Orlando Magic excited to return, eager to get back to playing

The Orlando Magic are eager to huddle up again and get back to work. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic are eager to huddle up again and get back to work. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /

This week the NBA took a step closer to returning with its return-to-play plan. The Orlando Magic are excited to get back to work.

On March 10, the Orlando Magic completed an incredible 16-point turnaround and then held off the Memphis Grizzlies in a battle between the two eighth-place teams in the NBA. This was the kind of game that could be a turning point for either team in their upcoming playoff race.

This was the beginning of the sprint to the finish of the season.

The Magic especially had a lot to look forward to. They were playing their best basketball — at least offensively, leading the league in offensive rating in the 10 games since the All-Star Break. They completed a four-game road trip with three wins and had a 3-pointer to win the fourth.

And the schedule set up for them to win. Eight of their next 10 were at home with nine of their next 10 against teams with a record worse than .500 — teams the Magic have a 25-9 record against those teams.

Orlando saw its opportunity and, like last year, had the momentum to take advantage of it.

Then it all stopped. The coronavirus put the season on hold. The Magic’s opportunity was lost — or, at least, put aside for the moment — and the league had to wait.

The typical offseason lasts from mid-April until late-October for games. That is a span of seven months. For teams that make the Finals, they knock off a couple of months.

This three-month absence is nearly as long as a typical offseason then — and for the eight teams that missed the Playoffs, waiting until December means they will go nearly 10 months without playing real live NBA games.

It is safe to say, everyone is a little itchy to get back to work. Everyone is ready to play.

And with where the Magic left off and still so much to play for, the Magic are ready to get back to work. They have been antsy as anyone else to finish this season, still seeing so many benefits to the end of the season both on the court and for the team’s future development — the extra games and time are certainly a leg up on the teams that will not be playing the rest of the season.

The statements the Orlando Magic released after the league announced its return to play format certainly reflect this. And team officials hit the airwaves to discuss the NBA’s return to play plan.

President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said he is excited to see the team get its due and its chance as a playoff team to finish the season.

"“We have earned the right to be a playoff team and we look forward to participating in the playoffs in whatever format the league deems most equitable,” Weltman said in a statement. “We are ready to go. Our guys have worked very hard during this hiatus. The majority of our guys have remained in Orlando. They’ve stayed attached to their programs, to the coaching staff and attached to each other. We’re optimistic that when the time comes to return to work that they’ve put a good foundation in place to build upon.”"

He told Brandon Kravitz of In The Zone on 96.9 The Game he believes players have done well to stay in shape and prepared for the season to return. He believes the team did a good job staying connected to each other during the break.

Jeff Weltman cooled some talk on Jonathan Isaac’s recovery. He said Jonathan Isaac is ramping up his workload but his timetable still has not changed. The team will let his recovery dictate his return.

But it is unlikely Isaac will play, according to Weltman. He said they are not counting on Isaac being able to play. But the door is not completely closed.

Coach Steve Clifford added on a separate radio appearance (linked below) that Jonathan Isaac has started to do some on-court work, but he is still far away from being able to play. The team will continue to evaluate him and see how he responds to treatment.

Additionally, Weltman said he did not have any concerns over Clifford and his health. The two have spoken often and he said he went to a vigil with the coach downtown earlier in the week.

Weltman said Clifford does a good job taking care of his health and he is confident the coach will be ready to be on the sidelines without any lingering concerns — beyond the regular concerns for everyone.

Clifford for his part has been very pleased with reports on the team’s fitness and training during the hiatus as players have gotten back into the AdventHealth Practice Facility.

Clifford too is eager to get back to work just as his players are. He is eager to get back into the Playoff race and see the team have its chance to finish the season.

"“Our guys have worked extremely hard and made a great commitment to stay ready,” Clifford said in a statement Thursday. “We have played our way into playoff position and are certainly looking forward to the opportunity ahead. We can’t wait to get back in the gym and get to work.”"

Clifford is eager to see the season return. The Magic control their own destiny with a chance to move up. He has clearly been thinking about the playoff scenarios and how the Magic can improve their seeding.

He spoke to Mike Bianchi on Open Mike on Friday about the possibilities of the upcoming season:

Magic CEO Alex Martins said in a statement from the team he is eager to see basketball return and the unifying power of sports to bring some comfort for fans and people dealing with difficult times — both the pandemic and civil unrest. He said he hoped the Magic and the NBA could be part of that social change.

Martins spoke with Scott Anez of the Heart & Hustle Podcast about the NBA’s return and the significance of its return, providing some details on some of the discussions the NBA had as they made their return to play.

Everyone also talked about what is going on in the country with the growing protests over racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police officers in Minneapolis. They all said they have had discussions with players and they have discussed ways they can make a positive impact using the influence the Magic have in the community.

Alex Martins said he has already begun discussing what the Magic can do with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Martins has been part of Orange County’s task force to reopen the economy in the wake of pandemic and so he has been very involved in the local politics.

There are still details to hash out for the league for its return. Martins admitted to that. And those discussions will begin between the board of governors and the players in the next few weeks.

Next. Orlando Magic's schedule should give them edge for eighth. dark

But everyone is excited and eager to see the league return. And they are indeed one step closer to getting back to work.