Record: 36-46 (10th in East) Points scored: 99.5 (9th in NBA) Points allowed: 101.8 (28th) Coach: Brian Hill (first season with the Magic)
Can a goal-oriented wunderkind inspire a return to the playoffs?
Walk into the master bedroom of Dwight Howard's Orlando home and you'll see two sheets of paper tacked to the wall above the bed. The deeply religious power forward has posted lists of his goals for each season since he played in high school -- which, incidentally, was just a year and a half ago. "The Bible says to have your vision and make your plan so the whole world can see it," Howard says. "My NBA career is part of my vision now, and I want everyone who comes into my life to see [my goals for] it."
The Magic's objective is simple: Ride its 19-year-old prodigy to the playoffs. Orlando hasn't made it past the first round since Shaquille O'Neal left, in 1996, but a more muscular Howard could get them there. "I couldn't bench 185 [last year]," he says. "Now I'm maxing out at 285."
That extra bulk plays into new coach Brian Hill's plans to bolster Orlando's 28th-ranked scoring defense. In training camp Hill has pushed the 6'11", 240-pound Howard to complement his solid shot blocking and rebounding (32 double doubles) with more physical low-post and help defense.
Improving his 67.1% shooting at the foul line is one of Howard's individual goals ("I don't leave the gym until I hit seven free throws in a row," he says), in addition to making the All-Star team and playing in all 82 games -- hard. He vows to never again follow a 19-point, 19-rebound effort like he had last March with a pair of clunkers in which he totaled six points and 13 boards.
One shortfall from last season still gnaws at him. "I came close, but I didn't get Rookie of the Year," Howard says. (He finished third.) He's determined his expectations won't go unmet this season. -- Ben Reiter