by Marcel Mutoni@marcel_mutoni

Yesterday’s demoralizing loss by the Orlando Magic in Boston to the Celtics had the Magic wondering about what the near future holds for them. For the national media, their biggest concern is also the future of the franchise, but more long-term.

Stan Van Gundy admitted that his squad is nowhere near the Celtics’ level, and Dwight Howard said the team needs to become mentally tougher (and get him the ball more frequently) if they hope to compete for a title.

The new roster has yet to gel, and the biggest acquisition (Gilbert Arenas) has failed to make an impact. Arenas even went as far as to claim that his arthritic knees stiffen up when he plays in cold-weather cities.

These are very serious concerns for Orlando with the Playoffs looming, to say nothing of Dwight Howard’s impending free agency in the summer of 2012.

CBS Sports and Yahoo! report:

“Not yet,” Arenas said after the first scoreless game he could remember since he picked up a basketball, referring to the pressure to get Howard a championship before he follows LeBron James’ lead. “But we know and I know they brought us here for a reason.” We all know that reason was not to finish fifth or sixth in the East and get knocked out in the first round.

Howard has his eyes on Los Angeles and New York, sources close to him have insisted for months, and nothing short of championship basketball may be enough to compel him to re-sign with the Magic.

[Otis] Smith has been planning for the next year and a half for the past seven years. “He’s been a free agent since he’s been here,” Smith said. “Meaning I’m not going to wait until he’s a free agent to become worried about free agency. Who are we kidding? When you have one of the top five players in this league, you’re always trying to retain him, I don’t care who you are. So there’s nothing I would do differently. Nothing. Zero. I’ve pretty much done it for seven years, since he was a rookie.”

There’s no telling if Gil will ever regain his once-dominant form — I certainly wouldn’t wager on it happening again — meaning the pressure on Orlando’s front office will only increase over the next two years.

Dwight Howard desperately wants to win an NBA title. Where this quest will continue to take place is up in the air.