Orlando Magic center Mohamed Bamba apparently has not wasted his hiatus

The NBA’s suspension of the season has given Orlando Magic center Mohamed Bamba a jumpstart on his offseason. And he apparently has not let it go to waste.

The NBA got put on hold in mid-March just as the Orlando Magic were starting to pick up steam and hit what looked on paper like a soft spot on the schedule. Suddenly, they and everyone else around the league had to put their season on hold. Nobody then knew when they would return.

As the hiatus dragged on for months, everyone seemed to move on a bit.

The teams’ regional sports networks started airing classic games and things started to feel like the offseason. Even coach Steve Clifford said he was spending his time with his coaching staff in much the same way he would spend the offseason. They started evaluating the team like the season was over and planning for ways to improve for the next season.

Players could not really treat it completely like the offseason. They did not have access to the team’s practice facility and most players did not have easy access to a hoop. This was not a time to improve their skills.

Still, the time was not wasted.

The team sent individual workouts to the players and kept in touch throughout the hiatus. They shipped workout equipment to each player to try to keep everyone in shape. Everyone would do the best they could.

It appears Mohamed Bamba tried to make the most of his time.

On a Zoom call with season ticket holders, Mohamed Bamba claimed he put on another 28 pounds since the quarantine began. And, to avoid the jokes that we all have put on 28 pounds, he said when the team staff measured him, very little of it was body fat.

“I’ve worked my tail off during this quarantine,” Bamba told Magic season-ticketholders according to John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com. “I’ve taken this as an opportunity to really put on weight, really recover as far as getting rest and changing up my diet. I’ve been able to get a chef in and he drops off food occasionally. That’s probably the biggest thing that helped me put on a lot of weight.

“This is going to sound weird, but I put on probably about 28 pounds since quarantine (started),” Bamba said with a sheepish laugh. “We did the whole body (composition) testing when we got back in (the Magic practice facility) and I’ve only added about 2.5 percent body fat. So, a lot of it is muscle and I can’t wait to get back out there and work.”

This is the kind of work everyone would expect from Bamba in the offseason.

The number one thing everyone wants to see from Bamba is his continuing physical maturation. He needed to put muscle on his frame — he is listed at 231 pounds and even that was a significant increase from his weight last year.

Bamba has needed time to acclimate to the speed of NBA games. He needed time to fully recover from the stress fracture he suffered last January. And he was slowly getting there.

Bamba’s numbers this year were not that different from last year. He is averaging 5.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4  blocks per game. His blocks and rebounding numbers are virtually identical to last year.

But Bamba was starting to turn something of a corner. He was making a more pronounced impact defensively and showing more comfort offensively as his jumper started to come around more consistently.

Undoubtedly, the strength component is the biggest thing missing from Bamba and keeping him from more consistent playing time. This is the element the Magic have always needed to develop with the young Bamba.

It was never going to come fully in one summer — especially as he spent part of it rehabbing his leg injury — and it would be a continuing process to get him up to speed. This is a development the Magic expected to see in the offseason.

Bamba certainly treated this hiatus as if it was a jump start on his offseason. Early on, he shared what his home gym looked like when the Magic delivered equipment to him.

That video was posted a month ago when the hiatus really started. Bamba seemed to take that work seriously and use his space to good use.

This is the seriousness and intention you want from young players as they start to put their flag down on the league. This is the work teams want to see young players put in and go through to take the next steps physically in their careers.

The Magic still have high hopes for Bamba. They understood he was a project when they drafted him. And they are hoping he can start to make a more pronounced impact soon as they begin to transition toward younger players and try to take a step up the Eastern Conference ladder.

Whenever the season resumes, teams will be relying on their depth a lot more than usual. It is going to be hard to believe teams will jump right in playing their main players 35-plus minutes. Teams are going to rely on their entire roster to pace themselves through these games and keep starters fresh.

The proof of whether Bamba has put on useful weight will still be on the court. Like his teammates, he has not been able to put in the skill work to add to his strength work. That is always the next part of the offseason.

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But soon he will have to put this all to the test. At least, it seems he has gotten a jump on the work ahead.

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