Here are some dates for Magic fans to circle on their calendars.
Just as we did last year (glad I was wrong when I wrote the Magic are probably a year or two away from competing for a playoff spot), we have compiled a list of some of the most intriguing Magic games of the upcoming season.
With the Magic coming off their first playoff appearance in seven years, it’s a much different feel as the season approaches. No longer a team looking to end a seemingly endless playoff drought, the Magic are instead looking to take the next step in their development as a team. And that all officially begins on….
Opening Night, October 23 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers – The Wait is Over
After the Magic’s unexpected run to the postseason in 2019, their fans have been eager to see them return to the court. That wait will come to an end on October 23 against the Cavs at Amway Center, where we will get a first impression of how much better this Magic team can potentially be. The roster will look nearly identical to that of last year’s team with the biggest storylines on opening night being the healthy return of Mo Bamba and the potential availability of Markelle Fultz. Speaking of…
April 5 at Philadephia 76ers – Markelle Fultz (potentially) in enemy territory
If Markelle Fultz does indeed make a healthy and productive return, this game will be very interesting. While some Sixers fans might be rooting for the Fultz comeback story, many are not. They will take out their frustration on the player their team traded up in the Draft to select with the top overall pick only to see him become a disappointment and mystery. So for Fultz, who played 33 games for the Sixers before being traded to Orlando, it will be a hostile environment during his first game back to Philly (whenever that might be). With the Magic only playing the Sixers three times this season, two of which will be in Orlando, this will be a late-season game. Hopefully Fultz has returned to form by then.
March 29 vs. New Orleans Pelicans – Zion’s Orlando Debut
As it will be in every other city in the league, this will be the most hyped opposing rookie debut in Orlando since LeBron James in 2003. Zion Williamson makes the first of many appearances in front of Orlando fans and he’s bringing the new-look Pelicans with him after Anthony Davis went all Dwight Howard on New Orleans. BTW, LeBron’s debut in Orlando: Christmas Day of 2003, 34 points and 6 assists in a 113-101 overtime loss to the Magic (T-Mac: 41 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds).
December 11 vs. Los Angeles Lakers – LeBron and AD…oh, and Frank Vogel
As for LeBron James and Anthony Davis, they come to town on December 11. Their new coach? Frank Vogel. Vogel, who went 54-110 in two seasons as Magic coach, returns to Orlando for the first time since being fired after the 2017-2018 season. Sad Vogel face probably won’t be as big of a thing in L.A. as it was in Orlando, but with sky-high expectations, and with Jason Kidd breathing down Vogel’s neck on the bench, and with Coach LeBron running the show, the pressure is on. Also, it’s Orlando’s only opportunity to welcome Kyle Kuzma.
December 1 vs. Golden States Warriors – The Steph Curry Show
Kevin Durant is gone. Klay Thompson is injured. The dynasty seems over. They are no longer the defending champions, but they are still the Warriors, at least until proven otherwise. Steph Curry will carry the load in what could be an MVP campaign. Alongside him in the backcourt (barring trade) will be D’Angelo Russell, a player that some in Magic Twitter had great interest in during the offseason.
March 23 at Brooklyn Nets – KD?
Whether Kevin Durant plays against Orlando or any other team this season remains to be seen. The new-look, star-studded Nets first come to Central Florida on January 6 but its highly unlikely Durant will be back on the court by then. But the Magic face the Nets twice in late-March just weeks before the playoffs begin when a Durant cameo could be more realistic.
October 28 at Toronto Raptors – A return to the scene of the crime
The Magic season came to an end North of the Border last season as the Raptors eliminated Orlando in five games during the first round of the playoffs and went on to win the NBA championship. But Toronto was also the site of the Magic’s best wins in years thanks to D.J. Augustin and his Game 1 heroics. While the Magic return intact, the defending champs will look a little different this season…
January 16 vs. Los Angeles Clippers – Kawhi
Doc Rivers must be more lenient with his team plane policy these days than he was in Orlando (Thanks, Doc!). Rivers and the Clippers landed arguably the top prize in free agency with Kawhi Leonard and then gave up the farm to acquire Paul George in a trade with Oklahoma City. With two top-ten talents joining a playoff team, Kawhi could very well capture a second straight championship. The Magic get their first look at the West Coast version of Kawhi in mid-January when they play the Lakers and Clippers in a Hollywood back-to-back. The Clippers then come to Orlando on January 26.
December 13 vs. Houston Rockets – Another Westbrook show in Orlando
Whether it’s been historic triple-doubles or half-court buzzer beaters, Russell Westbrook has put on some memorable performances in Orlando. This time around, he’ll have a new jersey and a new ball-dominant teammate in James Harden. One of the NBA’s most intriguing storylines will be if this duo can co-exist. I predict disaster. But it will be fun to watch.
January 24 vs. Boston Celtics – Kemba in green
The good news is that notorious Magic killer Kemba Walker is out of Orlando’s division. The bad news: he didn’t go far, and he now is on the most talented team that he’s played on. Are the Celtics better off with Steve Clifford’s former point guard than they were with Kyrie Irving? This game could also mark the return to Central Florida for Tacko Fall, the 7’6” UCF product who went undrafted and signed with the Celtics.
November 1 vs. Milwaukee Bucks – The Best of the East?
Ask four people to predict the upcoming Eastern Conference champion and you very well may get four different answers. Many might say the Embiid-Simmons-Harris-Horford led Sixers have the most firepower. Others will say the Celtics are better with Kemba than Kyrie. Some believe the Nets will get Kevin Durant back late in the season and make a deep playoff run. But the road to the NBA Finals will most likely run through Milwaukee, where a 60-win team and MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will be waiting. The Magic get an early-season measuring-stick game against them.
January 3 vs. Miami Heat – The Battle of the Southeast
The Magic have hosted the Heat to open the season in each of the previous three years. This time around, the two won’t meet for the first time until 2020. The post-Dwyane Wade era is officially underway for the Magic’s neighbors to the south. And the Jimmy Butler era has begun. The Southeast Division champion will once again likely be from Florida, just a matter of which team.
February 10 vs. Atlanta Hawks – Farewell, Vince.
The 42-year-old Vince Carter makes his final stop in Orlando during what will be the 22nd and final season of his career (an NBA record). The Daytona Beach native wraps up an illustrious career in which he is slated to become the first player in NBA history to play in four different decades. A brief portion of that, of course, was spent with the Magic. While many view Carter’s season-plus tenure in Orlando as a disappointment, he’ll receive a fond farewell from the Orlando crowd. Also, the Hawks are establishing a young core that the Magic will have to deal with for the next decade.
The Playoffs - TBD
Exhilarating as the Magic’s return to the postseason was, winning one (or fewer) playoff games this season will be a grave disappointment. The Magic brass is banking on internal improvement and hoping that continuity takes them to the next level. What that level is exactly is up for debate. Second round or bust? A hard-fought first round match-up? Share your thoughts in the comments below.