INDIANAPOLIS — They will not admit to it.
They are in denial.
Right here, just a few miles from where the best basketball movie of all-time was filmed, the Orlando Magic are renouncing their rights to channel their inner "Hoosiers."
"This isn't high school basketball," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Hoosiers is a great story, but it has nothing to do with us."
"We are not Hoosiers," J.J. Redick said. "That was a very undersized, all-white high school team that scored in the 40s."
The Magic are looking for reasons not to be Hoosiers instead of embracing who and where they are. They are the NBA's version of Hickory — the small-town Indiana high school trying to make an improbable run through the postseason. They are overmatched and undermanned and are led by a volatile coach who has made enemies along the way.
And just like Hickory, the Magic are playing in the heart of Indiana against the Pacers, a team with more size, more depth and more quickness. The Magic's only hope of winning this series is to play harder, play smarter and play together.
Actually, you could say the Magic are even bigger underdogs than Hickory High. At least Hickory had its best player during the playoff run. In fact, in the movie, the star player — Jimmy Chitwood — shows up at the emergency town meeting and talks them out of firing Coach Norman Dale. "He goes, I go," Jimmy said. In Orlando, the polar opposite happened. The star player allegedly went to the big meeting and tried to talk them into firing the coach. The conversation probably went something like this, "He stays, I go."
But there's no denying that Coach Norman Dale's underlying message in the movie is the same one Coach Stan Van Gundy is trying to send now that Dwight Howard has had season-ending surgery and is in L.A. rehabbing his back.
"I would hope you will support who we are," Coach Dale said. "Not, who we are not."
Without Dwight, the Magic seem to be supporting each other like never before. Obviously, they miss Dwight's talent on the floor, but they don't miss the drama and distractions off of it. And maybe, too, it helps that there is not the obvious friction between the star player and the head coach.
There's no pecking order on the team now. Nobody is worried about who gets the most touches. Van Gundy doesn't seem to be walking on egg shells any longer. He doesn't appear to be nearly as concerned about yelling too much and offending a franchise player who obviously doesn't want him as the coach.
"There's been so much going on with Dwight this whole year that we can't worry about what we don't have; we have to focus on what we do have," Ryan Anderson says. "This is our team right now."
Now you have players like Jameer Nelson talking about how this team "has each other's backs." You have Van Gundy talking about how this team "never quits." You have Jason Richardson talking about how this team is "completely unselfish."
What's it tell you when Glen "Big Baby" Davis has even bought in and become a team leader? This is a guy who earlier in the year was suspended for a verbal altercation with Van Gundy and acted as if he regretted signing with the Magic during the offseason.
Now, miraculously, he epitomizes what this team is about. He's playing hurt and he's playing hard. He played a team-high 41 minutes in Game 1 after badly spraining his ankle last week. Big Baby, it seems, has become Big Brother.
He's the one who came up with the playoff mantra — "We All We Got" — that has become a rallying cry for Magic players and fans alike. Team T-shirts are on the way. Jason Richardson went on Twitter after Game 1 and thanked Magic fans for their support and ended his tweet with a hashtag … #WeAllWeGot.
"We're not worried about individual things," Jameer says. "We're worried about team things."
In the middle of Indianapolis just a few minutes from where "Hoosiers" was filmed at Hinkle Fieldhouse, you can almost hear the coach of Hickory High School preaching the secret of success.
"Five players on the floor functioning as one single unit," the coach says in the movie. "Team, team, team. No one more important than the other."
When somebody recites the quote to Van Gundy Sunday, he can no longer muzzle his inner "Hoosiers."
"Yes," Van Gundy says, "Norman Dale was right."
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In the heart of Indiana, Magic are NBA's version of 'Hoosiers'
Except Jimmy Chitwood didn't try to get Norman Dale fired
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