|2009/2010 NBA Season|
|November 11th, 2009|
|Sun Sports / ESPN|
|Mo Williams||PG||Jameer Nelson|
|Anthony Parker||SG||Vince Carter|
|LeBron James||SF||Matt Barnes|
|J.J. Hickson||PF||Brandon Bass|
|Shaquille O'Neal||C||Dwight Howard|
The Orlando Magic face their biggest challenge of the young season when they, on the second night of a back-to-back set, host the star-laden Cleveland Cavaliers, who've had a four-day break heading into tonight. There are a lot of stoylines to attend to this evening, including:
the teams' first meeting since the Magic knocked the Cavs out of last year's Eastern Conference Finals in 6 games;
the Magic's first game of the season against an elite team;
and Shaquille O'Neal tangling once more with Dwight Howard and coach Stan Van Gundy.
Did I miss any?
Like the Magic, the Cavs overhauled their roster this offseason, starting with acquiring Shaq for pennies on the dollar. They also signed Anthony Parker for three-point shooting and Jamario Moon for athleticism and defense. These are good moves in theory, but the Cavs haven't quite put it together yet: they're 4-3, with their wins coming over Minnesota, Charlotte, Washington, and New York. They also lost to Toronto. Incorporating Shaq on offense appears to be the biggest issue for them, and coach Mike Brown has never been known as an offensive wizard.
More frustrating is that Brown has access to the starting lineup of a team that won 66 games last season--the most in the league--yet rarely uses it. It's a +18 in 19 minutes of use, whereas the new starting lineup with Shaq and Parker in it is at an even 0 in 88 minutes. Wow.
Brown made a change in the starting lineup for the Cavs' last game, moving second-year
gazelle power forward J.J. Hickson in and putting Anderson Varejao on the bench. That tactic paid off. Then again, they were playing the Knicks, so it's tough to evaluate that lineup with any degree of certainty.
A word on Shaq before I conclude this preview: let's not forget that he's actually still damn good. He earned--and I do mean "earned"--a spot on the All-NBA Third Team last year, as well as an All-Star bid. And for all the flack he caught for flopping against Howard last March, which started his ugly war of words with Van Gundy, he otherwise handled Dwight fairly well. Nonetheless, if you'd like to continue hating on him, here's an Orlando Sentinel poll asking if he should still be feared, and here's a "Whack-a-Shaq" game that Matt Humphrey of the Sentinel put together.
Don't miss Brian Windhorst's preview of tonight's game for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Brian's arguably the best beat writer in the entire league, and I strongly suggest making his blog a daily read.