Resuming season gives Orlando Magic a second chance

The Orlando Magic were not happy with their start to the season. The restarted season gives them a chance to start over. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic were not happy with their start to the season. The restarted season gives them a chance to start over. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic were not thrilled with how they started their season. The resumed season gives them a second chance to carry over their strong play.

Throughout the offseason, the Orlando Magic fans seemingly told anyone who would listen they had an advantage entering the season.

The Magic were returning every player from their rotation from last year’s Playoff team — a team that went 22-9 to make the postseason. They were seemingly brimming with confidence and experience.

Their young players seemed capable of still improving. They were adding Markelle Fultz and Mohamed Bamba to the rotation. Everyone seemed excited about what was coming with the team.

The team itself tempered those expectations a bit, merely hoping they would have a holdover advantage. Coach Steve Clifford would tell anyone who would listen not to buy into that.

Each year and team was different, he said. They could not expect to jump back right where they left off the previous year.

The team’s training camp did not go as planned. Injuries slowed things down in camp and early in the season. Orlando did not take advantage of a softer start to the schedule before an extremely difficult December and January.

The Magic were hanging on to some degree. They maintained their spot in the Eastern Conference pecking order but clearly did not advance. Most fans would describe this season as disappointing.

Orlando rallied by late February, just as the team did last year. The Magic were playing their best basketball and were starting to pick up momentum.

Then the season hit a wall with the coronavirus pandemic. Everything stopped for four months. Very clearly, there is no going back to that point in March again. Everyone is starting from scratch.

For the Magic, it is something of a second chance to the season.

"“This is completely unpredictable,” president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said during a teleconference Tuesday. “I was thinking the other day we kind of finished the season on a strong regular season note last year. We were faced with the challenge of carrying that forth this year. We stumbled out of the blocks. Toward the end of the season, we regained that traction and we were almost mirroring last year. Learning to carry that from the end of one season to the beginning of the next could be instructive for us.”"

That is the hope at least. At this point, it is all speculative because nobody knows how teams will be able to pick things up.

But this very much feels like a second chance to start the season. The return-to-play is a chance to start over.

It is a chance for the Magic to do what they could not do in October — carry over their success over a long layoff. That may be the true test of a quality team.

The NBA’s return-to-play plan is an attempt at a continuation. The league tried to set up the schedules and opponents each team heading to Disney will face based on the remaining schedules each team had before the season hit a stop.

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But this is not really a continuation at all. This is a restart. And everyone — from coaches to players to executives — is uncertain just how this will play out.

How does a team bounce back and pick things up after a four-month layoff? Not just a four-month layoff, but four months largely without basketball and certainly without playing even informal games.

The resumption of this season feels very much like the beginning of a new year — complete with a training camp and preseason games. There is no looking back.

"“All that matters now is how we’ve approached the last three months and especially the last few weeks with our guys back in the facility,” Weltman said in a teleconference with media on Tuesday. “I’m very comfortable that our players and our coaching staff and our performance staff have really stayed together, stayed organized. To whatever extent you can hope to be ready for something like this, we are.”"

Weltman echoed what Clifford has said about his team.

The players did a good job staying ready and working hard to be ready for the season. Weltman’s focus on finding players who have a high character in his words has put the team in the best position. He lauded his performance staff and coaches for staying together and focused.

But this is an unprecedented situation. And nobody knows how the team will react when they get in the gym together for the first time in a few months.

This is a training camp but significantly spread up. And the team will have to attack that challenge.

"“When you are facing unknown, when you are facing obstacles, when you are facing adversity, and that’s really a lot of what you face in this league, character matters,” Weltman said on a teleconference with media on Tuesday. “I feel very comfortable that we have a resilient group that will come together when they need to. I don’t know what it is we are going to face.”"

There is clearly the opportunity to still accomplish their goals just like at the beginning of the season. And they can still get their second crack at the Playoffs.

That is the ultimate goal for this team. Getting there will not be easy. While both the Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets have significant absences, the team still faces a tough schedule and difficulties of living in the bubble to get themselves to the postseason.

The Magic can still achieve that central goal. Regaining the focus and learning the lessons they may have lost from the beginning of training camp will be a test of this team as much as their life in the bubble.

Next. Earning the 7th seed is the only goal for the Magic. dark

Even with all the unknown elements present in this restarted season, this is a second chance to have the kind of start to the season they hoped for. This is a second chance to get the result they ultimately wanted from this season.