NBA.COM SEASON OUTLOOK
Three coaching changes, the trade of Tracy McGrady, the ill-fated John Weisbrod era, the wasted Fran Vazquez pick, Grant Hill continuing to limp through his contract. Faster than Pat Williams can write a book, the Magic had undone 11 consecutive .500 or better seasons with three straight trips to the lottery.
Only last February was the Magic kingdom finally infused with a little pixie dust, when Orlando made two deadline deals, one of which jettisoned Steve Francis to New York and put the franchise squarely on the broad shoulders of 20-year-old Dwight Howard.
Suddenly, Magic fans were turning their frowns upside down. Orlando was 17-13 after the trades, benefiting from addition by the subtraction of Francis as well as the arrival of Trevor Ariza, Carlos Arroyo and even the enigmatic Darko Milicic.
With Jameer Nelson handling starting point guard duties and Howard dominating inside, Orlando won 16 of its final 22 games to salvage a 36-46 season. An offense that averaged only 92.8 points and shot 45.7 percent with Francis, exploded for 98.5 ppg and .498 shooting on Nelson's watch.
"It feels now a little like it did when I took over the first time [in 1993-94]," Coach Brian Hill told the Orlando Sentinel in September. "Shaq was going into his second season. We had just drafted Penny [Hardaway], and people knew we were on the verge of something."
Howard is on the verge of being one of the NBA's best players. He was the NBA's second leading rebounder (12.5 rpg) and a member of the FIBA World Championship team. The league's most proficient dunker (214), Howard was also among the NBA leaders in field goal percentage (.531), blocks (1.4) and double-doubles (60).
Orlando has a good mix of young and old. They have 11 players 27 or younger, but benefit from the veteran presence of Hill, Bo Outlaw, Tony Battie and Pat Garrity. The only significant hit to their roster this summer was the loss of starting shooting guard DeShawn Stevenson, who signed with Washington.
Stevenson's defense will be missed. Certainly, the Magic don't expect first-rounder J.J. Redick to fill that void, but he does quench Orlando's need for perimeter shooting. A prolific scorer at Duke (26.8 ppg last season), Redick's job will be to keep defenses from collapsing on Howard.
If he can do that and if Milicic can continue to develop, the Magic become dangerous enough to contend for a playoff spot.-- Bill Evans
Link to the complete article:
NBA.com: Magic Preview
In his last five (meaningless) games, Garrity has hit 18-of-36 shots (50 percent), including 8 of 17 3-pointers (47 percent). What can be said of this?
Sentinel: Success for Garrity
A master candidate
Shaquille O'Neal named Orlando's Dwight Howard, Houston's Yao Ming and Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire as the most likely candidates to succeed him as the NBA's most dominating player. "When age does its thing, one of them will become the new master," O'Neal said.