Austin Rivers: Rising Magic Deserve More Respect

The Orlando Magic quietly have been among the NBA’s most pleasant surprises, still flying a little under the radar.Paulo Banchero, Franz Wagner, Orlando Magic

But here they are, sitting at 40-28 and in fifth place in the Eastern Conference (entering Thursday). They’re also in first place in the Southeast Division, three games in front of the defending Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat.

Leading the way have been the likes of All-Star big man Paolo Banchero, forward Franz Wagner and second-year coach Jamahl Mosley. They don’t make many headlines nationally, but free agent guard Austin Rivers said don’t be fooled — the Magic are for real.

“We always talk about the Knicks, the big-market teams, the Lakers, the Warriors … but the Orlando Magic have just been creeping the whole way through,” Rivers said on ESPN’s NBA Today. “They play harder than anybody in the NBA. We don’t talk about Franz, we don’t talk about Paolo. This is a team built with a young core.”

“They just extended Jamahl Mosley, shout out, he deserves flowers for that. This is a team that’s buying in. (Fans and media) wrote off Jalen Suggs as a bust a couple of years ago — no, this is a key defender and a key role player. This is a team with a young nucleus that is getting it done. Headed to the playoffs. It’s very exciting for Orlando.”

The Orlando Magic? A banner year? It’s been a while. But based on the way things are going today, this could be just the start of many more to come.

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