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The Magic Formula For Orlando

The Orlando Magic believe this is the year they finally break out of the rebuilding mold and start to look like a team with playoff potential. The keys are pretty simple. Having loaded up on high quality draft picks like Cole Anthony, Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner and now Anthony Black, the Magic expect health and continuity to be their keys to ascension. Orlando go into this camp with no existing injuries for any of their players, and are returning every core member of last year’s squad which helped them go 29-28 over the teams last 57 games. The combination of health, youth and roster continuity certainly has Magic personnel buzzing as there is a new energy which is pervasive throughout the entire organization.

Orlando has certainly struggled with their health each of the last few seasons, which has held them back from discovering their true ceiling. Starting point guard Markelle Fultz missed every game of the team’s first 21 contests last year which heavily contributed to their 5-20 start. Elite defensive force Jonathan Isaac returned to the team late last year recovering from an injury when only 11 games later he suffered a torn left adductor muscle which required surgery and sidelined him for the remainder of the season. Almost every member of the Magic was inhibited and missed time by some ailment last season, but hope is felt around the team that with a fully healthy camp approaching, the Magic could make some noise to start the season. 

“I hope our greatest strength is health,” acknowledges Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman. “It’s been our greatest weakness each of the last few seasons.”

In addition to everyone getting fully healthy, the Magic hired Arnie Kander as the head of player performance and wellness this past offseason. Arnie has more than 24 seasons of experience in the Association and seems to have really affected change within the organization. He’s also built a reputation of innovation in the field of injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Arnie is a phenomenal person,” says Wendell Carter, Jr. “He brings us a different kind of outlook on life, he’s into meditation and mental growth. Once we get on the court, it makes the game a little bit easier for us. Staying healthy was half the battle for us last year. I think for us being healthy, starting the season healthy, this is the best you’ll see Orlando since I’ve been here.”

The NBA is in an era where players are constantly changing situations in order to better their chances and front offices will throw every possible asset they have to try and obtain the pieces that put them in what they believe to be the best position. The Magic, however, believe that keeping the same group together and maintaining roster continuity will grant them an advantage that won’t be shared by most opposing teams this season. 

“I can’t imagine a team with more continuity than us, roster wise,” says Weltman “I do believe continuity matters and it has to be continuity of a team you believe in… The fact that we maintained continuity this summer speaks to the fact that we believe in these guys, we think they’re going to get better, and we want to track where this thing takes us before we make any decisions.”

Camaraderie is a word being used frequently this year. Players came back early from their summers, are enjoying being around each other again and most importantly cannot wait to get back to work and make a league-wide statement with their play. 

The Magic were able to add Anthony Black from the University of Arkansas and Jett Howard out of Michigan. They were the sixth and eleventh overall picks respectively and should immediately be able to contribute to the playmaking and shooting of this team. While the talent of these two rookies is felt by everyone in the organization, they may find that floor time will not be granted to them like most high draft picks. 

“It’s going to be harder for these guys to get on the floor” admits Jeff Weltman, “We’re not gifting anybody any minutes, which is a good thing. That means that we’re getting better… We have good depth and we have talent spread out.”

The main free agent acquisition for Orlando this summer was 36-year-old NBA veteran Joe Ingles. The Australian native has averaged 8.5 points, 3.7 assists and 3.2 rebounds over his nine year career with 45/41/77 shooting splits. Arguably, however, the most valuable aspect of bringing in Ingles is his playoff experience. While spending eight of his nine seasons in Utah, he played for numerous 50-plus win teams and can bring the insight of what it takes in order to achieve that to a franchise that has immense young promise and has not seen 50 wins since the early 2010s with Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and company. Joe’s reception by the team couldn’t be going any better either. 

“Joe is my new best friend on the team.” says guard Cole Anthony, “He’s the man, he’s got experience, and he’s been one of my favorite players since I got into the league.” 

In addition to health, roster continuity and the new members to the team, it seems as if everyone involved in the organization can’t get over how talented this roster is. The energy is buzzing around this organization and the belief of “the sky’s the limit” seems to have overtaken everyone. 

“That’s the great part about this team, We’re going to compete, compete and compete.” comments head coach Jamahl Mosely, “Everyday we walk into practice we’re going to compete… They gotta compete for their minutes, they gotta compete for their time, and they compete to make each other better. They all understand that.” 

“Outside of an experience, I don’t see holes from a talent perspective.” says Jonathan Isaac, the lone remaining member of the 2019 Magic playoff team. “We’re going to be able to give teams a run for their money… Having everyone ready to go is going to be huge.” 

The front office has done their offseason homework by adding talent and veteran leadership. The training staff has ensured that the team is healthy a ready to go for camp. Next up? The coaching staff gets to start putting it all together on October 10th as preseason gets underway.

Cade Westberry covers the NBA’s Orlando Magic and Miami Heat for Back Sports Page. Follow him on Twitter/X here!



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