Orlando Magic have to earn any recognition, respect

Wendell Carter had a strong season for the Orlando Magic. But the rest of the league has yet to notice. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Wendell Carter had a strong season for the Orlando Magic. But the rest of the league has yet to notice. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic have largely been content to work in quiet.

The team has been dormant on the national stage since Dwight Howard left town a decade ago. Most people outside of Orlando would struggle to remember that the team made the playoffs twice in 2019 and 2020. Although to be fair, everyone recognized they were due for a quick exit.

The Magic’s second stage of rebuilding under Jeff Weltman which began with the franchise-changing trades in March 2021 has largely been successful. The team collected a solid group of young players, picked up two top-10 picks and picked up the first pick in the draft this offseason.

Quietly, NBA fans are listing the Magic high on their list of League Pass teams. There is some excitement for this team and eagerness to see what they can do.

The hype is building in Orlando and in some circles.

But there is also still a healthy amount of disrespect or ignorance. The Magic are still one of the most nondescript teams in the league. And nobody could blame anyone for not knowing everyone on the roster.

Still, even some of Orlando’s brightest stars after solid seasons that look like the base for a promising core are not getting respect.

The Orlando Magic are still searching for respect and notoriety in the NBA scene. It is something they will have to earn on the court and not be given in the preseason.

The truth is, as much as Magic fans (or any fan base) like to complain about disrespect in the preseason, respect is earned in the league. And the Magic, despite the anticipation for the coming season, have not earned a lot of it.

You do not need to go much further than ESPN’s always-controversial #NBARank of the top 100 players in the league.

Only one Magic player has turned up on the list so far. Unless Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter or Cole Anthony pop up in the top 25, Paolo Banchero will be the only player represented on that list.

Banchero comes in at No. 82 and his betting favorite status for Rookie of the Year is the reason given for his high ranking.

Carter is nowhere to be seen after averaging 15.0 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game on good efficiency and advanced stats. But Grant Williams (No. 99 with 7.8 points per game and 3.6 rebounds per game coming off the bench for a title contender in the Boston Celtics), Mitchell Robinson (No. 98 with 8.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game on another Eastern Conference bottom feeder in the New York Knicks) and Brandon Clarke (No. 94 with 10.4 points per game for the Memphis Grizzlies) are on the list.

This simply defies logic even if you consider Carter a “good stats, bad team guy.” That analysis feels lazy though.

Wagner’s absence also feels egregious. Every member of the All-Rookie First Team made the top 100 except for Wagner. Second teamer Josh Giddey made the list at No. 81. Wagner is at least comparable to Giddey even just looking at stats and perceptions.

And Wagner’s showing at EuroBasket probably has panelists aiming to amend their lists.

These kinds of absences almost delegitimize the whole project. It at least signals how little anyone actually watched or paid attention to the Magic.

Not that they warranted it. The magic had one of the worst records in the league. And they do not have any flashy players that got social media buzzing with gaudy stat lines. Wagner was great as a rookie for his steady consistency.

It is not something that pops off the screen. And it was easy to forget the Magic exist considering how quickly they dropped to the bottom of the standings and remained irrelevant.

The Magic did not earn anyone’s respect, even if there were good signs of the team’s growth throughout the season.

But if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?

That is the feeling of being a Magic fan right now.

That may be getting ready to change some. A lot of that has to do with the top overall pick in Banchero, the only Magic player on the ESPN list.

Any team with the top pick will get that kind of attention. It is the most attention the Magic have had from a national perspective in some time. They have an early season game on TNT, their first outside the Bubble since the Miami Heat’s win streak in 2013.

Eyes are on the Magic a bit more. But it certainly feels like the world outside Orlando and hardcore NBA fans are learning about this Orlando team for the first time.

Banchero will get some attention. And adding a potential star like him through the draft changes the outlook for the entire team. Orlando needs the top star to lead the team and anchor the offense. Everyone anticipates this will be Banchero.

Attention is one thing. Respect is another, though.

And that is only going to come with winning and showing signs the team is ready to win. That is why Banchero has changed the conversation about the Magic. Everyone expects Banchero to be a player to take the team to the next level.

That will raise everyone’s profile.

It is noticeable on this list how much winning — or even a perception of winning — can boost a player. If the Magic become a team that everyone believes can make the playoffs and make noise beyond it, then Carter, Wagner and the rest of the roster will reap the attention.

The Magic, frankly, have not done much to earn any attention. Even if their players have earned it — certainly earned more than the representation they got on ESPN’s list.

But reputation in this league is earned. Peers around the league likely understand the danger that players like Wendell Carter, Franz Wagner and Cole Anthony, along with someone like Terrence Ross or Markelle Fultz pose each night. That is ultimately the respect the team needs.

If they gain that, then the national accolades will come. Winning is ultimately all that matters in this league. And that has been the thing the Magic have been lacking.

Next. Mo Bamba, Wendell Cater will need to succeed on their own. dark

Taking steps toward winning will help Orlando get that recognition and national spotlight more. And that should be the team’s focus.