Ready or not, the games are coming for the Orlando Magic

Whether they are ready or not, D.J. Augustin and the Orlando Magic will soon face games to test their progress in the NBA's return. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Whether they are ready or not, D.J. Augustin and the Orlando Magic will soon face games to test their progress in the NBA's return. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic continue to build in practice. They are starting to run out of time as the games are coming quickly on the horizon to test their progress.

Coach and players have different ideas about training camp.

For coaches, it is a time to teach and really get into the nitty-gritty with players. It is their chance to form who the team truly is and set the foundations for everything.

Games are something of a distraction. They are the destination. Coaches are all about the journey. And there just is not time to create the proper level of instruction when there is a new game every time.

Coaches lose control once the games begin.

On the other hand, players cannot wait for games. It is what they live for and the moments that matter. It is where they have control over the outcomes and ultimately what everyone sees, determining their paycheck among other things.

Games are the rewards for all the hard work they put in to reach this point. It is what matters in the end and what everyone is working on.

It is the fun part, in other words.

In this early stage of the NBA’s restart, coaches want the games to be as far away as possible. They want more time to work with their teams and get them back into playing shape.

But the games are coming. The calendar marches on and the league is a mere 11 days away from resuming games that count.

Wednesday, the Orlando Magic will play a different team for the first time since March 10. It is something that the players are looking forward to and the coaches are somewhat dreading.

"“It’s going to be fun,” D.J. Augustin said after practice Saturday. “We’ve been going at each other in the last few weeks. Just to go against another team. Everyone I feel is on the same playing field as far as conditioning, basketball shape and rhythm. It will be good games for us to continue getting better for the regular season.”"

More from Orlando Magic Daily

The Magic will open their scrimmage schedule Wednesday against the LA Clippers. The league started spreading the word the first scrimmage will be a 40-minute game with 10-minute quarters rather than the full 48-minute game.

Even the league seems to share the concern that players are not physically ready for a full 48-minute game yet.  It has simply been too long away from playing anything resembling organized basketball.

Everyone is trying to play catch-up.

Coach Steve Clifford has continued to stress to the media looking for updates and assessments about the team that going back to games will be an uphill climb.

The team is progressing well and practicing with energy. But Clifford repeatedly says the team is nowhere near where they would be physically and in terms of what they can do like it was a regular training camp.

There just is not enough time to get players ready.

But the Magic are certainly still trying to make the most of their time.

Clifford said the team played more 5-on-5 than they have at any point since beginning practice a little more than a week ago in Saturday’s session. That is certainly seemingly a positive sign. He is trying to ramp things up while still installing some new offense and reinforcing the team’s basic principles.

However, the team is still holding out some players from certain parts of each practice. They are still very mindful of the team’s overall health.

Markelle Fultz participating in his second practice since clearing quarantine and joining the team in the campus setting was held out of the 5-on-5 sessions. Clifford is still looking to ramp him up to that level carefully, noting the Magic did not do 5-on-5 sessions as a team in their first two practices.

Throughout the course of this training camp, Clifford said he has held out players at various times to give their bodies a chance to rest and acclimate to the physical grind of the season again. He said not everyone has done everything.

The team has not had a full roster available throughout practice out of an abundance of caution. For example, Mohamed Bamba sat out of the 5-on-5 session of Friday’s practice. And the team has had only 10 players available for practice at certain points.

Clifford said this was not because of any injury but because of the team and performance staff’s desire to manage player workloads as they get back into playing regularly.

Still, Clifford’s review and his players’ reviews of their progress have been positive.

"“I have been really pleased with the way guys have practiced,” Clifford said after Saturday’s practice. “It just goes to show the approach of our group. We have a chance, obviously, to get back into the playoffs for the second year in a row, which would be a good accomplishment for us. I think they want to get playing a way that they can be a factor once the Playoffs begin.”"

Clifford praised his team’s preparedness and focus. He has always said his team is smart and a good practice team (although there were some criticisms they were not living up to their approach and focus from late last year earlier in the season).

The Magic have practiced at various times throughout the week too. The Magic practiced at a more normal time — early afternoon — when they started practicing. Then they shifted to early morning practices throughout this week — roughly 8 a.m.

Friday and Saturday — and moving on through the early part of this week — they are scheduled to practice in the early evening. It is a difficult schedule to keep everyone’s body fresh and alert.

More from Analysis

Clifford said the team has handled those changes well. That will be important with games taking place at odd times throughout the course of the seeding round.

Augustin said he is happy with how organized and focused everyone is throughout practice as they work to get into game shape and basketball shape. Everyone is working to get on the same page and playing with some level of intensity and focus.

Of course, that is all well and good. But every team is dealing with the mystery of how they will do with the shock of playing someone else.

There is always apprehension and excitement for that first preseason game even in a regular preseason. Although those games do not have the same challenges as this kind of a setting, those preseason games are a sort of a check-up too.

Coaches probably have a better sense of how those are going to go in October than they will when the games start this week. The first game, at least, is probably just going to be a roll the ball out and play with some organization. The result is probably not going to be most important.

The big concern through practice and these early scrimmages are to get their work done and get out healthy. But at some point, everyone needs to get tested on the court.

Next. Markelle Fultz primed to shine in NBA restart. dark

That first test is on the horizon. Whether they look forward to it or dread it.