I'm sitting in first class on a Delta flight from Salt Lake City to Orlando, on my 3rd Rum & Coke, iPod blasting, and watching the Magic dismantle Atlanta on ESPN. On top of it all, Delta handed out free WiFi for the flight.
Despite all the economic turmoil, it's still an amazing time we are living in. And what's more cool?
1. watching ESPN at 35,000 feet plus free drinks?
2. WiFi on a plane?
3. The Magic are the best NBA team on the planet?
Remember last year when ATL used to give the Magic fits with their youth and athleticism? Ain't happening this year. Maybe it's luck, maybe it's the rum talking, it's absolutely way too early, but so far Otis gets an A Plus for his work this summer. And as much as it pains me, kudos to the DeVos family for stepping up and finally putting a championship run ahead of cash considerations. Old man rich is worth about $2 billion, it's nice of him to cough up the extra $10 or $20 million this year will cost him.
It's currently Magic 46, ATL 29. So far I've been impressed with Howard (duh), VC (best wing since T-Mac), Anderson (this guy will make us forget Lee [who missed that damn shot anyway]), Bass (rebound, rebound, rebound), Williams (says he's no longer White Chocolate but looking inspired tonight) and more. Love Barnes too!
We are about to watch the best Magic team ever this year. Better than last year. Better than ever.
SVG -- he's done a super job getting this retooled team to gel so quickly, Plus he has championship run experience. The only coaches who are probably better are Jackson and Popovich. But SVG is capable of getting there.
Howard '09 vs. Howard '10 -- expect him to be even better this year. The outside shooting is even better with VC, Anderson, Barnes. He is going to kill teams that double him by passing out to the open wing and if they don't double him he is going to kill them inside. What a beast.
Lewis '09 vs. Lewis '10 or Turk-- He was always a little over-matched at PF. He'll kill at SF and can still move to PF where the advantage is in Magic's favor. Lewis is a better SF than Turk. Better defender, better shooter, and there are plenty of playmakers and players who can create their own shot now to make up for Turkoglu's passing.
Bass vs. Lewis -- Bass has a wide body to help rebounding. I won't be surprised if Howard's rebound numbers are down a bit this year. He'll also get left alone for interior passes for dunks while the opposing defenses are trying to figure out who of the four all-stars to guard.
VC vs. Lee -- C'mon. Really? Carter is going to average around 21 points a game this year and is MOTIVATED. Lee may become very good player. But how good? And is he really going to be better than Anderson will be in a Magic uniform? Carter looks comfortable tonight and that's not good for the rest of the league.
Nelson vs. Nelson/Rafer Alston. Nelson was really really good before his injury and he had to be because he only had Johnson backing him before the Alston trade. This year he has Williams and Johnson backing him up. Also is surrounded by lots of scorers. He'll be able to pick his spots.
Gortat vs. Gortat -- He really came into his own in the playoffs last year, and deserves to eventually start. Right now he is easily a top ten center in the East. SVG needs to get him more minutes this year. His energy is great when he comes in for Howard. He's no Howard, but the team hardly misses anything when he replaces Howard.
Anderson vs. Battie. Not even close. Anderson is really good, great 3 point range. The team doesn't lose anything when he comes in for Bass.
Barnes vs. Pietrus at SF -- Given that Pietrus will mostly backup VC at SG and Barnes is nothing but upside. Probably even a better defender than Pietrus, who isn't bad. Barnes is the type of role player that helps teams win championships.
Pietrus vs. Redick at SG -- Again, Redick is still around as the 11th man. Pietrus had a poor regular season last year due to injury. Should be much improved this year.
Williams vs. Johnson -- Williams looks fresh and energized. He has a ring. He seemingly doesn't care about anything anymore than liking his teammates and winning. Why or why didn't the Magic sign him last year? As great as the acquisition of the new guys Carter, Bass, Anderson, & Barnes are, Williams is huge.
Plus Redick, Johnson
Given the ease of the preseason it's hard to see that Turk is going to be missed. Turk at a year older was a risk, no matter the cost. Lee's contributions last year were good, but nowhere near all-star capable. At this point he's more likely to have zero All-Star appearances than one. Alston is just as likely to be a head case as a contributor. I have not like Batties knees for four years now and never thought the Magic should have extended a contract for those knees.