Devin Cannady comes all the way back to the Orlando Magic

Devin Cannady turned a strong run for the Lakeland Magic into a chance with the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Devin Cannady turned a strong run for the Lakeland Magic into a chance with the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

It is hard to believe what happens within the tiny confines of a year anymore. But it was not even a year ago that Devin Cannady‘s life and basketball trajectory suddenly changed.

Cannady was nearing the end of his second 10-day contract and seemed sure to get signed for the rest of the year as he started to pick up a rhythm playing for a young Orlando Magic team already committing to a rebuild, building up Draft Lottery capital and waiting for the end of the season. Cannady was the kind of young player who could thrive in this opportunity and he was doing so.

Even in extreme garbage time of blowout losses, Cannady was shining. A team desperate for shooting could use his spark and he just brought positive energy to a team that was dealing with the shell shock of their season.

There was one more body blow in a cursed season.

Cannady was chasing a regular fast break, trying to challenge the layup when he landed awkwardly. Immediately, he went to the floor. Almost immediately everyone knew something was wrong. Mo Bamba ran over to Cannady and used his jersey to cover up his leg.

The oxygen left the Amway Center. It was a compound fracture and Cannady would need a stretcher off the floor.

Less than a year after Devin Cannady faced a major injury, he returned to the Amway Center floor and made his return to the Orlando Magic and the NBA.

It was a moment of supreme doubt. Cannady was experiencing his NBA dream but it was suddenly taken away from him. Who knows if he would get it again.

"“A lot of thoughts went through my mind,” Cannady said after the Magic’s shootaround Friday. “It was my eighth game and my first opportunity to play in the league. I may never be back here. I remember praying on the floor that night that day, ‘God take the wheel and guide me how you might. I’ll do the work on my end.’ If that means I will end up back on a NBA floor, so be it. If not, I won’t leave any stone unturned.”"

A little more than 11 months later, Cannady was back on the floor. No stone was indeed left unturned. He was back playing basketball in the NBA and playing with even more confidence than he showed in that first trip into the NBA.

Cannady played 29 minutes in his first NBA action since that horrific injury last year. He scored nine points, making three 3-pointers in seven attempts. He added two assists for good measure.

Orlando threw him right into the fire and Cannady was hardly shy about taking his shots and going out there to do what the team hopes to see from him.

Cannady has been downing shots since returning in February for the Lakeland Magic. In 17 games in the G-League, Cannady averaged 15.8 points per game on 3.6 3-point makes per game and 45.9-percent shooting from deep.

Cannady can shoot the ball, to say the least, and that is something the Magic have been desperately seeking. From a basketball perspective, bringing back Cannady made a ton of sense.

But nobody could have expected Cannady to step on the floor as quickly and as seamlessly as he did, making the journey a complete circle.

"“It feels good to be back on an NBA floor,” Cannady said after Friday’s game. “The grind the past 11 months, almost a year, to get back here is where I feel like I belong. I’m going out here to compete. Just to be myself. I think that’s why they brought me here.“Obviously, I can make shots. But not just that, bring the energy and a presence I feel this team needs. Whether that is lifting guys up like Cole or R.J., helping Markelle facilitate him and space the floor for guys like him. It’s exciting. Whether I make every shot or miss every shot, I’m going to have fun out there.”"

That piece of perspective is obviously vitally important.

Cannady said the message of his quick turnaround and getting back to this point is one of perseverance and resilience. It is one of faith and belief in what hard work can do and a confidence that he would get back to this moment.

Now it is just about taking advantage of that opportunity.

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The Magic have certainly stayed invested in this young player. They kept Cannady close in the Lakeland family, even signing him to a contract during training camp to show a bigger financial investment in him.

Whether in Orlando or Lakeland, the Magic’s training staff has always seemingly done much to take care of each other.

But it is in Cannady too that it is easy to see the culture the team has.

Last year, Cannady spent only 29 days with the team before his injury took him off the court. Still, when he arrived back in Orlando with this 10-day contract, Cannady said it felt like being welcomed back by family. There was still a clear connection to former teammates from last year even as he recovered.

"“They were like, ‘He’s back,'” Cannady said after Friday’s game. “They know what I do. I make shots. I’m confident in what I do. They were all smiles. A lot of guys reached out to me throughout the process. … I keep saying this is a family environment here for me. I love what coach Mosley is about and the whole coaching staff. They kept feeding me energy.”"

Devin Cannady and Markelle Fultz became something of workout partners. Fultz spent some of his rehab time last year with the Lakeland Magic, where Cannady was playing before the team went into the bubble. Fultz did some practice time there this year too while he completed his rehab.

The two got to build some rapport and compete against each other in those workouts and practices.

But plenty of other players stayed in touch too. Wendell Carter was among the players Devin Cannady said texted and contacted him to check in on him. Several Magic players made appearances at Lakeland Magic games throughout this season to support players on the G-League team.

There may not be as direct a pipeline from Lakeland to Orlando. But there is still an undeniable connection between the parent club and the G-League club. The fact the team runs essentially the same offense and defense with perhaps some variations to the terminology has helped Cannady jump right back in.

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Cannady’s journey back to this moment does feel like the resumption of his journey from last year. It took a major detour for sure, but Cannady always kept the faith he would get back here.

He knows how special it is for someone like him — coming from Princeton where there have been only 10 players to reach the NBA and none since 2002 before Cannady last year — to be in this position.

It took a lot of hard work and belief to get here. It took even more work to make it feel like he never missed a beat to pick things up where he left off.

"“I think I was building these habits last year before the injury,” Cannady said after the Magic’s shootaround Friday. “I think that’s what gave me the confidence really to perform at the highest level by just being myself, being confident in my shot, bringing energy. I think take the game of basketball away from you for nine months, something you love, you aren’t going to leave any day with the hardest work. I put every day as much work as I can and it got me here and hopefully takes me further.”"

There is still a lot of work to do for Cannady to make his mark. He has gotten an incredible opportunity now. The exact opportunity he worked to earn last year that was cruelly taken away from him. In some ways, going through this process again has made him more ready for it and more thankful for the chance.

Orlando Magic trying to regain their standard. dark. Next

The Magic are certainly happy to have him back and happy to help him complete this long journey.