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What They're Saying Before the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers Face Off in the NBA Finals: Part I

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  • Magic not satisfied with Eastern Conference title

    Don't try to sell the Orlando Magic on the notion they are now playing with house money.

    They aren't buying it.

    They aren't buying the idea that since they've exceeded all expectations — flat-out stunned most experts — it doesn't matter how things turn out in the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Just getting to the big stage in L.A. isn't enough for Dwight Howard.

    "We ain't finished yet," Howard said. [...]

    Same reason [General Manager Otis Smith] wouldn't allow champagne in the Magic's dressing room.

    "That's not the goal," Smith said.

    His players get the message: The ring's the thing.

  • Orlando savors Magic's success

    George Diaz talks about how the city of Orlando has rallied around the Magic.

  • The vote is in: A majority of Americans say the Lakers will beat the Magic

    Josh Robbins reveals that an ESPN poll shows that 59% of the nation predict the Los Angeles Lakers will win the NBA Finals, while 41% of the nation predict the Orlando Magic will win the NBA Finals.

  • Endless Potential for Stories from Lakers and Magic In The NBA Finals

    No one except purists just wants to see good basketball in the Finals. Sorry, Pistons and Spurs of years past, but after this many weeks of watching, I need more in my life. At the same time, as much as the obvious Kobe/Bron showdown would've given the people what they wanted, it would've overshadowed all else. And very likely could've let us down like crazy. How could it not? How would we make sense of it all if it didn't boil down to a one-on-one contest? 

    Here's what makes Magic/Lakers such an intriguing Finals: There will be stories to be told. Exactly what they are, and what form they will take, no one knows. What happens when Stan Van Gundy and Phil Jackson walk into a bar? Is this the beginning of Kobe's farewell tour, Dwight Howard's coming-out party, or will we totally neglect the enormous discrepancy in age between these two stars? How important is Trevor Ariza to the Lakers, and does anyone remember that he could very easily be doing all this for the Magic? 

  • Nelson's Comeback Far From Certain

    Bethlehem Shoals of The Baseline comments on Jameer Nelson's possible return.

  • Five Questions Before the NBA Finals

    Sean Deveney of The Baseline offers five questions concerning the Magic and the Lakers.

  • Shaq Or Superman 

    On ESPN.com, former Orlando Magic head coach Brian Hill compares Dwight Howard to Shaquille O'Neal in 1995 and talks about both players. 

  • Dwight Howard's HS Coach 

    On ESPN.com, Courtney Brooks discusses about his time coaching Superman in high school.

  • Examining trends between the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers

    [...] I picked the Lakers to win in six. 

    I'll delve into my reasons for liking L.A. as we get further into the week, but for now I wanted to focus more on those two Orlando victories, as well as the teams' only other meeting since the Pau Gasol trade (a 117-113 L.A. win in Orlando on Feb. 8, 2008). In the three games, six major trends popped up that are worth noting. Those factors should gave us an early read on storylines to look for in the Finals.

  • Monday Bullets

    I see these NBA Finals as two evenly-matched titans. Imagine my surprise to learn that I am the only ESPN.com "expert" to pick the Magic. I'm proud of the pick, though, for the simple reason that the Magic have been playing the best basketball I have seen this year. The Lakers were fantastically good in eliminating the Nuggets. But the Magic have some of the best defense in the NBA, a conundrum for opponents in whether to double Dwight Howard or stay with 3-point shooters, and most importantly: I can't remember a single playoff play at either end of the court when the Magic didn't play hard.

  • Magic Will Gain Financially From Finals 

    When you are going for the 30th time in franchise history -- like the storied Los Angeles Lakers are -- getting to the NBA Finals seems almost like a birth right. When it's just the second time in a checkered, 20-year franchise history, and in a small-market, one-sport town like Orlando, it's an event of monumental proportion. 

    Win or lose at the NBA Finals this month, the Magic are going to capitalize financially in a big way. 

    The Magic sold 400 new season tickets on Sunday, the day after eliminating Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final, and they have sold 2,700 season tickets since the playoff began, a huge boost for a team that has struggled with an operating deficit the last several years. 

    The Magic are planning a move into a new building for the start of the 2010-11 season, and the momentum of these playoffs has been a significant help in gaining corporate and political support throughout the area. [...] 

    The Magic are back in the NBA Finals for the first time since 1995 when they were swept by the Houston Rockets. Their season-ticket base for next season will be just over 11,000, the most it has been since the departure of Shaquille O'Neal in the summer of 1996. 

  • Five Thoughts: NBA Finals Edition 

    Matt Steinmetz of NBA FanHouse previews the 'title bout' between Orlando and Los Angeles. 

  • Jameer Nelson Might Return for Finals

    [...] if Nelson were only available to play limited minutes, it could be a huge swing for the Magic. The Magic already have proven that they're simply loaded with weapons. Getting Nelson back in any form, even for brief stints would provide them another matchup advantage on the Lakers, whose point guard corps have struggled mightily in the playoffs. Starting point guard Derek Fisher is widely considered to be the weak link on the squad, and neither Jordan Farmar nor Shannon Brown have provided consistent support. [...] 

    Still, there are risks to bringing back Nelson, who hasn't played in four months. If Nelson isn't immediately in game shape, he could provide an opportunity for the Lakers to turn their disadvantage at point to an advantage, preying upon a still injured player whose endurance isn't up. There's also the concern over chemistry. While Rafer Alston has been blasted for his shooting and decision making, there's no question the team feels confident with him running the reins. Additionally, the Magic have settled into comfortable rotations with Anthony Johnson taking the reins for extended periods and being productive in a backup role. Re-introducing Nelson could damage that chemistry, and the Finals are not really the time you want to start experimenting. 

    Odds are that the Magic will hold out Nelson in order to protect his shoulder after the rather large extension they gave him in Oct. 2007. But if for some reason Nelson is able to get back on the floor and produce, the Lakers may find themselves for the first time in the postseason staring at a team with more weapons than they have. Even with Kobe Bryant.

  • Your Very Own Chemistry Playset

    Rob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm elaborates on the possibility of 'Meer returning to play in the NBA Finals for the Magic and the ramifications that may or may not occur.

  • Predicting the Finals With SPM

    Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference predicts the championship round with statistical plus/minus and offers up his winner (Lakers in 6). 

    One caveat is that SPM did not get a good read on the Magic in the East Finals — while it fairly accurately estimated their odds at 53-54% against the Celtics, it greatly underestimated their chances vs. Cleveland, pegging their probability of beating the Cavs at just 18%. Then again, the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals may go down as one of the shining examples of point differential’s failure to effectively predict the future under certain specific circumstances. 

  • Too much Rod Benson: Amazing

    Rod Benson of Ball Don't Lie wonders what other amazing things will happen in the NBA Finals between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers.

  • Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard among many NBA Finals comparisons
    UPDATE: Steven Aschburner of Sports Illustrated states that a "breakdown of the X's and O's in the 2009 NBA Finals can wait until closer to Game 1. For now, we'll go with a good ol' tale of the tape, heavy on the intangibles."