BOSTON -- As a stream of jubilant Celtics players made their way down a back hallway in the TD Garden towards their locker room, an equally despondent
"It's as disappointing as it gets," Van Gundy said. "I've never won a championship. The only guy in our locker room that has is
Van Gundy's frustration is more than understandable. The Cavaliers dripped with hype coming into the postseason, but it was the Magic who believed they were the ones with the substance. Sure, they were without they stylish
"I liked our talent," said Van Gundy. "I liked our guys commitment throughout the year. When you have that as a coach, you feel like you should be able to get them over the top. You really do. It's disappointing to me that we didn't play better in this series and get the job done."
The gulf between those that played well for Orlando and who didn't is as wide as the Grand Canyon. Howard wasn't flawless, but he battled a rough-and-tumble Celtics team that was determined to beat his body and spirit every time down the floor. With his team being overwhelmed by Boston's surge in Game 6, Howard still muscled in 28 points and pulled down 12 rebounds.
"I thought he played terrific," said Van Gundy.
Friday night wasn't
But far too often Nelson and Howard were a two-man show.
The Magic now face an offseason clouded in uncertainty. Most of the roster is locked in, with only Williams,
"Next year we have got to have guys that are willing to give everything they have got to get wins," Howard said. "[Boston] played like they wanted to win the championship the whole series. That's why they are in the position that they are in now."
Help, of course, can come from the outside. The Magic will be well over the salary cap but can use their mid-level exception to try and lure a veteran power forward into the fold. But ownership might not be quite so eager to push the payroll close to $100 million, not with Redick eyeing a big raise and Williams (or another backup point) needed to relieve Nelson.
Besides, the bigger changes can come from within. There is no question that Howard is the most dominant defensive player of this era. But his offensive repertoire is pathetic and his inability to face up and show Boston different looks stymied Orlando's attack. Howard is a 6-foot-11, 265-pound well of still untapped talent. But any scout will say that Howard's game has seen minimal growth over the last few years, if any at all. Magic assistant coach
Can he? That's the million-dollar question, one that Van Gundy and GM