Orlando Magic aren’t hiding from the postseason or work to make it

The Orlando Magic are embracing their expectations for the season and the work it will take to get there. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The Orlando Magic are embracing their expectations for the season and the work it will take to get there. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

At previous Orlando Magic media days with young players present, the team has typically tried to keep expectations low.

Saying “playoffs” has in the past been something of a dirty word. Players clearly want to be in the playoffs but they will hem and haw when asked about the team making the postseason. It would default to a familiar line from this season: “To play better basketball” and see where the results take them.

Let’s not pretend that the Magic’s players are not given talking points and that the Magic public relations team is not trying to craft a message from each player throughout that first introduction to the media for the season.

One of those talking points is surely about the playoffs and the team’s goals. There is a hope the team can control the message on expectations and set the tone for fans for the rest of the season. There are goals, to be sure. But the Magic as an organization has often acted to keep those private and manageable. Especially as they are presented to the public.

Then there is Markelle Fultz making his confidence unequivocal:

"“I’m putting the same out there,” Fultz said at media day. “I have got high expectations for the team. We have a lot of great talent. What we have been through is only going to make us stronger. I think we can come out the East. I’m not just saying that to say it. You have to say it to manifest it. It’s going to take a lot of work. It’s not going to be easy. There are a lot of great teams out there. We have to focus on ourselves and take it one game at a time. But I think we have got a great chance.”"

This is the natural progression from his “fourth seed” declaration last year. The team had a great season last year and he is eyeing something greater for his team.

There are few players willing to manifest something so bold for the team. But that was a consistent them throughout the Magic’s media day and now into training.

The Orlando Magic are not hiding from their goals for the season. They want to make the playoffs and they are willing to put in the work to get there.

The Magic are embracing their goals. They are embracing the opportunity in front of them. And more importantly, the team is embracing the work it will take to make the postseason.

That has been as key a message as anything else. The team has to find the details and the little things it needs to break through in win. That has been a big focus in training camp.

But there is no hiding from the playoffs this year. This team expects a lot from itself this season and they are openly saying that.

"“I feel like we have the potential to take a huge step,” Gary Harris said at media day. “Health definitely plays a factor. But just maturity growing up. We don’t want to keep using that excuse that we’re a young team in this league. I have been part of teams where it changes very quickly. Where you go from not being in the playoffs to being a top-3 seed the whole season. I think we’re all looking forward to it. We’re all really excited.”"

There is a longer tradition of the veterans on the team setting the expectations higher than anyone else. They also have less time and more of a desire to compete.

But Harris has been with this team for a while and was part of the Denver Nuggets’ rebuild that ended with winning a championship last year. He has commented several times on the similarities between these rebuilds and his eagerness to be a part of the process again and see this team grow up.

That is the task ahead of the team as much as anything. Orlando needs to mature in a major way to reach these goals. And that has been a big part of training camp.

Coach Jamahl Mosley has told his players to embrace these expectations. But his task has been to make sure the team understands the work it will take to get there.

"“You can’t skip steps,” coach Jamahl Mosley said at media day. “When you skip steps, you have to find the experiences. I think going through that playoff run gave them part of that experience. We as coaches can say over and over again what it takes. But when you feel it in real-time and how important it is in real-time, now you understand how hard you have to work to get certain things done.”"

The Magic have big ambitions. But they are not afraid to talk about the work they need to do to get there.

There is still the normal joy and youthful energy you would expect. But everyone has often commented on the maturity of the team’s approach. Every day has been a battle to get better and to grow as leaders.

This team is serious about its goals and getting there together.

Orlando has not hidden from that at all during training camp and this early part of the season. Their potential has been a motivator for the team.

It has been more than motivation. It feels extremely achievable to them. The Magic have confidence of what they are capable of after their 29-28 finish to last season.

They do not see the playoffs as a goal to reach but as one they have already achieved. They just have to prove they can do it over 82 games and avoid the pitfalls that put them behind the 8-ball last year.

"“I think we’ve just got to be who we are and stick together,” Paolo Banchero said at media day. “There are going to be highs and lows and ups and downs throughout the year. As long as we stay together as a unit, I’m confident with us going up against anybody.“When we were healthy last year, there wasn’t a team that we looked at and thought we were outmatched or outmanned. When we have a full roster coming in this year, it’s living up to our expectations and being as good as we can be as a unit. All the playoffs or whatever else is going to take care of itself.”"

Now the team just needs to put the work in to get there. There will be a lot of work to do to get there. And that is the important part. That is the part that will help the Magic do what is so unproven at this point.

Orlando knows what it is capable of doing. That has energized the team throughout training camp and pushed them.

There is no hiding this year from these expectations. That much is well-known at this point. They are just trying to make it last for a full season. And that is always the challenge for a young team still trying to prove itself.

That is what this season is for: To prove the team is capable of doing something long-term and to prove how they finished last season was not some flash in the pan. They want to show that it was the beginning of something.

Next. 5 measures of success for the Orlando Magic in 2024. dark

Orlando is not hiding from these expectations. But they know that it starts with the work they put in during camp. And that might be the most important development of all.