5 questions for the second quarter of the Orlando Magic’s 2023 season

Franz Wagner was brilliant in leading the undermanned Orlando Magic to a gutsy home win over the Dallas Mavericks. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner was brilliant in leading the undermanned Orlando Magic to a gutsy home win over the Dallas Mavericks. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /
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Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic
Markelle Fultz is nearing his season debut. The Orlando Magic are eager to see what he looks like and how he helps this young roster. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

5 questions for the Orlando Magic’s second quarter

Will the Orlando Magic get healthy?

The biggest question facing the Orlando Magic will have to do with health.

It was the overarching story of the first quarter of the season with Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz missing the first 21 games (Fultz returned Wednesday in Game 22), Jalen Suggs going in and out of the lineup, Gary Harris returning late in the run, Paolo Banchero missing seven games with a sprained ankle and Cole Anthony missing all but the first four games of the season.

The Magic’s injury list is still quite long with Wendell Carter currently sitting with a plantar fascia strain (he is likely out another week or two), Jalen Suggs and Chuma Okeke dealing with soreness in previously injured body parts and Gary Harris now dealing with a strained hamstring.

It still feels like every time the Magic bring one player back, they lose another one. And that has made it hard to evaluate much of anything in this season of evaluation.

Even a veteran NBA coach like Jamahl Mosley has said openly he has never seen a team go through the injuries this team has gone through.

It is not completely surprising the team has faced some physical and mental fatigue trying to make up for it.

There have been good things that have come out of it. The injuries have forced the team to feature Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero more as ball-handlers, an experiment the team surely envisioned when it drafted Banchero trying to leverage their playmaking. Both have had successes and struggles there.

It also helped the team push Bol Bol into the starting lineup and try its mega lineup to see its potential strengths and flaws. There is a lot to like about it and a lot that still needs some work.

But the team would still like to see its full complement so many of these experiments can remain experiments rather than full-on identities for this young team.

Fultz and Anthony already made their returns. And they immediately upped the team’s pace, giving the Magic a much more solid base at point guard. They need time to work their way back into game shape and the lineup, but their impact was still pretty clear.

Carter, Suggs and Okeke’s injuries should be fairly short-term. It is just a matter of the Magic feeling comfortable that they can stay on the floor without reaggravating these injuries.

And, of course, hanging in the background, Jonathan Isaac will return to the court at some point. He has been playing five-on-five with coaches for a while. It is just a matter of getting him on the court without restrictions with the main roster.

Next week’s five-game homestand may be big in getting Isaac some time on the court with the team in his final ramp-up to playing. The more likely date for Isaac’s return would be the stretch of five of six games at home beginning Dec. 23.

That would be quite a Christmas gift (there is not another extended homestand until the end of January). But everyone has gotten their hopes up before with Isaac only for it to pass without much news.

That has kind of how things have been. Getting Isaac back t last would signal the team is as healthy as it is going to be and the team can really begin testing and looking at this group more seriously.