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Nov 18, 2003 8:28 AM

The only magic from Orlando was its 0-8 mark against the spread. Of course, that’s fine so long as bettors have sided with the opponents.

The good folks at Jim Feist’s National Sports Services have come up with a category called the ROI ”” return on investment. The more successful a team is against the number, the higher payback for the buck.

Orlando is the NBA’s worst at -100 percent through eight games. Utah (64%) and Seattle (59%) are the league’s best over the same period. For the most part, however, it has been a 50-50 deal picking teams to cover on a game-to-game basis.

Of the 29 teams in the Association, 17 are either 1 above, below or even ATS. Yes it is very early, but we think most wiseguys and fans would agree that the product commissioner David Stern is throwing at us is very disappointing.

The much-ballyhooed LeBron James-Carmelo Anthony was a dud and many of the league’s teams can’t score 80 points. Some of these games are legitimately good defensive struggles, but most make us refer to the NBA as the National Bricklayers Association.

Oh for the Golden Days of Bird and Magic, Wilt and Russell when holding teams under 100 were considered great defensive performances. There have been some quality games, most involving the high-octane Sacramento Kings.

We’ve noticed some players below the radar, who deserve some early props and are reasons for their team’s early success in both the win and cover columns.

Erick Dampier (Golden State): Dampier has seven double-doubles already this season and his 14.4 rebounds per game leads the NBA.

Zach Randolph (Portland): Has surpassed Rasheed Wallace as leader of the Blazers. The lefty from Michigan State averages 21 points and 11 boards per game.

Rashard Lewis (Seattle): Ranks third in scoring (25.7). Lewis and teammate Ronald Murray (23.8 ppg) have stepped up big with Ray Allen on the shelf.

Greg Ostertag (Utah): After years in Jerry Sloan’s doghouse, "Maytag" has emerged with Stockton and Malone gone. Averaging 10 boards a game, which is huge.

Corey Maggette (LA Clippers): One the Magic let get away. Maggette is having a breakout year thus far, averaging 24.3 ppg.

Michael Redd (Milwaukee): The Allen deal to Seattle also impacted Redd, whose added playing time has resulted in a 22.0 scoring average.

Matt Harpring (Utah): Another ex-Orlando player, who has become Utah’s top scorer at 17.4 ppg.

Keith Van Horn (NY Knicks): Has turned the boos to cheers with his early scoring (17.7) and solid all-around play.

Mike Dunleavy (Golden St): Critics who labeled him a first-round bust a year ago are eating their words. Averaging 15.7 ppg with more playing time.

Andrei Kirilenko (Utah): Second to Harpring at 17.0 ppg, is an excellent player in the open court and an underrated shot-blocker.

And here are some teams we recommend following over the next week or two.

Golden State: The Warriors started 4-2 SU at home with injured Jason Richardson and Troy Murphy out of the lineup.

LA Lakers: Showtime is 2-6 ATS despite a 6-2 start. The books keep putting the inflated numbers up on the board and we’re collecting.

Utah: The Jazz opened 4-0 SU at home and a league best 6-1 ATS. Right now, the books are still giving Utah numbers.