Jeff Weltman: Orlando Magic in the midst of a “toxic brew”

Cole Anthony has had his struggles since joining the Orlando Magic's starting lineup. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Cole Anthony has had his struggles since joining the Orlando Magic's starting lineup. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

If there was one season the Orlando Magic could not face major injuries, it was this one. The team is in the midst of a “toxic brew” of bad fortune.

The Orlando Magic had a plan for Cole Anthony.

The promising young point guard would largely come off the bench and be a backup point guard. His role would be narrowly defined, the groups he played with carefully tailored and his situations and responsibilities simple but able to grow and emerge.

It was also somewhat about limiting the mistakes a rookie usually makes.

Less than 10 games into the season, the Magic have had to throw that plan completely out the window. Markelle Fultz’s torn ACL has forced the Magic to throw out a lot of their plans. The team is seemingly rewriting everything on the run.

Anthony has been forced into the starting lineup. The rookie has to step in and try to lead a team with playoff aspirations with little time to prepare.

He has struggled but not for a lack of effort.

Since entering the starting lineup, Anthony has averaged 11.7 points and 2.3 assists per game with a 37.1-percent effective field goal percentage. The team has a 102.1 offensive rating with Anthony on the floor since Jan. 6. That is not a good number but still better than the team’s overall average.

It has been a struggle for the Magic since Fultz’s injury — the only win coming in the game Fultz got hurt during that time. Orlando has had to figure things out on the fly with an undermanned roster.

It has been the story of the season so far. From Evan Fournier to Michael Carter-Williams to Markelle Fultz, the Magic have faced more than their share of injuries. And this is coming in a season that affords little time to catch your break.

President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, in what appears to be his first public comments since Markelle Fultz’s injury, described the Magic’s current situation as a toxic brew as the team tries to figure things out.

He joined Mike Bianchi on his Open Mike radio show to discuss the Magic’s bad luck so far:

"“It’s coming fast and furious,” Weltman said on the radio show. “We’re playing with a lot of guys who are being stretched to their limits right now. Both maybe as far as soaking up minutes and being put into roles they are not accustomed to and young guys who are being thrown to the wolves. And doing so in a climate without much time to practice. It’s sort of a toxic brew. That’s what we’re dealing with more than most because of our injuries. But it is something the league is largely dealing with. It’s something we’re just going to have to contend with this season.”"

The lack of practice time is a fact of life throughout the league. Every team is dealing with it to some extent. But for a team dealing with shifting roles and injuries like the Magic, practice time is invaluable — even if they cannot go full contact and 5 on 5 for very long.

Orlando has to essentially forget about the strong start it had and everything the team built in training camp and almost start completely over with its philosophy and processes.

Of course, there will not be a pause to the season (as of yet). There will not be an opportunity for the team to get together and have a few days of practice. The Magic are going to relearn their roles and their way of playing in games. And that will be a huge sacrifice.

The hope then is the team can get healthy again to weather this storm and refind their rhythm to accomplish their goals. That is all the team can seemingly do.

As for Anthony, the team is still very high on him and hopeful he can figure things out now in his new role as a starter. They still admire how much of a fighter he is although admit as others have that he is a bit too hard on himself at times.

Jeff Weltman added the team has confidence in both Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac to make a full recovery. He said both Fultz and Isaac are both hard workers who will commit themselves to their recoveries. He has faith in those players and the medical staff to get them all back when they are ready to play again.

He also added that the team is looking to get Mohamed Bamba opportunities and that the injuries and the nature of this pandemic season have put Bamba behind the curve of where he should be. Weltman said the goal for Bamba is simply to continue improving.

The larger picture for the team is still incredibly murky though. The team has to find a way with the group it has and needs players to step up to stay in the playoff race. That still clearly remains the goal.

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That part will not be easy. And so the hope remains that the team can get some players back and take steps back in the right direction to make things a bit easier on players like Anthony who have found themselves suddenly playing larger roles with little time to prepare.