Energy is the hallmark of Orlando Magic’s early practices

R.J. Hampton has shown plenty of promise in his first run with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
R.J. Hampton has shown plenty of promise in his first run with the Orlando Magic. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

The Orlando Magic are a mere four practices into their season and working with new coach Jamahl Mosley and already some themes are emerging.

The first is the team’s focus on defense. That was no surprise. The roster was built on defense and Mosley’s immediate background was focused on defense with the Dallas Mavericks. The Magic were hoping their new coach would not only be able to develop players but also fit the team’s roster strengths.

No one has any clues yet for exactly how the team is going to play. Mosley has only said he wants his team to be into the ball and apply pressure — tracking with the way the Mavericks played defense under his direction. But other than that, he has only laid out the tentpoles of playing with toughness, togetherness and talking.

It is that last point that has probably been most visible and impressionable to this point in training camp.

The other way everyone has characterized Mosley practices is that they are energetic.

Energetic has been the most used adjective for the Orlando Magic’s training camp to this point. They are providing a look at what the team will value and how they will try to build themselves this season.

From the implementation of the team’s hustle play bell in the practice facility and the overall vibes even when the media is allowed inside, there is definitely a different vibe to practices. It is indeed energetic with players and coaches shouting encouragements and picking up the pace as players move through their drills.

There is indeed a different energy in the building.

"“It’s fun. I don’t know if you can hear it but the energy in the building is crazy right now,” veteran guard Gary Harris said after Wednesday’s morning practice. “The guys are having fun. We’re going hard and we’re pushing each other and holding each other accountable. It’s been a great start so far.”"

The beginning of camp is always filled with excessive drill work. Especially with a new coaching staff and a young team, there is a lot of teaching going on as the team lays its groundwork.

Harris said the team began installing some of its offense in the morning session Wednesday. The second practice Tuesday night was a contact practice and Cole Anthony said the team did get up and down the court a little bit, but things were still largely controlled.

Mosley said the team got up and down and competed a little bit more in the evening practice Tuesday. The spirit and energy of how they compete have been a good thing to see from him, he said.

This is all to say, the Magic are still working on getting the basics down and learning how to apply that to live action.

That is where the team has to create and find its energy. They do this in several ways.

Noise is just noise unless it is directed somewhere, after all.

Anthony said coming into a practice with energy means that everyone is “super intense.” Even someone who is not in the current rep is there encouraging teammates in the drill. He said the energy is everyone wanting to be there and work as hard as possible at any moment.

This means everyone is active at all times, staying engaged with what the team is doing even when they are on the sidelines.

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That can include the coaching staff. Mosley said he and his staff hop in on drills on occasion with Mosley promising that as long as he can step on the court, he would not ask his players to do something he is not willing to do himself.

What this energy is really about though is staying focused on the task at hand for that day and holding each other accountable.

"“I think it’s huge for us,” Mosley said after Wednesday’s first practice. “What we’ve talked about and continue to talk about is holding each other accountable. I think when you can hold people accountable for pushing the next man and powering the next person, that keeps the energy in the building. Because you know you are trying to do the right thing for the next man that you are working with.”"

Much of the early days of camp have been spent focused on intangible things like the team’s foundation and culture. Everyone is still seemingly getting a feel for what the coaching staff will ask for and the way they are going about their work.

The team is still focused on fundamental aspects of the team’s philosophy and way to play at this early stage of camp. It is certainly much easier to be excited at this point of the season.

But all the talking, encouraging and engaging serves a bigger point. It all goes back to those central premises Mosley pushed throughout the offseason.

Somewhat surprisingly, talking was one of the central elements of Mosley’s defensive approach. It sounds like a simple thing — defense is a lot of communication and calling out coverages. And so all this energy coming to practice is not just meant to push players to give more effort but also to get used to talking and sharing on the court.

R.J. Hampton said the coaching staff wants him to be more active and talking defensively. That is surely a directive sent to other players as well — Anthony specifically has promised to be a better defender this coming season.

One thing is certain though, this new approach has lifted everyone up through these early days of practice. It has set a tone for who the Magic want to be this season.

Everyone is staying active and involved.

"“I think it’s just good for the spirit,” Hampton said after Wednesday’s first practice. “I think we want to bring life back to the city of Orlando. Guys like to come and work for a coach and a coaching staff that has energy. You want to play hard for that coach and, in turn, play hard for each other.”"

That might be the best encapsulation of the impact of energy on the team’s practices so far. It is about implanting a spirit and focus in the team at this stage that can carry over to the games when they begin.

Orlando will certainly be ramping things up in the coming days. With more offense and defense installed, the Magic will probably be looking to increase their competition and simulate game action. The team is certainly very aware they travel to Boston on Sunday for their first preseason game Monday.

Pretty soon, the team will have to apply everything they have worked on into game action. And that is perhaps the biggest mystery facing the team at the moment.

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The team is still putting in a lot of information. But the early promise is that the team is going to do everything with energy. That may just be the baseline for everything else.