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1997-98 Season

1997-98: Can Daly, Erving Work Their Magic?
The Magic organization was buoyed in June by the arrival of two Hall of Famers: Chuck Daly and Julius Erving. Daly, a two-time NBA Champion as coach of Detroit, joined the organization in June to guide the young franchis. The astute Doctor J came on board as executive vice president, and it seemed like the Magic were back on track to challenge the powers of the Eastern Conference. A furious run of injuries tempered Orlando's improvement, but the team finished 41-41, and just out of reach of the final playoff spot.

Unfortunately, neither Daly or Erving could have anticipated just how badly the injury bug would bite. Orlando lost more than 275 player games to injury or illness, none more devastating than that of four-time All-Star Anfernee Hardaway, who missed 63 games as he rehabilitated injuries to his left leg and calf.

With Hardaway out, Nick Anderson was forced into the role of team leader, and he did not let his teammates down. Anderson led the team in scoring in Hardaway's absence at 15.3 ppg. The only remaining player from the 1989 Orlando expansion team, Anderson himself missed 15 games with a broken left hand in December and January, but bounced back to perform well during the second half of the season.

Another pleasant surprise was forward Charles "Bo" Outlaw. The free agent acquisition took on a bigger role than expected with all the injuries and filled in well, leading the Magic in field-goal percentage (.554), blocked shots and steals, providing a quick, athletic complement to Horace Grant, who led the team in rebounding at 8.1 rpg.

Orlando's other pivotal frontcourt player, center Rony Seikaly, was dealt to New Jersey on Feb. 19 with Brian Evans for veterans David Benoit, Yinka Dare and Kevin Edwards plus a first-round draft pick.

On March 27, Daly notched his 600 career victory with a 100-75 win over Houston, the 15th coach in NBA history to win that many games. He was the fifth fastest head coach to reach that mark, following Pat Riley, Red Auerbach, Jerry Sloan and Don Nelson.