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Pair of Lakers games heads Magic season

The Orlando Magic begins in earnest its life without Shaquille O'Neal with a season opener at home against Washington on Nov. 1, the 50-year anniversary of the first NBA game.

The Magic released its schedule Thursday, one week after O'Neal bolted for the Los Angeles Lakers. The teams meet twice next season, Dec. 6 in Los Angeles in a nationally televised TNT game, and March 23 at Orlando Arena, televised by NBC.

The Magic will have some time to adjust to the absence of its departed superstar center. Only three of its first 14 games are against playoff teams.

"While we know the upcoming season will present certain demands, we are looking forward to the opportunities and challenges before us," Magic general manager John Gabriel said in a prepared statement.

If nothing else, the team will rack up some frequent-flier miles. Orlando travels to Tokyo Nov. 7 and 8 for two regular-season games against New Jersey. The latter game will be shown live at 10:30 p.m. on TNT, one of 20 national TV dates for Orlando, which was on national TV 21 times last season.

Orlando has some tough road trips. Starting with the Dec. 6 game at Los Angeles, the Magic plays 15 of 21 games away from home.

There's a five-game West Coast swing through Los Angeles, Sacramento, Portland, Vancouver and Utah, then another five-game stretch at Toronto, New Jersey, Dallas, Atlanta and Miami. In March, the team has a six-game trip to Seattle, Los Angeles (Clippers), Golden State, Phoenix, Denver and Houston.

Tickets to individual regular-season games go on sale in late September. Season tickets are sold out, but fans can get on a waiting list by calling the ticket office at (407) 649-3281.

Orlando's preseason schedule will be released early next month and tickets for those games will go on sale in mid-September.

MAVERICKS: Derek Harper, discarded by the Knicks for salary-cap reasons, will end his career in the same city where it began.

The free agent reached an agreement in principle to return to Dallas. An official announcement is expected today.

"He hasn't signed anything yet, but he's close," Harper's agent, George Andrews, said on Thursday. "We have an agreement."

Harper, 34, will ink a reported two-year deal worth approximately $3-million.

The 6-foot-4 guard played for the Mavericks from 1983-93. He is Dallas' all-time leader in assists (4,790), steals (1,459) and three-point field goals (797).

_ Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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