Magic Players Getting Used to Shooting Free Throws in Quieter Environment

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - What do you think would be harder to do: Make a pressure-packed free throw with thousands of screaming fans all around you or make a pressure-packed free throw in total silence?

NBA players are obviously very familiar with having to do the former. While at Disney for the 2019-20 season restart, they may have to adjust to doing the latter.

When each asked to describe the environment during their first scrimmage game, the Orlando Magic’s Nikola Vucevic and D.J. Augustin brought up how quiet it was while at the free throw line – something clearly they are not used to experiencing.

“The thing that stood out to me the most was probably on free throws. It was pretty quiet. You could hear a pin drop,” Augustin described. “Just being able to play without the fans energy and hearing the crowd at all times like we normally do is going to be an adjustment but once we get adjusted to that we will be just fine.”

It being relatively quiet in the arena could, and probably will, force players to increase the energy level on the bench, even though they will be spaced out there due to social distancing guidelines.

“We could use our voices more and be able to talk to our teammates on the floor and be able to talk to each other,” Augustin said. “Just using our voice more is probably the most important thing. The difference is not being able to really jump up and down and be really into the game like we normally would, but it’s another adjustment that we are going to just have to get used to.”

Other than the reduced noise, nothing was overly strange about playing in a fan-less gym, according to several of Orlando’s players. Already, they say, they are adjusting just fine to it and expect to be completely acclimated to the atmosphere by the time the seeding games tip off.

“Once we started playing, I didn’t really pay much attention to it,” Vucevic said. “Obviously you miss the noise and the interaction with the fans, especially if there is a big moment or something during the game or a big play. But once you get up and down on the court playing, it wasn’t too bad. I got used to it pretty quickly.”

The Magic have two more scrimmages before their first seeding game against the Brooklyn Nets, the team they are hoping to eclipse for the seventh seed in the East. The exhibition games are helping Orlando’s coaches and players do much more than just familiarize themselves with the arena setup.

Players are using this time to get their rhythm and wind back, while the coaches are exploring various lineups and rotations. Everyone who was available for Wednesday’s game against the Clippers saw action. Vucevic and Aaron Gordon each played a team-most 20 minutes. Michael Carter-Williams (18 minutes), Terrence Ross (16) and Wes Iwundu (16) led the reserves in minutes.

“It felt good. It felt good to just be out there playing,” Ross said. “We are still getting to where we want to be. We’re taking the proper steps to get there.”

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