Orlando Magic Restart: Steve Clifford is back in the office

The Orlando Magic and the NBA are a step closer to returning as coaches were allowed back with their teams as the workouts to restart the season begin.

Tuesday brought another important milestone in the NBA’s return to play.

With every player now back in their home markets, the league is starting to ramp up toward training camp. Access to team facilities is expanding and players are beginning to prep with an eye toward the July 30 return to play.

This week coaches are now allowed to be in the building and work with players. An important step in the process. So far coaches (and executives) have only been able to read reports from training staff and assistant coaches. Now they get to be much more hands-on.

And Orlando Magic coach Steve Clifford is already back to work:

Clifford is staying largely out of the way at the moment. He is hoping to catch back up with the guys and help them continue their work.

Obviously he is still working with a mask and gloves. So not much has changed for the players as of yet as they go through individual workouts. Every facility is still limited to just four players at a time in the building.

But Clifford was happy to be back at work:

The goal still is to get back into some offensive rhythm. Everyone knows this and conditioning will be the keys to success once the season resumes.

And so the goal with these workouts it seems is to get players’ conditioning up and get them back with a basketball in their hands to have some kind of rhythm.

Nothing will be the same of course as playing with contact. And that will be the most important part of the ramp-up to play when teams can start playing with contact in early July during training camp. That is still a long way off.

But having more people and the coach in the gym is an important first step.

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Access and activity will expand in the coming weeks as the NBA continues to eye its return. Next week, more players will be allowed in the facility at one time, although they will still be working out on their own.

This all leads to teams heading to Disney beginning July 9 to prepare for the beginning of the season. That is where training camp will take place.

That is a long way off and it still should be as the league continues to progress toward its return.

The news is still not encouraging around the nation and the coronavirus clearly is finding its way into the sports world.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported one Western Conference playoff team reported four positive tests as formal testing begins for players:

There surely will be more as the virus continues to spread within the United States. Cases throughout the country are on the rise again as more businesses reopen and life tries to return to normal.

With the facilities opening up more fully, players will be tested more regularly now. The hope is that with such a long time between the formal beginning of workouts Tuesday and the July 9 date to enter the Disney campus, the league can root out any positive tests.

The hope is a month will be plenty of time for any lingering positive tests to fully recover before the season resumes.

But even that is no fool-proof plan.

In Orlando, the NWSL’s Orlando Pride had to withdraw from the NWSL Challenge Cup — a tournament that may replace that league’s season — because six players tested positive for the coronavirus.

The belief, according to a report from The Athletic, is that the spread did not come from training but rather from players living together and some players going out to a local bar when they reopened. There is definitely some frustration that at least some players did not follow social distancing recommendations.

The Pride had been training for nearly a month and had begun group training in the last few weeks. They were scheduled to begin tournament play Saturday. That is obviously not happening.

Things are still very unsettled when it comes to the virus.

While cases are still up in Orange County — 415 new positive cases reported Monday — the hospitalization rate remains very low as most of the new cases are in younger people. The rate of positive tests also decreased Monday to 4.5 percent, a positive sign that people are taking testing seriously when they feel sick at least.

That is one positive that more people are getting tested. And while lines are still long at the testing center at the Orange County Convention Center, tests are still widely available.

The health system is certainly in better shape than it was in March and April to handle more positive tests. And younger people are certainly more resilient to the disease — many presenting as asymptomatic.

Testing systems are working if they are catching positive cases and getting people into isolation before they can further spread the disease.

Still, it is not worth the risk to allow the disease to spread. Anybody who has not otherwise had it could be susceptible to the worst of this virus. Everyone can do their part by wearing a face covering and continuing to practice social distancing.

That is probably among the recommendations the NBA is giving to its players to avoid any further positive tests. Especially as workouts begin to expand and the league eyes the beginning of its season.

Next: 5 players the Orlando Magic could sign with extra roster spots

First things first though, the NBA has its coaches back in the office as the league starts to come back to life.