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               === Optimistic Pacers open season versus Magic ===
 
 (SportsNetwork.com)  - The 2013-14 NBA season begins on Tuesday night when the
 Orlando  Magic  visit the  Indiana Pacers,  a team  with very legitimate title
 aspirations.
 
 It  was in  last season's Eastern Conference Finals where the Pacers stretched
 the Miami Heat, the eventual NBA champions, to seven games. They used bruising
 frontline  play and stifling defense, the calling card for the Frank Vogel-led
 Pacers.
 
 "Last  year, our  expectations were very high," Vogel said at the team's media
 day.  "Not a  whole lot different this  year, other than I think we're better,
 deeper and more experienced."
 
 It  was in the  postseason where Paul George emerged as a bona fide superstar,
 no  longer in waiting. He averaged 19.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 5.1 apg in 19 playoff
 games  last season  and he was rewarded with a contract extension, believed to
 be for the max.
 
 "They  gave me a  chance and now that I'm in this position, it's really my job
 to  do  everything in my position,  in my will, to  get us to that next step,"
 George said when he signed his contract.
 
 Larry  Bird returned to his position as president of basketball operations and
 improved Indiana through a series of free-agent signings (Chris Copeland, C.J.
 Watson) and a nice trade for veteran forward Luis Scola.
 
 But  perhaps the most significant aspect to the Pacers improvement this season
 was  supposed  to come from  former All-Star Danny  Granger. He played in only
 five games last season with knee ailments, but is a career 18.1 point per game
 scorer.
 
 Granger  could  have easily returned  to Indiana's starting lineup, relegating
 Lance  Stephenson  to a bench role.  But Granger injured his calf in preseason
 and  will  miss at  least three  weeks to start  the season, including Tuesday
 night's game.
 
 The Magic endured the worst record in the NBA last season, but it was all part
 of  a plan.  It was in the  summer before last season, the Magic finally dealt
 malcontent  center Dwight  Howard in  a trade  most felt  Orlando did  not get
 enough.
 
 Fast-forward  to this offseason and the Magic are the only ones who still have
 the  assets  acquired in that  blockbuster. Nikola  Vucevic emerged as a great
 young center and Mo Harkless seems to have a bright future.
 
 Factor  in  Orlando's fleecing of  the Milwaukee  Bucks that saw Tobias Harris
 come to the Magic Kingdom for J.J. Redick, who bolted Brew City, and the Magic
 do have a stockpile of young talent.
 
 Added  to  that mix was Victor  Oladipo, the No.  2 pick in the draft. Despite
 being  a natural shooting guard, the Magic are trying to transition Oladipo to
 the point guard spot to eventually unseat incumbent Jameer Nelson.
 
 Oladipo  will  begin his  NBA career very  close to his  collegiate one as the
 University  of  Indiana  product  makes  his  league  debut  at  Bankers  Life
 Fieldhouse.
 
 "I'm  really excited and  getting this first year under my belt is going to be
 huge  for me," Oladipo told the team's website. "I'm looking forward to having
 fun and learning throughout the season."
 
 The  Pacers won two  of the three against the Magic last season, including two
 in a row. However, Orlando has taken seven of its last 10 in Indianapolis.
 
 10/29 10:33:13 ET