Magic, Hawks set to face off in Mexico City, a potential NBA expansion site

It’ll be a home game for the Orlando Magic on Thursday night, when they take on the Atlanta Hawks in Mexico City.

It’ll feel like home in a way to Magic coach Jamahl Mosley, too.

Mosley has been to Mexico to coach before, as an assistant. And his basketball ties there run even deeper — after college, he was part of a team that toured Mexico for about four weeks with some other potential pro players, facing off against some local and national squads. Now, he’s an NBA head coach there for the first time.

“I think it’s absolutely fantastic,” Mosley said. “I think it’s so amazing for our league, for everyone involved in basketball — fans or parts of organizations. I think it’s so great that we continue to use basketball as a way to bring people together, to celebrate each other, to celebrate the beauty of the game.”

The Magic and Hawks — it’s technically a home game for Orlando — are meeting in what’ll be the 32nd time including preseason contests that the NBA has brought a game to a country with, by metrics provided by the league, about 30 million basketball fans.

It’s also in a city that sits about 7,350 feet above sea level, significantly higher than what NBA teams face when playing in Denver or Utah.

“I’m very excited,” Magic guard Jalen Suggs said. “It’s a unique opportunity to come out and play in a different environment, to come out and play the game of basketball and continue to spread the game. It’s becoming a very global game.”

The game is one of four regular-season contests that’ll be played outside current NBA cities this season. Besides Hawks-Magic, there will be a game between Brooklyn and Cleveland in Paris on Jan. 11.

There will also be two games in Las Vegas on Dec. 7 serving as the semifinals of the NBA’s new in-season tournament — along with a championship game there on Dec. 9 that will not count in the standings — though it’s not uncommon for the league to have a presence there. Vegas is a past All-Star weekend host, is the site of Summer League each year and is prominently mentioned as an expansion target.

Mexico City, which now has a G League team, is thought to be a possible expansion site as well. Hawks coach Quin Snyder said this trip is an opportunity for his team to see a different culture.

“I know our players and organization really look forward to that opportunity as a unique one,” Snyder said. “And playing in front of fans from a different country that are passionate will be really a memorable and exciting experience.”

It’s also a chance for players to brush up on their Spanish. Hawks guard Trae Young is visiting Mexico City for the first time, and said he knows a little bit of the language.

Maybe a very little bit, as it turns out.

“No hablo Español,” he said.