Bill Simmons names Orlando Magic guard Vince Carter the 4th-most-intriguing player in the coming season. Here's part of his reasoning:
Fact: He's teaming up with a former Coach of the Year (Stan Van Jeremy), the league's best center (Dwight Howard), the league's best 3-point shooting forward (Rashard Lewis), an All-Star point guard (Jameer Nelson) and 4-5 solid role players on a team that desperately needs his ability to create his own shot and shoot threes. He's also going to be protected defensively for the first time in his career.
Put it this way: If Vince Carter is a great basketball player, if he has ANY greatness in him, then it's going to surface this season. Or else it wasn't there in the first place. Either way, we will have an answer. Which makes him pretty damned intriguing.
Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse notes how Vince is enjoying the luxury of playing alongside a dominant big man like Dwight Howard.
"It's not so much a different role as I won't be doing it for as long each night. I won't have the ball 32-34 minutes a game trying to create for everyone else," he said. "I'll be playing off other people. Dwight will have the ball. Rashard will have the ball. Our short, little point guard will have the ball."
Sandy Dover of SLAM ONLINE breaks down his thoughts on Carter from when he was as a freshman at North Carolina to where he is as a player for the Orlando Magic.
Three links to previews, plus a Dwight Howard blog update, after the jump.
If you've read Yahoo! Sports' NBA preview magazine, you know that Kelly Dwyer recognizes the Magic's potential greatness. He re-enforces that sentiment in his preview for Ball Don't Lie, while adding that there's one big thing that could derail the Magic's season:
The only trip up I see with the Magic is a bit of complacency.
Last year's team, I'm sorry, but it overachieved. I'm not telling you that it was worse than an Eastern Conference champion, but by maxing out it's absolute potential, it overachieved. Because no team ever really maxes out like that.
But Stan Van Gundy? He had these guys playing in the Finals, every night. He had them in the moment, working, terrorizing teams defensively, and doing what it could offensively.
Does that sustain? Can they keep up this sort of dogged effort for two consecutive seasons? When we say "[young player who is a year older] will improve," we're counting on an improvement from 2008-09, when the player in question gave his all. Does that happen again?
Meanwhile, Tom Ziller names Jameer Nelson the Magic's "Player to Watch" in the coming season.
Two of the most frequent questions through this Player to Watch series have been "Is he real?" and "Is he back?" That stands to reason: so many teams rely on internal improvement, especially with the league's financial situation restarting a leaguewide thaw on superstar trades (Shaquille O'Neal aside). Fans need to know whether they can count on improving players to keep on going, and whether injured stars can be expected to return to form.
You'd think Magic point guard Jameer Nelson would be facing the latter query -- has Jam's separated shoulder healed well enough to recreate Orlando's awesome starting five? But to me the real question is whether the pre-injury Nelson was even real, or just a short-lived mirage of elite play ready to fall back to Earth.
Okay, that sounds pretty gloomy, but Ziller goes on to add, "Luckily for Orlando, a substantial drop-off would still make Nelson one of the most effective shooters in the league, and would still mean great things for the Magic offense."
ESPN's panel of 20 NBA experts predict who will win the Defensive Player of the Year award. The Magic are represented in 16 of those 20 votes. Unsurprisingly, 15 picked Dwight Howard to repeat. Mickael Pietrus received the other Magic vote, thanks to Dr. Jack Ramsay.
In his latest blog entry, Dwight Howard discusses his readiness to start the regular season.