Orlando Magic view fast start as key to 2024 success

Markelle Fultz and the Orlando Magic all believe getting off to a hot start is a big key to success this season. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports
Markelle Fultz and the Orlando Magic all believe getting off to a hot start is a big key to success this season. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports /

There has been a lot of confidence in the Orlando Magic’s training camp.

That may not be fully earned. After all, the team still won only 34 games and ultimately finished six games out of the final Play-In spot. But that always hid something about this team.

Orlando finished the season 29-25 until they were eliminated from the postseason for the final three games. The Magic were the last team eliminated from the Eastern Conference playoff chase. After Dec. 7, the team had the sixth-best defense in the league during that time.

Those were all things the Magic hung their hat on throughout the offseason. Those were all reasons why the Magic felt like they had earned some confidence and belief entering this season.

Unfortunately, for the Magic, the season did not start on Dec. 7.

The Orlando Magic are ready for the start of the regular season. And they are hoping to make good on a rallying cry to get off to a better start this season.

There were 25 games played before that. Most of them played without Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony, of course, but the team’s 5-20 start put the Magic in too deep of a hole to climb all the way out of.

So the rallying cry throughout the offseason has been to get off to a hot start and make sure the team is not climbing out of a deep hole once again.

"“Super important and it starts game one,” Markelle Fultz said after practice Saturday. “We’ve been locked in on that since before we came to training camp. Especially knowing the start we had last year and even still having the chance to make the playoffs. We know how important the beginning of the season is.”"

That time is here. The preseason is over and the regular season is finally coming into focus for the Magic.

Fultz has not been the only player to say the goal for this team is to get off to a fast start. Jalen Suggs has said it as have several other players. It is something the team is keenly focused on.

That certainly might explain the focus and fire from the team throughout training camp in during the preseason. The team aimed to get off to fast starts in the preseason and largely did that as their starting lineup with Suggs in the mix played fairly well.

But getting off to a good start is not simply about the focus of performing well in the games. Part of what the Magic have tried to train is the maturity to understand that it starts with the work in practice. It is about the day-to-day approach the team takes to be good.

That is what the team is trying to learn as they look ahead now to the start of the season.

"“I think it’s very important for our guys to come out the right way,” coach Jamahl Mosley said after practice Saturday. “But it goes into the mindset of walking into every single game. I think it was a great way for the preseason to go that we didn’t ease into games. You start off the right way, you start off with a high level of energy and enthusiasm for how we want to play. And that’s going to carry over into the season.”"

The beginning of the regular season will bring a different challenge of course. The preseason saw players perhaps hold some things back. That is how prepping for the season sometimes goes. The team still got plenty of work done in those four games.

While there will be some more focus on their opponents each day, the early part of the season is still mostly about the team itself and making sure the team is ready.

The preseason is certainly about establishing a team’s fundamentals and identity. The games themselves are often said to be an extension of camp. That will not quite be the case with the regular season starting.

Still the focus will be on making sure the Magic are sound in what they do. That is probably the biggest key to getting off to a good start.

"“You constantly want to make it about what we do,” Mosley said after practice Saturday. “Are we executing those things the way we asked them to? Are we following the game plan? We have our keys of what we want to accomplish this year when it comes to detailing our work, putting the work in every single day, playing with a sense of joy and energy and making sure we are covering for and playing for one another. Those keys are always going to be there for us as our identity.”"

Orlando certainly has confidence in itself for what the team accomplished to end the season. The team’s continuity has given the team additional confidence that it can build on that heading to next season.

Now comes the real thing and trying to build on all of that confidence.

The Magic have a tough schedule to start the season. The new-look Houston Rockets are not a pushover anymore. Then comes a four-game West Coast trip starting Friday and game two against the Portland Trail Blazers.

The road, especially early will not be easy for Orlando. And the team is going to need its entire focus to accomplish this goal.

"“We’re taking it one game at a time, but we’re not trying to start off slow,” Fultz said after practice Saturday. “We’re coming out guns blazing. We all have something to prove and we have a chip on our shoulder. We’re really locked in and looking forward to that first game.”"

That work certainly starts Wednesday against the Rockets. There really should be no other focus than that. And getting off to a 1-0 start feels imperative.

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But it will be continuing to build on the work the Magic have put in this month in training camp. If Orlando has kept its focus on getting off to a good start, this will be the ultimate test of that work and just how far along the Magic are.