We’re going to Disney World. Thankfully, it’s a short drive.
The schedule officially has been released for the NBA’s return, and the Magic will be back on the court for their first regular season game (if that’s what we’re still calling them) on July 31 against the Brooklyn Nets. Pretty big game.
Here’s the remainder of the Magic’s eight-game schedule:
Aug 2. vs. Kings, 6 p.m. (NBATV)
Aug 4. vs. Pacers, 6 p.m.
Aug 5. vs. Raptors, 8 p.m.
Aug. 7 vs. 76ers, 6:30 p.m. (TNT)
Aug 9. vs. Celtics, 5 p.m.
Aug 11 vs. Nets, 1 p.m.
Aug 13. vs. Pelicans, TBD
When the NBA season paused on March 11 following Rudy Gobert’s positive test for COVID-19, the Magic had won three straight games and, with 17 games remaining, were left with the league’s second easiest remaining schedule based on strength of schedule.
Their schedule during the restart, playing teams either locked into a playoff spot or competing for a playoff spot, obviously is more challenging, as it is for the other 21 teams involved in the restart.
The Magic hold a 5.5 game lead over the Washington Wizards for the eight seed. If the Magic remain in the eighth spot and the Wizards manage to close the gap to four games or less, it will force a play-in to determine the final playoff spot beginning Aug. 15.
The Magic trail the Nets by just a half game, meaning they can jump into the seventh seed after their first game back and control their own destiny as they attempt to avoid facing the 53-12 Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. Not that a first round rematch with the second-seeded Toronto Raptors would be a walk in the park.
Using that metric -- counting only the games involving the 22 teams left -- here's who has the hardest schedule in the seeding round ...— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) June 26, 2020
... and the easiest
When play resumes, it will be interesting to see which version of the Magic takes the court after a three-month layoff. Prior to the hiatus, the Magic were playing their best basketball of the season, winning eight of their last 12 and posting a league-best offensive rating of 118.2 thanks to improved shooting percentages over that span.
The Magic defense, expected to be the strength of the team, during that span slipped to third worst in the league with a rating of 115.6. If only the Magic could add an emerging young talent who could help at that end of the court…
The restart availability of Jonathan Isaac, who has been out since New Year’s Day with a knee injury, has been a burning question during the hiatus for the Magic.
“I can’t give you a timeline on exactly when I’m hoping to be back,” Isaac told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck earlier this month. “My thing is just taking it day-by-day. When they say the league is ready to go i can have a conversation with them and say, ‘Look what do you think? Am I ready to go?’ And then we’ll go from there. But I’m excited. I’m definitely optimistic about the possibility.”
The NBA’s first game back will, of course, feature Zion Williamson (read about how the NBA’s love for Zion makes the Magic’s road to the playoffs slightly more challenging) as the Pelicans take on the Jazz on July 30. The second game of the doubleheader features the Lakers and Clippers.
All of this, of course, is tentative. The NBA schedule release came on the same day that Florida set a single-day record for the number of positive tests for the coronavirus.