Orlando Magic ring in new era with focus on fundamentals

The Orlando Magic are getting set to hire Jamahl Mosley as their next head coach. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic are getting set to hire Jamahl Mosley as their next head coach. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports /

There are a few changes to the AdventHealth Practice Facility as the Orlando Magic begin training camp and coach Jamahl Mosley takes over his team.

None are more obvious and more curious than a bright blue bell installed on the wall near the weight room and the pathway back to the Magic’s locker room.

That bell is something Magic players want to hear more often than not. It may very well be at the heart of everything the team is about.

As players told of it after their first practice session Tuesday afternoon, a coach rings the bell any time a player does a hustle play — diving on the floor, taking a charge, block, etc.

The Orlando Magic’s new identity and defensive mantra may well be represented by a blue bell hanging in the practice facility as the team starts a new era with a new philosophy.

Sure, it is a bit of a gimmick. But this is a young team. As Jalen Suggs would say after his first practice, after taking a charge during the team’s first session, R.J. Hampton hopped up and ran over to the bell nearby to ring it before a coach could get there.

But this is central to who the team wants to be now under Mosley.

"“Every night we have to be able to hang our hat on playing hard and playing defense,” Mosley said after Tuesday’s first practice. “The offense will find a way to take care of itself. But defensively, we have to hold our feet to the fire.“We want to be disruptive. We want to make sure that teams when they come into the building understand they are going to feel us. We’re going to be into the basketball. We’re going to fly around with five guys on a string and cover for one another.”"

That bell might be something silly. But it symbolizes a lot. And that it stood out in its first day of practice says a lot about who the Magic want to be.

Mosley did not trot out his oft-worn line about his team’s defense, but those lines of being tough, together and talking on defense are at the heart of what that bell represents.

The Magic are trying to build their identity. And each ring of that bell — each effort play, in other words — might as well be a brick in that foundation.

The first practice Tuesday afternoon was spent working on these fundamental principles. There was a lot of time spent drilling on skills the team would need on defense such as closeouts and pick and roll coverages. It was a repeat for some of what Mosley began teaching during his stint as the Summer League coach.

But it is all necessary to get things going for the team.

"“We just started off with what we talked about before: laying the foundation for how we are going to play defensively,” Mosley said after Tuesday’s practice. “A lot of teaching, a lot of instruction, drilling to let these guys understand how we want to play defensively.”"

Terrence Ross characterized the practice as energetic. That seemed to be something Ross said Mosley emphasized throughout the practice.

There are slight differences in what they are trying to do defensively. Certainly some different terminology and some different principles in tagging rollers and attacking screen and rolls. It is still the early stages of practice and everything is getting installed.

Everyone is figuring out and learning these differences.

As the media was let in to watch the final shooting drills and final moments of practice, the energy was certainly up with coaches clapping and shouting reminders to players while players kept count of their shots in whatever competition they were playing to close things out.

Under coach Steve Clifford, the team typically rolled the balls out and scrimmaged right off the bat — installing basic offense and defense but trusting veterans to get things going early.

Clearly, there is a different emphasis now with instructing and teaching at the forefront. With so many new faces, there probably was not enough installed to get much productivity from a 5-on-5 scrimmage.

It is certainly a different vibe at practice.

Rookie guard Jalen Suggs said the practice was “a lot of fun.” Players were laughing and talking throughout the practice as the coaches tried to keep the energy up. Fellow rookie Franz Wagner too said he felt comfortable during his first official NBA practice, with him getting some questions answered from equally eager veterans through the course of the practice.

The rookies took advantage of having the veterans around for their first practice.

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The tables were even turned on one drill that Summer League holdovers ran as veteran groups learned the new ways the team was operating.

The one thing that has stood out about this young group already is how close everyone appears to be. That has also helped add to the energy in these early days of practice.

"“In a way that we can all fly around the court, that makes it a lot easier when we need to rotate,” Suggs said after practice Tuesday. “The ball is swinging and guys are flying out to their position so we don’t have to call a red or a switch or try to get the ball out of their hands because of a mismatch. I’m excited. I’m just happy.”"

Things are still sinking in and the first practice session was about laying the foundations and the basic principles. It was more drill work and teaching than anything else.

Mosley said the team would reconvene for a second practice Tuesday that would include contact drills. He did not say Tuesday afternoon whether the team would scrimmage, leaving that somewhat up to how much the team could get installed and worked through and how they were feeling after the afternoon session.

Clearly, the Magic are building things up bit by bit. Mosley wanted his first practice to focus on those details. They will be important as the team puts layers on top of them and complexities to prepare for a game.

Hand placement or close-out technique or the energy the team plays with are all parts of the whole.

"“We are trying to lay a foundation,” Mosley said after Tuesday’s first practice. “It’s basketball. These guys are out here with enthusiasm and with energy. I think that’s all you can ask from them right now. We’re playing hard and trying to lay this foundation for what we’re doing.”"

Certainly, the Magic are still just starting. There is still a ton more to teach and reinforce as the Magic begin to get to work again.

Next. Orlando Magic must not forget the importance of patience. dark

Things are undoubtedly different though. And hopefully, they will hear that bell go off plenty. It will be a sign they are getting it.