Orlando Magic feel confident with their work through training camp

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 11: Nikola Vucevic
ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 11: Nikola Vucevic /

The Orlando Magic finished training camp Friday with their foundation in place and eager to test themselves to see just how far they have grown.

Orlando Magic general manager John Hammond reinforced the biggest message and take away from the final day of the Magic’s training camp Friday at the Amway Center. As the team prepared to break up for the day, Hammond addressed the team, the team huddling closer to let the executive give some encouraging words.

What he said struck a chord with the team. The man Aaron Gordon affectionately called an “O.G.” at media day has certainly made an impression with the team so far. His experience permeating through the team. His words made an impact.

But it was what the team had shown in the last four days and six practices that stood out more. It was the impression the team had made on him, confirming his belief in what this team can be.

What stood out to him, and he encouraged and noted, was the team’s willingness to fight for each other, to lift each other up and to encourage each other. He was pleased and highlighted the camaraderie and chemistry that had grown in the last week of practice.

Training camp on the main Amway Center floor closed Friday. The team will begin the usual grind of the NBA season beginning with Sunday’s practice and Monday’s preseason opener at the Memphis Grizzlies. Orlando has installed its base offense and done a good chunk of its teaching. There will still be more. But the beginning stage of the season is complete.

"“I feel like we have a lot in,” coach Frank Vogel told Orlando Magic Daily on Friday. “We have covered a lot of our bases on the defensive end. There is still a lot to a) cover and b) fine tune. But where we are at after four days, I feel pretty good about it.”"

Vogel said familiarity from last year has been noticeable the entire camp. Nikola Vucevic said he believed it was a big reason it feels like the team is ahead of where it was last year.

Nikola Vucevic said camp has been tough, as expected, but knowing what to expect has been a benefit to them. For returning players, he said, things have come back to them quickly and they have been able to help bring along the new players.

He said he feels the team has competed hard and worked well together to this point. He is pleased with the progress the team has made and where they are at.

"“I think we had good practices,” Vucevic told Orlando Magic Daily on Friday. “I think the familiarity with the offense and the defense that we already have from last year helped us. If you compare this year’s camp to last year’s camp, it was much better. It was much smoother offensively. . . . Guys competed. I think it’s so much easier when guys are comfortable and have an idea of what we need to do and what coach wants us to do.”"

At least among each other, the indications they are sending out to the media is they are very pleased with how they have performed and the work they have put in. There were plenty of mistakes made but the team is coming together as a unit. For now, everyone believes their chemistry is strong.

Of course, no one can really say where the Magic are at until they hit the floor against someone else. They will begin introducing gameplan and wrinkles in Sunday’s practice as they prepare for the Grizzlies. Many of the players seemed eager to test themselves in that first game and see just where they are.

Still, there is a lot of information to digest. And not everyone has the experience to digest it all.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Players have gushed about Jonathan Isaac‘s potential throughout camp. And coaches seem pleased with how he has played, particularly on defense where his length and athleticism are expected to make an immediate impact.

But Jonathan Isaac admitted he is still catching up to all his assignments and everything the league will require of him. The speed of the game and the small margin of error because of the talent is something every rookie has to catch up on.

Isaac’s talent still shines through, according to coaches. Vogel has spoken highly of his defensive ability and potential. While Isaac said he is not where he needs to be and has remained very critical of himself, it seems the coaching staff and older players are impressed with the rookie.

"“Everybody seems to be pleased with me,” Isaac told Orlando Magic Daily on Friday. “I am probably the one most not pleased with myself. But everybody thinks I am doing a good job competing.“[The veterans] have just been telling me don’t take myself too seriously, don’t press. You can play basketball, just come out and play. Just compete and the rest will take care of it yourself.”"

Isaac said he is the good kind of sore after training camp. Surely every other player is feeling that too as they get through these first round of practices.

The Magic are still growing and learning together. Not everything is in. But the foundation is laid.

There is still a lot of the unknown with this team. The Magic may have done well through training camp, but the team recognizes its limitations too.

Vogel said evaluating the team is still day to day and he has to take it for what it is worth. A lot of the work the team has done is through drill situations and using rotations and lineups he may not prefer in a game. The real test is when that first game comes.

But the Magic have put in the work they needed to get ready for that first game. The team will go from there.

"“I’m excited about what this group can be,” Vogel told Orlando Magic Daily. “We have our work cut out for us. We have a lot of improvement to be had if we consider ourselves a team contending for a Playoff spot. That’s definitely our goal. I’m excited for the challenge.”"

Next: Orlando Magic looking to use 3-pointer more effectively

The challenge is just beginning. The foundations are laid for the Magic. From here, Orlando has to test itself in the preseason games ahead and adjust from there.