(SportsNetwork.com) - The 2013-14 NBA season begins on Tuesday night when the
Orlando Magic visit the Indiana Pacers, a team with very legitimate title
It was in last season's Eastern Conference Finals where the Pacers stretched
the Miami Heat, the eventual NBA champions, to seven games. They used bruising
frontline play and stifling defense, the calling card for the Frank Vogel-led
"Last year, our expectations were very high," Vogel said at the team's media
day. "Not a whole lot different this year, other than I think we're better,
deeper and more experienced."
It was in the postseason where Paul George emerged as a bona fide superstar,
no longer in waiting. He averaged 19.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 5.1 apg in 19 playoff
games last season and he was rewarded with a contract extension, believed to
be for the max.
"They gave me a chance and now that I'm in this position, it's really my job
to do everything in my position, in my will, to get us to that next step,"
George said when he signed his contract.
Larry Bird returned to his position as president of basketball operations and
improved Indiana through a series of free-agent signings (Chris Copeland, C.J.
Watson) and a nice trade for veteran forward Luis Scola.
But perhaps the most significant aspect to the Pacers improvement this season
was supposed to come from former All-Star Danny Granger. He played in only
five games last season with knee ailments, but is a career 18.1 point per game
Granger could have easily returned to Indiana's starting lineup, relegating
Lance Stephenson to a bench role. But Granger injured his calf in preseason
and will miss at least three weeks to start the season, including Tuesday
The Magic endured the worst record in the NBA last season, but it was all part
of a plan. It was in the summer before last season, the Magic finally dealt
malcontent center Dwight Howard in a trade most felt Orlando did not get
Fast-forward to this offseason and the Magic are the only ones who still have
the assets acquired in that blockbuster. Nikola Vucevic emerged as a great
young center and Mo Harkless seems to have a bright future.
Factor in Orlando's fleecing of the Milwaukee Bucks that saw Tobias Harris
come to the Magic Kingdom for J.J. Redick, who bolted Brew City, and the Magic
do have a stockpile of young talent.
Added to that mix was Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 pick in the draft. Despite
being a natural shooting guard, the Magic are trying to transition Oladipo to
the point guard spot to eventually unseat incumbent Jameer Nelson.
Oladipo will begin his NBA career very close to his collegiate one as the
University of Indiana product makes his league debut at Bankers Life
"I'm really excited and getting this first year under my belt is going to be
huge for me," Oladipo told the team's website. "I'm looking forward to having
fun and learning throughout the season."
The Pacers won two of the three against the Magic last season, including two
in a row. However, Orlando has taken seven of its last 10 in Indianapolis.
The Sports Network