Orlando Magic’s continuity will help them weather the injury storm

Moe Wagner is expected to take a big step up for the Orlando Magic with Wendell Carter out. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Moe Wagner is expected to take a big step up for the Orlando Magic with Wendell Carter out. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

Moe Wagner does not really want to hear or talk about the adjustments the Orlando Magic will have to make without Wendell Carter.

There will, of course, be some changes as the Magic adjust to life without their starting center. The lineup will certainly change — although it is still not clear if coach Jamahl Mosley will go with Moe Wagner or with Goga Bitadze and that may end up being a game-by-game decision.

Wagner though wants to make things clear though, his approach and what he is trying to do will not change. Injuries are part of the game. It is something a team prepares for and braces for throughout the season. It is just impossible to believe a team is going to see every player reach 82 games.

All the team can do is be ready when those injuries inevitably come. And the hope is that as little changes as possible when those injuries do come up.

The Orlando Magic will have to make some adjustments without Wendell Carter. But the team believes its continuity will help it weather the storm of injuries they now face.

Like in the preseason, this is where the team feels its continuity will help the team weather this storm. They know how to play with each other and more importantly what the Magic are trying to accomplish, regardless of who is in the game.

"“That’s why you have continuity,” Wagner said after shootaround Saturday. “You never know what happens. The turnover in the NBA is so crazy. People get traded, fired, hurt all the time. You need that consistency in the way you approach every day and the way you prepare in order to have that safety net to fall back on. That’s why professionalism and preparation are so important.”"

The Magic do not seem phased. They played without Carter for 25 games last year, including 19 of 20 games in November and December. They went 7-12 in those games, including the team’s six-game winning streak that helped turn that season around.

It was definitely a mixed bag in some ways.

This is a new season and a new team. There may not be a ton to draw from that run — both Mo Bamba and Bol Bol, key players for both good and bad during that time are no longer on the team. But there is at least some data to think about, especially considering how young this current season is.

There are a lot of players who are the same from that era. And, at the very least, Wagner proved he can step his game up in that absence.

Wagner averaged 12.5 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game during that month-long stretch last year. That was a big step up and helped establish him throughout the rest of the year.

As a team, the Magic posted an offensive/defensive rating split of 110.4/114.8. The team was certainly still figuring itself out in many ways.

The Magic are hoping for an advanced result this time without Carter.

"“It is different lineup and different guys on the team,” Mosley said after shootaround Saturday. “The part about it that is great if you can look at it that way is the depth we do have. You are not afraid to put anyone out there because of the body of work these young men have put in, the attention to detail we have been paying attention to what we have been doing. It’s not a matter of looking toward last year but looking at the continuity and depth we have created this year.”"

The Magic are indeed looking forward rather than looking back. They have been looking at their continuity all preseason as a tool for growth, not something they can bank on to roll over their success. It is the ground floor of the building and not the finished product.

That is certainly the case here as they face injuries for the first time. It gives them a solid base they feel they can build on but they know there will be work to do to fill in. Every team is indeed very different no matter how many players return.

But the comfort of playing together certainly helps them establish that base. There is no despair or frustration from missing a key player. Now they know they have to play with the players they have and they have the experience playing with them.

"“This is such a group that we’ve talked about being deep,” Mosley said after shootaround Saturday. “We’ve talked about the chemistry we have with them. Whichever way we go in this situation, I think it is going to work out well because the guys whether they are in the second unit or they haven’t played many minutes, they are going to come in prepared. That’s the one thing we do know.”"

Mosley said there is still a lot of figuring out to do to find the right rotation and playing groups. The team will look at its early lineup data and at the playing groups from practice to determine where they will go. It will be constant adjustment.

But while Orlando has been fairly regimented with its rotations and playing groups in the preseason and in the regular season, the team hopes that its experimentation in training camp will help everyone be comfortable.

Mosley said the goal for the team has always been to play a style and stick to the team’s principles so it does not matter who players play with. That is the ultimate goal for this team. That is what will get tested.

And the hope is the team’s familiarity and continuity with each other and the team’s system will make this transition seamless.

It goes back though to that basic concept. Wagner said he is not changing how he plays. It is just about doing his job.

For however long the Magic will call upon Wagner to step up his minutes and increase his role, he does not plan to change much.

"“This is the NBA. This is how it works,” Wagner said after shootaround Saturday. “It’s 82 games, the likelihood of having everyone healthy is really small. You never know how it is, what the roles are, how many minutes you are going to play. This is a job. You’re here to do your job and not complain about anything, show up and play your minutes as hard as you can and we’ll see what happens. This is what the league is.”"

That is the simplistic approach the Magic need to get through this next likely month with Carter out. Everyone just has to do their jobs. They might be asked to do a bit more.

Not having Carter will hurt. He is a strong player and one of the best defenders on the team. But there is no bringing him back until he is healthy and healed.

Next. Anthony Black, entire roster have to stay ready. dark

Fortunately for Orlando, everyone knows each other and knows what they are capable of. They trust each other to fill in and help out in the process.