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10 Highly-Anticipated Games for the Orlando Magic in 2018-2019

One of which will be when Mario Hezonja returns to Orlando with the Knicks

NBA: Boston Celtics at Orlando Magic Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It’s officially time to circle a few dates on the calendar.

The Magic schedule was released on Friday, and with some glimmers of optimism within the Magic organization and fanbase, there is some anticipation and excitement for the upcoming season. And not just because the Magic will occasionally wear the classic blue pinstriped jerseys.

The Magic are most likely a year or two away from truly competing for a playoff spot, but the building blocks are in place and it will be fun to see how they progress during the 2018-2019 season.

Below are 10 games that will be of particular interest to Magic fans, many of which come pretty early in the season....

October 17 vs. Miami Heat -- Mo Bamba’s Debut

2018 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The first game of the Magic’s 30th season will mark the professional debut of Mo Bamba, the big man that Orlando hopes will be a centerpiece for the the next decade-plus. The question is, will Bamba be starting that night? With Nikola Vucevic still on the roster, that seems unlikely. The Magic will likely keep Vooch in the starting lineup and ease Bamba into the rigors of the NBA as he matures physically. Still, Bamba showed flashes during his limited minutes in summer league to show that he has a bright future. The game also marks Aaron Gordon’s first since signing his new contract and Jonathan Isaac’s healthy return after being limited to 29 games in his rookie season. And this seems like a perfect time for a shameless plug of our “Victorious B.I.G.” t-shirts that are still available for purchase....

October 19 vs. Charlotte Hornets – Steve Clifford faces his former team

Los Angeles Clippers v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The schedule makers won’t make new Magic coach Steve Clifford wait long to face the team that fired him. The Hornets come to Orlando for the Magic’s second game of the season and Clifford surely would like his vengeance. Clifford’s Hornets swept the season series against the Magic in each of the previous two seasons. Now he’ll look to help snap a Magic losing streak that he helped build. Also, Bismack Biyombo and his $17 million per annual salary return to Orlando after being dealt to the Hornets as part of a package that landed the Magic Jerian Grant and Timofey Mozgov.

October 20 at Philadelphia 76ers – The Bamba/Embiid war begins

NBA: Orlando Magic at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Shortly after the NBA Draft we wrote of how everyone must brace themselves for a Twitter feud between Mo Bamba and Joel Embiid, two big men with big personalities who are destined to provide an old school battle in the middle for the next decade. Embiid welcomed Bamba to the league during a pick-up game earlier this summer, leading to Bamba’s first ever tweet....

The two will meet during the Magic’s first preseason game on October 1. They’ll square off when the games actually count a few weeks later for what we hope will be the first of many battles that lead to an endless supply of tweets.

November 9 vs. Washington Wizards – Dwight Howard returns with a new team....again

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Rockets v Orlando Magic Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Orlando Magic v Los Angeles Lakers

I’ve lost count.

November 17 vs. Los Angeles Lakers - LAbron

2018 NBA Summer League - Las Vegas - Detroit Pistons v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

LeBron James will also be heading to Orlando in a new jersey. And from here on out, he only comes to Central Florida once a season. Magic fans don’t have to wait long to see LeBron in his new wardrobe as Orlando hosts the Lakers just 16 games into the season. The Magic play the Lakers again out West just a week later.

And always remember...

Keep runnin, LeBron.

November 18 vs. New York Knicks – Super Mario returns

NBA: New York Knicks at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The fourth year of Mario Hezonja’s career probably should have been spent in Orlando. But we know why things didn’t work out for with the Magic. Jeff Weltman and John Hammond declined the fourth-year option on the former fifth overall pick prior to last season, making the 23-year-old an unrestricted free agent. Hezonja signed a one-year, $6.5 million deal with the Knicks on the first day of free agency, opting for opportunity over more lucrative options. He’ll have something to prove all season as he plays for his next contract. The Magic get their first look at him on November 11 at Madison Square Garden. He then comes back to Orlando a few days later. Is he greeted with boos or cheers? I wish him well and predict he goes off for 30-something points in one of those two games.

November 23 at Denver Nuggets – IT

NBA: Orlando Magic at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The first game of the Orlando’s six-game West Coast trip brings the Magic to Denver, where they get their first look at Isaiah Thomas, who many Magic fans wanted the team to sign in the offseason to a one-year, low-risk deal. Thomas set off the speculation alarms when he followed the Magic on Twitter during the free agency period. The two seemed a perfect marriage. But Thomas ultimately signed a deal with the Nuggets for the veteran’s minimum, giving him a chance to showcase himself on a playoff team. Thomas now has to prove himself all over again in order to land a lucrative contract. And I still think Orlando was a better fit for IT on a one-year deal.

November 30 at Phoenix Suns – Deandre Ayton vs. Mo Bamba

2018 NBA Summer League - Las Vegas - Orlando Magic v Phoenix Suns Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

It will likely take years before we determine who is the best big man in the 2018 NBA Draft class. But in late-November, we’ll get our first look at the top two centers taken squaring off against one another in a match-up between Deandre Ayton, who was selected first overall by the Suns, and Mo Bamba, who of course went sixth to the Magic. Ayton got the better of Bamba during their summer league match-up.

December 13, 15 vs. Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz – The Mexico City Magic

NBA: Orlando Magic at Utah Jazz Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

The Magic will get some international exposure when the team hosts two homes games in Mexico City during the NBA Mexico City Games. The Magic then get three days off after their trip.

February 28 vs. Golden State Warriors – The Champ is Here!

NBA: Finals-Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The two-time defending champions, and overwhelming favorite to win a third straight, come to Orlando for their only visit of the season. And this time they are bringing DeMarcus Cousins with them. As for other dates that contenders come to town:

November 20 vs. Toronto Raptors: Kawhi Leonard, in what could very well be his only season in Toronto, heads to Orlando with his new team.

January 12 vs. Boston Celtics: the Magic only play the Celtics three times this season, two of which are in Boston. So this is the only time Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and company come to town.

January 13 vs. Houston Rockets: How about that back-to-back? One night after playing the Celtics, the Magic need to contain the Rockets’ big three of James Harden, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. Good luck with that.

January 29 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Russell Westbrook always puts on a show in Orlando.