- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel: “Yao versus Dwight [Howard]. Has a nice ring to it, right? But Friday night’s game between the Houston Rockets and the Orlando Magic at Amway Center will not feature a matchup of two the game’s most dominant centers. Injury-plagued Rockets center Yao Ming played just five games this season before the team pronounced him out for the rest of the year. On Thursday, he underwent surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left ankle, an operation that may force him to retire. [...] As saddening as Yao’s injury troubles are for him as a person, it’s also clear that his absence hurts the sport as a whole. Millions of people in his native China started to follow the NBA when he joined the Rockets for the 2002-03 season. He missed only two games in his first three seasons. In a league with few quality traditional centers, it figured that he would eventually develop a natural rivalry with the Magic’s cornerstone player, Howard. The marketing possibilities seemed limitless. Both players possess undeniable charisma and skill. Yao is the greatest basketball player ever to come out of the Far East. Howard is the latest dominant American center, and his bubbly personality complements his power game. That rivalry never materialized fully, despite its promise.”
- Zach McCann of the Orlando Sentinel: “Courtney Lee is one of the few ex-Magic players who hears nothing but cheers when he returns to Orlando. Some players get booed (Grant Hill, T-Mac) and some get indifference (most others), but Lee will hear nothing but applause when he comes off the bench tonight for the Houston Rockets.”
- Head coach Stan Van Gundy has settled on a starting lineup.
- Dwight Howard will likely share the All-Star stage with his fiercest rivals.
- Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post: “It’s fair to say Smith’s trades have paid off in the short term, resulting in victories as well as improvements in areas he cited as specific needs. But the bigger goal for this team is to win a championship, so quite obviously it’s too early to tell if Smith’s gambit will work in that respect. But after a discouraging, dispirited start to the season, Orlando’s back on track and charging hard in the Eastern Conference. The offense has played no small part in that rapid improvement.”
- Scott Carefoot of The Basketball Jones: “Magic coach Stan Van Gundy says “There is no one in the league who has a bigger impact on a game than Dwight” and it’s hard to argue with him. Unfortunately, MVP voters tend to favor players who are among the leading scorers so Howard probably isn’t going to win that award until the season he leads the Magic to the best record in the NBA. Since Orlando is 23-12 at the moment with seven teams ahead of them in the standings, this probably won’t be that season. As for a third consecutive Defensive Player of the Year Award, that’s basically a lock unless he gets hurt.”
- Zach Lowe of The Point Forward thinks the 10-second free-throw rule is silly.
- The Amway Center is an impressive-looking arena inside.