Steve Clifford spending time to organize Orlando Magic offensively

Otto Porter is getting comfortable and set with the Orlando Magic's new offense. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Otto Porter is getting comfortable and set with the Orlando Magic's new offense. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images) /

To be a coach is to be in constant evaluation.

It is to be constantly trying to figure out what the team needs to be better and be prepared for the next game. It is a constant battle of time management and adjustments. An understanding of what the team needs and how to make sure lessons sink in.

That has gone double now with the Orlando Magic now facing the adjustments that come with a complete shift in the roster. The Magic are seemingly starting from near scratch having to rebuild both their offense and defense with new pieces and players taking on new roles.

It is not easy to do. Especially without a ton of practice time to hammer everything down. The team is learning on the fly.

The Orlando Magic are trying to figure themselves out on the fly. With their first practice since the trade deadline, Steve Clifford focused on getting his team’s offense organized.

After Sunday’s game, there was a lot to learn and figure out.

"“What you do is you study your team and you make the best decisions on that day so your team can make progress and go forward,” coach Steve Clifford said after practice Monday. “The games tell you if you are working on the right things. It’s evaluation and decision-making.”"

Clifford talked after Sunday’s game about the silly mental errors that cost the team the game immediately. They gave up five offensive rebounds, including three off free throws, and allowed the Los Angeles Lakers to get into the bonus early. they paraded to the line for nearly half their free throw attempts for the game.

But the bigger problem clearly was the Magic scored only 93 points. They scored just 39 points in the first half including only 18 in the second quarter. That simply is not enough to get the team close to a win on a nightly basis.

The Magic will need to score more (obviously).

A lot of those issues might well have been purely about offensive organization. The Magic gave up a 17-3 run to start the second quarter with the three new players largely sharing the floor. In the NBA, it is nearly impossible simply to roll the ball out and play effectively.

The Magic were not a great offensive team — in the bottom three — before the trade. The team had even more to figure out without them as they integrated these new pieces.

"“From watching the film, we need more offense in,” Clifford said after practice Tuesday. “We need more ways to keep a good NBA defense off balance and tomorrow will be similar. We put in quite a bit of offense in today and I’m hoping that will help us play better heading into tomorrow night.”"

Orlando got better as the game went on, of course.

The Magic posted a 114.9 offensive rating in the second half of Sunday’s game. The Magic scored 54 points and shot 45.2-percent from the floor in the second half. Dwayne Bacon scored 15 of his 29 points in the second half.

There is some hope.

But undoubtedly, Orlando has to get its new players further up to speed to compete more consistently. And the competition will be much stiffer moving forward than the undermanned Lakers.

For one of the rare moments for the Magic under Clifford, the team spent the majority of its time trying to hammer down and get better organized on offense. That will give the team the best chance to win.

"“We were able to get organized offensively,” Mohamed Bamba said. “We also did some defensive things, but obviously with so many games in short little time, you can’t bang against each other to work on defense. We locked in on film and we saw a lot of things to improve on. Coach is big on getting organized. I think today we did that. We put in more offense and we just got to know each other a little bit.”"

That is not to say the Magic never worked on offense before or did not put this kind of an emphasis on offense in other practices. Certainly, the team probably did so shortly after Markelle Fultz’s injury. They never quite found their footing even with all those pieces.

But at least they had some experience playing together before the season and a training camp to get the basics down. This group has far less time to get everything right.

And Clifford is not going to trust young players out of hand to run the show. He expressed concern for player development in rolling a lineup of all young players out without the guiding hands of veterans.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Part of the challenge Clifford is trying to navigate is the balance between trying to win and keeping young players in roles where they can succeed. That means there will still be plenty of Dwayne Bacon, Michael Carter-Williams and Otto Porter on the ball to lead the way at times.

How quickly they get with the new program and execute these new roles may ultimately be what creates success.

Clifford made clear after Sunday’s game, he is not in the business of moral victories. He still wants his team to do basic things and he is coaching the team with winning as a primary goal. players will develop in ways that will both benefit the individual player and help the team win.

Even if things have changed.

"“We want to win,” Bamba said after practice Monday. “We believe we can win. We’ve been in some close matches. We played with eight players and came close. We want to win and we want to get better. It’s a different kind of environment because it’s more of a learning environment. Cliff is still big on what he has been preaching. I think that will help us get to where we want to go.”"

The place to start entering Tuesday’s game against the LA Clippers is with the team’s offense. Getting the offense organized enough to attack consistently.

That is something the Magic needed anyway. A refocus on offense would help the team.

Next. It's a fresh start for Orlando Magic's newcomers. dark

But right now, it is all about getting organized and getting a base to grow from again. This process may take some time and may have its ups and downs.