The preseason is the preseason. Fans probably take these exhibition games more seriously than the teams.
For fans, it is the first time they will publicly get to see their team and so it is simply a data point for them to log and obsess over.
For players, it is part of the process. The cliche is that these preseason games are an extension of training camp. They are just another point to understand where they can get better and to do the work they need to do. The opponent is not that important.
Still. . . it is hard not to feel a few nerves about it. It is hard not to feel the jitters of putting on that jersey for the first time for a game and the competition that comes with it.
Those jitters show they care. And coach Jamahl Mosley hopes they will at least feel it a little bit as they take the floor.
"“I think it’s an extension of training camp,” Mosley said after practice Monday. “All those things we looked at during our scrimmage, now you get to do it against an opponent. I think you grab what you can from that. You try to figure out what we do well and if teams take that away, how do we get better at that or how we need to adjust. It’s a great area for us to measure things.”"
In the grand scheme of things, the first preseason game is going to be pretty irrelevant. It is something the team needs to get through and a big hurdle for them at least to see where they are at. But it will not make or break the season.
The preseason is an extension of training camp at the end of the day. But the first preseason game for the Orlando Magic is a measuring stick of where they are at.
Still, Mosley said he hopes the team is excited to go out and play. That is part of the team’s identity too. They should want to play. They should want to get out on the floor and show what they can do. That is part of the process too.
Just do not read too much into this first game. It is still a test and it is still a grand experiment for this young team.
"“You look at some of the scores and teams are playing 15, 16, 17, 18 guys,” Joe Ingles said after practice Monday on whether the first preseason game is a measuring stick. “Part of it is obviously the groups playing together, the rotations and doing all of that. Some of it is managing those minutes and however that is done with it with every team at the moment. I think we’ll definitely take things from it. Whether it is good or bad, we’ve done it every day in practice.”"
Ingles said he will need the preseason to get more comfortable playing with his new teammates. He is still getting the timing down of the offense. The games for him will be as much about learning where teammates like the ball and getting used to playing alongside his new teammates.
There will not be a lot of that this season with so many players returning and many of the team’s roles carrying over to this season.
Still, you never know how a team reacts to that first game. You never know how a team is going to withstand to the pressure and adjustments that a game requires. That is the big test for this team.
Orlando still has to come together and figure out its way to play and its identity for the season. No matter what anyone says, these preseason games do give the team a sense of where it is and what it might still need to work on.
"“What I would say more than anything other than health because now we’re able to find that continuity, I think there is a heightened level of maturity,” Mosley said. “Our experience is different. Our age says one thing but the experience of last year was another piece. Now they are able to do it all together. There is a level of growth that each one of these guys is recognizing and how they have to come to the table with a little more maturity of how we are approaching it.”"
To that end, Mosley said he wants to see the team take care of the basketball. Turnovers were a major weakness for the team last season and a big area for the team to improve.
The first preseason game is rarely the cleanest basketball in the world. So it will remain a work in progress.
That is probably the most important lesson. This is all an extension of training camp.
And now it is just about how the Magic take what they have worked in practice to game situations. They have to be just as curious to see if something is different about this team and how it will emerge.
"“I think it always has been a good energy whether we won 24 games to now when there is a little more expectation,” Moe Wagner said after practice Monday. “It really doesn’t matter the energy has been the same. That’s really cool about this game which I cherish very much because there’s nothing you can take for granted to be part of in the NBA to be part of something from scratch. I’m very appreciative.”"
The last week of work has come to this. It is a way point not a destination. But the Magic will be on the court in uniform against another team. And that is something to look forward to.
That is something to break down and try to glean lessons from. It is a chance to test the team even in small ways. Everyone will see where the Magic are at and how they evolve from here.