PROJECTED STARTINGFIVE with 2006-07 statistics
KEY BENCH PLAYERS:G Carlos Arroyo, F Trevor Ariza, F Pat Garrity, C Adonal Foyle*, F JamesAugustine
Record: 40-42 (8thin East) Points scored: 94.8 (27th in NBA) Points allowed: 94.0 (7th) Coach:Stan Van Gundy (first season with Magic)
Rashard Lewisspent his first nine NBA seasons in Seattle, where he was overshadowed by GaryPayton and then Ray Allen. "Even though I was an All-Star [in¬†'05], alot of NBA fans don't really know who I am," Lewis says. He won't have thatproblem anymore. After signing a six-year, $118¬†million contract with theMagic in July, the 6' 10" forward has moved to center stage. Orlando isexpecting Lewis to play like an All-Star again and, along with 6' 11"center Dwight Howard, lead the team to its second straight playoffappearance.
That's a tallorder for a team with an unproven backcourt (which consists of inconsistentpoint guard Jameer Nelson and second-year guard J.J. Redick) and little depthup front, but Lewis gives the Magic a fighting chance. The sweet-shooting bigman has averaged more than 20¬†points per game for three straight seasons,including a career-best 22.4 a year ago. Lewis's ability to shoot the three(38.6% for his career) should mesh well with Howard's physical inside game andenable new coach Stan Van Gundy to follow through on his plan to run anup-tempo attack.
The loss of powerforward Tony Battie to season-ending rotator cuff surgery means the slenderLewis will have to battle bulkier power forwards on many nights. He also mustbe a vocal leader--something he did not have to do as a SuperSonic. But Lewis,a former second-round pick who made the jump to the NBA from high school, sayshe's looking forward to the challenge.
"I'm not a guywith a big ego," he says. "Whether I'm the Number¬†1 option orDwight is, we're in it together and with all the other guys wearing Orlandojerseys. But I do want to win, and I want to be considered one of the bestplayers in the league. I've had to prove myself my whole career. This is nodifferent."
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Magic
New coach Stan VanGundy will have some immediate credibility. The players have seen him win withMiami, and they're young enough that it's a big thing to have a veteran coachthey can rely on. . . . Dwight Howard is the best young big guy in the leagueby far. He blocks shots, rebounds and goes to the basket with ferocity. . . .It's obvious the Magic spent more than they had to on Rashard Lewis. Lewis isgoing to have a lot of pressure on him. . . . Jameer Nelson is a more effectivepoint guard when he's surrounded by veterans. If you ask him to try to do a lotof stuff, he'll turn the ball over. But if he has guys he can rely on, he playsmore under control. . . . Backup point Carlos Arroyo is a favorite of the fans,and they won't like it if he's not playing a lot. But I doubt he'll defend toVan Gundy's liking, and it wouldn't surprise me to see Orlando trade hisexpiring contract at the deadline. . . . Trevor Ariza may have a bigger rolebecause of the defense he'll play off the bench. . . . It will be a good yearif the Magic can reach .500.
KareemAbdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Artis Gilmore and Kevin McHale are the onlyplayers to have shot as often as Dwight Howard did in 2006-07 (873 attempts)and have a better percentage than his 60.3%.
FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
FERNANDO MEDINA/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
Lewis has averaged at least 20 points a game for the last threeyears.