Flashforward to late next season.
Jonathan Isaac makes a crucial block at one end of the court, Markelle Fultz pushes the ball down court and delivers an outlet to a currently unknown top-five draft pick, who drains a three to put the Orlando Magic ahead.
A capacity crowd at Amway Center - one that admittedly has never set decibel records but has been silenced for far too long - goes wild as the Magic continue a potential playoff push after what is hopefully a rapid restart.
Soon enough, the Orlando crowd will get to welcome back a healthy Isaac and Fultz, and give a proper full-capacity welcome to Cole Anthony and Chuma Okeke, and cheer for meaningful basketball for the first time in a long time (because even during the Magic’s recent cameos in the postseason, the team’s ceiling was so low it never truly felt genuine).
Now, this team is building towards something. The path is clear. The crowd can be a difference maker.
With the first-round of the playoffs underway, the most noticeable difference in the games has been the addition of nearly full crowds. According to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey, more than 50 percent of fans around the country said the inclusion of fans has significantly improved the viewing experience, only 16 percent said it hasn’t improved the experience at all.
With the rest of fans around the country watching at home, there is no shortage of great opening round series to enjoy. 30 percent of fans around the country believe the Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers series is the best of the group. The New York Knicks series against the Atlanta Hawks is the next most popular choice, with 21 percent of the vote.
Similarly, 26 percent of fans believe the Suns best display the characteristics of a successful team.
It’s a Suns team that, despite trailing the Lakers 2-1 in the series entering Sunday’s Game 3, went from missing the playoffs last season as a 34-win team to taking the No. 2 seed as a 51-win team (and drew an unfortunate first-round matchup).
A Magic team that could be adding two top-10 picks, and that could have both Isaac and Fultz healthy for a playoff push, and that could see continued internal development with young players like Mo Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr. and R.J. Hampton, perhaps could follow a somewhat similar one-season turnaround by putting it all together and getting back into the playoffs.
The crowd will be waiting....
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