What the NBA’s December start plans means everything speeds up for the Orlando Magic

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Evan Fournier, Orlando Magic
Evan Fournier had a lot to prove as he tried to get the Orlando Magic back to the playoffs. (Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images) /

Shorter offseason, more caution?

Coach Steve Clifford likes to say that every team is different. Every team has to go through training camp again and start from ground zero.

The Orlando Magic thought their continuity from the 2019 to 2020 season would give them a boost at the start. Injuries disrupted that. Clifford said the team did not have the training camp they hoped for. That was really the first sign of trouble.

But ultimately, once the injuries began to subside — about the time Nikola Vucevic returned in mid-December or when D.J. Augustin returned to the lineup in late January — the team started to come together a lot more. They survived the season because of their continuity and familiarity.

The reality is that a lot of the Magic’s success in 2019 was built in the preseason training camps in September. Those days learning Clifford’s system and expectations were vital to the team coming together and having the reserves to make their run later in the season.

There is no time to build all of that now. That vital preseason training time is out the window. Clifford said last week that several players have already returned to Orlando to start working out in the team’s practice facility (Terrence Ross has posted some video of him sneaking into the WWE ThunderDome in the Amway Center bowl). Others will surely trickle back in now that a firm finish line is in place.

Players at least now have eight weeks to ramp themselves up for the season.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

But this shortened preseason time is going to mean new players will have less time to integrate with their teammates. It likely means fewer (if any) preseason games and almost certainly a shorter training camp.

And that may cause a fairly robust trading market to tighten a little bit. Teams on the border like the Magic may make their decisions whether to go for the playoffs or take a step back and reassess things before the season.

Orlando believes competing and playing for the postseason is the best path for growing. So they might exhibit more caution then they otherwise would have. This shortened offseason might push the timeline one way or another.

Knowing they have to spend this season most of all developing Markelle Fultz, Mohamed Bamba and Chuma Okeke, they might value stability for their sake over making the kind of changes that will eventually become necessary.

They know they do not have to make any moves yet and they could use the trade deadline and next offseason to begin truly transforming the team.

Essentially, this shortened offseason and schedule is going to force the Magic to decide what they want their season to be in 2021 and decide it now so they can effectuate a plan quickly to make the most of it.