Wednesday night the NBA will release its schedule allowing us to set our schedules from now until April of 2015. This is the last big piece of news before the Magic assemble for training camp at the end of September. The roster is pretty much set and players are, for the most part, working out on their own or together behind closed doors before the team gathers for the full season.
So we will grasp at the possibilities of a blank slate as the Magic’s 82-game campaign gets revealed tonight with the rest of the league.
Orlando is not expected to do much this year. ESPN has the Magic finishing 13th in the East (same as last year) with slight win improvements and Vegas does not see a whole lot coming out of Orlando either. I would set the over/under on Magic national television appearances at 1.5. And I would be the one they would possibly get would get pulled as the date gets closer.
That is just the way of the world.
But we are still very excited for the season to come. There will be 41 opportunities for Magic fans to see their team play. Some games carry a little more intrigue than others. And when these games are played help us tell the story of this season too.
Here are the things we typically know about the season: The Magic take their three road trips in early December, early January and March. That usually means the Magic are home for Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. They have not been on the road for either holiday since the lockout season (they played at Oklahoma City on Christmas Day).
So who do we want to see and when do we want to see them? Let’s examine a few possibilities:
Jameer Nelson will make his first return to the Amway Center without Magic pinstripes during the preseason in a return trip from last year’s meeting in Dallas. That will be a bit awkward. But it will also be the preseason, so not as noteworthy.
His first regular season game is sure to include a much more fitting tribute and some much-needed appreciation.
You do not want this game to happen too late in the season so fans can “forget” what Nelson did or officially move on. You want the appropriate amount of nostalgia. A December or January date would give the season enough time to simmer and get our feet wet. The newness of the year will be gone and the team will find its rhythm. Hopefully this means the Magic will have their roles defined and will be able to give us a good game.
vs. Denver Nuggets, January
The Magic may make their trip to Denver in December or January as part of one of their West Coast trips, but January seems about the right time to see Arron Afflalo come back to Amway Center.
Afflalo does not have the same emotional pull that the returns of Dwight Howard or Nelson will have. He was a solid professional who did his work throughout his two years in Orlando. He was clearly frustrated by losing, but was not going to complain about it. He will not get a hero’s welcome in his return, but it will be nice seeing him the one time he comes to Amway Center.
vs. Miami Heat, near Thanksgiving
I am a big fan of playing the Heat around Thanksgiving. Everyone is home and you can usually guarantee an electric atmosphere in Amway Center. In fact, the Magic have played the Heat near Thanksgiving at Amway Center in 2009 and 2010. The Magic had a home-and-home with the Heat about a week before Thanksgiving last year.
Getting this rivalry in early in the season at least once is a good way to juice the state for some basketball interest during football season. Whether we want to admit or not, this is a very natural rivalry that both teams need to take advantage of more. It has provided some extremely classic matchups.
Now that LeBron James is out of Miami, maybe the games will be a bit more even too.
Now for the what could have been matchup.
By the time February rolls around, rookies should be settled in and hitting their stride. Maybe the rookie wall comes in around this time right before the All-Star Break. In any case, to catch the rookies at their best, you want to see them somewhere near the midpoint of the season.
Many expected the Magic to take Dante Exum and surprised the world by taking Aaron Gordon. Magic fans seemed less than thrilled at the time. Only time will tell if it was a mistake.
Magic should get their first look at Exum at some point this season and Magic fans will be taking notes to see just how good their organization came out with the fourth pick. That puts some pressure on Gordon in this matchup too. At least in the fans’ eyes.
vs. Philadelphia, November
You definitely do not want to face the Sixers late this year with what looks like another tanking season upcoming. But Magic fans will want a rematch of the top two vote-getters in the NBA’s Rookie of the Year race. That would be Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams.
Raw stats gave the award to Carter-Williams as he was simply the best player on a god-awful team. Oladipo’s gradual improvement did not register a blip.
The thing is, these two players have had some great games against each other already. Their dueling triple doubles in a double-overtime game was fantastic. They like playing against each other — and they can win the Skills Challenge at the All-Star Game together later too.