Magic Above All: Continuity, Family, Athleticism
Media day can be a whirlwind of interviews with different media outlets. It is meant to highlight the story and plots of the organization and the individual players. During such interviews, the players, coaches, and execs will echo similar messaging.
During this year’s media day the messaging was, as Coach Clifford put it, “continuity” and pace. The Orlando Magic have, essentially, the same roster as last year, with the addition of Al-Faruq Aminu and the re-introduction of Markelle Fultz. The Magic seem to be three deep at every position, which is a blessing and a curse for any head coach. Coach Clifford is infamous for operating a 9 man roster, but as coach Clifford said: “You can play 8 players good minutes, but when you get to 9-10, someone will be mad.”
For the last three seasons, the biggest roster concern has been who will be running the offense. This season Coach Clifford will distribute minutes between DJ Augustin, Michael Carter-Williams and Markelle Fultz. Being 2-3 deep would test the confidence of most players, DJ encourages it stating, “Being 3 deep is a good thing. Having competition will only prepare us for (the) season.” All three guards stated how athletic this year’s team is and how increasing the pace will be the success of this unit. MCW expressed hit content, “This is the way I like to play; get the ball and go.”
Beyond the competition and the focus on gameplay, MCW and DJ have been and will be, mentoring Markelle Fultz, who has only played 33 games in his first 2 seasons in the NBA. Pressure comes with the position of Point Guard, but this unit is encouraging the challenge together. Markelle shared this same sentiment when asked how the atmosphere of Orlando is, “It’s great. It’s one of the best atmospheres I have ever been in. I really feel like I’m at home here... It's really a family here, everyone has fun (and) we work hard.” From guard workouts, film breakdown, to just talking about past experiences, MCW and DJ plan on being the kind of Vets for Fultz and the rest of the young Magic core to look up to.
The Wings for the Orlando Magic consist of Terrence Ross; a player expected to be in the running for Six-Man of The Year, Evan Fournier; who lead the French National Team in the 2019 FIBA World Cup finals, and Wes Iwundu, a 3rd-year guard who has shown vast improvements. The central theme for this group during media day was confidence within their roles.
When asked about his leadership, Fournier stated without hesitation, “I don’t say much, but how I am on the floor and how I fight for us.” Evan is the 2nd longest-tenured player on the Magic’s roster and he, undoubtedly, leads with how he carries himself on the court.
Terrence Ross, better known as the Human Torch seems to be ready for his role this upcoming season. He stated how the coaching staff has made it clear what they need from him this year as his role will expand and as he stated, “I’m even more comfortable with what they are asking from me this year.”
Wes seems to be more confident and comfortable within the team dynamic. While watching him, it was apparent much chemistry he has with the other guys on the team. Do not be surprised if Wes becomes everyone’s favorite corner 3 find this year.
This might be the deepest group within the Orlando Magic. This group consists of players who will play on the wing but will mostly guard the bigger guards or best forwards on the court. Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordan, and Al-Farouq Aminu. This group was focused on improving upon their weaknesses and these guys seem to be coming into this season with a fresh sense of confidence.
Aaron Gordon was not shy about his offensive skills catching up to his defensive game. Gordon also made his personal goals for the season: be named an All-Defensive player and to represent Team USA at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
Aminu, who before media day commenced, was finishing a shooting workout, is looking to add to this team with his playoff experience in a loaded Western Conference. Aminu knows he will have to space out the floor for the athletic guards and Vooch on the inside. Aminu stated how he intends to be another source of information for these players because “most of these games come down to one possession.”
The “X factor” for the Magic, based off of what the team said is JI. Jonathan stated how he packed on “20-30 pounds” since the end of last season. Ross had the quote of media day by saying “It's like watching a giraffe move like a lion!” Isaac looks like he is just starting to fill out his frame, but it wasn’t easy. JI stated having to eat 5-6 “real meals” a day and that he “ didn't know he could eat so much.”
All and all, the forwards looked very confident with the hard work that they did from the summer.
Nikola Vucevic, Mo Bamba, and Khem Birch partly make up the Magic’s frontcourt. 2 of the three members of the Magic’s frontcourt gained incredible experience during the FIBA World Cup and represented their countries well. Vooch representing Montenegro and Birch representing Canada.
For Khem, this was an opportunity to test his skills and to show the basketball world how good he is. Birch seemed to have gained a lot of confidence from his World Cup experience and stated that we (the fans) shouldn't be surprised if he started to shoot outside more.
Vooch, a 2019 All-Star explained how last season motivated him this summer. Vooch looked like he slimmed down a few pounds, Vooch later stated how he is happy he played this summer which is why he's coming back in playing shape. Vooch also explained how playing in the World Cup helped hip adjust to new styles of play, which could help him throughout the season. The biggest thing for Vooch is taking ownership of the Orlando Magic as he reflected on his contract. He said “I’ve had a good life here (Orlando). Basketball has turned around and I am here moving forward.” When asked about free agency, Vooch said: “They (Orlando Magic) knew I wanted to stay here.”
Mo Bamba looked to have maintained the weight that he gained before the summer league. But what was new was his hair cut which was a result of a wager that Mo had with the Magic legend, Shaq. What Mo showed at media day was how close this team is. He mingled fluidly with the different guys on the team and spoke highly about his teammates throughout different interviews with the media.
There is a lot to take from media day. The three phrases to takeaway are Continuity, Family, and Athleticism. Every position unit talked in depth about the lack of roster movement is a strength that this team has, unlike many of their opponents.
These guys know each other, which will make it easier to acclimate Aminu and Fultz into the rotation. Listening to the newer guys, the Magic have something special. These guys like each other and want to get better together to build upon last season.
Lastly, it is an understatement to say this is a long, lengthy team. Clifford could have a starting frontcourt of 6'9, 7'0, 7'0; with a few more 6'8s on the bench. With the acquisition of MCW, Coach Clifford stated how he liked how the team played with the pace MCW brought and looks to implement more of a high tempo into the offense. Things are looking very magical in Orlando which will make for a memorable 2019-20 NBA season.
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