Jamahl Mosley is keeping the big picture in mind with Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley is working to teach his young team at every moment. That includes giving them the chance to fail. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley is working to teach his young team at every moment. That includes giving them the chance to fail. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The pressure was on for the Orlando Magic at the end of regulation as they aimed to break a nine-game losing streak.

Jamahl Mosley’s team has gone through its growing pains and has especially struggled in close games. Much of the optimism for this season has dimmed in close losses, as has the optimism for the team’s long-term hopes grown in those situations.

Here though seemed a special kind of desperation. The team needed this confirmation of its belief. It needed to see its process rewarded. But nothing is given in the NBA. Nobody feels sorry for them.

That is not where Mosley would put his focus. On the sidelines, he is constantly cheering and clapping and encouraging. Opposing coaches, including the LA Clippers’ Tyronn Lue before Wednesday’s game, praised Jamahl Mosley for his demeanor on the sideline and his constant positivity as he deals with a young team.

But these close games are the moments when Mosley does his coaching. These are the moments he pushes the team to grow. But more importantly the moments he allows the team to grow. The moments he gives them the space to make and learn from their mistakes. The moments where they get to learn in real time.

Mosley has his eyes firmly set on this team’s future. Every decision he is making and the way he is preparing his team is set on helping individuals improve and giving the team a look at something this team can build on. More than that, Mosley is willing to give that space to succeed or fail, to give the players a chance to adjust and learn.

Jamahl Mosley is focused on the Orlando Magic’s big picture, giving his team the space to fail and learn in real-time rather than overcoach and stunt the team’s potential.

That is why Fultz was in the game late in the game Wednesday despite failing to make a shot. It is why he gave his point guard the ball and trusted him to make decisions to decide the game. He gave that power to his entire starting group despite an overall net rating of -37.8 points per 100 possession in the game.

He was going to empower the chosen group with all the opportunities to succeed or fail, but most importantly to learn.

That was the hallmark of the entire game, not just the fourth quarter and overtime as the team erased a first-quarter 18-point deficit and a third-quarter 15-point deficit to scratch out a 116-111 win. Mosley stood back and watched his team have the accountability and responsibility he has been preaching since the offseason.

"“It really is big for this group,” Mosley said after Wednesday’s win. “They stayed together, they communicated in the huddles which I love. Their level of communication in those huddles when we were down not getting too far down, staying in the moment, knowing that we weren’t going to get it back in one possession. And those are their words. They’re understanding what they need to do in those moments. That’s where this growth has to continue to happen. Their level of communication with one another and holding each other accountable night in and night out.”"

This is the responsibility Mosley has been trying to preach. And this kind of leadership is what he has been searching for from his young team.

Space to grow

As frustrating as it can be for fans watching each individual game, this is something that grows game-to-game. And something coach Jamahl Mosley has to allow to grow at times.

Markelle Fultz’s play at the end of the game is a great example of the faith Jamahl Mosley is putting in this team’s long-term development, even if it costs the team some short-term gains.

Fultz made the decisions late in the game. He drew a foul and split a pair of free throws to force the game into overtime, leaving that potential winner on the board. On the final play of regulation, Fultz ran a pick and roll and got to his spot near the elbow and missed the potential game-winner.

In overtime, Fultz made a critical mistake. After Nicolas Batum gave the Clippers a one-point lead on a three-pointer, Fultz tried driving the lane and lost the ball off his foot, turning it over.

The LA Clippers got a shot for Kawhi Leonard to try to extend the lead, but he missed it. Fultz grabbed the rebound and Mosley let his point guard go for the go-ahead shot without a timeout.

In the same play setup that led to Markelle Fultz’s missed shot at the end of regulation, Fultz this time passed to Paolo Banchero on the roll. Banchero attacked quickly as the Clippers struggled to keep up or switch the screen. And Banchero was able to draw the foul and give the Orlando Magic the lead for good at the foul line.

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Fultz finished the game with just one point — that game-tying free throw in regulation — and shot 0 for 4. There were certainly a few questions about sticking with him, especially considering Cole Anthony’s strong play to help the team get back in the game in the second quarter and even some of Markelle Fultz’s mistakes late in the game.

