Here’s our 10 must-see Magic home games for the 2013-14 season:
Nov. 3: Brooklyn Nets at Magic. Brooklyn brings its traveling all-star show to Orlando and renovations are underway at Amway Center just to fit all these egos under one roof. Ex-Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were traded to the Nets, joining Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams. It will be fascinating to see how they play with only one basketball. This match-up pits the Magic’s Mom-and-Pop store team against a rising evil empire.
Nov. 6: L.A. Clippers at Magic. Former Magic coach Doc Rivers and former shooting guard J.J. Redick make their lone appearances in O-Town. Proof that there is a parallel universe: You couldn’t have imagined the Clippers becoming a place where star coaches wanted to go or star players wanted to stay (Chris Paul) 10 years ago. Rivers left the Celtics’ rebuilding project and Redick fled Milwaukee for L.A. after being traded by the Magic last season.
Dec. 31: Golden State Warriors at Magic. Hey, not a bad way to start a New Year’s Eve celebration with this match-up at cocktail hour (5 p.m.). The Warriors are the darlings of the league --- the sort of young, dangerous and entertaining team the Magic aspire to become. They added defensive ace Andre Iguodala to go with a high-powered offense led by Steph Curry. Still, teams are thinking more about clinking champagne glasses instead of ringing in the defense. First team to 125 wins.
Jan. 4: Miami Heat at Magic. Always fun to welcome in the Heat, who will be looking to three-peat as champions. They own the state, and will continue to do so as long as they have the league’s greatest player. Speaking of LeBron, Orlando fans might as well shower him with love because he can opt out the after this season and next, and the Magic have money. Might as well get on the recruiting bandwagon like everyone else, even if it’s a fantasy.
Jan. 15: Chicago Bulls at Magic. Hopefully, Bulls guard Derrick Rose’s knee is still functioning at all-star capacity and the former MVP can put on a show. If Rose can overcome a torn ACL, his next challenge will be overcoming the Heat. It will be the Bulls’ only appearance in Orlando.
Jan. 24: L.A. Lakers at Magic. Well, they’ll still have Kobe Bryant and they’re still the Lakers, a fabulous, if fading, basketball brand name. A year older and with Robo-Kobe sporting a repaired Achilles, the Lakers are a downsized version of Showtime without Dwight Howard, the one who got away. Magic fans can relate.
Feb. 7: Oklahoma City Thunder at Magic: When your team is locked in rebuilding purgatory, it’s the marquee opponents who often justify the price of admission. And the Thunder fit the bill, putting Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on display. Orlando fans also will be reminded by Okie City what lottery luck can do for you.
Feb. 21: New York Knicks at Magic: The NBA hasn’t announced the exact date for next February’s trade deadline. But this game could mark the last home contest before the ’14 deadline for fans to see veterans Jameer Nelson and Arron Afflalo, along with any other familiar faces who could be dealt to create more cap room or land other young players.
Mar. 5: Houston Rockets at Magic. Orlando faithful likely used up all their ferocity in booing Dwight Howard when he returned as a Laker last season, the wound of the Dwightmare still fresh. Not that Howard won’t be jeered as a Rocket, but Magic fans no longer own the exclusive rights. It seems everybody around the NBA despises Howard to some degree.
April 15: Indiana Pacers at Magic. The suffering of another season comes to an end, but this game could be critical for the Magic. With several other teams projected to be, ahem, positioning themselves for a star-studded lottery, Orlando could again be in line to secure the worst record and the most ping-pong balls. The problem could be that the Pacers likely will have a playoff spot locked up and won’t care about winning either.
Brian Schmitz is the Magic Insider for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@magicinsider.