The Coming Battles

Philip Maymin
Basketball News Services 

This coming season will have lots of interesting stories as the Magic play against their Southeast division rivals. From the battle of the top picks when playing Charlotte, to vengeance-seeking against Shaq and the Heat, there are four intriguing divisional matchups for the Magic, and even with the addition of the Big Aristotle to their neck of the woods, they are not necessarily going to drop further than the second-best spot.

Against Atlanta, it will be a battle of the wings. The Hawks will have myriad wing players, which could be a matchup problem for a more traditional team, but the Magic will have no problems fielding a similar team in response, if head coach Johnny Davis so chooses. Dwight Howard, Grant Hill, Hedo Turkoglu, Pat Garrity, Cuttino Mobley, DeShawn Stevenson, and Steve Francis can all fill the wing. Jameer Nelson will more than hold his own against Jason Terry. These games will be exciting, up-tempo games with lots of highlights for both teams.

Against Charlotte, it will be a battle of the top draft picks. The matchup of Dwight Howard and Emeka Okafor, though they are not likely to guard each other primarily, will be a spotlight for years to come. At first, Okafor is likely to outplay Howard, though the young Magic power forward will have his shares of highlights against the formidable center in Charlotte. This could develop into a Tim Duncan-Shaquille O'Neal like level of rivalry, where the winner of that matchup goes on to win the championship, or it could just remain a nice story to watch as time unfolds.

Against Miami, it will be a battle for vengeance. Shaquille O'Neal left the Magic way back when and Tracy McGrady just left a matter of weeks ago, and fans are still bitter over both. Don't be surprised to see some of that enmity hit hometown hero Shaq when he visits. The Magic, totally revamped since the days O'Neal played here, will nonetheless look to make him wonder what-if. Meanwhile, the Heat will be a much slower team than they used to be, though also probably a much better one.

Against Washington, it will be a battle for youth. Whichever team's rookies develop most will have the greatest impact. Right now, it looks like the Magic have the upper hand with Howard and Nelson, since if those two play up to their abilities, few teams could stop them. Meanwhile, with another year under their belt, the Wizards might finally start to run other teams out of the building, and with Kwame Brown approaching an Okafor-like maturity instead of a Howard-like age, he could finally develop into the star that he can be. Howard may be looking into his own future when he faces Brown, and will look to do anything and everything possible to dispel any possible "bust" rumors before they even take shape in anyone's brain.

Wherever you look in the Southeast division, the Magic will have fascinating matchups and stories. And thanks to the scheduling restrictions, we will see these stories and matchups again and again and again. While the Heat are the likely favorites on paper to win the division, the Magic do have a great shot at the second-spot. Most likely, neither Atlanta nor Charlotte will be able to challenge them there, but Washington could.

It's Viva Las Vegas! as the Magic head to Sin City to participate in the inaugural Las Vegas Summer League
July 13-18 at the Cox Pavilion. Their first game will be against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, July 14, at 8:00 p.m. EDT/5:00 p.m. PDT. Other teams participating in the League are the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Phoenix Suns and Washington Wizards. The Magic's portion of the League schedule, likely to be carried on NBA TV, is as follows: 

*Tuesday, July 13 - Bye
*Wednesday, July 14 - Denver - 5:00 p.m. PDT
*Thursday, July 15 - Washington - 5:00 p.m. PDT
*Friday, July 16 - Phoenix - 5:00 p.m. PDT
*Saturday, July 17 - Boston - 5:00 p.m. PDT
*Sunday, July 18 - Cleveland - 2:30 p.m. PDT

For a comprehensive list of summer league results, view yesterday's NEWS@ Southeast report here.

The Magic will select the 18 dancers that will make up the official squad for next season this Thursday, July 15, from 7-9 p.m. at Disney's Pleasure Island. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend.


Our own Eric Pincus of Basketball News Services writes inHoopsworld.com: Hedo Turkoglu – Orlando Magic - $39 million over six years – offer sheet.Spurs won’t match. Pop won’t be too disappointed.

Our own Bill "The Rocket Guy" Ingram of Basketball News Services writes in Hoopsworld.com: Someone is so upset about Tracy McGrady being traded that they are threatening the GM - who had little or nothing to do with the circumstances that caused McGrady to demand a trade - who made the deal?Is this what our country has come to?

Istanbul Sports News Services writes inZaman Online: National basketball player, Hidayet Turkoglu, who wore the San Antonio Spurs uniform last season, received an offer from Orlando Magic.NBA contracts cannot become official until July 14, 2004.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers today announced that they have signed a contract to conduct their 2004 training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex... In addition to 2002 and 2003 Buccaneers camp, Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex has played host to training events for the Atlanta Braves (spring training, 1998-present), Orlando Magic (training camp, 1997 and 2003), the University of Florida football team (2000 Florida Citrus Bowl), the N.C. State football team (2001 Tangerine Bowl) and Scotland's Celtic Football Club (mid-season training, 2001 and 2003). World-class athletes such as Tracy McGrady (Orlando Magic), Daunte Culpepper (Minnesota Vikings), Gail Devers (track & field Olympian) and members of the British Olympic Association (BOA) also continue to use the complex as a training destination.