Shelvin Mack has never popped off a stat page or on the court. He worked on the details. And it is those details he hopes to share with the Orlando Magic.
Mack, making his first trip to Orlando and his new home outside of a NBA game since his AAU days, was still getting a sense of his surroundings. He had not yet met any of his teammates, save for Jonathon Simmons, also introduced to the media that day. Yet, this was going to be where he plied his trade and added his little bit of expertise for the next year, possibly two years.
Without looking it up or Mack admitting it, it would be easy to confuse Mack for a grizzled 30-year-old veteran. His name had been in the national spotlight for several years — nearly a decade now — and it had been associated with some form of postseason success for nearly the entire town. He never stood out to the casual fan, but always seemed to be involved in things that mattered.
A player does not find success at every level despite few recruiting accolades out of high school and little draft buzz out of college without doing something right. Mack has done plenty right to land with the Magic on a fresh two-year, $12-million contract this summer.
Mack plays beyond his years and his statistical profile because he pays attention to the little things. He fills the gaps and does whatever his team needs without much fanfare or attention.
He gets the details and that is what he hopes to share with his new teammates.
"“It [his experience with the Atlanta Hawks and Utah Jazz] makes me pay attention to the details,” Mack told Orlando Magic Daily. “We didn’t get there by pure athletic ability but by studying the game and taking time each and every day working on our craft. I can bring that to every team I go to now to understand people’s tendencies and paying attention to the scouting report.”"
Mack is just 27 years old. He has bounced around the league playing for four teams in six years. But in those six years, largely coming off the bench, Mack has been to the Playoffs four times, including last year as the backup point guard for the Jazz. That cerebral approach has helped him and the teams he has played for exceed expectations.
Mack has been around the block. It feels like he has been around a lot longer than he actually has.
Mack first made national waves as a starting guard for the Butler Bulldogs during their magical runs to the Final Four in 2010 and 2011. That put him on notice around the league and helped him get taken in the second round.
The 6-foot-3 guard has never quite had a defined position.
He has played point guard, but he is not much of a distributor. He had a 20.4 percent assist rate last year, but topped off at 30.6 percent the year before. Mack can play some shooting guard thanks to his stocky build, but he is not much of a shooter. He is a career 32.1 percent 3-point shooter, including 30.8 percent from beyond the arc last year.
He has the build and reputation of a good defender. But has totaled only 5.4 defensive win shares for his career. Mack has a -1.3 defensive box plus-minus for his career, according to Basketball-Reference.
Mack’s career may be one where numbers do not capture the impact he can have on the floor and what he can bring to a team. What helps him get the most for his teams is his attention to that detail. He learns from the other veterans around him.
Mack cited the veteran leadership from Elton Brand, Al Horford and Paul Millsap helped him out tremendously as a young player. He also said watching Joe Johnson while he was with the Jazz helped teach him how to build the right habits. Veterans pass down their knowledge to younger players.
It seems like it is Mack’s turn now.
Even as a young veteran, he feels he can help show the Magic the way. Considering how young Orlando is (and Mack is part of that), the team needs guys who embrace the grind of the season and know what it takes to be ready for the late season battles.
"“You need that foundation of what you do, whether it is working on defense every day, just something you do every day that you can rely on when you are tired and fatigued,” Mack told Orlando Magic Daily. “Five games in seven nights, your daily habits allow you to make shots when everyone else is tired.”"
Building those daily habits will begin for the Magic around Labor Day.
Mack said he has not met any of his new teammates quite yet. As he came to the Amway Center, the gym was empty as the practice court undergoes refurbishment. Not many of the team’s players are in town at the moment. He too was quickly jetting out of town to go back home to his offseason prep.
Labor Day is about the time when players begin to trickle back into town. They will work out together in the team facility and play in open gyms. This will be a critical time for new teammates to learn to play with each other outside of the constructs of practices.
The habits the team gains in these early days of the season — in September and in training camp — will become what the team relies on later in the season.
The hope for the Magic is Mack will help the team gain insight into those details. And those details will help start moving the team in the right direction.
"“That’s a great group of talent,” Mack told Orlando Magic Daily about his new team. “I think there are a lot of players still trying to figure their way out, the same thing I had to do. They just haven’t put it all together yet. I think that it takes time to play together and to have that consistency. We are moving in the right direction to get that.”"
Mack may not make that huge statistical impact again. That is not his style or his game. He fills in the gaps and does the things that do not show up on the stat sheet. As other players have said about him, he just runs the team the right way. He does not go much beyond that defined role.
Mack is the ultimate grinder. It may not be flashy. But the details he provides and the attention he gives to his craft is what makes him necessary to any team hoping to take that next step up.