Orlando Magic have to find their own energy and their own rhythm

Terrence Ross is a player who feeds off the energy of crowds and his Orlando Magic teammates. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Terrence Ross is a player who feeds off the energy of crowds and his Orlando Magic teammates. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

One of the unknowns of this return to play is how teams will provide their own energy without a crowd in attendance. The Orlando Magic are preparing for it.

When Terrence Ross gets heated up, the crowd at the Amway Center starts to rise and murmur with anticipation. He builds momentum upon itself, growing and growing, creating a snowball effect that buries opponents.

Terrence Ross is already a fan favorite player. And his presence and his making shots already get everyone into a frenzy. Nothing makes the Amway Center louder than Ross getting himself going from deep.

He is a player that feeds off energy. As the crowd builds, his momentum builds.

So many of the Orlando Magic’s players are the same. They feed off their emotions. And big plays that get the crowd going get them going too.

That is a factor that will no longer be present. That go-to energy that only a crowd can provide will not be there when the team resumes playing Wednesday for the team’s first scrimmage and for the resumption of the season next week.

The Magic will have to find their own energy.

"“It’s going to be a little different,” Terrence Ross said after practice Sunday. “I still have the same mindset of trying to come in and get hot quick. It’s nice when the fans are cheering for a bucket. But my mindset is going to be the same.”"

Among the many elements that are completely unknown about these games coming up is how players will react to completely empty stadiums. It is something that players likely have not experienced for much of their careers.

Players will get the chance to inspect their surroundings Monday. Coach Steve Clifford said the NBA is giving players the opportunity to tour the three arenas the league is using for the scrimmages and games when the season resumes.

It will be the first time players will be able to check the set up for the games they will actually play.

Fans will get their first look at the setup when the scrimmages begin Wednesday. From a broadcast perspective, the FOX Sports Florida crew did their run through on the sets they will use inside the Amway Center on Sunday.

It will still be a unique and different experience for everyone.

"“It’s going to be awkward for sure,” Evan Fournier said after practice Sunday. “It’s almost like it’s going to be a really competitive scrimmage. We’re going to have to find the energy from within and get the motivation. Once we get into the game, we won’t be paying attention to it. The biggest difference is whoever is on the bench, we’re going to have to be really into the game and vocalize a lot of stuff because we’re going to need to get that energy from somewhere.”"

Home and road

Keeping that same mindset is part of what Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier have done successfully this year.

Ross averages virtually the same scoring average at home and on the road this season. He actually shoots better on the road than at home — 54.3 percent effective field goal percentage to 48.0 percent.

After the All-Star Break, there started to be a difference. He averaged 25.0 points per game at home compared to 21.0 on the road. But he still shot better away from the Amway Center — 66.3 percent effective field goal percentage on the road compared to 57.1 at home.

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Both come in relatively small samples — 10 total games. But Steve Clifford said a big part of Terrence Ross’ turnaround was health. He had recovered from nagging injuries that kept him from being 100 percent earlier in the year.

The other part, Clifford said, was Ross learning how to handle double teams and the way defenses shifted to cover him. He requires a lot of attention.

Ross was just as adept at quieting crowds as he is at getting the Orlando Magic crowd pumped up.

Evan Fournier also has played a bit better on the road — averaging 19.7 points per game on the road compared to 18.0 per game at home but shooting a 58.5-percent effective field goal percentage at home compared to 54.5 percent on the road.

It is hard to know how much of that will translate.

"“That’s going to be one of the dynamics for every team and every player that you’re going to have to figure out,” Clifford said after practice Sunday. “It’s different for NBA players. Fans and the support and enthusiasm are big part of basketball. It’s something that we’re going to talk about. It’s going to be different. The teams that adapt to that quicker are going to have an advantage.”"

Still adapting

The team is still adapting to is surroundings as it gets its work done.

Steve Clifford said the team had a similar practice Sunday as Saturday, doing a lot of instruction before getting into playing. He said he felt the players have done a good job and he has been pleased with the team’s spirit and energy throughout practices.

His concern is still largely about the team’s transition defense and rebounding. Those have been larger concerns throughout the season, something Clifford has highlighted at various points throughout the season.

But he thinks those are things they can correct quickly and are about establishing habits from not having played for a long time. Like so much, they will not really know until they play games again.

"“I think that we’ve worked well,” Clifford said after practice Sunday. “We’ve practiced well. I think the big thing will be just like training camp preseason games, we’ll see where we are at. We’ll get a better idea offensive and defensively what things we’re doing well in and what things we’re not. I think it will give us a much clearer picture of what we need to work on to play for real.”"

Steve Clifford said he will sit down with high-performance director David Tenney on Monday to figure out what minutes and workload each player can handle so they can set a plan for the week.

There is an eagerness from players to get playing again. They are looking forward to these scrimmages as an opportunity to see where they are at.

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  • It may not be as far as fans believe.

    Evan Fournier estimates he could probably play about a quarter at his regular season best. He said every team is facing that same struggle. So they are all dealing with the same difficulty trying to get in shape.

    Facing the energy deficit

    Like everything else, everyone will face the energy deficit that comes with playing without a crowd. They will have to find a way.

    The Orlando Magic’s best shooters always feed off the crowd at home for sure. But they have found their rhythm outside the friendly confines of the Amway Center. They will have to draw on that experience.

    Still, there is little to compare too.

    Evan Fournier has described being inside the NBA’s campus as similar to being with his national team when they travel to tournaments. There is a collegial feel to the atmosphere.

    But even those games, even in far-flung countries throughout Europe and the world, have games in front of raucous crowds.

    The closest NBA comparison to what players are likely to experience is something similar to the NBA Summer League in Orlando. Those games were played only in front of team personnel, media and scouts with only a select number of fans — mostly Magic season ticket holders.

    Despite the lack of fans in the building, games still generated some buzz when they were close. It is hard not to get into a close game, even as a neutral observer.

    But a lot of the energy came from the bench. The benches that stayed engaged in the game and created energy for their teams were usually the ones that performed better. It was noticeable to see who was giving their team that support.

    Players on the bench certainly will have a role in trying to create energy for their teams. The players on the bench will have a bigger role than ever before staying engaged in the game and helping manufacture that momentum.

    But that might all be logic talking and not actual practice. That might not be how things actually go.

    Next. Markelle Fultz's return makes Orlando Magic whole again. dark

    Like so many other things, this is a great mystery.