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ENEMIES OF THE STATE
CHRIS MANNIX
October 25, 2010
Miami made the big off-season moves, but as Dwight Howard and his Magic teammates see it, until the Heat wins the division, Florida's top team is in Orlando
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October 25, 2010

Enemies Of The State

Miami made the big off-season moves, but as Dwight Howard and his Magic teammates see it, until the Heat wins the division, Florida's top team is in Orlando

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Likewise the Hawks will break in Jeff Teague, who averaged 3.2 points and 1.7 assists as Mike Bibby's backup last year. Bibby is still around, but Teague will play a more prominent role. "I told him this summer, I don't mind when he makes mistakes," says new coach Larry Drew. "I want him to play with the confidence and energy he had in college." To help him get there, Atlanta hired Nick Van Exel as an assistant, hoping some of the cocky former point guard's bravado will rub off on Teague. "Jeff has speed, he can break a defense down, and he is good defensively," says Drew. "We need to get him to a level where he can play substantial minutes on this team."

The offense Teague will be running should have a new look too. After years of the Iso-Joe offense—so named for the number of isolation plays called for Joe Johnson under ex-coach Mike Woodson—Drew has installed a more balanced motion system. "We want more player movement," says Drew. "We want more guys involved on offense. This will force the ball to move and get guys to play out of different reads and different cuts. The ball won't just stick on one side of the floor."

Teague, Wall and Augustin give the position a new look, but the top playmaker in the division may be the one who has been around the longest. Jameer Nelson's offensive output (12.6 points per game) dipped last season from his '08--09 All-Star level (16.6), but he ratcheted his game up in the postseason, blitzing Charlotte (23.8 points per game), Atlanta (17.3) and Boston (17.0) before the Magic bowed out. It's that strength at point guard and center—Miami's two weakest positions—that has Orlando feeling good about its chances in the intrastate rivalry. "We heard it all summer: The Miami Heat are going to win; they're going to do this and do that," says Howard. "In our minds we're like, Hey, they haven't played a game yet, so what makes them champions? They still have to dress up and play."

The Battle of Florida is on.

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