Front office giving young Orlando Magic its chance to finish the job

The NBA Trade Deadline came and went without the Orlando Magic making a move. They committed to finding out just how much they already have on the roster to close this season.
Franz Wagner led the Orlando Magic to a win over the San Antonio Spurs as they move past the trade deadline and look ahead to the postseason push.
Franz Wagner led the Orlando Magic to a win over the San Antonio Spurs as they move past the trade deadline and look ahead to the postseason push. / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

127. 38. Final. 111. 29. Magic Spurs Final 02.08.24

The questions were all in the air. That is the natural thing on trade deadline day. Everyone wants to know how a team aims to improve or set up its future. They want to see their team be proactive to improve, especially with the rest of the league seemingly improving on deadline day.

The Orlando Magic had that opportunity last offseason and opted to give much of their roster a repeat. The team rewarded that faith by taking a big step into postseason contention this season.

That only raises more questions, though. Pressure is a privilege. And everyone can sense what the Magic may one day become.

They had the opportunity again Thursday to add to their roster and build on their success. They again bet on continuity to carry the team to the finish line and help them accomplish their goals.

It certainly seems like a risk with how tight the standings are and the opportunities to make more tangible gains with this young team.

Change is inevitable and likely necessary for this team. But that will have to wait.

The Magic believe this group can still accomplish their goals, reach the postseason and take that all-important next step for a young group.

For one night, at least, the Magic looked more than up for the challenge, dominating a wire-to-wire 127-111 win over the San Antonio Spurs.

The opponent may have allowed room to dominate, but this team continued showing flashes of its brilliance and what it can do. It was hard not to believe again.

The Magic know this group will have to carry this team to the finish line and into the postseason. They believe they can get the job done and reward the faith the front office has given them to stay on this path.

"I think it's really cool for everybody to get that trust from the front office and the franchise," Franz Wagner said after Thursday's win. "Obviously we don't have control over it. It's really cool to be a part of this group and keep going together."

Jalen Suggs echoed those sentiments in the postgame interview on Bally Sports Florida. Deadline day is stressful for everyone. But the front office signaled its faith in the group it has. The team has to reward that faith.

Orlando certainly put on a show, getting big performances from several players who absolutely needed it.

Wagner had 34 points and seven assists against one turnover after struggling through Tuesday's game in Miami. Suggs had a breakout shooting night, going 3 for 6 from deep for 17 points. Cole Anthony scored 12 off the bench.

The team shot a staggering 16 for 27 from three, never settling for threes but draining the ones they took and shooting confidently.

Everything was flowing. It always felt like a matter of time before the team cracked this game open, especially after starting it with a 9-0 lead.

Orlando used a 19-4 in the final 4.5 minutes of the second quarter to blow the game open and take a 17-point lead to the locker room. They built that lead thanks to a stifling defense that held the Spurs to just 44 points in the first half. Orlando was locked in.

The Magic got to the core of who they are and what can make the team really special.

That starts with their defense and how that generates offense and chances to get out on the break. That continues with the team's ball movement -- 34 assists on 49 field goals in Thursday's win -- and ability to drive, kick and attack again. Everything moved quickly, and the team did not back down from Victor Wembanyama's presence in the paint.

Orlando has clear weaknesses and deficiencies. But it also can overcome them. That is what is different about this team. And the Magic are starting to harden and commit to that identity.

"I think that's the beauty of our team, we really like playing with each other," Wagner said after Thursday's win. "Obviously, in a long season, there are going to be ups and downs. I think, for the most part, we are doing a good job enjoying our time out there together."

How far can that take this team? Even in a runaway win, the Magic left with a warning sign.

Orlando defended well in the first half but then gave up 41 points in the third quarter, including 23 to Devin Vassell (he finished with 30 after going scoreless in the first half). The Magic's hot shooting and 37 points kept them in it, but it could have been a disaster for a team learning to play with a lead.

Orlando has been through disastrous quarters where the defense lets the team down. There is still a lot of work to do to prepare for the postseason.

"I think they took the call for the first half and that's what we talked about in the locker room," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Thursday's win. "In the first half, they did a great job of sitting down, guarding and getting out to an early lead. As for the accountability of that third quarter, we got a little lax with it. That's not what our standard is or our staple. Our guys responded and came back to be able to put it away."

The Spurs got the lead down to as little as 10 in the second half before the Magic started to pull away. Before Orlando began to inject the fun and energy that has made this team so endearing.

When everything works, everything works for this group. And the results can be devastating.

It is why the Magic find themselves on a clear path toward the postseason. The Orlando Magic are again tied with the Miami Heat for seventh in the Eastern Conference. The two Florida teams sit a half game behind the Indiana Pacers for sixth, avoiding the Play-In Tournament entirely.

It is going to be a battle in these final 30 games to sort out this playoff picture. The Magic feel confident that coming home and a favorable schedule can lift this team up.

They, at least, feel confident this group can get the job done for this year. And after several years building together, there is an ownership over getting across that finish line.

The front office has given the team the opportunity to finish the job, a rarity in this league.

This is a group that enjoys playing together. They look the part. That has always been essential to the team and its success.

"Just continue to take it one day at a time," Suggs said after Thursday's win. "Keep having fun with the process. Not looking at the end goal and trying to be fixated on that, but instead just enjoy the journey. Enjoy the little parts about it, and we'll keep growing in that sense."

The Magic will have to answer the lingering questions posed before the deadline. The team's shooting and point guard questions are not going anywhere. And the playoffs will likely make their deficiencies clearer still.

But that part of the season is in the past. Orlando is ready to roll with the group it has. And it can see what they are capable of doing.

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The road to the playoffs is on. And this Magic group is going to get a chance to prove what its got.