Grant Hill Redux?: Rashard Lewis, Magic Battle Injuries in Orlando

Steve ResnickCorrespondent IOctober 20, 2007

IconSince Rashard Lewis signed with the Orlando Magic, I've been looking forward to a great season.

The early preseason results had me even more excited—until Lewis went down holding his ankle.

For Orlando fans, it suddenly felt like 2000 all over again.

The 2000-01 season looked bright for the Magic, with Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill poised to be an East Coast answer to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.

But of course Hill hurt his ankle before the show got off the ground, and went on to have seven surgeries over the next four-plus seasons.

From '00-'01 to '03-'04, Hill played in 47 of the Magic's 328 games. His tenure still haunts Orlando fans.

And Lewis, for his part, was quick to distinguish his injury from that of his predecessor.

"I'm sure, with Grant, the whole time he was here it was frustrating for everybody," Lewis said after his injury. "I'm not saying anything bad about Grant because he's one of my idols, but I don't want to be in the same situation he was in. This is a minor ankle sprain. The (regular season) doesn't start until Oct. 31, and I'm sure I'll be ready to roll by then."

Lewis isn't the only wounded Magic player—Tony Battie is out after rotator cuff surgery. His presence will be missed in the frontcourt, where Adonal Foyle will try to replace the departed Darko Milicic.

On the bright side, Battie's absence will create more opportunities for Orlando's young talent.

James Augustine, drafted 41st overall in the 2006 Draft, has played in only four regular-season games with the Magic. In the 2007 preseason, though, he's averaging 7.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, and is shooting 50 percent.

Marcin Gortat, who's played in Europe since being drafted in 2005, is averaging 4.8 points and 2.5 rebounds on 46.7 percent shooting. It will be very interesting to see how how Augustine and Gortat adjust to life in the NBA.

As it stands, the season still looks promising. If the youngsters develop, the Magic frontline will be very good. As long as Lewis stays healthy and Dwight Howard continues to dominate, the Magic should be a top-tier team in the Eastern Conference.