By Lorenzo Tanos
It was a close call for the Orlando Magic (or the Miami Heat), as the NBA originally planned to admit only three new teams in the late '80s. But thanks to both Florida ownership groups doing well in convincing the NBA that they belong, the NBA grew from 23 to 27 teams at the end of the decade. Here's a look back at the past 24 years in Magic history, covering their typical expansion struggles, the Shaq, T-Mac and Dwight Howard eras, all the way up to their present rebuilding state.
1. Which recent NBA coach became the first and only man so far to record 30 assists in a game?
For five years, Scott Skiles was a capable starting point guard for the Orlando Magic, though his big year came in 1990-91, when he won Most Improved Player honors and dished out 30 assists on December 30, 1990, when the Magic trounced Paul Westhead's no-defense Denver Nuggets, 155-116. He's better-known (or more notorious) now as one of the NBA's most gruff head coaches, though he did part ways with the Milwaukee Bucks early in the 2012-13 season.
2. Who were the Magic's two primary starters at center in 1991-92, the year before Shaquille O'Neal was drafted first overall?
Shaq was immediately preceded in Orlando by another LSU center, Stanley Roberts. As a rookie, Roberts performed quite well, averaging 10.4 ppg and 6.1 rpg in just 20.3 minutes of action, but injuries and weight problems prevented him from living up to his potential. Roberts would join the Clippers in 1992-93, effectively making way for O'Neal. With the Magic, Roberts platooned with veteran Greg Kite, best known as Robert Parish and Bill Walton's molasses-slow backup center on those powerful Boston Celtics lineups of the '80s.
3. Which Magic wingman, nicknamed "3-D", once held the NBA record for most three-point shots in a season?
Dennis Scott was the Magic's fourth overall pick in the 1990 Draft, and while quite one-dimensional, he played his role and played it well. Scott sank 267 of 628 treys in 1995-96 (42.5% from long range), setting a record that was eventually broken by Ray Allen ten years later. After parting with the Magic in 1997, Scott no longer enjoyed the same success, as he was mainly used as an off-the-bench three-point specialist.
4. How many consecutive free throws did Nick Anderson miss in Game One of the 1995 Finals?
Poor Nick Anderson. A solid starter for the Magic who teamed with Dennis Scott to give the team an outside presence to complement Shaquille O'Neal, Anderson missed four straight free throws in Game One of the 1995 NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets. Anderson's clutch failure swung the momentum over to the Rockets, who swept the Magic, and it can be argued Anderson's career was never the same.
5. Famous "Last" Words – Which Magic player quipped "It's nice to finally be in the second round" ahead of the team's eventual 4-3 loss to the Detroit Pistons in the first round of the 2003 NBA Playoffs?
It was none other than the team's new franchise player, Tracy McGrady, who predicted victory well before it was in the Magic's hands. The Magic led that disappointing first-round series against the Detroit Pistons 3-1, before surrendering the next three games to the defensive-oriented "no-superstar" Pistons, who were then coached by Rick Carlisle.
6. Aside from Johnny Davis, who was Dwight Howard's other head coach in his rookie season with the Magic?
After Davis was unceremoniously sacked with a Playoffs berth at stake (the Magic were 31-33 despite a strong 13-6 start), former NBA role player Chris Jent took over the post for the final 18 games of the 2004-05 season. Jent, who hasn't had a head coaching job since then, took the Magic to a 5-13 record. Needless to say, the play of rookies Howard and Jameer Nelson was not enough to take the Magic back to the Playoffs, and interim coach Jent was replaced for 2005-06 by a name from the team's past – Brian Hill, who coached the Magic from 1993 to 1997.
7. Who was the only player acquired by the Magic in the Dwight Howard mega-trade that didn't suit up for Orlando in 2012-13 – or any other NBA team, for that matter?
This one should be easy, but we did promise to cover the Magic's recent rebuilding campaign. In the trade that sent Howard to the L.A. Lakers, the Magic received veterans ArronAfflalo, Nikola Vucevic, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts and Christian Eyenga and the rights to 2012 first-round pick Mo Harkless, plus several future draft picks. All of the veterans plus Harkless played in 2012-13, except Eyenga, who was waived a week before the season. Eyenga, a wingman from Congo and former late first-round pick, split the 2012-13 season between the D-League's Texas Legends and Chinese team Shanxi Zhongyu.
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