The Orlando Magic are getting a much-needed break to reorganize and practice after Wednesday’s game with the Boston Celtics was postponed.
The NBA has postponed the Orlando Magic’s game Wednesday against the Boston Celtics because the Celtics would not have enough players available to play due to contact tracing and the league’s health and safety protocols. The Magic reportedly will stay in Orlando and depart for Boston on Thursday ahead of the teams’ scheduled matchup Friday.
Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reports the Celtics are expected to get Grant Williams and Tristan Thompson back by then, giving them enough players to field a roster and play the game.
The league, in conjunction with the NBPA, also announced enhanced safety protocols that will be in place for the next two weeks as the league tries to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19 within the league the last few weeks.
Among the new guidelines will be a requirement that teams sit players on the bench in the same arrangement they sit on the plane, the banning of hugs, handshakes and high fives between teams before and after games and restrictions on meeting sizes, times and locations outside of practice and on-court activity.
Additionally, players have been asked to stay at home except to go to games and team activities and essential activities. The NBA’s list of approved restaurants players can visit on the road is gone as the league is set to try to create as close to a bubble environment as they can on the road.
The point of all this is to limit exposure, recognizing full well that there is undoubtedly exposure when players play against each other on the court. But that is unavoidable if the team is trying to play games and get through this season.
The Magic practiced Tuesday and were prepared to leave for Boston before the news came down. The Magic will remain in Orlando and practice Wednesday and Thursday before leaving for Friday’s game.
That is certainly a relief for a team that is dealing with lots of injuries and very little time to cement any changes to the way the team has to play. After Saturday’s loss to the Dallas Mavericks, coach Steve Clifford joked the thing the team needs most is three days of practice.
The only silver lining to the Magic’s game getting postponed Wednesday is they will get a rare opportunity to practice for three straight days and a chance to take a breath.
The Magic have played either back-to-back or every other day since the season began on Dec. 23. They were not planning on having consecutive days off again until Feb. 3. So this pause is certainly welcome.
Orlando completed its practice before the news of the postponement came down from the NBA. Clifford said the team used the day to review film and teach new concepts for what to do in different situations. The Magic did not do a lot of live-action on-court work. It seemed mostly reviewing the offense the team has already installed and keeping things organized for different situations.
Clifford mentioned specifically how difficult it was to play this many games in these few days, saying it was harder than even the lockout years. He has been careful about pushing his players on the court and trying to save their legs for the games.
But Clifford still has lamented how little time they have gotten to get through repetitions of the team’s defensive schemes and offensive plays — something the coaches actually keep track of. Getting a little more time to go through them even in walk-throughs in practice will help them in games.
Considering how meticulous Clifford usually is in his preparations, this is a necessary time for the team to improve and grow. And the expectation should be that a Clifford team will come off this break a lot more organized and prepared to play.
That has been the key to this whole season, especially since the injury to Markelle Fultz. The Magic have had to figure out how to play point guard and run the team without their star player and with a point guard in Cole Anthony who is clearly not wholly prepared to start and run the team.
Orlando absolutely needed this breath to get themselves better organized and prepared to play this way. Tuesday was a light day, but the Magic will surely now have the ability to have a regular practice to get comfortable and do drill work to be better organized and comfortable with the team.
Although there will still be the concern of keeping everyone’s legs and rested heading into the gauntlet of the rest of the season. The Magic now have some options and the ability to get some real work in beyond film study and walkthroughs. That time is invaluable and a rarity in this pandemic season.
The Magic are getting a needed break now to recoup and learn to prepare for the rest of the season. Especially before this difficult road trip — now a five-game, eight-day trip — begins.