Orlando Magic (5-10) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (8-8)
Does anyone else remember that little thing that happened in Orlando last year?
You know the one about the franchise center who wanted out, then didn't, then did again and then finally got his way leaving a franchise in complete ruin in his wake?
Orlando is playing better than expected, sitting at 5-10. But it is clear the Magic are missing a guy like, say, Dwight Howard to truly lift them out of the basement. Orlando has to work extremely hard just to stay in games and outside a surprising win over Denver on opening night, none of Orlando's wins are entirely surprising -- Phoenix, Cleveland and two against Detroit.
The Lakers, meanwhile, have higher aspirations. With Howard joining Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol (and eventually Steve Nash), the puzzle is set it is just making the pieces fit. The Lakers got back to .500 on Friday with an impressive blowout performance against the Nuggets. It was all smiles in that game.
Dwight Howard appears to be all smiles in his new home too. Now that his old team is in town, it will be interesting to see how high emotions runof ir Howard wants to make any type of statement.
Of course, he is a pro and the Lakers are much more talented than the Magic, coming off a three-game losing streak to end a five-game homestand. Los Angeles might have an advantage on the floor. But you never know what can happen, particularly with the Lakers' struggles this year.
Put the off-court emotion aside and play the game. Orlando will play hard and try to prove something itself.
Other Storylines to Watch
-The Magic open up a five-game West Coast swing that could very well determine whether this spunky team can stay in the Playoff race. Yes, it is early, but teams will start taking on their true identities in December. Orlando finished a five-game homestand 2-3 and on some shaky footing. The trip out West may not be good for this young team.
-Dwight Howard is trying to move on with all the talk about the reunion with his former team. He was very reflective over his time saying he did a lot of good things on and off the court in Orlando. All completely true. He admitted he made some mistakes in the way he left too. But now it is time to move on and do what he can for his new team.
Tonight's Other Games
Phoenix Suns (7-10) vs. New York Knicks (11-4)
Amar'e Stoudemrie will miss this rematch with his old team, but he is making progress on his return to the court. With a Christmas target for his return, Stoudemire is dribbling and beginning to shoot jumpers as he returns to basketball activity. There is still no set timetable for his return.