Mr. O’Neal is still in Los Angeles, but after several years of .500 basketball or slightly better, the Magic are off to a fast start with Dublin native Pat Burke holding forth down low. A three-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday knocked the Magic down to 5-2, but they still occupy a first-place tie in the NBA’s Atlantic Division with the New Jersey Nets.
Burke, who measures 6-foot-11 and weighs in at 275, moved to this country as a preteen, settling in Cape Mariner, Fla. He played his college ball at Auburn, but received little interest from the NBA and took his game to Europe for seasoning.
A dearth of quality centers caused the Magic to give Burke a second look and the 28-year-old rookie now takes to the floor alongside Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill, Darrell Armstrong and Pat Garrity.
Through seven games, Burke has averaged 8.0 points per game, while averaging 24 minutes of floor time. Foul trouble, as might be expected in the key, has limited his playing time.
Going into Sunday’s loss to the Clippers, Burke ranked second in the NBA in field goal percentage. A 2-for-7 performance knocked him down to fourth place at 56.5 percent, as Hill enjoyed a 10-for-12 game to ascend to second place at 63.5 percent. The Magic’s offense revolves around getting the ball to McGrady and Hill, who typically account for nearly half the team’s scoring output.
A 125-121 home victory over Sacramento was an early acid test for the Magic, who now have a six-game road trip to the West Coast lurking. They return to Orlando for a four-game home stand in late November, before embarking on their first road trip to the northeast this season, which will find them in New York on Dec. 4, New Jersey on Dec. 7 and Boston on Dec. 9.