6:27 PM PST, February 19, 2013
The latest installment of the Ping-Pong Ball Invitational was held Tuesday night at Amway Center.
The match-up featured the Charlotte Bobcats -- lottery-draft favorites -- against the Magic -- the steadily sinking contenders challenging the 'Cats' coronation.
If you haven't heard, the team with the worst record has the best chance to win the right to pick the top campus hero.
The 'Cats entered with a 12-40 record, maintaining a death grip on last place. The Magic were 15-37, and by no means out of the race.
In the final accounting, the game might matter, this loser-take-all between the NBA's sorriest teams.
The Magic executed their game-plan to imperfection in a Bobcats' win, cutting into Charlotte's lottery lead.
The Magic have yet another chance as the series winds up in Charlotte on March 27. They'll have to make an understatement then with just 10 games remaining.
College stars have every reason to get excited about Orlando's weather and the Magic as a pro employer. The defenseless Magic played like a legitimate lottery team, and we're about to see if things can get worse – or better, depending on your viewpoint.
Any trades could affect their push the rest of their season -- and next season.
Yes, J.J. Redick did dress and play in what could be his last home game for the Magic.
If a team has a trade in hand, it's not unusual for it to hold out the player for fear an injury might detonate the deal. Obviously, more would be revealed if J.J. doesn't make the trip to Dallas for Wednesday night's game or doesn't play, the day before the deadline.
If Redick is dealt, it's the strongest signal that the Magic are creating more cap room and plan on bottoming out next season, too.
High-school sensations Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker likely will be available in the 2014 draft.
I asked Vaughn about the strategy some rebuilding teams employ for a draft-friendly result.
"That doesn't guarantee anything," he said. "Charlotte didn't get it [the No. 1 pick]."
The Bobcats won just seven times last season, figuring they had lost enough to land the best shot at the franchise player available.
But they missed out on Anthony Davis -- and a future that would have instantly resurrected them. Owner Michael Jordan would have been able to show his face in public again.
The Bobcats, Kings the Cavs are warning lights for all Magic fans who have seen lottery luck kiss their team thrice: Beware, the draft. Grab a Snickers. It can take a while.
Charlotte blew up its team two years ago, shipping out veterans Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace to start a rebuild. In all, the Bobcats received two first-round picks, No. 7 pick (Bismack Biyombo) and kept their pick, Kemba Walker.
Bobcats fans and Jordan are still waiting to see the payoff.
Carving out massive cap room to sign free agents can provide the quickest way to upgrade. Not that your millions can attract superstars these days is you're stationed in off-Broadway locales.
No matter who actually winds up with the most ping-pong balls and has the best odds, the Magic will be in the hunt. Thanks to the schedule-makers, the Magic should be neck-and-neck in this race for No. 1 against the Bobcats, Wizards, Suns, Cavs, etc.
Of Orlando's remaining 29 games, 20 are against clubs that currently are in playoff position.
Vaughn said this was a factoid that he relayed to his team before the all-star break, reminding them none of those teams will "have any sympathy for us."
Sympathy is what they call the draft lottery.
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