A little over two hours after officially becoming a member of the Orlando Magic, Rafer Alston checked into the game, surveyed the floor and liked what he saw.
"Everywhere I looked, I had a weapon to pass it to," Alston said after recording eight assists and helping his new team rout the Charlotte Bobcats 92-80 on Friday night.
"I think point guards in this league would love to be in that situation," he added. "Everywhere you turn, you've got a guy who can flat-out shoot it or can drive it and finish."
The Magic are also happy the veteran point guard made a solid first impression as the replacement for All-Star Jameer Nelson.
A day after Nelson underwent season-ending shoulder surgery and Alston was acquired in a trade with Houston, the Magic toyed with the Bobcats and bounced back from their worst loss of the season two nights earlier at New Orleans to win their 40th game.
Hedo Turkoglu scored 24 points and Rashard Lewis added 18 for the Magic, who seemed to quickly get comfortable with their new playmaker. While not the scorer Nelson is _ he scored three points on 1-of-9 shooting _ Alston committed only one turnover despite knowing only a few plays.
"He's a pass first, then shoot guy," Turkoglu said. "He was good tonight, creating a lot of good stuff for everybody."
The same can't be said for Charlotte's backcourt, which was scolded by coach Larry Brown after a dismal performance ahead of a five-game road trip.
"We had so many possessions where it was one pass and a shot or no passes and a shot," Brown said. "Even when we stole the ball and we're on a break, we wouldn't pass the ball."
Raymond Felton scored 16 points for the Bobcats, but Brown was angry that the point guard took 18 shots, hitting just six. Backcourt mate D.J Augustin was 3-for-11, and Charlotte shot 37 percent.
"I didn't get us into the offense," said Felton, who survived Thursday's trade deadline despite being mentioned in numerous deals. "We looked bad because it was my fault."
The Magic looked good with their new playmaker.
Alston, acquired in a beat-the-trade-deadline deal with the Rockets on the same day Nelson scrapped his rehab and had surgery, arrived in Charlotte around noon Friday. He immediately took a physical, went through a crash course of the offense and was cleared to play about two hours before tipoff once the trade was finalized.
Alston, forced to wear the emergency, nameless No. 36 jersey the Magic carry with them on the road, checked in late in the first quarter and fed Tony Battie for his first assist 10 seconds later.
After throwing the ball across the floor to nobody on the next possession, Alston settled down and started finding his teammates in the right spots. Despite his shooting woes, he appeared poised to quickly replace Anthony Johnson in the starting lineup.
"I don't think every night he'll go 1-for-9," Magic coach Stan Van Gundy said. "He was getting into the paint. He's not as good as a finisher as Jameer was, but he's not going to miss all those all the time."
By halftime, Alston had accumulated five assists and the Magic had built a 49-35 lead behind Lewis' 5-of-6 shooting from 3-point range.
Three nights after Charlotte let a late lead slip away in a heartbreaking loss at Orlando, the Bobcats were overmatched from the start in front of their fifth home sellout of the season.
Sloppiness, poor shooting and Emeka Okafor's early foul trouble against draft-class nemesis Dwight Howard doomed Charlotte, which had won three of four.
"Hopefully this will be a good lesson for us because they execute," Brown said. "I was telling Emeka, I don't know how many screens Dwight Howard set in that game. When Dwight Howard is guarding us, he doesn't guard anybody. He guards the rim. Just imagine if our center set screens."
After scoring a career-high 45 points against Charlotte Tuesday, Howard took only eight shots and finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds.
Howard's big miscue was when he inadvertently hit Lewis in the face late in the game. Lewis was woozy and didn't return, but the Magic were confident he was fine.
Notes:@ Van Gundy started Courtney Lee at shooting guard ahead of Mickael Pietrus, and then Pietrus left in the fourth quarter with a sprained right wrist after crashing to the floor on a drive. X-rays were negative and Pietrus will be evaluated Saturday. ... There was the rare sight of a 3-point shot goaltended when Howard apparently thought Raja Bell's 30-footer to beat the shot clock was going to be an air ball and caught it in front of the rim in the third quarter. ... Bobcats managing partner Michael Jordan sat courtside in a brown checkerboard striped jacket.
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