A venue was chosen. A bubble was created. Players tested positive for the virus and, players opted out for personal reasons. All that is behind us, because the NBA restart is here.
There is a group of teams using the eight games before the playoffs as a tune-up. Think of the Clippers, Lakers, Bucks and Raptors. However, there is a whole other group that is in a bitter battle to lock up those last few spots in the playoffs.
One of those teams is the Orlando Magic.
When play stopped
On March 11, the Magic stood at 30-35 and held the eighth seed in the eastern conference. Although they have to make sure to hold off the Wizards, Orlando should have aspirations of moving up and taking the seventh seed from the Brooklyn Nets.
Brooklyn, whom Orlando plays today at 2:30 p.m., is a shell of the team they had all season. The Nets are without seven players in the bubble that they had all season.
The players missing the NBA restart are not end-of-the-bench guys. Kyrie Irving, Nicolas Claxton and Kevin Durant are out due to injuries. Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan and Taurean Prince have tested positive for the virus, while Wilson Chandler opted out to be with his family.
This gives Orlando a valuable opportunity to gain that half-game on Brooklyn and take a higher seed. This could be the difference between a first-round matchup with a dominant Milwaukee Bucks team, or an excellent Toronto Raptors.
Health is Wealth
Orlando might be one of the most fortunate teams in the NBA restart because the time off allowed them to get healthy.
The Magic lost their defensive anchor, Jonathan Isaac, in January to a tough knee injury and would welcome him back with open arms.
While still being cautious, Orlando brought Isaac to the bubble and will see if he can be ready to help contribute.
Markelle Fultz is also working his way back into game shape. He was a week late to the bubble due to family obligations, so he is still being monitored until his conditioning is good to go.
Head coach Steve Clifford is confident that both guys will be ready for the first seeding game. However, Clifford and the organization are being patient.
“It just depends on how they feel tomorrow, and then after we practice tomorrow–how they feel on Friday morning,” Clifford said. “It’s literally just going to be a day-to-day thing. We’ll talk about it and make the best decision.”