There is always something everybody is unhappy about, whether it is the number of back-to-backs, the distribution of games, when the road trips are. Nobody is ever happy with the schedule.
And it typically all evens out in the end.
The Magic have every right to be a bit peeved they will play a league-high 15 back-to-backs this season. But three of those are home-home back-to-backs. Not nearly as physically taxing as having to travel (say from Houston to Milwaukee for a late-season back-to-back, but I digress).
Orlando also probably is a bit annoyed by the early West Coast trip and the road-heavy start to the season. But it all comes back around with an eight-game homestand in March that could set the team up for its hopeful postseason push.
Fans always immediately complain about one thing when the schedule comes. Especially Magic fans.
Orlando will be featured on national TV only five times this season — four on NBATV, all early in the season, and once on TNT.
The Orlando Magic have just one traditional nationally televised game this coming season. If they want more, they have to earn it on the court.
The TNT game in February against the Oklahoma City Thunder will be a landmark game for the franchise. It will be the Magic’s first nationally televised home game since LeBron James was on the Miami Heat. It appears that it will be the Orlando Magic’s first nationally televised game outside of the Bubble since the 2019 season finale against the Charlotte Hornets.
You cannot blame Magic fans for being a bit starved for attention then. Especially with the reigning Rookie of the Year and a team that is hopeful of making the postseason.
That goes double when you consider the NBA has opted to give Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs 11 appearances on national TV (including three during the In-Season Tournament). It all feels very unfair.
Except in the instance of attraction players like Wembanyama (19 including NBATV appearances) or for big-market teams like the New York Knicks (25 including NBATV appearances), the Magic have work to do to get noticed. There are no advantages for the Magic to get the attention of the TV executives.
And more than anything that is how the team has to view this season. It is the overarching goal for the year.
This season for the Magic is all about earning respect.
Respect from around the league. Respect from opposing fans. Respect from the broadcasters.
Orlando admittedly has not earned that respect quite yet. They have been near the bottom of the league’s standings for the last decade. They are still viewed fairly derisively among fans — the shorthand for a team in a perpetual rebuild and the reason why the Magic are sometimes off-handedly mentioned as needing to go all-in on a disgruntled star despite the patient nature of their front office.
It was no surprise despite Banchero’s historic rookie season that Orlando only managed one national TV game outside of NBATV. The Magic just are not a part of the national narrative.
Their market size and their history of losing over the last decade certainly play a role in that. The NBA definitely puts a lot heavier emphasis on established stars and bigger markets in what they believe will maximize TV ratings and interest in the league (that is certainly something I would debate, but I do not have their data informing their decisions).
Orlando is an unproven commodity in that regard. And this season is about proving what this team is about and what it could be about.
National television appearances on the schedule are all about currency.
They are bought for by creating interest and being part of the national narrative. These teams either need some novelty or notoriety to get them on TV — last year Orlando had its lone national TV appearance pulled because Chet Holmgren got hurt, losing out on an early season battle of the top two picks — or be part of the title picture.
The NBA wants to paint a broad picture of its league to get everyone invested for the playoffs when the league really makes its money.
Regular season games are really an appetizer for what fans will see in the postseason. Every emphasis in the regular season is (rightly or wrongly) meant to set up those bigger money games for them.
This is what the Magic will be fighting to earn this season.
Everyone anticipates the Magic will be fighting for a postseason spot this year. And that will get them a bit more notice. Everyone anticipates Banchero to take another step forward in his game and perhaps flirt with an All-Star appearance. That will get them a bit more notice. Franz Wagner too should be flirting with a trip to Indianapolis too.
They have to prove if the way they played to end last season is something they can stretch to a full season. They have to prove which of their young players can grow into role players for this team and what the team needs to succeed moving forward. They need their young stars to prove themselves at a higher echelon.
It is a fascinating season for that reason. Orlando has a lot to prove and a lot of room to grow. And the front office is going to know how quickly it can build and grow after getting through this season.
At the end of the day, the way for the Magic to get on national TV more is to win. That is the ultimate ticket to getting noticed in this league. And that is the task ahead of the Magic this season.
Orlando can get more national TV appearances, but it will be earned in the respect they gain this year by showing themselves as the team on the rise in the Eastern Conference. And that is on everyone to accomplish.
If they take care of their business and make the growth everyone anticipates, they should find themselves in the spotlight more for the 2025 season.
Everything in this league is earned on the court at the end. The Magic will have to force the league to notice them.