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Gentry: Magic still good without Dwight Howard

The Suns and Magic were supposed to have a lot in common heading into the 2012-2013 season. For both squads, losing the face of their respective franchises seemed to signal the start of a rebuilding period.

But while Phoenix will face an Orlando team Sunday without perennial All-Star center Dwight Howard after August’s blockbuster trade sent him packing to Los Angeles, Alvin Gentry said Jacque Vaughn’s squad is still a talented team.

“I think everyone looked at that team and thought oh they got rid of Dwight Howard,” Gentry said. “But they play extremely hard. They are going to be well-coached, because [Jacque Vaughn] has been under great coaches.”

Vaughn played for five teams during his 14-year career, learning under the likes of Jerry Sloan and Greg Popovich. The former NBA point guard was hired to replace Stan Van Gundy in July.

In addition to a new coach, the Magic’s trade of Howard brought them new pieces in Al Harrington, Aaron Afflalo, Mo Harkless, Josh McRoberts and Nikola Vucevic.

While they’ve only played one game heading into Sunday’s home contest with the Suns, Gentry came away very impressed with the Magic’s opening night 102-89 victory over the Nuggets.

“I watched them play last night,” said Gentry after practice on Saturday. “They play really hard. They execute extremely well. And at the end of the day, they have some pretty damn good players.”

Message being that if the Suns are expecting a cake walk heading into Monday night’s clash with the reigning NBA champion Heat, they have another thing coming to them.

Sunday night’s game is the start of a three-game road swing for Phoenix. They will head to Miami Monday, before wrapping up their first road trip of the season in Charlotte Wednesday.