Orlando Magic hope competition can get them up to speed

The Orlando Magic forced Jimmy Butler into six turnovers and dictated the tempo defensively for a big win. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic forced Jimmy Butler into six turnovers and dictated the tempo defensively for a big win. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic got to contact as they start to ramp up in their return. They hope the competition will push the team to improve.

Players in the NBA are naturally competitive.

Wins and losses matter. It is the only way to get to this level and the only way to get noticed. Everyone at some level is hungry to win.

It is the very basics of the game. The very basics of what is going on. All the fancy schemes and plays are all designed with one goal in mind — scoring more than the opponent at the end of the game.

Teams seek the guys who will win at almost any cost and detest the players who seem indifferent to the result.

At its core, basketball is a simple game of who wins and who loses. And with the league trying to reset itself after four months, it feels like the best way to build players back up and get them back into a competitive mindset is by reminding them of this simple fact.

The Orlando Magic’s first practice Thursday was all about getting their legs under them, getting used to their new surroundings (and court) and returning to the court. Coach Steve Clifford seemingly spent a lot of time running through shells and seeing how much the team had retained.

It was a joy to be back on the floor.

The second practice Friday was seemingly designed to get the competitive juices flowing again. Everything had a score — a winner and a loser. And as the team played with contact for the first time — playing 3-on-3 — and began the slow ramp up.

The Magic took another step toward their return.

"“It felt great being able to play basketball, to be honest,” Evan Fournier said after practice Friday. “Yesterday was more about 5-on-0, getting shots up. It felt great just being able to make passes, make shots, play defense and be competitive. Obviously we are going to ramp it up in the next few days. We’ll see, but it feels good.”"

Clifford said 3-on-3 games are the way the team is choosing to build up toward 5-on-5, full-scale action. But as Clifford said too, this is still a process to get everyone back into shape and back into rhythm. It is not something that would happen overnight.

The good news is every player that is with the Magic participated in practice the last two days.  Things appear to be moving forward carefully at this point.

Creating competition is a vital part of that. It is a way to beat the monotony of practicing every day — not to mention living in the campus setting. And so everything that was not instruction, Clifford said, had a score to it.

The team needs to get back into that competitive mindset.

It is their competitive spirit after all that got them to the NBA. And these guys have been ready to have some competition. It might even bleed into table tennis in the team’s downtime.

There is still a lot of work to do and some caution to take. Steve Clifford said he continues to discuss where the team is at with performance director David Tenney. Avoiding injury is still one of the biggest concerns the team has.

The Magic cannot push too hard too fast. Even if the Magic look good — something that both Clifford and several players have noted — for the long layoff, they have to remain cognizant.

There is no plan for what the Magic, and the other NBA teams, are going through.

"“I think for the amount of time that we had away, I think the guys have done a good job,” Clifford said after practice Friday. “To be honest, it’s just so different. we aren’t nearly in the type of shape we’d be in for a normal training camp. I’m happy with things, but it’s just going to be a process. In a normal training camp, I have the first five days mapped out. They are in a  good enough shape and a good enough rhythm that you can stick to the plan. This won’t be like that at all.”"

At a certain point, the team has to stay the course and trust its work. Terrence Ross said he was impressed with how well-conditioned the team looked. They are slowly getting their rhythm back.

The focus right now is on getting back to that level. The team is not yet thinking about the games ahead in a few weeks. There is a lot to do before then.

And so it starts with the simplest things. It starts with the relearning the offense and going through those shells. It starts with breaking a sweat and getting up and down the court.

And it starts with getting the competitive juices flowing however they can. Internal competition is always the best way to lift everyone up. A rising tide and such.

Without any games on the horizon and uncertainty about where the team is physically at, they have to do whatever they can to make themselves better in the short term.

“The main goal is to go back in shape, make sure we do our own stuff, make sure we execute and know what we have to do,” Fournier said after practice Friday. “It is too early to think about whatever. We should just focus on us and do everything we can in practice.”


And so the competition continues. Anything to get the team back into the flow of things.

As they ramp up toward 5-on-5 and getting fully back into playing, all they can do is compete against each other. They can only hope that this will get them in the right mindset and the right attitude to start playing again.

Next. Orlando Magic eager for chance to return to Playoffs. dark

That should be plenty of motivation.