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Magic open defense of East title vs. 76ers


(Sports Network) - The reigning Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic open up defense of their crown Wednesday when they play host to the Philadelphia 76ers in a playoff rematch at Amway Arena.

The Magic, who downed the Sixers in six games in last year's Eastern Conference quarterfinals, made it all the way to the NBA Finals for just the second time in franchise history. When all was said it done, however, it was Kobe Bryant and the Lakers who were celebrating a championship in Orlando.

With no 2009 draft picks, the Magic attempted to get better by trading youth for experience, shipping swingman Courtney Lee, guard Rafer Alston and center Tony Battie to New Jersey in a blockbuster deal that landed All-Star Vince Carter along with Ryan Anderson.

That deal is expected to help offset the loss of star point-forward Hedo Turkoglu, who moved to Toronto as part of a four-team trade that brought Orlando cash considerations.

Mix in free agents Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass and Jason Williams, and Orlando has some fresh blood.

"We don't care about who scores, who has the best numbers," star center Dwight Howard said. "At the end of the day we just want to win. I think we have a great team and I think the chemistry will be fine."

The Sixers, meanwhile, also have a new look and figure to be one of the more interesting teams to follow this season as basketball chief Ed Stefanski continues to mold the team in his image.

Interim coach Tony DiLeo, who replaced Maurice Cheeks during the season last year, was kicked back to the front office and replaced by Eddie Jordan, the highly-regarded former Washington Wizards mentor, who brings his vaunted Princeton Offense up I-95.

The team also let veteran point guard Andre Miller walk to Portland and handed the keys to the untested Lou Williams, a high-octane offensive player that thinks shot first. Meanwhile, former All-Star forward Elton Brand will try to return from yet another injury and fit in with the Sixers' best player, swingman Andre Iguodala.

Brand, a two-time All-Star, was coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon that cost him most of the 2007-08 season. He didn't look healthy when he took the floor with the Sixers last year and wasn't a good fit for the team's up-tempo running game. A torn labrum in his right shoulder sidelined Brand again and the Sixers righted the ship without him, making a playoff run under DiLeo.

"The main thing is, it wasn't Elton," Iguodala said. "We didn't really have a concrete plan (last year). I think we had a Plan A, but no Plan B, C, so on and so forth. Just pound it inside and see what happens from there. Once that was shut down it was kind of hectic instead of playing our game and going with the flow."

With Jordan and the Princeton offense now employed, the Sixers are hoping to finally garner a return on a massive investment. Jordan explained to the media how his philosophy is designed to work earlier this offseason.

Williams will dish to Iguodala when approaching midcourt on the dribble. It will then be Iguodala's job to pass ahead to the forward (either Thaddeus Young or Brand). The forward will continue to move the ball inside to the center (Samuel Dalembert or Jason Smith). After each pass, a variety of options exist. The guard making the original pass to the forward will cut to the basket as the center is getting the ball. The center can drive, look backdoor or pass out to a forward for a jumper.

According to Jordan, Brand seems like a natural fit for the offense. He can pass, he has a nice mid-range jumper from the elbow and he can move inside to the pivot at times. In fact, Jordan envisions Brand, Iguodala and Young much in the same way Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler excelled in the offense in Washington.

"It's going to take time," Brand said of the new offense. "I know we can put the basics in, but once we have the basics, it's still more plays, more layers we can add."

Of course Brand must stay on the floor to make things work.

Orlando swept the three-game regular season series between the two clubs last season and has won four straight and eight of nine overall against the Sixers.

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