The Other Side: Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic is dealing with injuries in its backcourt, but it still has plenty to be thankful for today as it enters tonight's game against the Washington Wizards. The Magic (11-4) has the third-best record in the Eastern Conference and it beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 96-94, on Wednesday night as Rashard Lewis drained a three-pointer with 4.7 seconds remaining. The surprise of the night was forward Tony Battie, who scored 20 points - five more than his previous four games combined - on 9 of 9 shooting. Not bad.
The Magic handed the Wizards their worst lost of this dreadful season, riding Dwight Howard's broad shoulders to a 25-point victory in Orlando. But the team that arrives at Verizon Center will look slightly different from the one that dismantled Washington almost three weeks ago. Here's what you need to know about the Magic heading into the game:
1. Nelson And Bogans Are Out
Jameer Nelson and D.C. native Keith Bogans combined to post 19 points, four rebounds and nine assists in the last game against Washington, but the Magic won't have either player tonight. Nelson is out seven-to-10 days with a strained right groin, while Bogans is out four-to-six weeks because of a broken thumb on his non-shooting hand. Without Nelson, the Magic has to rely on veteran Anthony Johnson and little else, but it has plenty of options at shooting guard - if you consider a rookie (Courtney Lee) and a seldom-used third-year guard from Duke (J.J. Redick) to be options. Redick has scored in double figures in three of the past five games.
Nelson is hurt physically, but his pockets are fine in the first of a five-year, $43 million extension. He has decided to give back to his alma mater, Saint Joseph's, with a "substantial" donation to help the athletic facilities at the school.
2. "Superman" May Retire
Howard recently said that he takes his Olympic gold medal with him everywhere he goes, but this week he added that he may hang up his slam-dunking Superman cape. Howard won the slam dunk contest all-star weekend in New Orleans last February with his creative and athletically-challenging acrobatics - and he will be most remembered for soaring toward the rim in a Superman outfit - but Howard is leaning against defending his title in Phoenix.
More important, Howard is trying to become the fifth player to lead the NBA in blocked shots and rebounds since the league started keeping blocked shot statistics in 1973. The other players on the list are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Hakeem Olajuwon and Ben Wallace. He had his first career triple-double two weeks ago in a win over Oklahoma City, with 30 points, 19 rebounds and 10 blocks. It was the first time a player had at least 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks in a game since Olajuwon had 31, 13 and 10 against Dallas in April 1996.
3. A Grunfeld-Ewing Reunion?
Ed Tapscott will be looking for his second career win against Orlando, but before Ernie Grunfeld makes up his mind on a permanent replacement for Eddie Jordan, Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel, suggests that he takes a serious look at a former Georgetown and New York Knicks great who really wants to be an NBA head coach. Patrick Ewing, anyone?
Ewing hasn't openly campaigned for the job, but the Magic assistant probably wouldn't mind a return to the D.C. area.
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