Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford is using hiatus as mini offseason

Coach Steve Clifford is well known for his preparation and with so much free time, he is well at work to prepare for the rest of this Orlando Magic season. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Coach Steve Clifford is well known for his preparation and with so much free time, he is well at work to prepare for the rest of this Orlando Magic season. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

With the league on hiatus and no sense of when it will return, Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford is using his time as a mini offseason to prepare his team.

The whole NBA has hit the pause button right now with the league and the world dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. There is still hope the league will be able to resume and finish the season including a postseason, but nobody knows when that will take place.

The uncertainty of the league’s return has made things all the more difficult. Not to mention everyone has gone a month without playing — and for most players without even stepping onto a court, let alone playing at a high level.

The way teams like the Orlando Magic are going to have to approach returning is going to be a process in itself. It is not just merely roll the balls out and play once again. Everyone is going to need some time to get back into playing shape and back into form.

That includes preparation for whatever the rest of the season looks like. And with the delay continuing to advance further with no firm end date in sight, coaches have to prepare.

For anything.

Magic coach Steve Clifford is one for preparing. That is one of the hallmarks of his coaching style and what has helped him find success in Orlando. He gets into the details and his teams ready to play.

It is hard to treat this time off as anything but an offseason if you are a coach like Clifford.

Usually during the offseason, he gives his staff assignments and something to review about the team from the previous season. The whole staff will spend time after the season reviewing every game from the season and looking for ways to make the team better.

They study their own team in the offseason, leaving studying other teams to the daily grind of the season.

That process, it seems has already begun.

Steve Clifford told Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel and Marc Daniels of 96.9 The Game on their radio show last week his staff has already begun reviewing tape from this year and picking apart things they want to emphasize whenever they return.

"“Our whole staff is watching a lot of tape right now,” Clifford said. “Similar to what an offseason would be, this is a great time for study. Obviously, during the season, it’s critical that you play a game, watch the game, evaluate the game, make the necessary changes and move on quickly. It’s the only way you’re team can get better.“The great thing about the offseason — and this is similar —is you can go slower. It’s amazing when you have more time to sit and watch tape how much more you see. I give our staff a different project, a different component of our team, to focus on each week and every Thursday we meet [via Zoom] and hash it out. In that way, it’s been productive.“When we do come back, I think we’ve have two or three things that will help our group pretty significantly.”"

Surely part of that is about the team’s pace and getting the team to maximize its offensive potential.

The team had the top offense in the league in the 10 games since the All-Star Break and a lot of that was attributed to the team’s increased pace. Orlando did a better job running through its sets quickly and moving the ball. The team started camping Aaron Gordon near the basket and in the paint, which helped him direct the offense as a playmaker, passer and scorer.

The team was finally clicking, moving the ball quickly and getting open shots and 3-pointers. Orlando had plenty to learn from those last 10 games.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Defensively, the Magic probably needed the break to reset themselves. And this is probably where Clifford is doing a lot of study.

Part of that study too is probably looking at ways to use Jonathan Isaac (assuming he would be ready to return), Markelle Fultz and Mohamed Bamba. Tape review is especially good for looking at young players and getting some fresh eyes on them.

That is probably only scratching the surface at what the team is looking at.

The hard part, of course, is nobody knows when the season will resume. Nobody knows when they will get back to work. And now that the hiatus has lasted a month and could still.

The league is reportedly exploring a process that would take nearly a month before teams are actually playing games again — a two-week period where players work out on their own in the team facilities and then another two weeks for teams to work together.

It will almost be like a second training camp. Every team will need it to get back into rhythm and back into playing shape as the intensity of games will quickly increase with how close teams are to the end of their seasons — plus, it is not likely team will play the 15-plus games they have left on their schedule in full.

This is uncharted territory for everyone. And while some teams certainly have a talent advantage, everyone is facing the same uncertainty.

Next. Orlando Magic's final potential put on pause. dark

If there is one thing we know about Clifford, it is that he will have himself and his team ready.