The preseason ended mercifully on Friday and the question is obvious: What kind of team are the Magic going to be?
If they play defense like they did in a loss Friday night to the Houston Rockets, they will be awful. High-lottery pick awful.
They couldn’t stop a Zamboni if it was breaking away. “I think our most glaring weakness that we showed was transition defense,” coach Jacque Vaughn said.
It has been that way the entire preseason. The Magic are going to have to dig down and play team defense, because Dwight Howard isn’t coming through that door to cover mistakes anymore.
They better buckle down early. Offense for a new team can take some time, especially if one piece (Arron Afflalo) is slow to join the effort in practice. Having recovered from a sore hamstring, Afflalo played just his second game this preseason and was pedestrian.
Offensively, you figure that point guard Jameer Nelson has to produce points and will be the closer until Afflalo gets into the flow.
Expect the Magic to ride Big Baby Davis early and often inside, particularly if jump-shots aren’t finding the range. That said, they need to attack the basket more and get to the line.
Hedo Turkoglu really has to step up and make plays. J.J. Redick will lead the bench effort.
Let’s face it: With Dwight, they basically knew what they were the past eight seasons. They were dunks or three-point shots, sometimes both, a devastating combination at times.
Without Dwight, the Magic can’t relax on the defensive end for a minute and must get back. Without Dwight, there are fewer easy baskets, and the offense will be more outside-in than inside-out.
“We need to go out and run a little,” Nelson said. “We have to be a good defensive team. We don’t have that shot-blocker anymore, but we can still make people take tough shots. (Offensively), it’s going to vary.
“We don’t have that giuy who can get 30. We two or three guys who can score 20.”
And don’t forget the loss of Ryan Anderson, who could change momentum with a 3-pointer, something Davis will not be able to do.
It looks to me that the Magic could be like a car on a winter morning, hard to start, needing to warm up. They might be in for a rough beginning until they find their footing. And their identity.
“We just need to play hard, extremely hard. It’s a new team, with a new identity. We have to establish who we are. It takes time. We have to find out how we play the game,” Davis said. “What is our bread and butter. What do we need to focus on? That’s just point blank.Brian Schmitz is the Magic Insider for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him at email@example.com. And you can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@magicinsider.