It is definitely early in the season, and there is still plenty of time, obviously. Perhaps the biggest early surprise of the 2009-2010 season is Manu Ginobili being able to knock this bat down during the Spurs-Kings game on Halloween night! Kidding! Seriously, I know everyone thought the Orlando Magic, along with the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, would be a threat in the East. However, I thought the Magic might struggle in the beginning of the season for a variety of reasons, and that is why I believe the Magic are the biggest early surprise.
Now, I know what you are saying. I hear you loud and clear. You are saying, “Loyal Homer, have you gone crazy? How can the Magic be a surprise when the team made the NBA Finals last year?”
As you probably know, forward Rashard Lewis is suspended for the first ten games for testing positive for an elevated level of testosterone. The other impact forward from last season’s version of the Magic, Hedo Turkoglu, has taken his show north of the border to wheel and deal for the Toronto Raptors. That is two postseason stars that are not in the lineup for the Magic right now.
Also, new addition Vince Carter has essentially played only a game and a half due to an ankle injury he suffered against the Nets on Friday. Add all of that up and there is a team that is playing short-handed and should be playing out of rhythm, right?
The Magic have been very much in rhythm. Check the scoreboard. The team is lighting it up, averaging over 113 points per game to this point. Two of the Magic’s first three games have been on the road… and did you see who scored 27 points yesterday? Do not laugh like I did, it is none other than former Duke shooting guard, and one of Loyal Homer’s least favorite players of all-time in any sport, J.J. Redick. Big props go out to him, though. And how about the play of Ryan Anderson, another player who came over in the Carter trade from the New Jersey Nets? He is averaging 16 point per game after averaging 7.4 PPG last season. Do not forget about Jameer Nelson, either, who missed extensive playing time last season. He scored 30 points in the win over Toronto yesterday. All of these guys, combined with the usual solid play of Dwight Howard, have kept the Magic undefeated despite not having Lewis and adjusting to life without Turkoglu.
I know the Magic are the defending Eastern Conference Champions. I know it is a team that still has Superman in the middle. But with many changes in the lineup at this point of the season, I do not think anyone could have expected the Magic to look so good, so early!