Orlando Magic determined, excited to make 2019 different

Aaron Gordon leads a promising young core that could help the Orlando Magic take the next step. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Aaron Gordon leads a promising young core that could help the Orlando Magic take the next step. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic have been through the refrain of optimism before. Even with that experience, they are determined to make 2019 have a new outcome.

The Orlando Magic have been in this boat before.

A new coach. A disappointing season. Plenty of talent to be excited about and pore over the promise for. A mix of veterans that should be ready to help the team in the present. The preseason confidence to turn the year ahead of them into something special.

Nothing is new about these statements from the last six years. The Magic have missed the Playoffs each of those years but entered the year with the same promise, hope and optimism for the year ahead of them.

It would be fair for everyone to be a bit cynical about it. Yet, the optimism remains. Another opportunity to take that next step and grow is before the Magic as they prepare to open training camp Tuesday.

There is only one word to describe the feeling — excitement.

"“I wish there was another word that meant more and great than excited,” Jonathan Isaac said. “I’m hyped for this team and for all of these guys who have been working all summer. Every single person has been working to get better this summer. I’m just excited to get out there and get through training camp and play.”"

No one likely feels the anticipation for this season quite like Jonathan Isaac. He played in just 27 games his rookie year and has been eager to show what he can do on the floor as he has worked to build up his body to meet the rigors of the NBA.

He is certainly hungry to get out on the court and his exuberance is evident in his excitement to play. But the rest of the team has it too. A chance to start anew and a chance to get the franchise moving back in a positive direction is tantalizing.

They know it will not be easy. Players like Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier and Nikola Vucevic have been through the ringer before. They have seen positive starts turn into frustrating results time and time again.

The team has a new coach once again in Steve Clifford. Someone who has experience as a head coach in turning franchises around. Someone who will demand a standard and hold players to it. Evan Fournier said the feeling around the franchise is like it was with Scott Skiles. Skiles only delivered the team its best finish since this rebuild began.

"“It’s just those things we keep saying,” Fournier said. “They kind of lose value because we say them every day — you have to work hard, you have to have chemistry, you have to be together. You hear them so much, you can lose sight of what they really are. It has to happen. It just has to happen. It’s that simple.”"

Fournier said the one thing that characterized Clifford’s teams was their discipline and their energy and effort level. Statements that echoed what president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said when the team hired him this summer. Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets teams rarely beat themselves with mistakes.

Making that happen in Orlando may be a bit of a growing process. This team is still trying to figure out its identity and handle adversity successfully. That has derailed much of the past three seasons for the team — in two of them the team started 19-13 and 8-4 before collapsing into the Lottery.

There is that familiar refrain of frustration and (frankly) failure that surrounds this team and this group.

Still, the new season brought undeniable energy. When asked what lessons the team might learn from the previous season, D.J. Augustin said he honestly had not thought much about it. His focus was on the future and what he could provide the team this coming year.

There was very little talk at media day over the frustrating way the season ended. Only a look ahead to what task is in front of them each day.

Undeniably, the players want to see things turned around.

"“Especially the ones who have been here for a couple years,” Nikola Vucevic said. “No one more than us knows how hard it is to go through these losing seasons. It’s very hard to play toward the end of the year when you are going home early. We’re going to try to change that. We don’t know if it is going to happen this year or not, but we want to start taking steps forward toward changing that.”"

Clifford said he was impressed with the team’s eagerness to get back into the gym. The team had optional workouts throughout the last few weeks. By the week before training camp nearly the entire roster was already back in town and starting to put in their work.

That goes on top of the work several players like Terrence Ross, Jonathan Isaac and plenty others put in by staying in Orlando throughout much of the entire offseason. There is no lack of eagerness to work and work together.

The question the Magic have to answer is whether all of that energy can sustain itself. It has been easy for the Magic to express their excitement and eagerness on media day. It is another matter turn that energy into something productive on the court. And knowing how to withstand the struggled that inevitably come through the course of a season.

"“We’re going to be tough every single game,” Aaron Gordon said. “There is going to be no nights off. Give no team any passes. When they see Orlando is on the schedule, they will know they are going to have a fight.”"

That is all part of the identity the Magic hope to build over the course of the next few weeks leading into opening night and the regular season Oct. 17.

That is when the real test for this team begins. That is when the team will really see if all that hard work and external optimism really meets the reality this team faces.

dark. Next. Steve Clifford must carve his own path

It will be the day the Magic really see if they can be something different.