The Orlando Magic made their entrance to the playoffs in what many call Heart & Hustle 2.0. How we ultimately remember this season is about what comes next.
The 2019 season caught everyone by surprise.
The Orlando Magic did little in the summer of 2018 other than begin laying the foundations for what would come. The 2019 season was always going to be about what would happen next and how the team set itself up for the future.
President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman was finally getting his hands into the team. He had the coach he wanted to build with the hiring Steve Clifford. And now it was about figuring out how best to move forward.
On the court, the team found itself and found its foundation. The team grew in ways nobody expected. And ultimately it made the playoffs, changing the narrative about this team’s future.
We know now that Orlando moved forward into the 2020 season with the same roster. If this season was to build its foundation the team surveyed the free-agent landscape — and its own needs — and decided that this team could continue growing. A season that was meant to be a transition turned into a season of doubling down.
And so in that way, the year was exactly what it was always meant to be. The team received confirmation that its players as presently constructed can win and make the playoffs.
The next step is growth. And for this season to mean anything historically and be more than what it actually was, that growth and that upward trajectory has to continue.
The Orlando Magic of 2019 accomplished a lot for that team. It put aside six of the worst years in Magic history and had its breakthrough moment.
Whether this team was actually good within the confines of Magic history is not up for much debate. Among the teams that made the playoffs and lost in the first round, the 2019 Magic might very well be the worst. It compares more to the middling teams like the Dwight Howard-led 2007 team or the teams that faced the lockouts and a shortened season.
The 2019 Magic will not go down among the best teams in the franchise’s history.
Yet, it already seems this team will resonate. It surprised so many people and recaptured the spirit in the city. The 2019 team was more than the sum of its parts and made watching basketball and being a fan fun again.
None of that will matter though if they cannot do it again. A lot of that success can disappear quickly. And a heartwarming season can quickly get forgotten.
For the 2019 season to mean anything historically for the team, it must follow its predecessors and become the start of something. For the 2019 season to mean anything in franchise history, Orlando has to do it again and continue its growth trajectory.