But Mosley had no doubt it was right to stick with Fultz and give him that chance to grow.

"“We believe in every one of these guys,” Mosley said after Wednesday’s game. “There are going to be mistakes made in the basketball game. For these guys to grow and develop chemistry for one another, they can’t get yanked every time they are trying to make the right play and just happen to turn the ball over.  Do we want those to happen? No. [Fultz] has been out for a long time. So his ability to get back on the floor, we believe in what he has done to get back on the floor. Those are the moments we have to continue to show each one of these guys.”"

Preaching accountability

This may get to the heart of Jamahl Mosley’s coaching philosophy for this season and why he is willing to stick with things that are not working a bit longer than normal.

The Orlando Magic are preaching accountability and want to limit repeated mistakes. But the team is also not going to sweat a mistake here or there. They want to give this young team its chance to learn from mistakes. What might get a player sat down is cascading and repeated mistakes that require a talk from a coach or a video review to teach and instruct.

Otherwise, the best teacher is still experience. And Mosley has as much faith and belief in the players on this roster as the team seems to have in each other. That is the kind of culture he has tried to build.

Fultz was a great example of that from Wednesday. As was the play from Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner.

Both players struggled throughout the game with Banchero finishing at 23 points on 5-for-13 shooting, including 10 points in overtime with the final six coming from the foul line, and Wagner finishing with 15 points on 6-for-19 shooting.

It was not a pretty game for either as the Clippers did a good job limiting and challenging their shots on the inside. Especially with Wagner struggling to hit from the outside. But like Banchero in overtime, Wagner scored nine points on 4-for-8 shooting in the fourth, finding his way later in the game.

That has been the way for Wagner the last few games as he has struggled more than most to adjust playing off the ball alongside Fultz. There is a lot to figure out and both Wagner and Banchero had to grind to find their way through the course of the game before finally breaking through.

This is what the Magic want to see from their young stars.

"“It goes for all of our guys: Trust the work,” Mosley said after Wednesday’s game. “Franz came down there and got a couple of easy baskets and then missed a couple then comes out of the timeout and makes the finishing runner that gives us a good lead. It’s trusting the work knowing he has done that night in and night out day after day, coming in early, staying late. They put the work in so you have to trust that process when the game gets tight.”"

Trust the process

This gets to the heart of the Orlando Magic’s philosophy too. It is about trusting the process and trusting that the work will build to something in the long term. It is accepting there will be a lot of mistakes and embracing the ability to learn.

Orlando cannot learn the way it wants without giving the team the space to do so.

So if the Magic stick to a 2-3 zone a bit longer than they should, it is because the team is trying to learn and grow through those mistakes. That is what happened to poor effect early in the game. Orlando scrapped that zone after falling behind 32-14 after one quarter and giving up six three-pointers, only sprinkling it in for a few possessions later in the game.

The result is not as important in this instant then the opportunity to learn and grow.

The Magic are trying to win games. But they are more focused on the big picture of helping these young players improve for any situation that might get thrown at them as Jamahl Mosley continues to experiment and test different parts of this roster.

Mosley wants to give his team the chance to figure it out with his guidance, even if it is ultimately a failed experiment.

Results do matter though. As good as all these things are, it only goes as far as faith in that process goes. And so wins like Wednesday night’s matter. Not merely as a relief, but as confirmation the team is on the right path.

"“In order to keep going, you need successes like this,” Moe Wagner said after Wednesday’s game. “I know we talk about long term all the time, but as a competitor and we are all competitive, everybody on the staff and the players, you need those in order to come to work and give it your all. That’s something that we really needed today. We’ve been grinding for it the last couple of games. I’m very glad it translated.”"

The team does have its focus on the long-term and big picture. That much is clear throughout this season.

Mosley is a constant motivator and developer. His focus is on what this team will look like beyond this season and layering the foundations for what the franchise hopes will be a winning team.

What that looks like in development though is a willingness to fail and let players figure things out, knowing that failures will grow into success. At least if the team’s process is correct.

The focus, as frustrating as it can be, is on building that long-term vision for the team. But the rewards are as they were Wednesday when the team puts those pieces together and learns in the moment for a win.

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The work though will still continue as they try to put more of these moments together.