|Beilein makes Cavs coaching debut against Magic|
John Beilein and two of his three prized rookies will make their regular-season debuts Wednesday night when the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers tip off the campaign on the road against a 2018-19 playoff club, the Orlando Magic.
The Cavaliers made major changes after tying for the second-worst record in the NBA last season at 19-63. Gone are coach Larry Drew and almost half of his roster, including one key link to the team's four straight trips to the NBA Finals -- J.R. Smith.
The new edition features Beilein, who left a successful Michigan program for his first shot at the NBA, and his high-scoring approach that will be led by Kevin Love, Collin Sexton and rookies Darius Garland, Dylan Windler and Kevin Porter Jr.
Windler, the club's second first-round pick in June, won't suit up for the opener because of a stress reaction in his left tibia. The Cavaliers also likely will be without John Henson (strained groin), a key big man acquired last season from Milwaukee.
Beilein spent much of the NBA offseason trying to convince himself his new job is no different than when he was successful at four different stops along the college trail.
"I will have the same preparation," he promised reporters on the eve of the season. "I'll have the same emotions, the same diligence to try and be the best coach I can be."
While the Cavaliers attempt to speed up offensively in hopes of major improvements, the Magic begin their new year hoping to continue along the slow-and-steady road to a second straight trip to the postseason.
The Magic reached 42 wins last season thanks to a 22-9 finish. Orlando shocked Toronto on the road in Game 1 of the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, before losing the best-of-seven series in five games.
With their top pick -- Chuma Okeke (torn ACL) -- in essence being redshirted this season, the Magic return mostly the same look that last year produced their first winning season since 2011-12.
Playoff-tested forward Al-Farouq Aminu has been imported from Portland to join a returning nucleus that once again features Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon and Terrence Ross.
Second-year coach Steve Clifford has made it no secret: The Magic's offense will revolve around his All-Star center Vucevic.
"His decision-making with passing, he's like a guard," Clifford said during the preseason. "To me, that's why he was an All-Star. He plays in a way to where your team is going to function well when he's out there because he makes the right play and he plays for his teammates."
As opposed to the visitors, the Magic report no injuries as the season begins. Mo Bamba, limited to 47 games last season by a broken leg after having been the No. 6 pick of the 2018 draft, was the biggest question mark that was erased by a healthy preseason.
The clubs met three times last season, with the home team winning each by an average of 15.0 points.
--Field Level Media