Magic Set to Open Season Against Familiar Foe

by John Denton

ORLANDO -- Head coach Steve Clifford, rookie center Mohamed Bamba and the rest of the new-look Magic will make their regular-season debuts with Orlando at the Amway Center against a couple of familiar foes – the Miami Heat and the Charlotte Hornets.

Orlando opens its 30thanniversary season with home games against the Heat (Oct. 17) and the Hornets (Oct. 19). It is the third consecutive season that the Magic will open at home against the rival Heat. (They did that just twice before in the previous 27 seasons, with the Magic beating the Heat in the 1992 and ’93 season-openers.) As for the second game of the season, it will pit Clifford – who was hired on May 30 to be the Magic’s new head coach – against the Charlotte franchise that he coached over the previous five seasons.

Those first two games are just a couple of the many highlights in the Magic’s 2018-19 season schedule, which was officially released by the NBA on Friday. All throughout the season, the Magic will be celebrating their 30th year in existence and honoring some of the key people associated with the franchise. Over the past three decades, Orlando has reached two NBA Finals, captured two Eastern Conference titles, nabbed five division crowns and won 50 games five times.

Orlando will have just 14 sets of back-to-back games – one fewer than last season and the least amount it has had since the 13 back-to-backs in the 2012-13 season. Included among those back-to-backs are three instances where the Magic will have home games on consecutive nights. Also, the franchise will play 21 of its 39 games at the Amway Center on either Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights.

Additionally, the Magic will have a season-long five-game, 12-day homestand late in the season (March 14-25) and early on they will encounter two road trips of at least six games (Nov. 23-Dec. 4 and Dec. 31-Jan. 9). As for fall’s major holidays, the Magic will play at the Amway Center two days prior to Thanksgiving (Nov. 20 vs. Toronto) and it has home games just before (Dec. 23 vs. Chicago) Christmas and also the day after (Dec. 26 vs. Phoenix).

Superstar forward LeBron James, who left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers in July, will make his lone Amway Center appearance on Nov. 17. Golden State, NBA champions each of the past two seasons, will play in Orlando on Feb. 28. In something of a scheduling twist, the Magic will face James and the Lakers (Nov. 25 in Los Angeles) and Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors (Nov. 26 in Oakland) on consecutive nights early in the season.

As announced earlier in the week, Orlando will headline the NBA Mexico City Games 2018 in mid-December. The Magic will officially be the home team when they face the Chicago Bulls (Dec. 13) and Utah Jazz (Dec. 15) at Mexico City’s Arena Ciudad de Mexico.

The Magic will open training camp on Sept. 25 at the Amway Center and begin preseason play on Oct. 1 in Philadelphia. Orlando will play three home games during the preseason (Oct. 5 vs. Flamengo; Oct. 10 vs. Memphis; and Oct. 12 vs. San Antonio) before beginning the regular season five nights later.

The Magic drafted the 7-foot Bamba – a center possessing the longest wingspan (7 feet, 10 inches) ever recorded in the NBA – with the sixth overall pick in the June NBA Draft to pair with 6-foot-11 forward Jonathan Isaac. Orlando also signed standout forward Aaron Gordon to a long-term contract extension in July. The hope is that Clifford – who worked previously for the Magic as a highly successful assistant coach from 2007-12 – can quickly mold Orlando’s dynamic, young talent and a veteran core that includes Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Jonathon Simmons, D.J. Augustin and Terrence Ross into a winner. The hope is that Clifford will get the franchise back into the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.

Other notable nights and stressful stretches on the Magic’s regular-season schedule include:

  • Like all their NBA brethren, the Magic will play 30 games against the 15 teams from the opposite conference and 52 games against squads from their own conference. Of those 52 games versus the East, the Magic will play 18 against foes from the Atlantic Division, 18 versus Central Division teams and 16 games against Southeast Division rivals. It’s the breakdown of the 36 games against Atlantic and Central Division teams that could potentially make things more difficult for the Magic.

    This season, Orlando will play four games against several teams expected to be at the top of the East – Toronto, Philadelphia, Indiana and Washington. And among the six games combined against Boston and Milwaukee, Orlando will play four of those on the road. The Magic will face Brooklyn just three times, and of the four games against the Bulls, two will be in Chicago and a third will be in Mexico City.

    Facing top teams four times means plenty of must-see games at the Amway Center for Magic fans. The Raptors and new forward Kawhi Leonard (Nov. 20 and Dec. 28), 76ers and stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons (Nov. 14 and March 25) and the Pacers and Most Improved Player award-winner Victor Oladipo (Dec. 7 and Jan. 31) visit the Amway Center twice. So, too, do Southeast Division rivals Miami (Oct. 17 and Dec. 23), Washington (Nov. 9 and Jan. 25), Charlotte (Oct. 19 and Feb. 14) and Atlanta (March 17 and April 5).

