Cole Anthony is proving himself again for Orlando Magic

Cole Anthony has not had a strong run for the Orlando Magic in Summer League. But his focus has been elsewhere beside scoring. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Cole Anthony has not had a strong run for the Orlando Magic in Summer League. But his focus has been elsewhere beside scoring. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

Cole Anthony is the first to say when he has not played well.

If anything, Anthony keeps it real with himself and everyone around him all the time. He wears his emotions constantly on his sleeve.

He said after a game last year when a reporter asked a question over the impersonal Zoom teleconference that he would always keep it real with the media. Even during a halftime interview with the NBATV broadcast, Anthony stopped himself as he went down a weird tangent.

The point is, Anthony is never one to hide his emotions or hold himself to a low standard. Anthony always expects the best of himself.

He had his best game of Summer League in Sunday’s win over the Houston Rockets, scoring 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting and 2-for-3 shooting from deep. It was just good to see Anthony get some shots to go down after his struggles to start the week.

"“I came here to get a rhythm,” Anthony said after Sunday’s win. “I didn’t come here to do anything else but get my rhythm and get ready for the season. I had the ball in my hands a little tonight, that helped. That definitely helped. It was an average game honestly. It wasn’t like I came out and had an exceptional game. But I did enough to help my team win.”"

So this Summer League has been disappointing to him to some extent. He has struggled to shoot the ball effectively and took a back seat during games. It was not the Summer League everyone expected from an experienced player, especially one who showed such a propensity for scoring in his rookie year.

Anthony has big expectations for his second year — both his own and from fans. But with a new coach and new competition at the guard spot, it feels like Anthony has to prove himself all over again. That certainly feels like the narrative coming out of a difficult Summer League.

Cole Anthony has struggled during his first Summer League. With a new coach and a new mentality, Anthony not only has to match his rookie year, he has to prove himself to the Orlando Magic all over again.

In the four Summer League games, Anthony is averaging 7.5 points per game and shooting 28.9-percent from the field and 30.8-percent from beyond the arc. Those are not impressive numbers. And in Summer League going against players on the fringes of the NBA, there was certainly the expectation Anthony would shine.

He started to find that rhythm in Sunday’s game. With Jalen Suggs out with a sprained thumb, Cole Anthony was on the ball a whole lot more. He became the team’s focus on offense and was the true point guard — Suggs ran point for the Magic’s first three games — and it showed.

Anthony was better at turning the corner and getting to the basket. That got him going as he was able to hit better from the outside. Anthony worked better off the dribble than he did as a spot-up.

But the general questions Anthony is facing are the same he faced at the end of his rookie season: Can he be more than a scorer? Can he be a more efficient scorer?

Anthony admitted following Thursday’s loss to the Boston Celtics that his goal was to find this rhythm. He said he had not played 5-on-5 basketball until the team came together for Summer League.

It is clear from watching the Magic, much less the other teams in Summer league, that players are at different stages of this adjustment with traditional 5-on-5 runs likely slowed by the still ongoing pandemic.

The main goal for Anthony then, much like the main goal for the team itself, was to get back into this rhythm and get to know the team’s new coach. That might have been the main goal for the team at large.

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

"“The practices, that’s what I was here for,” Anthony said after Sunday’s game. “The games are fun. Those are obviously cool to get a rhythm. I wanted to get accustomed to Coach [Jamahl] Mosley’s system, build chemistry with my new teammates and old teammates. It has been a very productive week. It’s not like I came out here and played the best. I just came out here to get a rhythm. I don’t have to be in tip-top season form now. That’s for a month and a half from now. That’s what I’m working for.”"

That is the end goal, of course: To be ready for training camp. Summer League was a jump start for the team’s young players. They got to experience what Mosley is looking for before everyone else. With a team so young, that experience will be important.

For Anthony, that will be important. He is getting challenged to do something new — going from the conservative defensive style of Steve Clifford to perhaps a more aggressive style Jamahl Mosley seems to be implementing.

Anthony said he was hoping to improve his defense in the offseason and throughout Summer League. If there is concern for his offense, it is minimized some by this focus and perhaps this lone pursuit for the Summer League.

Anthony’s real growth has come from his leadership. Fans saw how he rode for his teammates throughout his rookie season. That has only been emphasized through the offseason and now into Summer League. Watching him on the sidelines or on the court guide and direct players and teammates has been good to see.

Anthony though has plenty to take care of himself. He had a solid rookie showing, but the goal is to continue improving. The numbers will not show that Anthony did. So these questions will linger on a bit longer.

Anthony’s place as the backup point guard when Markelle Fultz is likely secured. He earned getting his name penciled in there with what he did during the regular season last year. But there is obviously more the Magic need to see — he obviously started most of the games last year as the Magic’s next best option.

Next. 4 big roster decisions facing the Orlando Magic. dark

Anthony, like every young player making their way through the league, has to continually improve and prove themselves over and over again.