The Orlando Magic ended another losing season singing a familiar refrain.
Despite dropping 60 games, posting the worst record in the Eastern Conference and missing the playoffs for the third time in five years, the club say this latest overhaul is moving in the right direction.
“Ever since we went into the building on day one, we’ve talked about how we’re going to compete at a higher level, defend at a higher level, work out every day,” first-year coach Jamahal Mosley said on Sunday. And have fun.” , “That’s what we’ve done.”
The Magic dropped 27 of 32 games to start the season and didn’t win three games in a row, yet Mosley said that a young team that played most of the season without its two best players never disappointed.
“Practice (Saturday) felt like the first day. To be with each other on the court all day long was an energy, an excitement, a joy,” the coach said before Sunday night’s finale against the Miami Heat.
“And I think it was about what we’ve talked about from the beginning. It’s about us getting better every single day. Whether we win or lose, we’re putting in that work every single day ,” Mosley said. “These people have embraced it, and they have embraced each other.”
In a sense, this season was doomed from the start with Jonathan Issac and Markel Fultz, two of the Magic’s young players trying to recover from serious knee injuries.
Isaac tore his left anterior cruciate ligament when the pandemic-disrupted 2019-20 season resumed in the Disney bubble. He has missed the last two seasons and has played only 136 games since being drafted five years ago.
Fultz tore his ACL in January 2021 and was sidelined for nearly 14 months before returning late this season and playing well enough to slowly return to a starting role.
Team president Jeff Veltman and general manager John Hammond are committed to building through the draft for future first-round picks in 2023 and 2025, following business giants Nikola Vucevi and Aaron Gordon in March 2021.
The current roster consists of eight players selected in the first round of the last five drafts, including Fultz (number 1 overall by Philadelphia in 2017) and Wendell Carter Jr. (seventh overall by Chicago in 2018).
Isaac (sixth, 2017), Mo Bamba (sixth, 2018), Chuma Okke (16th, 2019), Cole Anthony (15th in 2020), Jalen Suggs (fifth, 2021) and Franz Wagner (eighth, 2021) are the likes of Orlando . ,
Suggs and Wagner showed flashes of promise this season as cheaters. The 6 foot 10 Carter looks like part of the future, as well, after averaging 15 points of confidence and 10.5 rebounds in 62 games.
“All the youth teams in the league – the Memphis Grizzlies, the Phoenix Suns, the Cleveland Cavaliers – I think that’s where we are,” Carter said.
“Especially because of us being so young, it gives us a chance to really mold everyone,” Carter said. “I think we’re at the right opportunity where everyone understands what everyone is capable of, and we all like each other.”
work to do
Despite insisting there are signs of progress, this is the seventh time in the last 10 seasons that the Magic have won less than 30 games.
Orlando has had five different coaches and recorded only one win during that period (42-40 in 2018-19). The franchise has not won a playoff series since 2010.
Suggs was the fifth pick in last year’s draft from Gonzaga. He immediately earned a starting job, but missed 34 games due to various injuries. He shot just 36% and averaged 11.8 points and 4.4 assists in 48 games.
Wagner, the eighth player from Michigan, averaged 15.2 points in 79 games. He started in the first 74 games before falling apart with an ankle injury.
go to the gym
Mosley said one of the team’s priorities is improving its perimeter shooting.
The Magic finished 28th in the NBA in field-goal percentage at 43.4, including 33.4 from a 3-point range.
Fultz (23.5%, Suggs (21.4%) and Anthony (33.8%) all struggled beyond the arc.
Without mentioning any names, Mosley said he wishes everyone returned in September with better jump shots.
“Being able to get out of basketball and come back with that conditioning level, I think they’re going to be the big key,” the coach said.
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