Orlando Magic established their culture throughout 2023

Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley helped build a resilient culture that saw his young team take big steps in 2023. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley helped build a resilient culture that saw his young team take big steps in 2023. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports /

The directive was simple for the Orlando Magic throughout the season: To level up.

That term was always a bit amorphous. Some simple tag line to crystallize clearly the team’s goals and visions for the season but be broad and vague enough to be whatever the team needed to define success.

It turns out the Magic did not need to do much to define success or define this.

It was seen in the big things — a 12-win improvement over last year and staying in the postseason chase until the final week of the season. It was seen in the small things — how the team improved in close games and started to rack up wins regularly.

It was seen even in how the Magic slowed the season as they started to shut down players and tried to find opportunities elsewhere on the roster. The way the team stuck to its identity of resiliency and effort of togetherness and camaraderie.

The Orlando Magic worked to level up this year and began to establish their identity and foundation that points to a strong future ahead for the team.

The Magic got better on the court. That much was clear.

But they did something else too. They began to establish their identity and establish what Magic basketball means to the rest of the league.

They established their culture and what Magic basketball is and will be.

"“Whoever puts on that jersey and steps on that floor, they are going to compete,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after Sunday’s season finale. “And that’s what that group did. They played hard for each other, they played together, they were willing to share the basketball, making the right plays, in-game adjustments that they fell on. I can’t be happier for a group of guys that don’t get to play a ton of minutes during the year but when that number is called, they are ready to go.”"

Orlando certainly played that way the whole year through injuries and inexperience. The constant theme throughout the season was about the team’s resiliency and care for each other — the words Mosley would use to describe this season. This was not a group that was going to give in to short-term missteps or turn on each other.

It was evident in how the team fought back all season. It became a defining characteristic.

The Magic indeed leveled up. They indeed pointed to a brighter future and laid a road map to their path ahead.

It is hard to describe this season as anything other than a success. It was a season of immense growth.

For the team to go from the depths of 5-20 and then rally to get to 34-48 — going 29-28 the rest of the way — was a big step for a young team. It was a big step to be in the postseason chase to the season’s final week.

The culture the team built is one they hope can last. But there is still work to do.

There are obviously areas to improve and nothing is fully crystallized in a fully measurable way. The Magic finished the season ranked 23rd in offensive rating at 111.3 points per 100 possessions and 18th in defensive rating at 113.7 points allowed per 100 possessions. That is not exactly shouting this team is ready to take a huge leap or has created its identity.

Since the Magic ended their nine-game losing streak in December and cemented a 5-20 start until the team was officially eliminated from the postseason, the Magic were 24th in offensive rating at 113.4 points per 100 possession and seventh in defensive rating at 112.9 points allowed per 100 possessions.

That profile looks more like a team that is going somewhere and building something. That is where the team’s identity certainly lies.

"“I think that was probably one of the biggest parts of this season was just how resilient we were,” Cole Anthony said during the team’s exit interviews Monday. “We started 5-20 and that could have easily snowballed into 5-30. It could have been one of my previous two seasons here where we barely got over 20 wins. I think no one wanted that to happen. We knew we had the talent. We just started to put it together once we started to get dudes back healthy and fought day in and day out.”"

The team’s health was a constant storyline throughout the season. It was tough for a young team learning to overcome the injuries early in the season. That is likely what cost this team a postseason berth or a better shot at the postseason.

The fact the Magic were not eliminated from postseason contention until Game 79 of the season was also a clear sign of this team’s intent and potential. A potential this group always felt it had.

Related Story. Cole Anthony deserves the backing of every Orlando Magic fan. light

But this season was never completely about this season. It was about laying this foundation and pointing toward the team’s future. Building this identity and how this team was going to react in tough times was what this team needed to see. They need to see this clear potential.

More importantly, they needed to feel what success looked like so they can build on it for their future. They needed to build what they were about and the process by which they would get to those goals.

The team took baby steps this year for sure. They missed out on the postseason and that ultimate dream.

"“Resiliency and a certain confidence of who we are as well,” Moe Wagner said of what the team got out of this season during the team’s exit interviews. “I think that has shown up around the league and acknowledged around the league which kind of boosts your confidence as well. That you do something and it’s not just coincidence. it is a really good feeling to be part of a group like that. It means a lot and everybody feels that.”"

Throughout the team’s exit interviews, Magic players spoke as a point of pride that they were no longer a league doormat. They were not some easy win on the schedule as they might have been. They have gained some respect around the league.

That is important too for a young team carving its identity. It is as Wagner put it, something that has given them a bit more confidence in their growth.

The team though knows there is a next step. It is something the team is working on and focused on have fallen short of the postseason despite all the success of this season.

That is the double-edged sword of the NBA. Success is only tempered by the failure of the next success. Of the next level a team has to reach.

That is where the team’s next work lies.

"“I think we learned really valuable lessons this year,” Franz Wagner said during the team’s exit interviews. “We were in close games with good teams this year as well. Just being in those moments over and over again I think should help us a little bit. I think it’s just, individually, if people make their next steps in their career, we’ll be a dangerous team.”"

The Magic believed how good they could be. They always did.

This is a young team that likes to work and play the game. They kept on the grind and kept and battling keeping their big picture in mind.

They committed to the details more and more. They got better and they picked up wins more often.

dark. Next. What happens if the Magic draft Victor Wembanyama

That is the foundation Orlando laid throughout the 2023 season. That is what made this season a success. And that is where the team will start its growth again next year.