They aren’t Dwight Howard, not even close.
Combined, however, Nik Vucevic and Gustavo “Goose” Ayon make up one pretty decent center.
“Goosevic” recorded 16 points on 10-of-15 shooting, 16 rebounds, five assists, a blocked shot and no turnovers in almost 38 minutes. Neither Vucevic or Ayon have asked to be traded, either.
A disclaimer: New 76ers center Andrew Bynum was not in the house. He was back in Philadelphia, nursing a sore knee.
Still, Goosevic was impressive because there are only about four or five teams who have legitimate centers.
Vucevic, 21, started the game after coming off the bench behind Ayon, 27, in the opener in Mexico City on Sunday.
He likely will be the starter when the regular season rolls around because he has more offensive skill than Ayon and will be counted on to rebound. He has 19 rebounds in two games.
Ayon is the ideal energy guy, coming off the bench to face the opponent’s backup.
I’d love to see Vucevic have more fire in his belly. He tends to let the game come to him instead of seizing it by the throat, which is more of Ayon’s style.
“Nik had good presence out there,” coach Jacque Vaughn said after the Sixers won 102-95. “Goose came in with good energy.”
While Howard was the focal point of the offense, it’s clear so far that the new tag-team will get most of their points on offensive rebounds, dunks and rolls to the basket. Getting the ball to the bigs is a work in progress. Neither big seems to be able to create offense the way Howard could by his sheer power and athleticism.
“What happens, when the ball gets into the post, you still have to have movement. We don’t want our bigs one-on-one too much. It doesn’t have to be one-on-one post-ups.”
The Magic lived off Howard post-ups and playing off Howard.
Vucevic came over from the 76ers in the Howard trade. He’s still learning his new teammates and they are learning him. He has good hands and a nice offensive skill-set.
“It’s natural,” said Vucevic, who has 12 points and 10 rebounds. “I was born with it. My dad played. I’m the biggest guy on the team. I have to rebound.”
Ayon, who arrived in the Magic’s sign-and-trade for Ryan Anderson with New Orleans, also has terrific instincts and a non-stop motor.
He kept the ball alive early in the game, tipping back rebounds. He was under the basket and after being denied, flipped the ball to Andrew Nicholson for a basket, no-look style, for one of his five assists. Late in the game, moving without the ball, Ayon cut and scored on easy layups off J.J. Redick passes.
“You can’t really replace Dwight,” Vucevic said.
Goosevic isn’t a bad alternative so far.
Brian Schmitz is the Magic Insider for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@magicinsider.