The Orlando Magic open their 2010/11 preseason schedule tonight when they visit the tiny State Farm Arena in Hidalgo, Texas to face to host Houston Rockets. Last season ended in disappointment for both teams, as the Boston Celtics improbably eliminated the Magic from championship contention after Orlando went 8-0 to start the playoffs, while the Rockets failed the qualify due largely to superstar center Yao Ming's missing the entire season due to a foot injury. He's on the comeback trail, which Sam Amick beautifully captured in this piece for NBA FanHouse. Thus, tonight signifies these teams' first shots at redemption in what figures to be a crucial year for both franchises.
|2010/2011 NBA Preseason|
|October 5th, 2010|
|State Farm Arena|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Aaron Brooks|
|Vince Carter||SG||Kevin Martin|
|Quentin Richardson||SF||Shane Battier|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||Luis Scola|
|Dwight Howard||C||Yao Ming|
|2009/10 Advanced Stats|
|92.0 (18th)||Pace||94.0 (6th)|
|111.4 (4th)||ORtg||107.6 (16th)|
|103.3 (3rd)||DRtg||108.0 (17th)|
In a way, it's appropriate that the NBA schedule-makers had the Magic and Rockets start the year against each other. The matchup between Yao and Dwight Howard is a natural draw, sure, but the teams have similar personalities, I believe. Stan Van Gundy and Rick Adelman both prize off-ball movement in their offenses, and Magic point guard Jameer Nelson is strikingly similar to Mike Bibby, who helped steer Adelman's outstanding Sacramento Kings clubs in the first decade of this millennium.
Additionally, the Magic will have the pleasure of facing former employee Courtney Lee, whom the Rockets acquired from the New Jersey Nets this summer in a four-team deal which let them unload the bloated contract of Trevor Ariza, another former Orlando role-player. Lee, whom Van Gundy relegated to corner three-point duty in Orlando, told the Orlando Sentinel he enjoys the offensive "freedom" Adelman's system will allow him. In a similar vein, the Houston Chronicle reports one of the first things Lee did upon learning of his trade to Houston was to check the calendar to see when he'd play the Magic. I totally get that. Lee was notably aggressive in his lone game against Orlando last season, leading the Nets with 18 points and finishing second with 17 shot attempts.
The Howard/Yao matchup has historically favored Yao pretty heavily. Howard hasn't quite figured out how to move past the 7-foot-6 behemoth, rendering him mostly to garbageman duty on offense. We won't see that battle for very long tonight, though, as team doctors have limited Yao to 12 minutes tonight. With free-agent signee Brad Miller unavailable, Houston will be shorthanded at center, and thus once again at Howard's mercy. Recall that he shot 11-for-11 against it in one game last season, one of the finest performances of his career.
As we noted in today's news post, Magic forward Stanley Robinson and center Malik Allen probably won't play tonight. Point guard Jason Williams and center Daniel Orton are nursing left knee ailments, so they won't be available.
Of particular interest tonight and throughout the preseason, as I covered in this morning's primer, is Rashard Lewis' split between the forward positions. And how will Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass respond to more playing time, given Lewis' uptick in minutes at small forward?
We'll find out in the days and weeks ahead, but it all starts tonight at 8:30 on Sun Sports.