[Orlando, FL] Even though it is only a preseason contest, the Orlando Magic will be looking for a little payback Wednesday night against in-state rivals the Miami Heat.
Unfortunately, the boys will be outmatched yet again, as the Heat squad seems to already be playing great basketball while Orlando is still shaking off the lockout-induced cobwebs. Not to mention Miami went to The NBA Finals last year and sport not one, not two, but three super-talents.
And let’s not forget all of the drama surrounding superstar center Dwight Howard’s seemingly imminent trade. Or more accurately, the fans CAN’T forget it, but we wish they could. And so do the other Magic players, no doubt.
Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy has made mental and physical adjustments to the team, hoping to right the ship before tip-off.
“We worked very hard on just playing a lot harder and running back a lot harder,’’ Van Gundy said. “We’re trying to make extra efforts. It was a long and hard practice and we’re trying to get them to make them push them when they are tired. It was really about our defense and pace.”
The game starts at 7 p.m. at the Amway Center.
Hannah Scott with Magic Dancer Casey Smith
Decking The Halls
Sure, the team lost (badly) to the Miami Heat in its preseason away opener on Sunday, but that didn’t stop the new guys on the Orlando Magic from making some big plays off the court.
On Monday, Magic forwards Glen “Big Baby” Davis and Justin Harper erased the painful memory of a 118-85 shellacking in Miami by visiting dozens of patients at the Walt Disney Pavilion at Florida Hospital for Children.
Former players Nick Anderson and Bo Outlaw – as well as several Orlando Magic Dancers and the team’s loveable mascot Stuff – were also on hand for the community outreach event, which brought smiles all around.
Presents were distributed along with autographs and photo ops for the children and families, in need of a little holiday cheer this time of year. The team was more than happy to assist.
“You have kids that want encouragement, some lifting up, especially during the holidays,” Davis said. “You know you’re impacting someone’s life in a positive way.”
“This is the time of year to give thanks, compassion and love,” he added.
Orlando Magic forward Glen Davis plays Twister with Kenner Norori
Davis even played a game of Twister. He and Outlaw also “sang” holiday tunes during surprise visits to patients’ rooms.
“Christmas is a special holiday. It’s where families get together and enjoy life,” Davis said. “I just want to see all these kids smile. That’s the most important thing.”
Harper, who was drafted last June, was delighted to give back to the community he now calls home.
“I love kids. It’s a positive experience for me and I want all of these kids to know that we care.” Harper said. “It’s the spirit of giving. Putting a smile on their faces is what it’s all about.”
The visit was part of an entire week’s worth of holiday-themed events – dubbed “Deck the Halls” – for a team eager to erase the painful memory of the lockout that shortened the current season from fans’ minds. And, of course, do some holiday-themed good deeds in the community.
Also on tap this week: Today, J.J. Redick and Pepsi took 75 children from the Boys and Girls Club on a shopping spree. During halftime of Wednesday’s preseason home opener against the Miami Heat, the Magic will “surprise a local family with gifts during these difficult economic times.”
On Thursday, Jameer Nelson plays Santa Claus, delivering holiday presents to a “special family” in the community.
Orlando Magic mascot Stuff with Sam Hope
Oh Yeah, The First Game
“It was disappointing and it was embarrassing,” said Dwight Howard, who only managed five points and a half-dozen rebounds in 29 minutes of play. “But we have to stick together … There’s a lot more games to be played and time for us to get better.’’
The loss a bit a surprising in one respect as the team has been nearly unbeatable throughout the pre’s under coach Van Gundy, going 27-3. In fact, they hadn’t lost a preseason game since 2008.
Van Gundy was a little more, well, Van Gundy in his assessment of the glorified scrimmage.
“When you have a team outscore you 22-0 on fast break points they’re clearly playing at a pace and an energy level higher than you. We simply could not keep up,’’ Van Gundy said. “And once we got behind I didn’t think we fought it out to very well. We didn’t compete very well and the defense was bad.’’
Ryan Anderson and J.J. Redick did compete, however, lead the Magic (and all scorers) with 22 points each. It was good to see those two coming out of the gate strong this year – Orlando is going to need their skills.
Orlando’s defense was pretty much non-existent Sunday, as Miami shot 58.7%. Orlando was held to a nearly non-professional 35.4% from the floor thanks to a combination of Heat awesomeness and Magic lethargy. The Heat simply exploded during the second half, blasting past the Magic and scoring 65 points to Orlando’s pathetic 39.
The Magic certainly got a scare as Hedo Turkoglu hit the floor hard while driving to the basket. He was face-down on the floor for several scary minutes. Turkoglu was diagnosed with a contusion on his left hip.
By: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate
Images: Lance Turner/latuphoto.com/Sunshine Slate Images