There has been a lot of talk about maturity and poise from the Orlando Magic. There have been a lot of discussions about the team’s seriousness and their desire to grow up. There has been a lot of talk about how this team is, quite simply, different.
There is a seriousness of their purpose and their goals as they try to make their way to the postseason.
That is asking a lot. That is something the team is still going to be developing and growing. This is still a very young team.
And this is still a group that wants to have fun and have some personality.
Orlando is serious about its goals this year. The team has not hidden from its desire to make the postseason and be a playoff team. They have been intensely focused on the task at hand and trying to learn what they need to do to achieve this goal.
The Orlando Magic have more serious goals this season. But they are not afraid to have fun. It is through their work and their preparation that they see their path to show their personality.
But this is a young group that likes to ham it up — Markelle Fultz loves joking during Wendell Carter’s media availabilities, Cole Anthony is always loud and boisterous and the team is full of other characters that shine when they are playing free and easy. Nobody wants to diminish this part of their character and personality.
What this team has tried to do this training camp is find a way to be serious when it is time to be serious and be fun when they can.
"“I can safely say a lot of guys are very mature for their age in my opinion,” Carter said after shootaround Wednesday. “We know how to have fun. But when it’s time to be serious, a lot of guys know how to lock in. Even though we are young, a lot of guys are locked into what the main thing is.”"
That has been something coach Jamahl Mosley has echoed too. He has said that while the team is not mature in experience or their age, they have been mature in their approach. The team does see an opportunity to get better and to climb the ranks in the Easter Conference. There is a noted determination to make good on that potential.
This is still a growing process. Players on the team have taken it upon themselves to find leadership with several players stepping up in the process. Everyone has a role to play in that process.
But it is important to keep things loose too. That is part of who this team is too. And they can struggle when they get a little tight.
That is what Mosley suspected happened in the team’s preseason home opener against the New Orleans Pelicans when the team was a bit too amped up and turned the ball over a ton in the loss. He said he is approaching this game differently to remind the team to lock in on the details to make sure they do not get overwhelmed with the emotion.
The way the team will try to counteract this and bring out the inherent joy in the team is by preparing and being ready for everything.
"“We’ve prepared them with every scenario in practice,” Mosley said after shootaround on Wednesday. “We’ve gone through end-of-game scenarios, we’ve gone through how we defend in a certain timeout situation, what we’re going to see and how they guard us defensively, offensively what plays work and what doesn’t work. And so when you have that and you know you are prepared, you just go about it all we have to do is read and play the game for each other. I think that’s why we continue to talk about playing for your teammates the right way. Once you do that, you understand exactly the game is fun.”"
That is what makes the game simple in the end. It is having the confidence and the preparation to handle any situation to make the right read. If you know the right play and the right adjustments, that is how the fun begins. That is how a team’s personality comes out.
The Orlando Magic showed a lot of that during the preseason even with plenty to clean up ahead of Wednesday’s season opener against the Houston Rockets.
The team has done the serious work. It has improved its communication and its attention to detail. It has come together and made the most of the opportunity that the team’s decision for continuity has brought. Or at least it has in practice.
Now comes the fun part. That comes with playing the games and stepping onto the court and putting that work to practice.
Orlando has serious goals and has keenly focused on them. But the team is not going to lose its personality or it togetherness in pursuit of those goals. They know they must do it together.
The two are not opposed. There is not maturity or fun. There is maturity and fun.
"“I don’t think the two things necessarily go against each other,” Franz Wagner said after shootaround Wednesday. “I think basketball is a game for all of us. I think we’re enjoying being here every day and getting the opportunity to play this game. I think that in itself is super cool. We all want to win. Whatever that takes, I think maturity is one thing that is that for us. Whatever that takes when we win is even more fun. That’s how we have to think about it.”"
Everyone suspects the Magic will be a fun watch this season. Everyone suspects this will be an exciting season in general. A season that many fans will remember and could be the building of something special.
There will be a lot of fun along the way — including in the season opener. The team has a more mature focus on its goals. But that is the gateway to accomplishing these goals and having the most fun of all.