The Magic depart Monday for their final major road trip of the season — a four-game, six-day trek that will have the Magic visiting Golden State, Utah, Phoenix and Los Angeles (Lakers). After this trip ends, Orlando will have just three road games remaining. That should be a relief for a team that has just four road wins this season — and needs two more wins to match the franchise low of six road wins from the inaugural 1990 season.
The Magic's second West Coast road trip though is more than just a chance to avoid that little bit of franchise infamy. It is sort of a last stand for this year's team. It is really the last time the players will be forced to band together and get a good measure of where the team is. The road trip features battles with Playoff-caliber teams and teams at the end of the lottery.
It should be an interesting mix.
"We'll see where we are," Jacque Vaughn said. "It has been documented how we've played on the road. I think it's a great challenge for us this time of the year to see if we're better and see if we can be in late games and execute. A lot of opportunity to play on the road and see how we respond."
The question is whether 10-day contract signees Dewayne Dedmon and Adonis Thomas will make the trip. Their contracts expire at midnight Sunday night/Monday morning and the Magic will either have to let them go or sign them for the rest of the season. Vaughn said the team has not made a decision on whether to re-sign them or not and they participated in Sunday's practice.
Nikola Vucevic did not participate in Sunday's practice as a precaution to keep him off his sprained ankle suffered against the Wizards. He is expected to play Tuesday in Oakland.
The Magic mentally will have to recover from the overtime loss to the Wizards. That was yet another game where Orlando failed to maintain a late lead and had to try to win it late. They were unable to do so and execute, leaving another hard lesson to learn.
This road trip will be another chance to apply those lessons in hostile environments and measure themselves one last time before the season ends.
"Going on the road trip that we're about to go on, playing some very good teams in the Playoff race is a good test for us as a team," Tobias Harris said. "And for us going forward and getting better, it's a good test. For us as a team to see what they do, why they are playoff teams and for us to get better from our last game, that's the big thing."
The road trip certainly has winnable games. There are no truly elite teams in the West upcoming on the schedule. And the Jazz and the Lakers are two of the worst teams in the Western Conference. There is a chance for the Magic to make some inroads and show some improvement.
Opportunity is there for the Magic. That is the test on the road once again.
"It's all just a mental thing, being prepared for it," Victor Oladipo said. "Going out and playing hard every day and trying to enjoy yourself while you are doing it as well.
"Every team is good. We're definitely going to have to play well no matter who we're playing. We definitely have to be on our game. We can't have a lot of room for error. We have to be ready to play."