The final 12-man roster doesn't have to be set until Nov. 3, but you might expect a couple surprises from the Orlando Magic:
Veteran backup center Greg Kite, 33, who missed 52 games last season with a muscle tear in his leg, might be waived so the team can keep youngsters Keith Tower and Geert Hammink. Assistant coach/player Tree Rollins could begin the year as one of three players on the injured-reserve list.
Diminutive point guard Greg Grant, invited to training camp at the last moment when it was clear Anfernee Hardaway would be a holdout, seems poised to make the club. He would be the sixth guard on the roster.
"It's a wonderful problem to have," Magic vice president of basketball operations John Gabriel said of the team's plethora of centers competing to back up Shaquille O'Neal. "But it becomes painful to think you can't retain all of those guys. It's hard to come by big bodies, particularly hard-working, big bodies."
Kite, a physical low-post presence with limited offensive skills but loads of experience (four appearances in the NBA finals while with Boston), hasn't played since sustaining a concussion in training camp.
"Financially, I'm the one they have the biggest commitment to," Kite said recently. His guaranteed contract calls for him to earn about $1-million this season. "They could end up with me or Tree or trade me, that's the only thing that would make business sense. But I think that's unlikely."
Agent Keith Glass said he hasn't heard trade talk but wouldn't have any trouble finding another NBA club for Kite.
"I'd say it'd take 15 to 20 minutes," Glass said.
If the 5-foot-7 Grant, who has played for Philadelphia, Phoenix and New York, doesn't make this club, he too probably could find a job.
"Every team in the league can use a guy that can change tempo and Greg represents your ultimate in backup-point tempo changer," Gabriel said. "Chemistry is also important and he has the right mentality you need in the backup role."
Look for forward Jeff Turner, recovering from knee surgery, to begin the season on IR. The third and final IR spot will have to be utilized as well. But don't expect rookie forward Rodney Dent there.
Dent, the team's second-round draft choice (No. 31 overall), was rehabilitating his left knee when he suffered a stress fracture in the summer. He remains unsigned and his agent, Steve Endicott, is pursuing options overseas.
"We're working on a possible opportunity in Italy," he said.
Back pains: Sharpshooting forward Dennis Scott, who initially said his lower back pain was "nothing major," is out indefinitely. He left before Wednesday's game, saying he couldn't even sit down, and then remained home as the Magic headed west for two games in Los Angeles and a game at Phoenix on Monday.
"It's frustrating because I worked so hard this summer to get in shape," he said while clutching a box of anti-inflammatories and walking to his car last Wednesday. "I thought I had a real good training camp and then my back starts hurting and I don't know why. I didn't do anything (out of the ordinary) like lift a car.
"I don't want to be out too long; the longer you're out, the harder it is to get into the flow. And we've got a good team. I want to be out there with them. I don't want to be on the bench with a bad back."
In the stores, Part I: Magic general manager Pat Williams has compiled a book of hundreds of sports one-liners, called Jock Jokes. Here are a few selections from the basketball section:
The coach is preparing the team for the crowd noise they'll hear during the season. He runs practices with a laugh track.
A winning streak for this team is back-to-back days off.
Inquiring minds want to know: Describing Hardaway's blockbuster contract is difficult, to say the least. It's worth about $50-million over seven years. All guaranteed. An eighth year is guaranteed if Hardaway performs as expected.
The club has an option for a ninth year. Hardaway also has an option after the sixth year of the deal. If he reaches incentives (which include team-related goals) and the deal runs the entire nine years, it should be worth about $72-million. This season, he will earn about $4-million. That's less than O'Neal, who remains the highest-paid player on the team.
In the stores, Part II: O'Neal has a martial arts video game due out soon, called Shaq-fu. There's plenty of kicks and chops, but no blood _ by O'Neal's demand.
"There are things done in the video game I can only do a little bit," he said. "I can't back flip. I could, back in the Germany days." That's where O'Neal spent time as a child.