The post-Dwight Howard era begins tonight for the Orlando Magic, who will commence the 2012-13 season versus the Denver Nuggets.
Howard was sent to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team deal in the offseason that included the Nuggets, ending months disarray for an Orlando team trying to give its fans something to believe in.
Forward Ryan Anderson and shooting guard Jason Richardson also departed central Florida. Orlando, which lost to the Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the playoffs, still has point guard Jameer Nelson and forwards Glen Davis and Hedo Turkoglu, but will it be enough to compete in the East?
"You can't put a timetable on something like this," Nelson said. "We don't know how many wins we're going to have or when we're going to be playing our best basketball, but I know that we work hard every day we're in the gym and it's going to pay off at some point."
Davis led the Magic with 16.9 PPG in the preseason.
The Magic appointed Jacque Vaughn as head coach and went 2-6 in the preseason.
Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington came over from the Nuggets and are expected to provide leadership and contribute right away. Harrington, though, has been bothered by a balky right knee and his timetable to return is unknown. Nikola Vucevic is expected to take Howard's place in the lineup and came over from Philadelphia in the blockbuster deal.
The Magic will play three of its first five games at Amway Center and lost last season's opener at Oklahoma City. Orlando did rip off four straight wins after the loss to the Thunder.
Orlando is 14-9 all-time on Opening Night and has won nine of its last 12 openers. It is 11-3 in the past 14 season openers at home.
Denver kicked off its season with an 84-75 loss at Philadelphia, as Andre Iguodala's return to the City of Brotherly Love was spoiled. Iguodala also was involved in the Howard deal and scored 11 points against the 76ers.
"It was kind of emotional," Iguodala said of his return. "It was taxing a little bit during the game. I was thinking too much."
Ty Lawson led the way with 16 points and seven assists for the Nuggets, who finished 38-28 last season before losing in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. The Nuggets had won four of their last five season openers.
Denver hasn't started 0-2 since losing three in a row to commence the 2006-07 campaign. It was 2-0 against Orlando a season ago and has won five of the past seven meetings between the teams.