Orlando Magic expect the most from themselves in 2023

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley charged his team to level up and the team seems eager to embrace that idea. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley charged his team to level up and the team seems eager to embrace that idea. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Markelle Fultz sent an innocuous tweet in the middle of the offseason, boldly proclaiming “4 seed.” The tweet lacked any kind of context or anything like that and probably had no futher meaning.

There was nothing there that would get him in trouble or make the Internet attack him for unrealistic expectations. But it was enough to get Orlando Magic fans excited, making it something of a rallying cry for the fans as the team seeks respect and progress this season.

No one official would mention the playoffs of the play-in or any type of win total. As is usually the case with the Magic’s brass, they kept their expectations for the season to generalities — including progression from injury.

The Orlando Magic enter their 2023 season with little in the way of external expectations. But the players all believe in what they can accomplish and have the most belief in themselves for this season and beyond.

The players though made it clear what they believe they are capable of and what they can do. Even immediately.

"“I truly believe that we can be a 4-seed,” Fultz said at the Magic’s media day Monday. “I just put it out there. Not saying anything. Obviously, I didn’t put too much into it. I didn’t want people to go crazy. But just hold myself accountable.“You have to manifest in order to get to anywhere you want in life. When that day happens, I won’t be too shocked. I believe in this team, I believe we have a lot of young talent. I don’t think it’s going to be easy. It’s going to be a lot of hard work. But I believe we have the chance to do something very special.”"

There is no reason for a team not to believe — especially on Media Day. And belief was in ample supply on this day.

The buzz in the building of this young team coming back together ahead of the start of training camp Tuesday with the No. 1 pick in Paolo Banchero and loads of young talent from sophomores Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs to young veterans like Cole Anthony and Wendell Carter, along with Markelle Fultz, adds up to a team that believes it is on the cusp of something.

It is a season that is set to be another rebuilding one with a young roster still trying to make its way in the league. There will be a lot of learning that everyone seems eager to do.

The directive from the coaching staff is to “level up,” a solid catch-all for the team generally improving individually and as a team and for the team to limit mistakes and hold each other accountable. The players seem to embrace that idea and attitude.

Everyone understands it is going to take winning to get where they want to go and that will be the ultimate sign of progress.

Fultz said it will take working one day at a time and locking in on film and practice and whatever they have to do to win the day. The team, he said, has the talent. There is just a lot of learning that has to be done in the process.

It starts with the belief that they can put all the pieces together quicker than the pundits imagine. If accountability is one of the team’s main goals, then setting a high standard is the place for the team to start.

"“I think the biggest thing these guys need to continue to understand is what was demanded last year and now it is just at a different scale,” coach Jamahl Mosley said during media day. “The level of detail turns up. What we’re asking continues to turn up and they understand exactly what that is.”"

Every player seemed to embrace the idea of mistakes, especially repeated mistakes, costing players minutes and roles. That there be consequences if the team falters.

Carter said this accountability that each player will hold each other to is the key for the Magic to take that next step. It is about pointing out and correcting mistakes constructively in the moment and making sure they do not repeat again.

Suggs added the difference in Mosley’s approach in his second year is the attention to detail that has been layered on top of the team. The group is expected to be more detail-oriented and attentive to mistakes.

This is a difficult task for all young teams to sort through, especially as they are learning to win in this league. But this is the challenge the Magic seem to be up for.

"“We were really good individuals last year,” Carter said during Media Day. “But I feel as a group is where we struggled, late-game situations and things like that. When it comes to holding each other accountable, not sugarcoating anything. Telling everybody what it is and how it is when it happens. That’s the next step for us whether the person likes it or not, that’s the most important thing so we don’t make the same mistakes over and over again. That’s what will help us level up and become a better team.”"

There is that level of seriousness to the team’s approach, even if the experience in executing it is still lacking. That will be part of the growing process that is essential to this season.

The external expectations for the Magic may be low — and indeed there will be a ton of learning for this group — but the internal expectations could not be any higher for the work they have to put in and what they can accomplish.

Nobody is promising anything. Not even for this year.

There is no reason for the Magic not to have that high thought of themselves. That is where bursting through the rebuild phase into something special has to begin.

"“We definitely had a culture shift from last year, just going through growing pains,” Suggs said during Media Day. “It’s hard when you are in a losing situation and losing games to stay positive. I think we did a really good job staying connected. We kept on building and preaching what we want to happen to compete and play hard for each other and play the right way.“We know exactly what needs to be done for us to have success. It has shifted to yeah we can win now. We know we can win. We just have to execute the way we’re supposed to. We’re all ready to play for each other and win for each other.”"

The vibes and togetherness from this team were certainly something that stood out in an otherwise rough season. They certainly played with the freedom where they were building a foundation and were relatively free from consequence.

But there is definitely an edge and determination to this team that has developed. They want to prove themselves and take this team to the next level. The Magic showed incredible faith in this roster, bringing everyone back from last year’s 22-win team. That is something rare in the NBA.

That also showed a belief in what this group can do. And belief that everyone understands they have to reward.

While there were no promises of making the playoff or play-in tournament, there was a direct emphasis on winning more. That was a constant drumbeat throughout the entire day. There is a greater desire to win more.

"“When you level up, you’re room for error gets smaller,” Cole Anthony said during Media Day. “You improve. Stuff gets harder but the rewards you that you reap become greater. As we level up, become better and become a better team, I think it ain’t going to be easy but it is something that is necessary on our path to greatness.”"

If there is something different about this team and this group, it is that assuredness that greatness is ahead of them. There is surprising confidence in this team and what it can accomplish together. There is boundless optimism for its future that goes beyond just the arrival of the first overall pick in Banchero.

That is usually how things go on Media Day. That is the day for hope and belief about the upcoming season.

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What is clear is that this team really expects a lot from itself. More than anyone else does it seems. And they have the willingness to get themselves there.