Orlando Magic seeking their swagger, freedom on offense

Franz Wagner made his preseason debut as the Orlando Magic found a bit of swagger on offense.e Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Franz Wagner made his preseason debut as the Orlando Magic found a bit of swagger on offense.e Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports /

99. 29. Final. 102. 38

Thursday after the Orlando Magic’s practice, Paolo Banchero noted a message coach Jamahl Mosley had for his team.

Banchero said Mosley felt following their preseason loss Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies that the team was being too afraid to make mistakes. Everyone was a step slow or a step hesitant trying to be perfect.

True, the Magic made it a focus of theirs to limit and not repeat mistakes throughout training camp. Everyone is seemingly mindful of the mistakes they are making.

That can be a problem, of course, leading to more mistakes. Playing afraid leads to hesitation and that slows down and bogs down an offense that is already going to struggle.

That was apparent through the first quarter of the Orlando Magic’s second preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs. The ball was slow to move, the team struggled to get itself going and it just felt like the team was going through the motions rather than staying on the attack.

The Spurs pounced on it for an early lead.

That was the second part of the observation from Mosley. As Banchero put it, the Magic needed to play offense with a bit of swagger. They need to have the confidence to go out and simply play basketball, applying the tenets from training camp.

The Orlando Magic’s offense will remain a difficult thing to resolve but the team started to find its groove and a bit of swagger as they came back to beat the San Antonio Spurs.

What unfolded over the next two quarters then was probably not the fully formed vision for this team’s offensive attack. But it was certainly the closest the team has gotten so far.

There was certainly a bit of swagger in the Magic’s play as they came back for a 102-99 victory on Thursday.

"“It’s just about us going out there and having swagger and playing,” Wendell Carter said after Thursday’s game. “The game is just a game. I feel like no matter how we start off, it’s always about how we finish games. Of course, we want a better start to games, but I feel like we did a really good job of continuing to play no matter what happened. Even though we were down, we were still having fun. I feel like that’s the most important thing, especially as a young group.”"

It is funny how quickly things can click for an offense. Once that light bulb went off, the Magic seemed to have that confidence and swagger to compete and draw closer.

In the first quarter, the Magic would fall into the same traps they always seem to fall into offensively, settling for rushed mid-range shots or contested shots at the rim or just hoisting from three. An offense that did not have any push or thrust to get into the paint and seemed content to move the ball quietly around the perimeter until someone had to do something.

It was no wonder the Magic found themselves down by 14 early in the quarter. The team’s energy was lacking and things just, well, were not working.

There are a lot of moving pieces — and a lot of learning — to go for the Magic as they prepare for the regular season to begin in less than two weeks now. But they could finally see their offense working for extended periods.

The principles the Magic talked about offensively — yes, space, pace and the pass — might have all been there to some degree. It was a group that was struggling to find its groove. It would have been easy to just say they were playing tentative and scared.

The offense was missing that extra ingredient. The ingredient the team has hinted at throughout training camp and perhaps the most difficult thing for the Magic to get down to unlock their offense. But one that could give it the swagger it needs to succeed.

Things felt very different. And when it clicked it clicked.

It was very much about plays like this one from late in the second quarter.

Paolo Banchero drove into the lane and kicked out to Franz Wagner. Franz Wagner quickly flung the ball cross-court to find Cole Anthony. Anthony almost immediately upon the catch attacked the close out and got into the lane, drawing a help defender to him. Cole Anthony then dumped the ball to Wendell Carter who gave one more pass to Paolo Banchero for the two-handed jam.

It all happened so quickly and seamlessly. This is the ideal the Magic want. Everything just moving quickly and seamlessly, no fear and no doubt. Everyone is where they need to be to help their teammate and take advantage of the defense.

They have talked all training camp long about making quick decisions and playing fast. This was a team simply reacting to the defense and moving quickly.

More importantly, the team has also spoken about learning the right time to cut and move. They do not want players standing still waiting for the ball to kick out to them. They want to fill the space the defense leaves behind.

Some of the Magic’s best offensive plays included moments like this, where the ball quickly moved to find not just open players but open space where teammates would fill in the gaps.

Even the threat of movement can get the defense to adjust — watch Paolo Banchero make a cut down the lane to draw the defense in and give Terrence Ross just that little extra more space to spot up on the 3-point line to open the third quarter.

There is a lot for the team to understand and get down. This is a young group still learning the league and learning their reads in pick and rolls as much as anywhere.

A lot of players are playing different roles from what they even did last year — the call for versatility is very much about players doing everything and playing every position. That will take an adjustment.

But the team is getting there.

This is still not a team ready to play games that count tomorrow. There is still some experimenting with playing groups and with roles going on throughout these preseason games. It remains very much the preseason.

But the team found its center and found its groove Thursday night for the first time. And the results were encouraging.

Moe Wagner is the Orlando Magic's big brother. dark. Next

Indeed, the Magic had some swagger about their offense, created some nice shots and some sustained play. It felt like a step forward even with plenty more work to do.