It’s highly unlikely that a reporter came up to Rashard Lewis
back in April when the Sonics closed out the season with a dreary 31-point home loss to the Mavericks and asked point blank, “Rashard, you just finished a 31-51 season and are a free agent. What are you going to do now?”
But, even though the question probably wasn’t asked and, even if it was, it probably wouldn’t have been delivered with the same enthusiasm as if it was posed to Peyton Manning after winning the Super Bowl, Lewis’ answer ended up being the same as Manning’s:
“I’m going to Disney World.”
The Magic acquired Lewis for a future second-round pick back on July 11 and on July 12 signed Dwight Howard to a multi-year extension – in two short days assuring Orlando fans that the best attraction this side of the theme park for years to come will be the Magic’s frontcourt.
Lewis is entering his 10th season straight out of high school and while his 16.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game career averages should have an immediate impact on Orlando’s chances in the East, his pairing with Howard should have an even deeper affect on the Magic’s budding big man.
While high school cafeterias are a distant memory for Lewis, Howard can still remember what the gravy on “mystery meat” day tasted like. Howard is entering his third season, and while he has been praised as a physical specimen and downright beast, his offensive game hasn’t quite blossomed yet. Having the 6-10 Lewis out on the perimeter with his 38.6 career shooting percentage from three should keep opposing defenses honest as it will be harder to send two bigs at Howard with Lewis lurking on the wing.
Furthermore, Lewis grew from a 2.4 points per game average in his rookie year to a career-high 22.4 points per game last season, so he is a living, breathing reminder to Howard every day of just how far you can progress in the league after coming in straight out of high school.
Orlando squeaked into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed last season and fell in the first round to the Pistons 4-2. Lewis should keep them in the hunt for the postseason once again.
Former Naismith Player of the Year Jameer Nelson
is the lead guard on this squad, for better or for worse. After splitting starts with Carlos Arroyo
two seasons ago, Nelson became the full-time starting point guard last year. His numbers need to improve as he averaged 13.0 points on only 43 percent shooting and had a pedestrian 1.79-to-1 assist-to-turnover rate last season. Trevor Ariza
and Keyon Dooling
will see some time at the two as well as at small forward and if J.J. Redick
can carry over his confidence from the summer league performance where he averaged 21 points per game, he’ll likely increase his role in the rotation.
Lost from last year’s team are Darko Milicic
(signed by Memphis) and Tony Battie
(likely to miss most of the season with a torn rotator cuff), which means that after Howard and Lewis the Magic are very thin up front. The signing of Adonal Foyle
should provide some relief, but then it’s up to second-year rail-thin James Augustine
and rookie Marcin Gortat
to roam the paint. Hedo Turkoglu
is basically a 6-10 shooting guard but his size and length will produce some rebounds and steals at the small forward position.
-- Dave McMenamin
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Two years ago he was the biggest name on college basketball’s most notorious team, the Duke Blue Devils. Now he is just another NBA player trying to crack a rotation. But just because J.J. Redick
only averaged 6.0 points per game as a rookie after being selected with the No. 11 pick in the 2006 Draft hardly constitutes him as a bust.
After rehabbing a lower back injury during the summer leading up to his rookie season, Redick came in rusty and played just 14.8 minutes per game in 2006-07. This year should be a different story with a healthy and confident Redick.
The 6-4 shooting guard had a stellar showing in the Pepsi Pro Summer League in Orlando and followed it up by playing with the best players in the country as a member of the U.S. Basketball Team as it geared up for the FIBA Americas Tournament in Las Vegas.
Redick’s and Howard’s development is symbiotic as each will become more effective on offense, Redick on the wing and Howard on the block, as the other hones his skill and draws the defense’s attention.
-- Dave McMenamin
||The Magic finished the 2006-07 season strong, winning nine out of their last 13 games to clinch a playoff berth.
Fifth Season, First with Orlando
Four times, 33-22 (.600)
For a couple of days it looked like we'd be talking about the Florida Gators in this part of the Magic's season preview, but Stan Van Gundy ended up with the gig. Van Gundy's career winning percentage speaks for itself. He is a basketball lifer who is coming into a good situation in Orlando.
-- Dave McMenamin
KNOW YOUR MAGIC
Trevor Ariza’s father, Kenny McClary, played collegiately at Florida in the mid-late 1980s.
Dwight Howard is just a monster. He's getting better and better.
You need to meet him early to try to get him off of the block. And then the best thing to do is back off and make him face you up. Because if you make him feel you and play with his back to the basket, he's going to kill you. But if he faces up, he's almost embarrassed not to shoot that 12-foot jumper. Otherwise, you gotta foul him and make him shoot free throws.
But he would go stretches of games last year and never see the ball. But I don't think that will be the case with Stan Van Gundy. They'll play off of Howard all night.
Ariza is athletic and long, Rashard is awfully good and Turkoglu can score in bunches.
Jameer is a little inconsistent and likes to shoot the ball too much sometimes, but he has improved.
They've got a very good team. They've got a little bit of everything: a great big, some shooters in Redick, Turkoglu and Lewis, and them some athletes.
Their only weak spot is at the four. But they could always bring in an extra shooter and bump Lewis to the four.
-- Eastern Conference Scout