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News » 76ers-Magic Preview 2009-10-27

76ers-Magic Preview 2009-10-27

76ers-Magic Preview 2009-10-27After falling behind 2-1 to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the playoffs, the Orlando Magic put their hopes of a deep postseason run in serious doubt.

Instead, that's just when they got one going.

The Magic made it all the way to the NBA finals after surviving the 76ers, but a de facto offseason swap of Hedo Turkoglu for Vince Carter may determine how far they can advance in the 2009-10 season, which begins Wednesday with a visit from Philadelphia.

Orlando cruised to the Southeast Division title last season, improving upon its 2007-08 record of 52-30 by seven wins, but was in danger of a quick postseason exit when it lost two of the first three games to Philadelphia.

The Magic rallied to win the series' final three games - including a decisive 114-89 victory in Game 6 without the suspended Dwight Howard - and advanced past Boston and Cleveland to the franchise's first NBA finals since 1995.

Orlando wasn't able to win its first championship, falling in five games to the Los Angeles Lakers, but that was an impressive step nonetheless for a team few pegged to have a chance to knock off the Celtics or Cavaliers.

Howard, the reigning defensive player of the year, emerged as one of the league's true superstars during the playoff run, but it was the Magic's deadly outside shooting that put them over the top in the East.

That stable of shooters is led by Rashard Lewis, Mickael Pietrus and All-Star point guard Jameer Nelson - who suffered a torn labrum in early February and returned with little effectiveness in the finals - but there's one major change in the starting lineup.

The Magic were unable to re-sign Turkoglu - who often initiated the offense in Nelson's absence - but by the time the swingman left for the Toronto Raptors on July 9, they already had a replacement. General manager Otis Smith acquired Carter, an eight-time All-Star and Orlando native, from New Jersey on the day of the draft for guards Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston and forward Tony Battie.

"As a young guy, you play because you want to show the world that you can score and do this and that. But as you get older and you've accomplished things, now it's all about winning championships and helping your team," Carter, who will be wearing Turkoglu's old No. 15, told the Magic's official Web site.

"I've never had an opportunity before me like this, and ... that motivates me more than anything because I know I can help this team."

Carter was the 1998-99 NBA rookie of the year, but perhaps Orlando's more surprising acquisition is the player who finished second in that voting. Jason Williams, who has career averages of 11.4 points and 6.3 assists, will serve as Nelson's backup after returning to the league from a one-year retirement.

"We have a lot of new pieces, but I really think that we're a better team now," Lewis said. "But what I tried to express to the team was that with as much talent as we have around here, the word this season will be 'sacrifice.'"

The Magic have looked motivated from the beginning of the preseason, winning all eight games by an average of 18.0 points. They're 20-2 in preseason games since coach Stan Van Gundy was hired in May 2007.

Philadelphia (41-41) hired former Washington coach Eddie Jordan in the offseason to take over for assistant general manager Tony DiLeo, who went 32-27 as interim coach after the firing of Maurice Cheeks.

The 76ers lost one veteran leader in the offseason when point guard Andre Miller signed with Portland, but they should have another back at full strength.

Elton Brand was limited to 29 games due to right shoulder surgery in his first season with the 76ers after signing a five-year, $82 million deal.

"It was very disappointing, especially the playoffs, that was hard," Brand said of watching from the sidelines. "So I am revved up, ready to go and add my piece to what we know the guys can do. ... This year, we are under the radar, which is fine with me. We won't be under the radar for long."

Much of the Sixers' success will depend on how they fill the gap at point guard. Louis Williams, who averaged 12.8 points and 3.0 assists in 23.7 minutes a game last season, will start, but leading scorer Andre Iguodala (18.8 points per game) may frequently initiate the offense.

Some of those duties may also fall to rookie Jrue Holiday, but perhaps the young player who most excites Philadelphia is Thaddeus Young. The 21-year-old forward upped his scoring average from 8.2 to 15.3 points in his second season.

"Thad and I have been working together a lot on the court the past few weeks, trying to get the offense," Brand said. "You can't stop option A, B, C. ... When you stop one play, the other option's going to be open. We have the players that can really see that offense."

Young averaged 9.5 points over the final four playoff games against Orlando after averaging 17.0 in the first two.

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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: October 27, 2009


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