There is just about a week before the beginning of the Orlando Magic’s 35th anniversary season.
Everything seems different about this team. After a decade of rebuilding, there is a groundswell of excitement among fans about what this team could be. Nobody should get ahead of themselves, but everyone can see a long playoff run on the horizon.
It is easy for fans to get excited. They are fans. They believe when a lot of people do not.
But something does feel different. It is not just fan excitement for the team. Something has felt different for the entire training camp about this team. It is a feeling and atmosphere in the AdventHealth Training Center.
The Orlando Magic feel different heading into this season. Everyone can feel it as the regular season comes into greater focus and the team grows in confidence.
Seeing the team on the court during the preseason has only added to that excitement because the Magic have not only won but have played genuinely well and in interesting ways. There is still a lot to build and a lot to grow for this team.
But one question remains — one Gary Harris asked directly when asked about whether this team feels like other teams he has been a part of that found success:
“Do you have a feeling about this season?”
Everyone does. And it is hard to find a negative word to say about this team so far. Harris said he feels it too.
"“There is an energy in the building,” Harris said after shootaround Tuesday. “Energy every time you step on the floor. It’s fun playing with these guys. We know each other. We’ve been around each other a lot. Continuing to play for each other has been fun. I definitely think there is something special brewing. Granted, it’s just preseason. We’re making a lot of steps and working toward our regular season goals.”"
That is confidence. That is a team that believes in what it is doing and what it is capable of. A team that has seen it build and develop through the end of last season into training camp.
This is a team that knows it is going to do something this season and cannot wait to get started.
That preseason warning is of course the big one. Who knows what actually will happen when the games count? Everyone is working toward next Wednesday’s season opener against the Houston Rockets. And everything changes when the team plays games that count.
That is something the team is working toward and looking forward to.
The one thing everyone knows about this Magic team is that there is a lot of confidence in the work they are doing. That was built as much with how the team finished last season as anything else.
The team believes they have something to build on. Now it is about proving their spot in the league.
"“As you look at last season when everybody was healthy, we were one of the best teams in he East,” Wendell Carter said after shootaround Tuesday. “Us going into the season completely healthy, that’s what it is all about. Our camaraderie and togetherness were already there. It was just us having to be out there at the same time. I’m super confident. I’m sure my teammates are super confident. Everyone is just ready to hoop now.”"
The Magic do have something to build on in that respect.
Orlando was never really fully healthy, but when they got Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony back from injury in late November after a 5-20 start, the team went 29-28 to finish the season. That included finishing seventh in the league in defensive rating during that time.
That was enough to get the team into the outskirts of the postseason chase — Orlando was the last team eliminated from postseason contention in the East, but the team never got closer than three games from the final spot. And that gave the team some confidence that if the team could stay healthy, it was good enough to reach the postseason.
Every season does bring a new challenge though. Despite the few changes to the roster, the Magic are different.
They appear set to change their starting lineup by adding Jalen Suggs to the group — to some promising returns so far. There will be internal improvements to the team too. The dynamics on the roster change. There is no guarantee everything works.
And so training camp has had to be focused on re-establishing those dynamics and establishing who this team is. As evidenced by the Magic’s preseason, the team does appear to have that focus on confidence to keep building on last year.
That has made for a successful training camp.
"“What we said with training camp is: Are they understanding the concepts of what we need offensively and defensively,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after shootaround on Tuesday. “I think they are really grasping the concepts. Part of camp is obviously getting the chemistry of those guys playing together. I think we’ve accomplished a ton of that. We’ll obviously continue to see different lineups and different rotations. But for the most part, I think they are grasping what we’re asking them to do.”"
This team does feel different. They feel like they have more proof of concept of what they are doing. They are bought in that it will make them better individually and will help them improve as a team. And it is easy to see how that game has expanded.
That has only increased the confidence and good feelings around the team. All the positive vibes have carried over from media day to this midpoint of the preseason and it does not seem like the Magic are going to let it subside.
Everything does feel different in the AdventHealth Training Center. Only time will tell whether it feels differently inside the Amway Center.
Everyone has a feeling about this season. And it is generally a positive one.