The Orlando Magic's 2011-12 season will be remembered as one of the most turbulent seasons in franchise history. Let's review some of the ups and the downs.
Most outstanding player
Dwight Howard arguably regressed offensively and defensively, but he remained the team's dominant force. He led the team in points per game (20.6). He won the league's rebounding title, averaging 14.5 boards per game. His defensive ability covered for his teammates' myriad defensive deficiencies.
Most valuable player
Jameer Nelson played an important role off the court. He helped keep the team together during its persistent Howard drama and after Howard underwent season-ending surgery April 20.
Least valuable player
Howard. All the drama that surrounded Howard — from his December trade request and his desire for a coaching change — took a significant toll on his teammates and the coaches. It's a testament to the players and the coaching staff that the team did as well as it did.
Most entertaining game
Magic fans, players and coaches hated the final result, but no game featured more twists, more turns and more heart than Orlando's 101-99 overtime loss in Game 4 of its playoff series against the Indiana Pacers. The Magic recovered from an 82-63 deficit with 8:14 left in regulation and tied the score late. Nelson had a chance to win in the game, but he misfired on his fadeaway jumper as time expired. Orlando trailed by six to begin overtime, but the extra period still featured three ties.
Most bizarre game
On Jan. 12, the Magic defeated the Golden State Warriors 117-109 in Oakland, Calif., as Warriors coach Mark Jackson told his players to foul Howard repeatedly. Howard attempted 39 free throws, breaking Wilt Chamberlain's NBA record for free throws in a game. The record had stood since Feb. 22, 1962.
Most bizarre moment
Nothing was more surreal than the team's shootaround April 5. After it ended, coach Stan Van Gundy, in response to a direct question, told reporters he had been told by the "top" of the organization that Howard wanted him fired. That would've been strange enough. But Howard, not knowing what Van Gundy had said, insinuated himself into Van Gundy's Q-and-A with reporters a short while later, put his arm around Van Gundy and tried to shoot down rumors that he wanted Van Gundy's dismissal.
The Magic had more dominant performances, including a 102-89 win over Miami on Feb. 8. They also had more emotional victories, including a 104-98 overtime win over Miami on March 13. But the Magic's 88-82 win in Philadelphia on April 7 was the team's grittiest victory. Just two days after the bizarre shootaround involving Van Gundy and Howard, the Magic snapped a five-game losing streak. Howard scored 20 points and grabbed 22 rebounds despite back spasms. Van Gundy said: "We've had, obviously — and I added to it — a tumultuous week, and they fought for each other."
The Magic's worst performance as a team occurred when they lost 87-56 on Jan. 23 in Boston to the Celtics, setting a new franchise record for fewest points in a game. But the most painful loss took place three days later in Orlando; that night, the Magic led the Celtics by 27 points in the second quarter but wound up losing 91-83.
Best individual performance
Howard scored 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting and grabbed 25 rebounds in Orlando's 104-98 overtime win over Miami on March 13.
Most improved player
Ryan Anderson won the NBA's 2011-12 Most Improved Player Award, and he obviously was the Magic's most improved player. He set career-highs in points per game (16.1), rebounds per game (7.7), field-goal percentage (.439) and starts (61).
J.J. Redickmissed 17 games in 2010-11 because of two muscle tears in his lower abdomen, but Redick didn't miss a game because of injury in 2011-12 and had one of his best seasons.
Most impressive feat
The Magic could have caved when Howard decided to undergo season-ending surgery for a herniated disk in his lower back. But the team rallied together. It won Game 1 of its playoff series against the Pacers.