice and polite about the lack of home noise by ignoring it and still proclaiming Orlando has the ‘best fans in the league’, but I have no problem calling this town out.

The ONE game you expected Magic fans to absolutely go bonkers at last season - against Dwight Howard in his first game back home as a member of the Lakers - ended up being an overall atmosphere disappointment. Oh there were loud moments that game that gave you the spine-tingling shiver of being at the old O-Rena, but bad habits of a fair-weather fan base trickled in.

Especially when it comes to spectators leaving their seats before halftime to hit up the restrooms and food areas, and not returning until midway through the 3rd period. The cheese and wine crowd are both a blessing and a curse. They fill seats but not before tip-off or the start of the 3rd quarter. The latter being the major problem. Players don’t like coming out pumped up and being deflated by empty seats or disinterested spectators. 

Orlando ranked 9th in NBA attendance in the '10-'11 season (inaugural one for Amway Center), 9th again in '11-'12, 15th in Coach Jacque Vaughn's first year at the helm of the rebuilding '12-'13 Magic with Dwight Howard being dealt, and now a painful 23rd this '13-'14 season. The marketing and ticket sales department deserves some props for getting international visitors to fill up large swaths of empty sections. Those attendance figures are actually decent compared to Orlando's bad win-loss records the past few years, but the crowd atmosphere is just dead and I can't fathom how next season would look if the Magic had a tank for a 3rd consecutive campaign.

I get it, Amway Center has like four times more the square footage of the demolished O-Rena. I get that. But watch the current playoffs and you see fans of Toronto, Oklahoma City, Golden State, and others all providing Grade A playoff atmospheres. Those first two franchises being in existence fewer years than Orlando's Those folks are watching basketball. Not socializing and trying to impress folks. It's enough to make jealousy eat at you. This is the 2nd straight postseason Orlando is missing out on. Orlando being a transient and tourist city, this young Magic franchise can't afford to be out of the national spotlight for years at a time. Not with the Miami Heat racking up championships. Let's hope for an outstanding Rob Hennigan draft, maybe one solid free agency signing, and an even better '14-'15.

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