Orlando Magic fans need to be ready to embrace the fun

Cole Anthony will never be one to hold back and not have fun when there is a moment worth celebrating. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Cole Anthony will never be one to hold back and not have fun when there is a moment worth celebrating. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic departed for their first business trip of the season Sunday. They just had one more piece of business to conclude.

It was Jonathan Isaac’s birthday. And even for a young team, rookies have to perform rookie duties.

Cake in hand, Jalen Suggs led a group of rookies — Cole Anthony was the one actually conducting the bad — in singing a 24th birthday to the Magic big man.

This has been the tenor of training camp so far.

There has been undeniable energy about the group as Jamahl Mosley has brought in his unique approach to player development and player relationships, often jumping into drills to demonstrate what he is looking for or to go through them himself.

There has been undeniable energy from the close bonds the team has cultivated and the hard work the team wants to put in to be better through training camp.

The Orlando Magic seem headed for a difficult season. That will make the moments where the team can have some fun even more important as they look to build.

Everyone is digging the vibes and there is an eagerness to get to work through camp.

More than that, the team seems to completely enjoy playing together and doing that work together. That has led to plenty of fun moments already with photos showing the team’s joy at doing the work together.

All of that will be necessary for the team to succeed. And it will continue to endear the team to fans and get them bought in as much as the players bought in.

That was on full display during the Orlando Magic’s 98-97 loss to the Boston Celtics in the team’s preseason debut.

The game was hardly a clean one, as expected for the first preseason game. But every player seemed to have some moments that showed what kind of potential the group has.

Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony lined up for deep threes. Cole Anthony found Mohamed Bamba several times in the paint for finishes at the rim. The team got after it defensively too with several impressive blocks and sequences.

On a deep 3-pointers from Jalen Suggs in the first half, Anthony and Suggs came together for a hug high five. On a deep 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, Anthony drained it to beat the shot clock and then stuck his tongue out as he came back to the other end of the court.

When this team is feeling it, they are feeling it. And they are feeding off the energy and exuberance from each other.

It was still far from perfect on either end. The Magic got some hot shooting in the fourth quarter to take the lead. But their defensive rotations behind the ball were always a bit suspect and the Celtics got plenty of open looks for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Boston also attacked the offensive glass heavily.

There is still plenty to clean up. That first game was not about being perfect. It was about showing these glimpses and having that little bit of fun.

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Those are the moments the team will be trying to hold onto throughout the course of the season. Those are the moments fans will have to treasure above everything else this season.

It is those micro-moments that will provide confidence and belief the team is moving in the right direction. It will be enough to bring fans back and keep them bought in.

Fun is an easy way to stay engaged and bought in.

Unfortunately, reality is likely to hit this team quickly. They are extremely young in a league that punishes inconsistency. Everyone is going to be learning way too much — both about playing in the league and of their new coach working as a head coach for the first time.

Just about every pundit is projecting the Magic to finish near the bottom of the standings. There are going to be tough days ahead for the team. And there will be a lot of learning and progress. Keeping up this energy through the long season is going to be difficult.

But it is going to be necessary. That will be the biggest takeaway from the season and the part the team cannot forget.

This is supposed to be fun. And those fun moments are going to be the most important thing for the team to carry forward beyond this season. It is what is going to build confidence and hope for the future.

The moments when Jalen Suggs has his bursts of stardom or Cole Anthony displays his boundless confidence or Jonathan Isaac’s return to the court and flashes of him and Markelle Fultz finding themselves again. These are the big moments for the team. The ones the group will hold onto and grow and develop.

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It is what president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman essentially said were the team’s goals back on media day. It is about reintegrating injured players into the fold. It is about seeing glimpses of what the team’s future will be and choosing a path forward.

Perhaps that is part of the team’s campaign to keep expectations low. They are girding for a season filled with a lot of losses. they are seemingly trying to make sure that wins and losses are not the way this team specifically gets judged.

Even to that standard, there will be a lot to get excited about. The Magic’s young players will provide plenty of glimpses of their potential throughout the season. The early focus on energy and focus and using each moment to improve and grow is a key part of the team’s guiding philosophy for development.

If this team can stay together and keep putting in the hard work, they will have strong moments. They are already showing those.

And then they can begin building those individual moments collectively into winning basketball.

Losing though is not fun. And it should not be. There is going to be adversity and trouble throughout the course of the season. Not everything is going to be hunky-dory.

But it is the fun moments that will help predict this team’s future. It will be those fun moments that point to a brighter future.

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They may not make many wins this year, but it is the fun moments that will make this season worthwhile and build toward something better down the line.