Magic’s young guns coming of age
(Sports Network) – Yes, it’s too early to jump to conclusions with the
2006-07 NBA season not even a month old, but the Orlando Magic have definitely
served notice that they will be a factor in the Southeast Division.
After Wednesday’s 96-91 victory over the Indiana Pacers — the Magic’s fifth
win in six games — Orlando moved into a tie with Cleveland for the best
record in the Eastern Conference at 8-4. What’s even more impressive about
that splendid start is that the players most responsible for the turnaround,
forward Dwight Howard and guard Jameer Nelson, are just starting to show off
their considerable potential.
With each passing game, Howard continues to prove Orlando correct for taking
him with the No. 1 overall pick as an 18-year-old in the 2004 draft. The
ultra-talented youngster amassed 24 points and 21 rebounds in last Saturday’s
victory over Charlotte, then backed that monster performance up with a 24-
point, 23-rebound effort at Memphis two days later.
Howard had a chance to become the first NBA player since Kevin Willis in 1991
to record three straight games with at least 20 points and 20 rebounds, but
could “only” manage 16 points and 11 boards in the Indiana win. The yet-to-
turn 21-year-old leads the league with an average of 13.8 rebounds per game
and is shooting better than 60 percent from the field.
Nelson picked up the slack against the Pacers, as the third-year pro racked up
22 points on 7-of-12 shooting. He’s averaging a career-best 15.1 points
through the team’s first 12 outings.
Orlando will try to maintain its grasp on the Southeast lead with consecutive
games against divisional opponents this weekend. The Magic visit defending
world champion Miami on Friday before hosting Atlanta on Saturday.