ORLANDO, Fla. — In a meeting between last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Paolo Banchero, and the No. 3 pick, Jabari Smith Jr., the Orlando Magic open the regular season against the Houston Rockets on Oct. 25 at Amway Center.
The NBA released the full schedule Thursday afternoon, with opening night Oct. 24 featuring a rematch of the Western Conference teams with the L.A. Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets and Golden State Warriors vs. Phoenix Suns.
— Tough open: After the first game, the Magic go west for their next four at the Portland Trail Blazers, L.A. Lakers, L.A. Clippers and Utah Jazz. The latter three are expected to be playoff-caliber foes. A 5-20 start to last season, mostly with a depleted roster because of injuries, proved too difficult for the Magic to overcome. A better start would’ve meant a better record than 34-48. The bar to at least make the play-in tournament to compete for a playoff spot was 40-42.
— November twist: The Magic return home for a pair of games early in the month and face Atlanta in Mexico City in a previously announced international matchup Nov. 9. They also participate in the inaugural in-season tournament by traveling to Brooklyn for their first group play game as announced earlier this week. In between group games at Brooklyn and at Chicago, the Magic and Bulls will first face each other in a regular-season matchup that’s on the first of a back-to-back. The second game counts towards in the in-season tournament.
The Magic will return to Amway Center to close out group play vs. Toronto and Boston.
— The champs are here: Denver, which beat Miami in five games to win the franchise’s first championship, comes to town once a year. The Magic will host the Nuggets on Nov. 22, in the middle of the Toronto-Boston group play matchups during Thanksgiving week.
— Longest homestands: It’ll be an eight-game, 16-day stretch, from March 17-April 1 that ends with Portland but includes consecutive matchups vs. West playoff teams, Sacramento, Golden State, L.A. Clippers and Memphis. The Magic also have a six-game homestand from Nov. 21-Dec. 1 that lasts 11 days.
— Longest road trip: This will last for five games over nine days, from Jan. 29-Feb. 6, ending at East champion Miami. Three of those opponents, Dallas, San Antonio and Detroit, weren’t playoff teams last season. Minnesota sneaked in as a No. 8 seed. Orlando also has four other four-game road trips.
— Back-to-back bump: 15. That’s 30 games on Orlando’s schedule which is up from last season when it had 13 sets of games on consecutive nights (26). Four are home-and-home, which is three more than 2022-23.
— Battle of No. 1s: Banchero vs. this year’s No. 1 overall pick, Victor Wembanyama, won’t happen at Amway until the calendar year turns. It’ll come Feb. 8 against the San Antonio Spurs.
— National TV appearances: Just one. The lone game that’s scheduled to broadcast on prime time comes Feb. 13 when the Magic host the Oklahoma City Thunder and last year’s No. 2 pick, Chet Holmgren (TNT). The Magic are scheduled to have four games on NBA TV. Banchero and Holmgren have never squared off in the NBA. Holmgren missed all of 2022-23 because of a right foot injury before training camp. When their teams met before that at Las Vegas summer league, Banchero sat out. They’re scheduled to meet first outside of the spotlight in Oklahoma City on Jan. 13.
— New look: The regular season ends April 14. The league, looking to create more intrigue, will have all games among East teams tip off at 1. West teams will tip at 3:30. ESPN will televise a doubleheader that’s TBD. Will the Magic be in the mix? They’re expected to at least be in the postseason conversation after making a 12-win improvement.
The play-in tournament to set the postseason seeding 1-8 will run April 16-19.
Playoff games start April 20 and Game 1 of the NBA Finals tips June 6.
The Magic’s journey begins anew with training camp Oct. 3 at AdventHealth Training Center.
Single-game tickets for the season will go on sale at 1 p.m. on Aug. 25 at 1 p.m. All locally televised Magic games again will be aired on Bally Sports Florida.