Orlando Magic’s mission: Play the 83rd game

Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic are determined to make the most of this season. They are clearly eyeing the postseason as a goal. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic are determined to make the most of this season. They are clearly eyeing the postseason as a goal. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports /

There is a spirit in Orlando. Perhaps even a Magic in this town.

Something has felt different about the Orlando Magic this year from the moment they stepped back into the AdventHealth Training Center for preseason workouts and training camp. Perhaps it has felt different from the end of the season moving into this offseason.

Paolo Banchero laid down the gauntlet just a few weeks after the season ended when he accepted the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award. The conversations and texts among the team were talking about the excitement of those early playoff games were talking about getting to this point.

Banchero said it then, he and his teammates viewed the season as playoffs or bust.

That kind of hard line for the upcoming season might have softened. Whether this season is a failure or not might not be determined by whether the team makes it to the postseason.

Whether this season is a success or not surely will.

The Orlando Magic are preparing to embark on a highly-anticipated 2023-24 season. The goal is quite simple for this group: Play Game 83 and make the postseason.

If the Magic have a mission statement for the upcoming season, it should be to play in Game 83. The goal for this season should be to reach the postseason and play beyond the confines of the regular season — Jake Chapman of the Orlando Magic’s radio broadcast told me the internal mantra is “Play in May.”

Everyone surrounding this team has playoffs on their mind. It is not something the team is hiding from at all. For the first time since the Magic’s tear-it-down trades in 2021, they are going to judge this season partially on results.

Of course, there is still development to occur. This is one of the youngest teams in the league. Their top scorer is likely a player in his second season with a player in his third season standing right next to him. Joe Ingles is the only player on the roster older than 30 years old (a fact he kind of hates being constantly reminded of).

Orlando is not going to focus so much on the short-term that they sacrifice their long-term plans. Still, the short-term is going to matter for this team. There is still a goal to achieve.

It is still easy to see how this team has gone into overdrive to try to win now. Their goal is to learn how to win and to do the things it will take to win.

The players have all spoken openly about making the playoffs. That is their goal. Coach Jamahl Mosley has embraced the team talking about those expectations. But he is focused on the work it will take to get the team there.

And that is his job.

The players are looking at the main prize. Mosley is the one trying to make sure everyone understands the tasks it takes to get there. It is his job to make sure the process makes the results. And that part of his job is certainly heightened now that the team has placed these expectations upon themselves.

The mantra last year was to “level up.” It was meant to bring seriousness to the game and start to expect more of themselves as they improve.

The mantra from the team this year is to play “better basketball.” That is more of a focus on what it will take to win night in and night out in the league. It is about turning the ball over fewer times and getting the details down that will determine wins and losses.

The focus for this team has shifted from one of development and getting better individually to one of making the team better.

For now, everyone has been bought in. That is something incredible Mosley has done.

He kept everyone believing in the vision even after a 5-20 start and built the confidence in the team to get to this point. Bringing everyone back from last year’s roster (except for two players), the team hopes that confidence and belief can carry them through into the postseason.

It is clearly the next important step for this team to reach the postseason.

It is not only to get the experience of winning day in and day out that is so important to individual development. It is not only going through the process of understanding the extra level of detail necessary to compete in a playoff series. All of that will help individuals get better and improve. A lot of players do not know what they need to work on until their flaws are exposed on that stage and they test themselves under that pressure.

It is important too for the front office to understand what this team needs to succeed and just how good this group can be. The front office needs the information that a playoff run can bring to tell them where the team’s weaknesses are and which players can help fill those voids.

Everyone senses the urgency needed to prove themselves this year. The players are certainly talking about marking their place in the league. There is a lot for everyone to prove this season.

And that inevitably leads everyone to one singular goal. All roads for the Magic lead back to this one objective: Making the postseason.

That is central story for the season and the one thing that can clearly show the path this team is on.

Next. Orlando Magic feel good entering season, ready for test. dark

All the bigger storylines though will take a back seat now until the offseason. The goal has to come into clearer focus now. And the only goal that matters now that the games are starting is simple:

Play Game 83 and make the postseason.