Denton: Magic Ready for Season Opener

By John Denton
November 2, 2012

ORLANDO – After a week of training camp, a trip to Mexico City, eight preseason games and another week of practice to ready themselves for the marathon ahead, the Orlando Magic are finally ready to tip off the season tonight.

Orlando (0-0) hosts the Denver Nuggets (0-1) tonight at the Amway Center at 7 p.m. A sellout crowd is expected as the Magic begin a new era in franchise history with a new GM (Rob Hennigan), a new head coach (Jacque Vaughn) and a slew of new faces.

And the Magic can hardly wait to begin a season that both they and the fanbase are eagerly anticipating.

``I expect a lot of energy in our building tonight,’’ said point guard Jameer Nelson, the Magic’s longest-tenured player in his ninth year with the franchise. ``Fans around the city seem to be really excited about the season and we think it’s going to be fun.’’

The Magic no longer have superstar center Dwight Howard in the middle and that has caused some prognosticators to drastically lower expectations for the team. But with a veteran core of J.J. Redick, Arron Afflalo, Hedo Turkoglu, Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis and Nelson, the Magic are confident that they can greatly exceed expectations and make a strong push for a playoff berth.

``We’ve faced a lot of stuff here and heard a lot of stuff and sometimes we laugh at the things being said, especially the one that says we’re going to win 16 games,’’ Turkoglu said on Friday morning following the Magic’s shootaround. ``We’re trying not to focus on stuff like that and I as a veteran will try to make sure our younger players don’t focus on that. We know that this team is going to get better all season because we still have good, talented guys on this team.’’

One storyline to watch will be the regular-season debut of Vaughn, the NBA’s youngest head coach at 37 years old. Vaughn’s former college coach, Roy Williams, will be in attendance at the game to support his protégé. Vaughn is eager for Magic fans to get a look at a product that promises to share the ball and play hard every night.

``Hopefully our fans will be here and be loud and we’ll give them a product that they can be proud of and want to support,’’ Vaughn said.

Afflalo, acquired in August in the 12-player, four-team mega-trade that involved Howard, will be going against a Denver team that he spent the previous three seasons playing for. Afflalo said he would save his pleasantries for his former teammates and coach George Karl for after the game.

``It’s going to be a tough game for us, but I expect us to play well and improve,’’ said Afflalo, the Magic’s starter at shooting guard. ``Tonight we have Opening Night and that’s the most important thing, not myself playing against Denver. I’ll get a chance to say ``hi’’ to those guys maybe a second before the game and I’ll definitely speak to (Karl) after the game. But my focus is on our team.’’

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John Denton writes for John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.

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