The Orlando Magic gained a lot of information on key players on their roster just as the players picked up a lot in their hopes of making it to the NBA.
In the heat of the NBA season, Forcier was not one to get too involved in the draft process. He had his own team to coach, after all, and he could not spend time watching college games as much as the basketball-obsessed fans who had already looked past the end of the NBA season.
Talk of Jonathan Isaac’s passivity in college or the talk of him being a project was not on Forcier’s mind. His goal, as he said from the beginning of the Summer League, was to get his team to play together and play hard on the defensive end.
It would have been nice to finish with a winning record after losing 86-78 to the Charlotte Hornets in the fifth place game of the Mountain Dew Orlando Pro Summer League on Thursday. But the overall impressions were his team was a fun one to coach. And, yes, Jonathan Isaac impressed in his rookie debut.
"“We would have loved to finish on a high note today with a win and end up with a winning record for the week,” Forcier said following Thursday’s finale. “But we just loved the group. Everybody bought into what we were asking them to do. They played hard all week. They played together all week. They got smarter as the week went along. We had a fun time with this group. It was a joy to coach them.”"
That consistent improvement was shown as much as anywhere as it was in Isaac’s development.
Isaac played in only three games, averaging 10.3 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. He struggled some with his shot, making just 44.4 percent from the floor. But it was clear that he improved each game that he played throughout the week.
He grew from the nervous player in his first professional game on Saturday to a confident player ready to take over. He scored nine points in that finale before his hip injury knocked him out for the rest of the week. Orlando held him out as a precaution and the injury was not serious.
In the meantime, Isaac showed exactly what his length and athleticism can do on the court defensively. He may not have shown everything he can do eventually, but he showed plenty to get excited about.
"“We were very pleased with Jonathan,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said. “I think he showed a lot of the potential that we saw in him in the draft. Not just his talent but his ability to make others around him better. I think his team orientation came through and I think the feedback we got around the league saw the same thing that we saw.”"
Weltman said he believed Isaac was unfairly criticized for not being aggressive in college. They viewed him as more playing the right way and fitting into the team. They view him as becoming a “Swiss army knife” on the floor.
All of that was on display. He never truly took over until the third game when his confidence was clearly soaring. But he also found ways to stay involved, attacking the offensive glass for 11 offensive rebounds for the week (3.7 per game). And his defensive activity was strong.
Isaac said he picked up things defensively. And even after his injury, Forcier said Isaac remained engaged on the bench, asking coaches questions and trying to pick up on things defensively from the sideline. He remained engaged just as the coaches wanted after his injury.
It was all an encouraging sign for the young player as he begins his offseason work to prepare for next season and training camp.
"“I commented yesterday the first game was a shock to him probably like it would be to anybody,” Forcier said of Isaac. “He had a heck of a response in game two. Really came back and played well. I thought he was putting together his best game in game three in the first quarter before he got bumped and we had to sit him down. It looked like he was progressing the right way. It was exciting. He grew each day.”"
For several players, it was their first opportunity to test themselves against NBA — or quasi-NBA — competition. They had to learn quickly the speed of the game and the physicality is different. The physical nature of Summer League took at least some players a bit by surprise and took some adjusting to.
Players like Wesley Iwundu had to quickly adjust to the new game. While Iwundu certainly looked capable as a defensive player and in transition, he struggled some offensively. Particularly later in the week as fatigue set in.
The Magic still seemed happy with his play as he got his feet wet this week. But there is certainly plenty for him and his fellow rookie in Isaac to work on.
"“I think I got the full experience,” Iwundu said. “I’m talking from the game to feeling it in your body. Just the mindset, it was a great experience.”"
Iwundu learned he still has to build up some muscle to help complement his athleticism on defense. He said he plans to spend the summer in Orlando preparing for training camp. Even the senior said the physicality and speed of the game took him a bit by surprise.
It was an adjustment for several players.
Ultimately, Summer League is about the fight and grind to make it in the NBA. Most of the players are there to try to make some kind of an impression and find work for the next year. Many can only hold onto the dream of playing in the Association.
"“Everybody is here trying to grow in their career and trying to become a better player and trying to get their next job somewhere, wherever it is,” Forcier said. “It is big business for everybody here. They are trying to make their living like you and I are. We try to treat them with respect. And we try to give them as much as we can over the course of the week to help them. Hopefully, they can get better in the 7, 8, 10 days they are with us.”"
Players like Derrick Walton Jr. and Kalin Lucas likely showed themselves off enough to get consideration for a training camp invite. Jalen Jones and Matt Costello showcased their hustle in the paint and around the basket before leaving to head to Las Vegas for a second Summer League stint. Tyler Harvey looked like a better shooter and showed progress from his last trip to Orlando.
Even Przemek Karnowski took advantage of his two games with the Magic, scoring well in the playing time he got.
The Magic gave an opportunity to a lot of players. Only a few will make it to the NBA in some form or fashion. But a lot of players picked up a lot this week.
And that is what Summer League is ultimately for.