Orlando Magic enter the national spotlight and new sense of excitement

TNT was already moving into the Orlando Magic facilities on Monday ahead of the team's lone scheduled national television game. There is a different buzz for the game Tuesday -- for a number of reasons. It is hard not to get swept up into the excitement.
Wendell Carter and the Orlando Magic are getting ready for a big challenge -- their first national television game of this young group's time together. It is a big stage the team is hoping to step up to.
Wendell Carter and the Orlando Magic are getting ready for a big challenge -- their first national television game of this young group's time together. It is a big stage the team is hoping to step up to. / Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The AdventHealth Training Center was buzzing Monday after practice.

Up in the media room, TNT crews had already taken over to set up interviews with the team's two young stars, Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner. Dennis Scott was in town a day early and shot a segment with Banchero on the practice court.

The whole building is undoubtedly buzzing for the game coming up Tuesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It is not just for Shaquille O'Neal's jersey retirement ceremony. That would make everyone excited on its own. But it is also the first nationally televised game for this young Magic team and the first for the franchise in a long time.

Everyone can feel how big the game is. The challenge for the team will be making it feel like any other. That feels impossible at this point.

"This is probably going to be one of the highest-viewed games of ours going to the playoffs," Wendell Carter said after practice Monday. "There is going to be a lot of hype around it. I think it's going to be a good opportunity for us to show how poised we can be when there is a lot of attention on us as a team and a lot of people in the building watching us. It's a good opportunity for us to get that feel, environment and feel for the game."

It has indeed been a long time since the Magic have been on national TV.

This will be their first regular season game on national TV since the Aug. 7, 2020, game against the Philadelphia 76ers in the Bubble. It will be their first non-Bubble national TV game since the April 10, 2019, season finale at Charlotte against the Charlotte Hornets.

This will be the first regular-season national television game at home since March 25, 2013, when the Miami Heat defeated the Orlando Magic in the final win of a 27-game win streak. That game was added to the schedule for that win streak.

In other words, like so many other things for the Magic this year, they are hitting a lot of firsts since Dwight Howard's departure in 2012. This feels like a big deal and part of the many new experiences this team is going through this year.

"You can sit here and say it's the same game, but it's not," Gary Harris said after practice Monday. "There's a lot more energy in the building. It's something that we just haven't had much of. Not many people have had the chance to see the special things we've been doing, especially in our organization with the team this year. It's a chance to go out there and show the world how good a team we have been this year. You can't let it change how we go out there and play."

The Magic certainly want to use this game to showcase how far they have come. It is their chance to be on a national stage for the first time -- never mind, they are seemingly locked in on making the postseason and sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference after the Indiana Pacers' loss Monday to the Charlotte Hornets.

But the trick to this game will be getting past all the bells and whistles. The Magic must show their poise and ability to focus to get the most out of this game.

Everyone knows the game is on TNT. It is impossible not to recognize that. And there is pressure to put their best foot forward.

Magic fans have certainly highlighted this game from the start of the season. Players can recognize that something is different about this game, too.

The question is how will the Magic respond to that?

"You have to tell things as they are," coach Jamahl Mosley said after practice Monday. "With a young group that's growing and learning how to win and learning how to play and learning the ins and outs of the NBA, you have to speak reality to all of it. It is a bigger game. You're going to be on national TV, and it is the retirement of Shaq's jersey. Those are all things that are in real-time. You address them so they can process them the right way. Don't make the moment bigger than it is, but realize this is a moment. You still have to focus on the game, but that's the most important piece right now."

That will be the biggest thing. The Magic must make this game feel normal while still stepping up to the plate. The closest this team has experienced to a game like this was their Black Friday win over the Boston Celtics in the In-Season Tournament.

The Magic showed up in that one for a 113-96 win in a game that aired on NBATV in a matinee on a holiday weekend. There was undoubted buzz in the building ahead of that one.

After the game, the talk was all about how that moment was the product of three years of building and growing together. That is how they view this opportunity.

Ultimately, they want games like Tuesday night's game to become more commonplace. They want this to be the first of many games on the national stage.

"This is a testament to see where the team is going," Harris said after practice Monday. "We've been improving a lot the past few years. We're getting a lot of attention this year. But this is something that started from a few years back. Just continue to trust the process, continue to work hard, and continue to play for each other and go out there and get a win on national TV. "

That task will not be easy. The Thunder are one of the best teams in the league and a young team on the rise in their own right. They do not get many national TV games and likely see Tuesday as a showcase game for themselves.

Paolo Banchero is a star NBA should give more attention to. dark. Next. Paolo Banchero star 02.12.24

The team is embracing the opportunity and not hiding from it. This is what you want as a player and a team. The Magic are ready to step onto the big stage.