The match-up between the Magic and Wizards on Friday night brings together Magic centers of the past, present and future.
Dwight Howard returns with the struggling Wizards wearing yet another different colored jersey since leaving Orlando in 2012. Washington is his sixth team, if you need help keeping count (seventh, actually, if you want to include the Nets).
And, of course, on the other end is Nikola Vucevic, who six years after being acquired in the Howard trade remains the Magic most effective offensive weapon and leading scorer at 17.5 points per on a career-best 53.3 percent from the field. Backing him up is Mo Bamba, the player the Magic hope will develop into a late-2000s version of Howard (only with more range).
Josh Robbins of The Athletic reported that Bamba has actually been in contact with Howard and received some words of advice.
Mo Bamba spoke with Dwight Howard during the offseason to learn about what it was like to play and live in Orlando, and Howard had positive things to say about the city. After shootaround this morning, Howard was asked about Bamba. Here's what Howard had to say: pic.twitter.com/U3j2dfgCjK— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) November 9, 2018
In addition to being visited by the ghosts of Magic past, Orlando will be looking to put Wednesday’s loss to the Pistons behind them. With the loss, which came after wins over the Spurs and Cavs, the Magic were denied a rare third straight win (Orlando has had a winning streak of three games or more just 12 times since Howard left in 2012).
Even after the starters helped build a 15-point lead in the first quarter and an 11-point advantage in the third, the Magic were unable to hold on. And Steve Clifford was not happy about it afterwards, calling the Magic bench “embarrassing.”
It will be interesting to see how the reserves, who outside of Terrence Ross shot just 1-for-14 on Wednesday, respond to the criticism.
With @OrlandoMagic's reserves getting badly outplayed in Wednesday's loss to the @DetroitPistons, G Terrence Ross organized a pre-practice meeting with the bench players this morning in the team locker room. He feels the group will respond well on Fri when ORL hosts @WashWizards— John Denton (@JohnDenton555) November 8, 2018
The Magic, owners of the league’s second-worst offensive rating at 100.9 points per 100 possessions, take on one of the league’s worst defensive teams of this young season.
The 2-8 Wizards allow a league-worst 120.5 points per game and have a defensive rating of 114.3 points per possession, which is third worst in the league. Despite playing at one of the quickest paces in the league (104.46 possessions per game, seventh most in league), and having one of the league’s most dynamic backcourts with John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards have struggled offensively with a rating of 104.3 (seventh worst in the league). That is thanks in part to shooting just 31.3 percent from three while taking the ninth-most threes a game at 33.9 attempts per.
Otto Porter Jr., however, is coming off his best performance of the season, having scored 19 points and made five of six attempts from three in the Wizards 119-100 loss to the Mavericks on Tuesday.
The Wizards have won eight of their last 10 games in Orlando, and after taking three of four games last season, have gone 16-3 against the Magic since the 2013-2014 season.
But, through 10 games this season, the Wizards have been a huge disappointment.
“We’re going to get better,” Howard told reporters. “Once we hit our stride, I think people will forget about what happened at the beginning of this Wizards season.”
In 15 career games against the Magic, Howard has averaged 18.9 points and 13.2 rebounds and shot nearly 60 percent from the field.
And Howard won’t be the only member from the Magic’s glory days in the building…