The Orlando Magic lost their opener 113-109 to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.
Yes, that was a common theme last year. And although the Magic ended their campaign with 51 losses last year, this first loss of the 2023 season feels a little different. Because this loss was different.
The Magic made some real history. And it was not just Paolo Banchero’s dominant debut.
The Orlando Magic made NBA history Wednesday night being the first team to have three players 21 years old or younger score 20-plus points in the season debut.
Talk about a moral victory. The Magic made history in their loss, becoming the first team in NBA history with three players 21 years old or younger to score 20 or more points in a regular season opener.
While everyone is comparing Paolo Banchero and LeBron James’ historical rookie debut — Banchero was the first player to score 25-5-5 in his rookie debut since James and had the highest scoring rookie debut since Allen Iverson in 1997.
But he was far from the only one. The Magic had all of their young players playing at very high levels that gave them a chance to win.
It created its own brand of history and pointed to a bright future for the rest of the season.
Jalen Suggs had 21 points and three assists. Franz Wagner had 20 points, five assists and four rebounds. And, of course, the first pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Paolo Banchero, had 27 points, five assists and nine rebounds.
What a statistical night for the Magic’s young core. Even if it came in a loss.
The Magic are slowly getting recognized as having one of the best young cores in the league — The Ringer recently ranked them the fifth-best group of players younger than 25 in the league. They do not get the same talk as more advanced Playoff teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks or Memphis Grizzlies, and rightfully so. The young players on those teams are putting up numbers and are developing quite nicely.
None of those teams accomplished this historical feat of having three players 21 years old or younger score 20 or more points in a season opener either. This is an impressive start for the Magic.
But what does it mean?
In the short term, it means the organization potentially has its three core players they can build around. No one would call the trio a big 3 three yet — Suggs especially has a lot more he has to prove. But they are the building blocks on a young, up-and-coming team. These three can defend and play with the ball in their hands.
The great thing about this scenario is Orlando is finally looking like a destination for an All-Star caliber player to take his talents to when the time is right. The Magic have something to work with and build with. At least to start this season.
The Magic just need this to continue to open up that possibility.
In the long term, it means that this organization is headed in the right direction. It is hard to determine if this team will win more than 30 games at this early point in the season.
The Eastern Conference is better than it was last year and the Magic only won 21 games last year. Banchero should be able to help the team become better. But we will not really know how big of an impact Banchero will have on winning games until he plays against quality opponents. And he will continue to get better.
If fans believe that this is the core the Magic need to nurture going forward then these coaches are going to have to figure out how to win games with this core. Especially against teams who are not predicted to make the playoffs like the lowly Detroit Pistons.
It was a good start for this core of young players but a moral victory at best.