Excuse the Orlando Magic for taking the long view of things this season.
The team has made it clear that its goal is to develop its young players and see what it has. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman stated that as one of his goals for the entire season. So if the team is not quite ready to look at the results to judge itself, that is OK.
Or it might just be an act of lowering expectations and giving the team smaller goals to achieve ahead of a season many are expecting to be a difficult one if wins and losses are your things.
The Magic are not going to forget the final score as they evaluate themselves and go about this season. At the end of the day, Orlando is going to want to win games. And the team will need to see an improvement that points to a team that can win at some point down the road.
But it is a process to get to that point. And the Magic still feel they are at the beginning stages, focusing instead on the daily grind and achieving something in each rep to build up to achieving something in a game.
The Orlando Magic are getting ready for the start of their preseason games. They view those games less as a measuring stick of progress but an extension of their foundation-building work from training camp.
This Orlando team is still unmolded clay. The new coach has a philosophy of what he wants to run and has focused his training camp on instilling those fundamentals and getting those basics down.
A preseason game will check on how the team is doing on that front for sure. But the game itself is nothing more than another chance to practice and learn.
The preseason games will be the first public display of the Magic under Mosley and the debut of this team with his philosophy. But it is just another day at the office and another chance to cement the team’s overarching beliefs.
"“It’s a continuation of training camp,” Mosley said after Saturday’s practice. “It’s continuing to get a feel for what combinations work well together, how they are picking up on the things we want them to do from our foundation of defending first, getting into the basketball, being physical and running lanes. It’s just a continuation of training camp.”"
To this point, Mosley has not really revealed much about how he wants his team to play. And when asked to talk about who has been playing well in camp, he declined to name anyone. The most information anyone has gotten about player performance in camp came from the latest episode of Terrence Ross’ podcast.
Pace and pressure have been something he has talked about a lot though.
He confirmed when asked about his view of pace he wants to see the team push the pace and get into the offense sooner — calling it pace 21, or getting up the floor within the first four or five seconds of the shot clock.
It sounds too like Mosley wants his point guards and lead guards to call plays and have the freedom to feel the game and make decisions. That does not mean Mosley will not call plays when he has to. But it sounds like he wants to empower players to make decisions on the court.
He has talked a lot about how he is trying to instill defensive pressure as part of the team’s foundation. And a lot of drill work has been put in on being precise on close outs and communicating while playing physically on the ball.
They have put it to the test in practice, but games will present new situations and new teaching moments as the team cements that foundation. It may also prove to be some proof of concept.
"“We practice everything every day — hot hands, closeouts, different actions,” rookie Jalen Suggs said Saturday. “But until you go against a team that doesn’t know what’s going on, is reacting to it the same way you are, you’ve got to adjust to how they are playing defense, you can’t get a full feel or how things are going to work or people are going to act and things like that. To get on the court, in front of a crowd against another team with a coach who is trying to beat us as well, it’s going to be good for us.”"
There is always that little bit of uncertainty about how the team will react to that kind of pressure and that kind of change. And that is only going to increase considering this team’s youth and the fact this is Mosley’s first turn in the lead chair.
Monday’s preseason debut is a huge test balloon for a lot of things.
But it is not a final statement at all. It may lead to some tweaking and adjusting as players and coach learn what they need to work on next. But it is not going to change what the Magic want to do.
This is just a chance to further test things and learn about this team. And it is not yet the full picture, at that.
Mosley is not yet ready to set a firm rotation or to settle on a starting lineup. The Magic plan on using preseason again to test out playing groups from practice and figure out which combinations work before the regular season begins.
Training camp is there to see what all these different combinations look like.
It is not yet clear how the Magic plan to deploy their players during the preseason or who will start. We only know that Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz continue their rehab protocols, alongside Michael Carter-Williams.
And we know that Chuma Okeke is still not participating fully in practice but is still doing some things during the team’s workouts. He remains day-to-day with a bruised hip.
There will be plenty more to add as the team continues on toward the regular season.
That is, of course, expected. It is all a process that will continue up to the regular season and then even into the regular season.
To this point, while Mosley will not divulge much detail from the team’s practices, he is pleased with how the team has taken to his vision for them.
"“Everyone has done a great job working and buying into what we’re asking them to do and playing hard every day and getting the terminology down,” Mosley said after Saturday’s practice. “Right now, at this point, we’re still in the process of seeing who really sticks out and that’s going to start with preseason games and continue through the rest of camp.”"
The work will continue then into Monday’s game against the Boston Celtics and on into Wednesday’s second preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
These games will be an extension of the work they have done in camp.
At this point, Mosley’s chief concern is getting the fundamentals of the way he wants to play down. The games will have to show signs that it is working on that front or guide the team where they need to work next.
That is what the work is every day for a young team. And so that extension is very natural as camp continues.