Who knows how much free agency and trade chaos occurs before the Magic even tip off their 2011-2012 campaign on Christmas Day in Oklahoma City, but be prepared for a thriller of a season. Yes Magic fans, expect the Dwight Howardchats to somehow get worse. The Bob Vander Weide drunk dialing scandal isn't helping either (Congrats, Alex). Either way, I'd bet a body part that Otis Smith won't trade Dwight before the All-Star Weekend. It would have to take Dwight demanding a trade for Otis to pull the trigger on a deal to ship our superstar center out of time. There's too much money at stake and this is still a top 4 Eastern Conference team.
First thing you may notice in comparison to the original 82-game schedule that was planned, no London trip. Just not enough days off available to make the United Kingdom trip possible for two Magic-Nets matchups. The opening season back-to-back is a sign of things to come. Christmas in OKC, and then a return to the Amway Center for a meeting with the Houston Rockets (who will be waiting hungrily for us). 19 back-to-backs await Orlando this season, which are 2 more than the seventeen there would've been in the normal 82-game version. Josh Robbins did a great job breaking down those b-2-bs. 6 are away-aways, 4 away-to-homes, and 9 home-to-aways. No home-and-home consecutive days (Miami have 7). There is one dreaded back-to-back-to-back. That comes between January 16th through the 18th.
Excluding the 8 NBA TV games, the Magic have 16 nationally televised games. Funny enough, that's two more than the 14 games that were planned in the 82-game schedule. Makes you wonder what changed. Stan Van Gundy's side also only have two 'big' road trips. A soft 4-game trek in January, and a 5-game East road trip at the tail end of February (with the fifth game coming after the All-Star Break). Orlando don't have a home stand that lasts more than 3 games which I'm rather comfortable with.
This will be SVG's 5th season at the helm. Orlando only has two games that begin before 6 p.m. EST. Martin Luther King Day, Jan. 16th, at the Knicks (Madison Square Garden will be extra energetic on that Monday), and February 19th in Miami. Only 9 of the sixty-six contests will be in a Western Conference arena. Overall, this is a very favorable schedule in which we can make a lot of noise.
January 20th brings the Los Angeles Lakers to town. A massive game as it is since many people believe Dwight wants to go to Hollywood. Oh yeah, and we really despise the Lakers ('09 Finals or not). However, there's also the fact that Superman currently sits just 328 points behind Nick Anderson on the Magic's all-time franchise point total list. If Dwight just averages 22 points per game and doesn't miss a game due to health issues or a suspension, Howard will get to shatter another record in front of a standing Orlando ovation. Let's hope our pinstriped players pleasantly surprise us, even with all the distractions they will face. Strap in, folks. Truly expect a wild ride.