By Dan Savage
October 17, 2017
ORLANDO – Opening night in the NBA bears a striking resemblance to the release of a blockbuster movie.
There’s tons of anticipation, action-packed storylines, stars taking center stage and fans who will read heavily into the future of a franchise based off one viewing.
In Orlando, opening night also features a familiar villain as the Sunshine State rivalry is renewed when the Magic take on the Miami Heat at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
While there are no shortage of previews and predictions about this upcoming thriller, here are key parts of the script that will help get you ready for Orlando’s big premiere.
Ross’ Recovery: The Magic should have their starting lineup in tact when they take the floor against the Heat.
After missing the final three games of the preseason due to a sore hamstring – in addition to flu-like symptoms – Terrence Ross practiced fully on Tuesday and expects to be able to go against Orlando’s Southeast Division rivals.
“I had some weird virus that I may have caught on the road and it messed me up pretty bad,” Ross said. “I had cold chills, a little bit of fever and I couldn’t even get out of bed. It was just one thing after another. I’m good (with the hamstring). I’ve been working out, running, cutting and doing everything I need to do to get right, so I’ll be ready and I feel good.”
Isaac’s Debut: It’s a special moment for any player to make their official NBA debut. However, it carries some extra weight when it happens at home. While Jonathan Isaac admits he’ll have some nerves heading into the contest, he’s anxious for this day to finally arrive.
“I’m just ready to play and I’m ready to see us play well,” he said. “I’ll probably be able to get some sleep (tonight), but once I wake up, I’ll be super amped up.”
He’ll have some support in the crowd. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft expects to have his mother and three of his brothers in attendance.
Sight to See: The Magic expect to play at a high-tempo pace this season. This will allow their young roster with some of the game’s best high-flyers to put their athleticism on full display.
“The combination of Jonathon (Simmons), Jonathan (Isaac), Aaron (Gordon) and Terrence, you’ve got a lot of guys who are very athletic, but also skilled,” Arron Afflalo explained. “So I think it will be fun to watch, especially when (Elfrid Payton) is pushing it.”
In Orlando’s preseason finale, that style of play equated to three alley-oop finishes in just over a two-minute span late in the second quarter. That means, you’ll probably want to wait for a break in the action before heading to the concession stands or your fridge.
“Our fans are going to love watching this team this year,” Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel said. “You can see us get out and run on the break and the lob dunks and the inside-out threes, E.P. attacking. There’s a lot to be excited about with this team.”
Enter the Dragic: One player who won’t catch Orlando by surprise is Goran Dragic. Over the last two seasons, Miami’s point guard is averaging 18.8 points per game against the Magic.
He’s also coming off a sensational summer during which he led Slovenia to the 2017 FIBA Eurobasket title.
“In my mind, he’s an All-Star point guard,” Vogel said.
The Magic, who put an emphasis on containment and perimeter defense during training camp, will be tested as they look to contain Dragic and lob-mate Hassan Whiteside.
Excellent Entertainment: If for some reason you’re still on the fence about attending Wednesday’s contest, here are a few things that might push you over the edge:
1) As part of the Pure Magic Tip-Off Presented by Florida Hospital, every fan in attendance will receive a Magic t-shirt.
2) Charles Haugabrooks will sing the National Anthem. He’s without a doubt in my Top 2 all-time Magic anthem singers, in competition with only Gina Marie Incandela.
3) Future NBA Hall-of-Fame Halftime Performer — if that is such a thing — Red Panda will make her season debut in Orlando. Need I say more?