Orlando. Sports.

Orlando Magic – A 2010-11 NBA Season Preview

– Team Name: Orlando Magic

– Last Year’s Record: 59-23 (Lost in Eastern Conference Finals)

– Key Losses: Forward Matt Barnes (6-7, 226) signed as a free agent on July 22, 2010 with the Los Angeles Lakers.

– Key Additions: Guard Chris Duhon (6-1, 190) signed as a free agent on July 8, 2010 after two seasons with the New York Knicks. Guard/Forward Quentin Richardson (6-6, 228) signed as a free agent on July 13, 2010 after one season with the Miami Heat.

– 1. What Significant Moves were made during the off-season? –

The opening of the new start-of-the-art Amway Center in Orlando will be the talk of the league this season. But the roster moves made by the Magic this offseason will be what this team is ultimately judged by down the road.

New additions Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon (Photo by J.C. Carnahan)

Last season Matt Barnes helped provide the Magic with an added level of toughness, which was lacking on a finesse team that finished as runners-up to the Los Angeles Lakers following the 2008-09 campaign.

He quickly became a fan-favorite for his gritty play, finishing out the year by appearing in 81 games (58 starts) while averaging 8.8 points and tying a career high with 5.5 rebounds per game.

Once Orlando struck deals to land Chris Duhon and Quentin Richardson over the summer, Barnes went on to sign with the two-time defending champions.

The new additions for Orlando should thrive under Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy, who preaches defense first and foremost while encouraging players to shot away from beyond the three-point line.

Duhon will step in as the No. 2 point guard and Van Gundy has already been impressed with the way he runs the team. Richardson, who brings a combination of defense and shooting to the fold, is a guy Van Gundy has always wanted to have on the roster and is already becoming a player the coach can trust while out on the floor. An added bonus for Orlando is that Richardson’s presence will allow Van Gundy to tinker with his lineup on any given night, unlike a season ago with Barnes in the mix.

“I like the new additions we have,” said center Dwight Howard. “I think [General Manager] Otis (Smith) did the right thing. He wasn’t out trying to get any big names, but we needed the right pieces for our team and I think he did an excellent job.”

– 2. What are the team’s biggest strengths? –

Orlando enters the season with 10 returning players from last year’s squad. That bodes well for this team, as they possess the kind of flexibility on the roster this time around that will allow Van Gundy to play big or small as he sees fit.

“Our depth going down through 13 guys is pretty good,” said Van Gundy. “All these guys have proven they can play in this league.”

The central figure among the moving parts is Rashard Lewis. Upon signing with Orlando in 2007, Lewis was moved from his natural small forward position to power forward in order to help fill a void at that spot.

Van Gundy entered the preseason hoping to experiment a little, though, by giving Lewis the chance to ease back into the three spot while providing extra playing time for Ryan Anderson and Brandon Bass at the four, alongside centers Howard and Marcin Gortat.

Anderson is the one benefiting most as he’s been credited by Van Gundy for his rebounding skills in preseason games as well as in practices thus far. How Lewis performs on the defensive end should dictate how much time he gets at small forward.

With the versatile Richardson joining returning players in Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus and J.J. Redick, the shooting guard and small forward positions should be in good hands.

– 3. What are the team’s biggest weaknesses? –

If there is a weakness for the Magic heading into the season, aside from which Vince Carter shows up at the tale end of his career, it’s the team’s depth at point guard. Yet even an improvement was made at that spot over the summer.

With the addition of Duhon, starter Jameer Nelson now has a proven and reliable backup to take control of the offense should he be forced to miss any time due to injury.

Nelson missed 40 games during the 2008-09 season and 17 last year, when the Magic turned to veterans Jason Williams and Anthony Johnson to pick up the slack.

With Johnson no longer around, Williams moves to third on the depth chart. He will also turn 35 next month after play in 82 regular season games for the first time in his career last season, shooting a career-best 44-percent from the field. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery at the end of September and has yet to see action in the preseason.

Adding to the uncertainty at that position is that fact that every time Nelson turns around anymore he’s the focal point of trade rumors involving the Magic, most recently over the summer with Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets being positioned to join Orlando.

Although Nelson has never seemed to be overly concerned by those reports, it will be interesting to see how he and Duhon perform during the season.

– 4. What are the goals for this team? –

Same as it was last year – winning an NBA title. Anything short of reaching the NBA Finals will be viewed as a disappointment to this group, and even the newcomers realize that.

“We definitely have to be one of the teams that I view as a potential contender,” said Richardson. “We want to win a championship. We know it’s a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears and that’s what we’re preparing for.”

Although not much has changed internally for an organization that has appeared in the last two Eastern Conference Finals, plenty has changed in the conference itself.

Several players have acknowledged the improvements made in the East by the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls, leading most to realize that the road to the finals will be a tougher one to travel this time around.

“The window of opportunity opens and closes, and right now the window is still open for us,” said Lewis. “We’re here again this year just fighting to get back.”

– 5. Can the Magic keep up with the Miami Heat? –

Standing in the way of both a fourth-straight 50-win season and Southeast Division title is a new-look Miami Heat team featuring Dwyane Wade and two new recruits in LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Orlando is hoping the experience they have with one another, and the deep bench that has been built into this team, will prove to offset that trio of stars from down south.

“Everybody is going to talk about Miami, but most important for us is to stay together,” said Pietrus. “Right now we are still the underdog. We are going to have to stay together through the entire season and make sure that every time we come out here we work hard.”

– More Orlando Magic –

Visit Orlando Pinstriped Post, Magic Basketball and Orlando Magic Daily for more Orlando Magic season previews. Previews of every team in the NBA are available at CelticsBlog.

– (email JC@OrlandoSportsCentral.com or follow @OrlandoSportsJC and Carnahan Chronicles) –

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