Orlando Magic’s two-way players always staying ready

The Orlando Magic are likely to bring two-way player BJ Johnson to Disney to help supplement their roster. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic are likely to bring two-way player BJ Johnson to Disney to help supplement their roster. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic are all hands on deck to get ready to restart the season, including the two two-way players who have joined the team inside.

The Orlando Magic were short-handed heading into Los Angeles for a back-to-back.

Evan Fournier suffered an injury late in the game against the Sacramento Kings and would be unavailable to face the Los Angeles Lakers. D.J. Augustin would miss the first of 14 games after picking up a knock in that game too. Michael Carter-Williams was out with a hip injury, leaving the Magic with just one healthy point guard.

The team was scrambling to fill minutes. They just signed Gary Clark and he would make his debut with the team that evening. But everything felt unsettled for sure. The Magic’s injuries were catching up to them on this West Coast trip.

For the first — and really the only — time all year, coach Steve Clifford called upon one of his two-way players for critical minutes.

B.J. Johnson had made his name as a scoring savant in the G-League. He was helping lead the Lakeland Magic to a third straight playoff berth. The Magic were right to have him as one of their two-way players, securing one of the top scorers.

But life as a two-way player is never easy. It is constant shuttling between dominating the G-League and searching for an opportunity in the NBA. It is about constantly staying ready and adapting.

This was B.J. Johnson’s chance and he made the most of it, scoring nine points on 4-for-10 shooting. He contested LeBron James’ game-tying 3-point attempt, helping it ultimately fall no good.

A player in Johnson’s position never knows when he might get called on again. But he has to take advantage of the opportunity when it comes.

"“It was huge for me,” Johnson said during a teleconference Thursday. “Every little opportunity you get, you try to make the most of it. Some people don’t get the opportunity. Whenever I do get the opportunity, I do what I have been doing to get noticed and help the team as much as I can.”"

Johnson averaged 22.9 points per game while shooting a 52.3-percent effective field goal percentage for the Lakeland Magic. With the Orlando Magic, Johnson appeared in only eight games, scoring a total of 13 points in 46 minutes.

The Lakers game that January evening was really the only extended playing time Johnson ever got with the main roster.

But both he and the Magic’s other two-way signing, Vic Law, are with the team inside the NBA’s Disney campus for the restart of the season. They are getting some extra NBA reps.

And with the likelihood that teams will have to rely on their depth and expand their rotations, an opportunity is present once again for these two young players to make an impression on the NBA world.

"“I think as a two-way player and a guy just as myself, you have to be ready every night and be ready for your opportunity,” Vic Law said in a teleconference Thursday. “Coming in and being my rookie year, I’m super excited to be called up to the Magic and have this blessing. I take it super serious every day to be mentally and physically prepared for when that opportunity comes.”"

Law has made the impression himself, even if he has not gotten a lot of time in the NBA yet. Law has played only nine minutes across five games, failing to score and missing all three of his shots to this point. That is hardly enough time to find anything resembling a rhythm.

But he had a stellar run with the Lakeland Magic, scoring a team-high 650 points and averaging 19.7 points per game on a stellar 57.0 percent effective field goal percentage.

The Magic like him for his shooting ability and size. He still has to prove consistency. It was still enough for him to get a fresh two-way deal in January before the deadline to sign players to the special contract.

Whether that will mean playing time is still a big mystery.

The Magic have certainly needed every body they can find in practice. Clifford said the team had only 10 players available for Wednesday’s practice. So they needed both Johnson and Law to fill minutes.

They got plenty of highlights in the Magic’s daily practice reel:


This is what players at the end of the bench have to be. They have to stay ready and show up in practice to help and make their mark. All without the promise of ever appearing in a game.

These guys are usually grinders. The roles they have to play are usually much smaller than they would in the G-League or otherwise.

For the coach, they need to be someone he can trust to help the team get their work in.

"“I am comfortable having both of those guys around,” Clifford said of the Magic’s two-way players during a teleconference Thursday. “They were around us during the season, they did training camp with us. They know what they are doing. They are both good workers and good practice players. You function well when they are on the court. I have a confidence level in both of them and I like having them around.”"

With the team worried about wear and tear, the rotation certainly will expand. It is not likely to expand large enough to include Johnson and Law.

That could change quickly if the team is not comfortable with its progress and its ability to carry through the compressed schedule. Everyone is going to have to play a role to get the team ready and get through this season.

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They will stay ready for that opportunity and continue to learn and grow.

Law said playing with the Orlando Magic has been “monumental” for his growth and development as a player. The experience has helped him learn what it takes to play in the NBA.

Johnson added he learns things every time he is with the Magic. He just hopes he has the chance to apply it.

"“I think that’s just how I approached the season earlier in the year,” Johnson said in a media teleconference Thursday. “The Laker game, a couple of guys went down and I had to step up. Hearing him say he is going to expand the lineups definitely gives me a confidence boost. I think over the year, I did a good job proving myself and earning some trust with Cliff. If the opportunity presents itself, I’m going to be ready.”"

That opportunity has been harder and harder to find. The restart to the season might give them that chance.

Next. Schedule set up for Orlando magic to thrive. dark

Regardless, they know they have to be ready.