Mo Bamba Answers Questions During Virtual Event With Magic Season Ticket Holders

ORLANDO - While many basketball fans might unfortunately be able to relate to Mo Bamba putting on 28 pounds while quarantined at home the past 2 ½ months, the Orlando Magic center actually stayed motivated and on track as it related to fitness and he added mostly muscle to his gangly 7-foot frame.

While the NBA’s stoppage in play couldn’t have come at a worse time than it did for the streaking Magic, Bamba used his time off from basketball to intensely go to work on his formerly rail-thin body. The No. 6 pick from the 2018 NBA Draft says he spent most of the past 10 weeks lifting weights in his makeshift living room gym and also mixing in 3-point shooting sessions in a private gym that he had access to during the quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to a group of Magic season-ticketholders in an exclusive question-and-answer session online, Bamba – who recently turned 22 years old – detailed the daily routine that finally allowed him to add some much-needed bulk to his towering frame.

``I’ve worked my tail off during this quarantine,’’ Bamba told Magic season-ticketholders. ``I’ve taken this as an opportunity to really put on weight, really recover as far as getting rest and changing up my diet. I’ve been able to get a chef in and he drops off food occasionally. That’s probably the biggest thing that helped me put on a lot of weight.

``This is going to sound weird, but I put on probably about 28 pounds since quarantine (started),’’ Bamba said with a sheepish laugh. ``We did the whole body (composition) testing when we got back in (the Magic practice facility) and I’ve only added about 2.5 percent body fat. So, a lot of it is muscle and I can’t wait to get back out there and work.’’

In recent weeks, Magic season-ticketholders have been treated to exclusive question-and-answer sessions with head coach Steve Clifford, forward Jonathan Isaac and Bamba. Magic point guard D.J. Augustin recently took questions from Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards members, while former Magic forward Rashard Lewis spent an hour online with fans last week as part of Budweiser’s ``Legendary Moments’’ promotion.

Bamba and his Magic teammates have been back inside the Amway Center for voluntary weight-lifting sessions, conditioning drills and light basketball skill work the past two weeks. The Magic have taken extreme precautions to make sure that players are safe before entering the Amway Center, and there are restrictions as to how many players and coaches can be in areas of the gym and weight room at the same time.

``I’ve been to the facility since the first time that it was opened back up and the procedure to get into the facility is very grueling,’’ Bamba said. ``The first thing they do is take your temperature, then you go through a bunch of questions, de-sanitize and wash your hands and you have to wear a mask at all times. But the work that we’ve been able to put in at the arena has been good.’’

After seeing his rookie season cut short by a stress reaction in his left foot, Bamba made strides this season in terms of playing with more aggression offensively and battling better on the defensive end in the post. Bamba averaged 5.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots in 14.5 minutes per night over 60 games. He scored a career high 15 points twice this season – Nov. 25 at Cleveland and Feb. 26 at Atlanta – making five of five 3-point shots against the Cavs and three of four 3-pointers versus the Hawks. For the season, Bamba has shot 46.8 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from 3-point range.

Not satisfied with those numbers, Bamba looked to make some major personal improvements during his time away from basketball. Establishing a routine, Bamba said, was one of his biggest keys to making progress in terms of building strength and adding bulk.

``I’ve had my home gym set up in my living-room area, but I don’t have that anymore because we’re back in the arena (for workouts), but my weekdays and weekends were all pretty productive,’’ Bamba said. ``On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I do some kind of lift, whether it’s full body, lower body or upper body.

``Then, I take time to eat lunch and then I’ll go and shoot,’’ Bamba added. ``Sometimes, at night I’ll go again (to the gym) and work on different kinds of finishes or work on post-ups around the rim just so that I can stay in shape and stay active.’’

When he wasn’t working on his body, Bamba said he tried to pass the time while quarantined learning to cook, ``playing every board game imaginable,’’ dabbling in audio/video equipment repair and gaming online. He said he’s missed the joking, hanging out and trash talking with his teammates most during the quarantine, but the group picked up right where it left off during a recent team-wide Zoom call.

``I just miss how much of a family it is with us,’’ Bamba said of the dynamic between Magic front office staff, coaches and players. ``Orlando is known for being a family town, especially with our Disney connections, but you can really feel that (family connection) within the team. I see three or four of the guys (at the Amway Center during workouts) a day, but we’re still all texting one another and Face-Timing all the time.

``We’re all really looking forward to getting back together,’’ Bamba said. ``Aside from the basketball stuff, we’re all really good friends off the court. We did a Zoom call not too long ago and everyone was just cracking jokes. You could just tell that everyone is just eager to be back around one another again.’’

One reason the Magic can’t wait to get back together, Bamba stressed, is because of the chemistry the group started to develop just before the stoppage in play. In the days and weeks leading up to the NBA season being suspended on March 11, the Magic won three games in a row, six of nine and eight of 11 after the break for the NBA All-Star Game. At 30-35, Orlando currently sits just a half-game back of the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference standings, putting it on track for another playoff berth.

Bamba feels if the Magic can recapture the positive vibes that they started to play with in late February and early March, they could potentially make some major noise in the playoffs – if and when they begin again under a potentially new format devised by the NBA.

``We were hot. We had the number one offense and our defense was getting back close to where we were last year,’’ Bamba said of a Magic squad that ranked first in the NBA in scoring (120.8), first in assists per game (32.1), first in field goal makes per game (45.1), second in field goal percentage (48.6 percent) and 13thin 3-point percentage (37 percent) in the 12 games after the NBA All-Star break. ``We’re all looking forward to getting back and we know what we’re capable of. We know what we have to do to get back to that. We’re not sure how they’re going to do the format, but we’re eager to play. We want to get out there, be for each other and be about what it says (on the front) of our jerseys.’’

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