No one would blame you for feeling a bit wistful about the Orlando Magic’s past.
For the past two weeks, the Magic have been highlighting the celebration of their past ahead of their 35th anniversary season. There have been throwback photos posted to the team’s social media accounts, the debut of new throwback uniforms and a special throwback wordmark for the court for select games this season and even some fans got autographed prints of the new court from former players like Marcin Gortat with their season ticketholder packages.
We even did our celebration of the team’s history throughout August and we are certainly not done celebrating the team’s future.
But there is also work ahead. The season is just one week away from beginning.
And while everyone loves to celebrate the past, what makes this anniversary season so different is that there is a lot to look forward to in the future. The Magic seem on the precipice of their next celebrated era with potential stars in Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner and plenty of promising young talent throughout the roster.
The Orlando Magic’s much-anticipated 2024 season is nearly set to begin. There are a lot of reasons to be excited and Magic alumni seem just as eager to see the team take this step forward.
The goal for the Magic is to level up and play better basketball. They will not officially put any limits or hard-and-fast expectations on the team. But everyone seems to know that the goal and the expectation is for the Magic to reach the postseason this year.
And with several Magic fan favorites and legends in town for the season ticketholder tip-off for the 35th anniversary season earlier this month, they were asked about the team the Magic are building. And they see a team capable of carrying the torch and the legacy they had built in the newly re-minted jerseys.
"“Me, personally, I’m expecting big things,” Nick Anderson said after the Magic’s season ticket holder event two weeks ago. “Talent-wise, I think we matchup across the board. We’re young, I think we’re exciting. You have games under your belt. You might not have playoff games. But you have a coaching staff who are good teachers.“I’m expecting big things. People might not come out and say it, but me personally I’m expecting big things.”"
Anderson is around this team as much as anybody as a community ambassador for the team. He has seen a lot of this team grow up. But there is also nobody who has seen more of the Magic’s history firsthand than him.
It is hard not to share his excitement and the sense of seriousness that is coming around this team.
Jalen Suggs said one of the ways the team will get better is understanding that the team has experience to draw on that should help the team improve.
Anderson echoed that. The team has been through battles for the last two years and experienced what winning consistently was like next year. This team may not have postseason experience but they have enough experience to keep growing.
Health too will play a key role. As almost everyone would note the Magic missed the postseason last year solely because of the injuries that gutted the team in the first quarter of the season.
But there is also no denying the talent on the roster either. And that is only feeding the potential everyone sees in this team.
Nobody is ready to say the team is ready for title contention. But they all see the potential in this group and what it can mean for the team as a whole.
Everyone is just eager to see the team start winning and competing again.
"“They have put really good players together,” Hedo Turkoglu said. “There are three or four guys you can really build around and can really take this organization to the next level. I’m sure Paolo [Banchero], Franz [Wagner], Wendell [Carter], those guys can be really the face of this franchise for a long time. They can put some experience and guys who have been around and help those young guys develop in those moments. I am sure they will be really successful for a long time.”"
It is a little bit of pressure for sure. Everyone around the league recognizes how good the young talent on the Magic is and can be. They all might differ on the timeline the Magic are on. But after winning 34 games last year, everyone is expecting a step up of some kind.
There was certainly curiosity created by the first overall pick on the team. But Magic fans quickly responded to the team, selling out several games early in the season and sticking with them throughout the season.
According to Basketball-Reference, the Magic were 14th in the league in total attendance last season. The play on the court and the hope that it brings certainly has a lot to do with that. The crowds certainly started building as the season went on.
They started to feel that homecourt advantage. And that is something the Magic’s legends know can lift the team.
"“I think this city has kind of been waiting for this resurgence, this moment of building a powerhouse here,” Ryan Anderson said after the team’s season ticketholder tip-off event. “You have the young talent here. You have guys who are the future of this league and are good guys and want to build a good culture. The organization wants to build a good culture around those guys. That’s what matters to me. That was our success while I was here in Orlando.”"
Anderson said the team’s culture starts with the star players and the way the team goes about doing things. It was the strongest element of the Dwight Howard teams from 2008-12 (before it all started to crack and fall apart).
It is a hard thing to define for sure. But you know it when you have it.
The culture is certainly something many Magic fans point to. All of the players on the team are likable and they all seem extremely close. But the team is still developing its way to play.
Coach Jamahl Mosley has talked about how the team will need to take that closeness and turn it into accountability within the group and eventually results on the court
Nothing is guaranteed in this league no matter how much talent the Magic have on the floor.
But a lot is clearly expected of this team. It is not just from the external legends who want to see the franchise return to its level of greatness. It is also from the players on the team who feel the potential with this team.
Everyone is eager to get things started this year.
"“This has been a great summer,” Suggs said. “As a team, I think everybody has done a great job. Everybody is growing up. I think we’re all coming together at the same time to take that next step as an organization.“The energy that we have going on in the building, every morning you step into the building, the whole staff is there, a lot of the team is there. You really just want to work for the guy next to you. That has been our mindset. Coming into this season, we’re all very confident and ready to work.”"
Will this team stand up to the test of time? Will this team truly take that step up to compete not only this year but for a long time?
That is what everyone with the Magic is hoping will come true. This season is a first step to make good on that promise. Everyone within the organization and around it feels it is certainly possible.