Orlando Magic will get an early test with difficult schedule

Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic will have to be ready off the bat with a difficult start to their season. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner and the Orlando Magic will have to be ready off the bat with a difficult start to their season. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

Orlando Magic fans already knew they would face a difficult start to their season with two straight road games for the second time in franchise history. They, like every NBA team, already knew that there would be difficult and manageable parts of the 82-game schedule. the NBA schedule is never easy.

Still, the young Orlando Magic team knows it is going to need some things to break their way and to find some confidence. The schedule is something that can set them up for success or failure.

As coach Jamahl Mosley has repeatedly put it, this season is about leveling up and learning how to and committing to playing winning basketball more consistently. This is a season about growth and development still, but also of watching and analyzing.

The start to this season will prove to be a pretty big test both of the team’s maturity and its readiness to play. Fans hoping for a playoff run are going to find out real quickly just how ready this team might be to make such a run.

The Orlando Magic schedule will feature a difficult start for a young team as they face a ton of road games and quality opponents to start. But it will have opportunities to grow throughout.

The Magic’s schedule, released in full Wednesday, is going to test the Magic especially early. And the path and just how serious Orlando can get about winning will be set within the first month of the season.

In addition to Orlando starting with two road games, the team will start with six of its first eight games on the road. The Orlando Magic’s home opener is on Oct. 22 against the defending Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics, the second night of a back-to-back at that.

At least the Orlando Magic will get its first TNT game since the game against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Bubble in 2020 — and its first non-Bubble and non-Playoff game on TNT’s broadcast since a March 2011 game against the Miami Heat — when the team travels to Oklahoma City to take on second overall pick Chet Holmgren and the Oklahoma City Thunder on (Tuesday,) Nov. 1.

That is a nice reward for getting the top pick and Paolo Banchero.

While the first eight games are mostly on the road, it will feature teams that were on the bottom end of the Playoff or Play-In Tournament ladder — only that home opener against the Boston Celtics and an Oct. 30 game in Dallas against the Dallas Mavericks will face deep Playoff teams from 2022.

That should at least give the team a chance to gauge whether it can hang with those kinds of teams. And the goal is to be more consistent. This is the kind of challenge the Magic want to have.

Orlando will have a chance to pick up some confidence and momentum following that opening stretch. Orlando has a season-long seven-game homestand from Nov. 3-Nov. 16. That homestand will feature the lone trips to Orlando for the Golden State Warriors (Nov. 3), Dallas Mavericks (Nov. 9) and Phoenix Suns (Nov. 11).

Shortly after that home stretch ends, the Magic will start one of their most difficult stretches of the season, playing a stretch of 14 straight games against teams that either made the Playoffs or Play-In Tournament from Nov. 25-Dec. 19.

That stretch features a set of consecutive home games against the Philadelphia 76ers starting the day after Thanksgiving and a homestand that starts with the Milwaukee Bucks (Dec. 5) and LA Clippers (Dec. 7).

This is not the gauntlet that Orlando faced last year around that time on the calendar. The Magic will get plenty of rest and time at home. But the difficulty of the opponents is certainly notable.

At some point, if the Magic are hoping to make the playoffs, they will have to beat these kinds of teams. The Orlando Magic are far from the point of being able to count wins against any opponent — even the opener against the Detroit Pistons or matchups early in the season against the Houston Rockets (Nov. 7 in Orlando, Dec. 21 in Houston).

But by mid-December, the Magic should have a feel of just how good this team can be in the short term and whether things are on the right track. Even if Orlando is already falling out of the playoff race.

The start of this season will be a gut check for the team. A sense of just how committed and bought in they still are and whether they can move above their initial expectations.

If Orlando can get through all this, it is not as if the schedule gets easier, but it will be proof the team can handle this.

Still, the Magic’s main goal is about the team’s growth and development. So regardless of the baseline the team starts with, Orlando wants to be doing the right things and staying together so it can continue to grow.

The Magic will have a chance to take and grow from their lumps without the schedule getting in their way once the calendar turns to 2023. It all seems fairly balanced and normal for this young team.

Orlando can certainly build some confidence at the end of December before heading into the team’s first West Coast trip in early January — that will take them to Northern California, Portland and the Rockies in a five-game, nine-day trip. And the rest of the schedule will face a fair balance of challenges.

Orlando’s other big road trip will take place in early February with a pair of games against the Philadelphia 76ers (Jan. 30 and Feb. 1) followed by the Minnesota Timberwolves (Feb. 3) and Charlotte Hornets (Feb. 5).

Orlando’s final major road trip will take place while the NCAA Tournament is in the Amway Center in mid-March. The Magic will make their final West Coast circuit — San Antonio, Phoenix and Southern California — in a four-game, six-day trip.

That deserves some special points too.

The NBA not only greatly reduced back-to-backs throughout the league but also greatly decreased travel, reducing travel by about 41,000 miles per team. They did this by scheduling significantly more double games where teams play both games against the same opponent in one trip. Orlando has six such instances this season, including their final two home games against the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 4 and 6.

The schedule and the road is now laid out. It will obviously have its pitfalls and traps.

The biggest test for the Magic is indeed in its opening quarter and opening months. Orlando will face a road-heavy start and then a difficult run of opponents that will test this young team.

Next. Orlando Magic's bench will be key to team's success. dark

If the Magic can pass that challenge, there is certainly an opportunity for the kind of tangible growth that they and fans want to see.