Nobody quite knew what to expect when the Magic took the floor for the first time this preseason. The team was very very different. Even players held over from last year's roster were expected to take on different roles and different responsibilities from year's past.
The question as the Magic traveled to Mexico City is what kind of team would this team become. How would Jacque Vaughn shape this roster?
Those answers are likely very far into the future. The Magic got a glimpse of it though as they played a superb first preseason game for three and a half quarters in Mexico City in an 85-80 loss against the Hornets.
Orlando scored the first 10 points of the game as Jameer Nelson pushed the pace and took advantage of his team's off-ball movement and hard work on both ends of the floor. The team followed that up with the first eight points of the second half to help push the lead out beyond 20 points. If you were looking at just the starters on the floor, it was clear the Magic were the better team.
Or maybe, considering it is the first preseason game, the more prepared and confident team. New Orleans looked very shaky offensive and defensively as Monty Williams is still installing his offense and figuring out what his team can do. Anthony Davis spent part of his day at the 3 and standing around the perimeter. That is likely not how Davis will spend much of his season.
Considering the opponent and the play on the court for much of the evening, Jacque Vaughn certainly had to be pleased.
Orlando opened the game with a defensive stop and a beautiful cross-court bounce pass from Jameer Nelson to Gustavo Ayon on the fast break. The fast break was indeed a pleasant wrinkle as the Magic played with a lot more energy and a lot more willingness to force the action and score quickly.
Nelson had six points, six rebounds and four assists in nearly 21 minutes. Gustavo Ayon had 12 points and five rebounds in his homecoming and was a constant source of energy early on.
The Magic were clearly the aggressors and knew what they were doing offensively. The Hornets struggled to guard the pick and roll and the Magic were unselfish passing the ball freely and finding cutters — yes, cutters — going toward the basket. The offense was fluid and aggressive as the Magic got to the line for 28 free throw attempts in this game.
Glen Davis was a big beneficiary of that as he was a bull around the rim. He scored nine of his 13 points from the foul line, getting 10 attempts. Davis still struggled to finish around the rim, but he stuck with it and kept playing with high energy.
In all likelihood, Jacque Vaughn was pleased with what he saw from his main rotation players. He said after the game that he does not know where the scoring was going to come from. But neither does the defense. So long as the team is working together and playing hard, that can be a positive thing. Tonight it was.
The problem was the young players maintaining the ball movement and aggressive drives to the basket. Orlando lost its 20-point lead in the fourth quarter when the team scored only 14 points. E'Twaun Moore, despite a team-high 16 points and seven assists, struggled to get the Magic into good shots. With a small front line of Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O'Quinn going up against Solomon Alabi and Jason Smith, the Magic struggled to get stops. The fouls and turnovers you expect from the first preseason game popped up and the comeback was on.
Vaughn will use it as a teaching moment for his entire team, but particularly for his young players. You cannot ever let up.
Certainly there is still work to do. The Magic did not shoot the ball well and are not likely to get 28 free throw attempts any time soon. But the foundation was there. What we saw was an offense that depends on the team working together and working off the ball to get good shot opportunities.
That is what the Magic will be built upon this season.