It's not hard to find Magic center Greg Kite, if you know where to look for him. More often than not, Kite is on the business end of a pick, a shove, a well-placed elbow, anything to disrupt the other team from running its offense, grabbing a rebound, or simply keeping its mind on the game.
Kite is the best defensive center on the Magic, which may or may not be a compliment. But he is the defensive presence the team never had last season.
In Saturday night's 109-104 preseason loss against the Miami Heat at Orlando Arena, Kite once again gave a mini-clinic on how he has become the team's starting center.
Kite will be on the floor when Orlando opens the season Friday against the Atlanta Hawks.
Kite has played with five teams in eight seasons, never averaging more than 4.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. Before Saturday night, he was averaging 2.6 points and 5.0 rebounds. Those numbers probably won't change much when teams play for keeps.
But Kite isn't playing for numbers. He does what he is told, and well. He muscles his man out from the paint. He clears out on rebounds. He sets brutal picks. And he sometimes is an intimidator.
Twice in the first half, Kite blocked Miami layup attempts. Both times, the Magic converted transition baskets at the other end.
Neither Sidney Green _ Kite's backup _ nor Mark Acres _ on the verge of being released _ have true shot-blocking ability.
Not that Kite is a rejector supreme. In his best season, he blocked 58 shots in 53 games. But he reroutes enough shots to be an occasional factor. And that is more than what the Magic had to offer last season.
"Greg works awfully hard and is doing everything we've asked. We're very happy with his defensive rebounding," said Magic coach Matt Guokas.
Kite's influence is starting to rub off. Green recorded a block in the third quarter against Miami that resulted in quick Orlando points. Trouble is, both Kite and Green were in foul trouble Saturday night.
But instead of putting Acres _ the No. 3 center _ in the game, Guokas replaced Green with power forward Terry Catledge.
Notes: Orlando concluded the preseason with an impressive 5-3 record. Miami finished 2-5. Catledge is complaining of a sore left knee and said he probably won't be at full strength for the start of the season. Point guard Morlon Wiley is suffering from a deep thigh bruise.
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