|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|October 30th, 2009|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Devin Harris|
|Vince Carter||SG||Courtney Lee|
|Mickael Pietrus||SF||Chris Douglas-Roberts|
|Ryan Anderson||PF||Yi Jianlian|
|Dwight Howard||C||Brook Lopez|
Tonight, the Orlando Magic kick off a three-game road trip with a visit to the New Jersey Nets, with whom they completed arguably the most important trade in franchise history this summer. Ryan Anderson and Vince Carter combined to start 110 games last year for the Nets, and they'll suit up against their former mates tonight. Anderson and Carter had splendid debuts with the Magic, combining for 31 points on 10-of-22 shooting in Orlando's 120-106 win over Philadelphia. In case you're curious, here are the requisite stories from the local papers regarding Carter's return to New Jersey and Lee's first time facing off against his former team.
The Nets' former Magic players did not fare as well. Tony Battie sat out with a sore knee--Dave D'Alessandro reports Battie "has spent more time in the trainer's room than on the floor" since joining the Nets--while Rafer Alston and Courtney Lee combined to shoot 2-of-13 for 5 points. Despite their wayward shooting, and a disappointing turn from All-Star point guard Devin Harris, the Nets were poised to open their season with a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves thanks in large part to Brook Lopez's dominance: 27 points, 15 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 blocks for the second-year center. Yet a putback at the buzzer by Minnesota's Damien Wilkins (the son of former Magic forward Gerald, and the nephew of former Magic forward/Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique) sent New Jersey reeling; the Nets entered the fourth quarter with a 14-point lead, but shot 5-of-17 and committed 8 turnovers in the final frame. Such are the growing pains of a young, rebuilding team.
Orlando's focus tonight will be on defense. It dominated the Philadelphia 76ers for the first three quarters on Wednesday, but its effort on D waned in the fourth period. Coach Stan Van Gundy lamented his team's mailing it in after taking a 31-point lead. One of the hallmarks of a championship team is that it finishes lesser opponents off when it has the chance. The outcome of Wednesday's game never came into doubt, but the Magic needed to maintain its intensity. Several times in the coming season, the Magic will lose games they should have won; it's an inevitability. For sanity's sake, I hope tonight is not such a game.
The game tips off unusually late for a non-nationally televised game on the East Coast, at 8 PM. Florida viewers, don't be alarmed when you don't hear David Steele calling play-by-play on Sun Sports; he's in Kentucky to attend his father's induction to the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences' alumni hall of fame. Paul Kennedy will take over Steele's duties on the mic. Congratulations to the Steele family.