Tonight marks the season opener for both Florida NBA teams as the Orlando Magic host John Wall and the Washington Wizards and the Miami Heat play the Charlotte Hornets. Both teams are looking to improve after poor performances last season, as both teams missed the playoffs.
The Magic have made the biggest change of the two, hiring new head coach Scott Skiles after firing Jacques Vaughn in February. Skiles used to play point guard for the Magic and won the Most Improved Player award during his tenure there.
In addition to a new coach the Magic made a trade with their southern neighbors to acquire former Heat first round draft pick Shabazz Napier for a second round draft pick. The team drafted FC Barcelona standout Mario Hezonja fifth overall in this years draft, and Hezonja is expected to make an impact immediately for the team. Other offseason moves include signing point guard C J Watson and center Jason Smith and trading guard Luke Ridnour and forward Mo Harkless for player rights and a draft pick respectively.
The Magic went 6-2 in the preseason and forward Tobias Harris believes that confidence is the biggest change from last season.
The Magic are a very young team, one with great potential and numerous budding stars. One of these stars, Victor Oladipo, has learned that nothing is given to you in the NBA, instead it has to be earned.
Meanwhile, the Heat are looking for more than just growth, they’re looking to win. The team, just one year removed from the loss of LeBron James, went from title contender in 2014 to missing the playoffs in 2015. The team lost power forward Chris Bosh to blood clots, but acquired Goran Dragic from the Phoenix Suns and had a breakout year from center Hassan Whiteside.
The Heat also has a busy offseason, bolstering their roster with veterans Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire. Miami also added some young talent in the draft adding forward Justise Winslow from Duke and guard Josh Richardson from Tennessee.
Miami went 4-4 in preseason play and veteran guard Dwayne Wade, who is in his 13th season with the team, is looking forward to kicking off the season.
The Heat are setting themselves to be competitive in the East this season, but that’s not enough for forward Chris Bosh. Bosh believes the team is championship caliber and has to work to win it all.