Magic Must Adapt to New-Look Cavs
This was the trade they didn't want to see.
Veteran forward Antawn Jamison going to Cleveland was done with an eye on the Magic, who beat the Cavaliers last spring in the Eastern Conference final. They still present the biggest obstacle standing in front of a Lakers/Cavs NBA Finals.
The Magic, who are likely again to see the Cavs at playoff time, now must prepare for a team with more versatility and a power forward much like the Magic have in Rashard Lewis.
"Most definitely, they made themselves better,'' said Lewis Wednesday night. "They wanted to match up with me, or down to me, but I'm not the matchup that's their problem. It's the big fellow over there [Dwight Howard].''
The Cavs (43-11) already have beaten the Magic (37-18) twice this season, but the Magic beat them, 4-2, last spring after they stripped the Cavs of their home-court advantage in Game 1 of their series.
"They already were the best team in the East, by far, and this makes them stronger, but we're not going to hold our heads down,'' Lewis said. "We're still confident we can beat that team.''
Lewis averaged 18.3 points -- and shot 48.4 percent from 3-point range -- in the conference final against Cleveland last spring, guarded mostly by Anderson Varejao. Lewis now will be matched against Jamison, a much-better offensive weapon who will create even more space for LeBron James.
"This takes them to another level. They already have the best player in the world, but now they have another go-to guy,'' said Magic forward Matt Barnes. "It allows them to stretch the floor. They got better, but we'll see. It takes time to work a new guy into the lineup.''
The Magic quietly were hoping that the Cavs would have opted to trade for Amar'e Stoudemire, an All-Star who plays closer to the basket but doesn't present the same kind of problems that Jamison does.
"Antawn is a great player, and it gives them another shooter,'' said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy. "They were darn good before the trade, but they're probably better now. We'll just have to see."