  • The Magic’s first back-to-back of the season features a high degree of difficulty. Following the Oct. 19 home game against Charlotte, the Magic must trek to Philadelphia for an Oct. 20 game against the vastly improved 76ers. That game in Philadelphia is the start of the two-game trip that also includes a difficult showdown in Boston (Oct. 22).
  • As if a Nov. 4 game in San Antonio didn’t already pose enough of a challenge, it will likely prove even more difficult when the Magic are forced to face Cleveland in Orlando a night later. Fortunately for the Magic, the NBA changed the tip time against the Spurs to 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. in San Antonio), allowing the Magic an extra hour to account for their travel back to Florida and the next night’s 7 p.m. start in Orlando.

    The NBA, which has worked diligently to give team’s more rest and better account for time zone changes when travelling, altered two other start times that affect the Magic. A Jan. 27 game between the Rockets and Magic was moved back an hour to 7 p.m. ET (6 p.m. in Houston) so as to give Houston more rest following a road game the night previously. Also, Orlando’s Feb. 9 game in Milwaukee was pushed to a 9 p.m. ET start (8 p.m. in Milwaukee) – something that could potentially have a negative impact on Orlando a night later when it plays in Atlanta (7:30 p.m. tip time).

  • Nov. 17 and 18 will feature Orlando’s first scenario of the season where it will have home games on consecutive nights. The Magic will host James and the Lakers in the first game and will face former Orlando forward Mario Hezonja and the New York Knicks on the second night. There will be two more instances where the Magic will play at the Amway Center on consecutive nights: Jan. 12 versus Boston and Jan. 13 against Houston; and Jan. 18 against Brooklyn and Jan. 19 versus Milwaukee.
  • The Magic’s first extended road trip of the season – six games over 12 nights from Nov. 23-Dec. 4 – could prove to be extremely difficult for the young squad. The team will depart Orlando on Thanksgiving Day for games against Denver (Nov. 23), the L.A. Lakers (Nov. 25), Golden State (Nov. 26), Portland (Nov. 28) and Phoenix (Nov. 30). After a short stint back in Orlando, the Magic will end the road run in Miami (Dec. 4). A night later, they will host the Nuggets – the team they started the road trip against – this time at the Amway Center.
  • Prior to headlining NBA Mexico City Games 2018, the Magic will face rookie guard Luka Doncic and the Mavericks for the first time in Dallas (Dec. 10). Doncic was chosen third overall in the June NBA Draft – three spots ahead of Orlando’s Bamba. The Magic’s two games in Mexico City – Dec. 13 against Chicago and Dec. 15 versus Utah – will be the franchise’s second visit to Mexico City after playing an exhibition game there in Oct. of 2012.
  • The Magic will have their second-longest home stand of the season – four games spread over eight nights – in late December. Orlando hosts Miami (Dec. 23), Phoenix (Dec. 26), Toronto (Dec. 28) and Detroit (Dec. 30) in that home spree. The game against Phoenix will likely pit Bamba against Suns’ 7-foot center Deandre Ayton, a long-time AAU and high school nemesis who was the No. 1 overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft.
  • The Magic will end 2018 on the road, and that’s fitting because that’s where they will spend a major chunk of time in the 2019 portion of the schedule. Nine of the 16 games in January will be played on the road and from January to April a daunting 26 of the 46 games will be played away from home. After playing in Charlotte on New Year’s Eve, the Magic continue onto Chicago (Jan. 2), Minnesota (Jan. 4), the Los Angeles Clippers (Jan. 6), Sacramento (Jan. 7) and Utah (Jan. 9). The taxing trip will see the Magic play in all four time zones in the continental U.S.>/li>

  • The Magic come out of the break for the NBA All-Star Game with a home game against Chicago (Feb. 22). They then play seven of the next nine games on the road. One of the two home games will be against Golden State, heavy favorites to win their third straight title and a fourth in the past five years.

    That stretch could very well be a make-or-break one for the season for the Magic, which has hopes of ending a playoff drought that extends to 2012.

  • If Orlando can weather a difficult January and February, it will have the longest home stand of the season from March 14-25 – five games spread out over 12 nights – to potentially rack up victories. The Magic host Cleveland (March 14), Atlanta (March 17), New Orleans (March 20), Memphis (March 22) and Philadelphia (March 25) during that lengthy stay at home.
  • If the Magic are to reach the postseason, they will have to overcome a closing kick that features a high degree of difficulty. Not only are 11 of the last 19 games on the road, but there are difficult back-to-back sets of games on March 13-14 (at Washington and vs. Cleveland) and March 25-26 (vs. Philadelphia and at Miami). Orlando closes the regular season with challenging road games at Boston (April 7) and Charlotte (April 10).

    Magic season tickets, partial plans, group and single-game Amway Center suite rental opportunities are on sale. Ticket highlights for the Magic’s 2018-19 season in the Amway Center – honored with TheStadiumBusiness Awards’ 2013 Customer Experience Award and named SportsBusiness Journal’s 2012 Sports Facility of the Year – include: 2,500 seats priced $20 or less; 8,000 seats priced $40 or less; and 9,000 seats priced $50 or less. Single-game tickets for all regular-season games will go on sale Aug. 30 at 10 a.m. For more ticket information, log onto OrlandoMagic.com or call 407-89-MAGIC.

  • Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.