The Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic spent much of the summer
trading verbal barbs and stoking the flames of a growing rivalry
that will play a part in who will win the Eastern Conference.
They’ll finally take the court in one of the most anticipated
matchups of the young season for the Heat’s home opener Friday
Miami (1-1) made by far the biggest splash of the offseason,
adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh to a team already boasting
Dwyane Wade. The moves garnered the Heat status as favorites to win
the NBA crown.
Orlando (1-0), however, has taken exception to that notion. The
Magic have established themselves among the league’s elite,
reaching the conference finals last spring after an NBA Finals
appearance at the expense of James and Cleveland in 2009.
“We’re trying to take their heads off,” Magic center Dwight
Magic president of basketball operations Otis Smith even
questioned James’ competitiveness for choosing to play alongside
Bosh and Wade. Heat president Pat Riley called that remark
“absolutely stupid,” and Magic coach Stan Van Gundy then called out
Riley for making moral judgments as the two intrastate foes
ratcheted up the trash-talking rhetoric during the offseason.
“Orlando, that’s funny that they questioned my competitiveness,”
James said shortly after announcing he was moving to South Beach.
“I like that. The locker room – we’re going to put a lot of stuff
in the locker room.”
The moves for superstar players and the verbal jabs appear to
have elevated a rivalry that has been rather lopsided recently.
Orlando has won 14 of 17, including seven of nine at American
“Our fans will be very excited,” Wade said. “To have the first
game at home and a good opportunity to see our team play together
for once, I think it’s going to be a great atmosphere. Of course,
the matchup with Orlando is probably what everybody in Florida
“It’s good for the game, it’s good for ratings and it will be
good for us.”
The Heat – and the Big Three – haven’t enjoyed a smooth start.
They opened with an 88-80 loss at Boston – the reigning East
champion – on Tuesday before rebounding with a 97-87 win over
Philadelphia the following night.
“We’re not at our peak, we’re not even close,” said Wade, who
had 30 points Wednesday after getting 13 against the Celtics.
James and Bosh are also trying to find a groove after combining
for 31 points versus the 76ers. James has committed 17 turnovers
through two games, but is averaging 34.0 points in his last five
meetings against Orlando.
The Magic already had Miami on their mind while routing
Washington 112-83 to christen their new arena Thursday.
“Honestly, I’m sick of listening every hour about Miami – Miami
that, how great they are, how big they are, what kind of record
they gonna have,”‘ said backup center Marcin Gortat. “I get every
day interviews back in Poland, people calling me about Miami,
Miami, what you think about Miami? What you think about Big Three?
I’m going to say the same thing: they are a great team, they have
three superstars, they got a couple good role players on the
“They looking good on the paper, but they got to start
Howard had 23 points and 10 rebounds with three blocks against
the Wizards. However, he was limited to averages of 11.5 points and
11.5 boards as the Magic and Heat split four meetings last
Orlando will be without reserve guard Jason Williams, who will
serve a one-game suspension for making contact with an official
during the season opener.