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Revamped Magic to start Turner, Skiles in season opener tonight

Like everything else in the NBA, nothing is forever. The Orlando Magic will usher in the 1990-91 season tonight against the Atlanta Hawks (7:30 start at The Omni) with four new starters. None of them is named Terry Catledge or Sam Vincent, two of the team's highest-paid members.

Going the bargain-basement route, coach Matt Guokas will start Jeff Turner over Catledge at power forward and Scott Skiles ahead of Vincent at point guard.

Turner and Skiles are two of the Magic's lowest-paid players. Free agent Greg Kite, joining his fifth team in eight seasons, will start at center.

Jerry Reynolds starts ahead of rookie Dennis Scott at small forward, and Nick Anderson is a first-year starter at shooting guard.

The Magic has undergone a massive face lift, and Guokas promises even more changes in the coming weeks.

"It's hard for us to get in a solid set lineup, get a substitution pattern going," he said. "When things aren't going well, especially for an expansion team, it is the nature of a coach to try to change things."

Skiles realizes as much. The Magic signed Vincent to a three-year contract and will pay him $1-million this year. Skiles signed a one-year deal for $408,750, but Guokas said Skiles is the No. 1 point guard for now. Vincent missed the last two preseason games with a thigh injury.

"We're not the kind of team that's going to have the same starting lineup for 82 games," said Skiles. "Just because I start Friday night doesn't mean anything. That's just Matty's decision. I might not even be the starter in the game Saturday (against Charlotte). I've got to take this in the right perspective."

The biggest surprise this fall has to be Turner beating out Cat-ledge. After all, Catledge is coming off his best season as a pro. For another, he signed a six-year contract valued at $9.5-million. He will earn $1.6-million this year, nearly four times more than Turner's $410,000 salary.

Catledge, who has complained of soreness in both knees, has become the subject of trade rumors. An Orlando radio station reported Thursday that Orlando is trying to trade Catledge, and that two teams are interested.

General manager Pat Williams orchestrated a deal on Tuesday that shipped center/forward Sidney Green to San Antonio for the Spurs' 1991 first-round draft pick and center Mark McNamara. Williams indicated the Magic is pursuing additional trades.

Guokas said he doesn't think Catledge worked hard enough in the off-season to strengthen his knees.

"I'm disappointed that he's not feeling like he can play right now. We need the contribution Terry can give us," said Guokas.

"It was something we were concerned about all summer long, wanting him to rehabilitate the knee. We were feeling that he was doing that. So this is a step back."

Catledge is suffering from muscle atrophy in his left knee. He was fitted with a knee brace this week but said that it felt uncomfortable. Catledge walked off the court during a fastbreak drill on Thursday, complaining of pain in the knee.

Turner, meanwhile, continues to do what he does best. A strong perimeter shooter, he stays away from the low post at the offensive end. Guokas is pleased with the forward's defensive effort, but Turner has difficulty with quick players. Tonight he will be matched against the Hawks' Kevin Willis.

"I don't see a change there. Jeff has earned it," said Guokas. "We have started games well since Jeff (became a starter). That's the criteria. He's in the starting lineup, we play well. He goes out, we don't play well."

Notes: The Magic placed guard Morlon Wiley on the injured list Thursday, reducing the roster to the league limit of 12 players. Wiley has a deep thigh bruise. More news on the Sidney Green trade: San Antonio president Bob Bass said that Orlando will assume $350,000 of Green's $837,500 salary this year. The Magic also agreed to pay forward Mike Mitchell's salary ($125,000). Mitchell, who has a guaranteed contract, was released Thursday by San Antonio.

MAGIC FACTS

Who: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks in regular-season opener.

Where: The Omni, Atlanta.

Tipoff: 7:30 p.m.

Radio: WTKN_570 AM, WFNS-970 AM.

TV: Channel 32.

Injuries: Orlando _ Morlon Wiley, thigh bruise (injured list); Terry Catledge, knee (probable). Atlanta _ Jon Koncak, ankle (out); Alexander Volkov, broken bones in both wrists (out); Dominique Wilkins, ankle (probable); Moses Malone, leg (probable).

Next game: Orlando faces the Charlotte Hornets Saturday night in the home opener at Orlando Arena.

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