Believe it or not, we are less than one month away from the first Magic preseason game. Orlando will open training camp on October 1 and open the preseason in Mexico City against New Orleans on October 7. So how will we get ready? By counting down to the beginning of the season on November 2 against Denver. Let's continue:
There are always a few days I tend to circle on the schedule the moment it comes out. Certain key games -- like those against division or conference rivals, the national television appearances, the West Coast trips -- are yearly occurrences that have to be marked and prepared for.
As a fan, there was always another game I tried to be aware of: The first time our Playoff opponent comes to town. There is a special disdain for the team that ends your season. So when the Pacers make their first regular season trip to Amway Center on January 16, my ears will perk up. It will not matter what the team's records are (both the Magic and the Pacers are heading in opposite directions, it would seem). This one game will give us fans some measure of revenge if it is a win.
How much revenge?
There was nothing as cathartic as Christmas Day 1995. And then the hits that kept coming, like Penny's game-winner against the Rockets in Houston from 1997 from above.The Houston Rockets were in town for the first time, wearing those ugly pinstripe uniforms they wore with the cartoonish logo in big print across their chests. Paul Porter was at the height of his sarcasm when introduced the NBA champion Houston Rockets for their pregame warmups. Orlando was still a young franchise, but it may have hit me as a kid at that point just the opportunity the franchise had and lost the previous June.
This was a big game.
Anfernee Hardaway struggled to shoot the ball as L.C. Johnson of the Orlando Sentinel related in his recap of the game, but he hit the one shot that mattered -- a runner with 3.1 seconds left. It gave Orlando a great Christmas gift and a 92-90 win.
The win was extremely cathartic and only a preview for the next meeting between the two teams that year. Hardaway had 28 points and 13 assists and Shaquille O'Neal scored the game-winning basket with 4.7 seconds left for a 97-96 victory and a less-important sweep of the Rockets.
Revenge may not al all the wounds, but it can be pretty sweet too. When do I start the countdown for January 16?
47 more days!