Roundball excitement (or at least more than usual interest) is in the air as the Orlando Magic open their 2006-07 NBA season tonight. This may not be a big deal to a lot of you out there, but you have to remember, this team is the only game (and pro sports franchise) in town. The community seems guardedly optimistic that with a nice nucleus of good young players, including budding superstar big man Dwight Howard and mighty mite point guard Jameer Nelson, the Magic should actually make the playoffs for the first time in years and the “Curse of the Shaqino” can be a thing of the past.
For a franchise that’s been down in the dumps since Shaq went to the Lakers (first) and Grant Hill stepped off that plane on crutches (second), things certainly are looking up. They ended last year on a nice little 16-6 run, the city committed to building a new arena within the next three years, they resigned all their players but one (DeShawn Stevenson, whose agent overestimated his value and ended up costing his player millions of dollars when he had to sign for virtually the minimum in Washington), and new season tickets and season ticket renewals were at an all-time high.
Now we’ll see if they can get past 45 wins for the first time in 10 years (though 42 should be enough to get into the postseason). First up: the Chicago Bulls, who destroyed the World Champion Miami Heat in their home opener by 42 points–the most one-sided loss for a defending champion in their first game of the next season in the history of the NBA. Already the insanity starts, though it’ll be hard to top the end of the baseball season for milestones and bizarre behavior.