ORLANDO – Media days in the NBA give off first-day of school vibes.
Everyone discusses what they did this past summer and lays out their expectations for the upcoming year.
For the Orlando Magic, there were a few common threads sprinkled throughout all of their media day interviews.
First, to a man, the team was thrilled to be fully healthy entering training camp. Secondly, they were eager to build on the roster continuity and pick up where they finished off last season. And most of all, while they were quick to embrace expectations, they were fully aware that it’ll be the hard work day-in and day-out that will eventually lead them to where they want to go.
Let's take a closer look at some of the more quotable and notable moments from the Magic's media day.
Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman: The Magic’s president of basketball operations was quick to point out that not all continuity is created equal. In the NBA, continuity only matters when you have a group of players you believe in. And that something that Orlando currently has. However, with such a collection of young talent, it’ll be more difficult now for players to crack the rotation. This season, without a doubt, minutes will be earned not given.
“One of the criticisms when we deviated from our path a few years ago was now we’re going to be playing all of these rookies that haven’t earned minutes,” Weltman explained. “I think there was some merit to that. That is kind of the yin and the yang of a rebuild. Now, it’s going to be harder for these guys to get on the floor, quite honestly. We’re not gifting anybody minutes. And that’s a good thing. That means that we’re getting better … I think we have good depth, and we have talent spread out positionally.”
Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley: That depth is a luxury that the Magic have not had over the last couple of seasons. However, it’ll make it more difficult than ever for the Magic’s head coach to divvy up minutes. With such talent up and down the roster, rotations and playing time will be determined by player performance in training camp, practices, and the preseason.
“That’s the great part about this team,” said Mosley. “We said we’re going to compete. We’re going to compete. And we’re going to compete. So, every day we walk into practice, we’re going to compete. So, how guys get ample opportunity, they’ll (have to) compete for their minutes, compete for their time, (and) they’ll compete to make each other better. That’s the great part of the talent on this team, and they all understand that which is great.”
If that doesn’t get you excited for the start of training camp on Tuesday, I don’t know what will.
Paolo Banchero: It’s hard to imagine having a more impressive inaugural season than what the 6-foot-10 forward put together during the 2022-23 campaign. The Rookie of the Year ranked first in points (20.0 per game), fifth in rebounds (6.9), and third in assists (3.7) per game among first-year players. Now, the Duke alum is setting his sights on team success. And he believes that by winning each day, the Magic will eventually achieve their goals.
“We have to be who we are and stick together,” said Banchero, who played for Team USA this summer in the FIBA World Cup. “There are going to be highs and lows, ups and downs throughout the year. But as long as we stay together as a unit, I’m confident with us going up against anybody. When we were healthy last year, there wasn’t a team that we looked at and (felt) we were outmatched and outmanned. We have a full roster coming into this year. It’s just living up to our expectations and trying to be as good as we can be as a unit. (If we do that) the playoffs and whatever else will take care of itself.”
Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony: Two members of the Magic’s backcourt come into this season entering the final year of their respective contracts.
While that could prove to be a distraction for some young players, both Fultz and Anthony are focused on the present and having a successful start to training camp.
“Not at all,” said Fultz when asked if his contract is weighing on him. “I’ve been through so much in my career. The best thing for me is just being able to play. That’s all that I’m focused on. I know that if I focus on that, everything else will take care of itself. Obviously, I would love to be in Orlando for a long, long time. But again, I’m just worried about every day, taking it one day at a time. But I love this organization. I think everything is going to fall into place where it needs to.”
Anthony expressed a similar sentiment.
“I’m not worried about that,” Anthony explained. “I’m just worried about getting ready for training camp, which actually starts tomorrow, and just being the best version of myself that I can be.”
Speaking of being the best version of yourself, Fultz believes this upcoming season could be his best to date.
“The best is yet to come,” Fultz said with a smile. “I think that’s what most excites me. I have a lot that I can get better at. But more importantly, just being healthy and being able to be out there on the court. You’re going to be able to see more and more of me. Again, I’m just super, super happy to get into training camp and get working with these guys … The league has yet to see the best of me. It’s going to come out. This year, every game I’m coming out with a chip on my shoulder … to show what I can do.”
Wendell Carter Jr.: One topic that’s generated a lot of buzz this offseason is the NBA in-season tournament. While everyone’s approach to the tournament may be different, young groups like the Magic can use it to gain experience for what it’s like to play in playoff-type atmospheres and in high-stakes games.
“I think it’s a good thing for the league. It keeps guys engaged for the middle of the season,” said Carter. “Me, personally, I’ve never been to the playoffs. So, I’m definitely going to treat it like it’s the playoffs.”
Gary Harris: This offseason, Harris watched his former squad – the Denver Nuggets – win an NBA championship. The 6-foot-4 shooting guard played a big part in helping Denver turn the corner during its rebuild and hopes to do the same with Orlando.
“All the years of them getting close and years making the playoffs, to see them stick through and make it, that’s what it’s all about,” said Harris. “You never know what each year holds. We have to keep going and keep fighting. At the end of this year, hopefully we can have the same type of story.”
“It helps validate that it comes fast. A lot of teams, you don’t really expect them to win the whole thing last year. It just shows if you believe in yourself as a team. In this core group that we have here and everybody in this building, if you keep working hard and keep your head down, and block out all the noise, anything is possible.”
Jonathan Isaac: Health in the NBA is a huge asset, and for the last couple of seasons, the Magic have not had it. No player on the roster is more aware of this fact than Isaac, who’s dealt with his fair share of injuries over the last few seasons.
However, the 6-foot-11 forward hopes those problems are in the past as he – and the rest of Orlando’s roster for that matter – enter training camp completely healthy.
“It feels great,” said Isaac. “You guys know, it’s been a few years since I’ve been able to start a season completely healthy and since the team has been able to start the season fully heathy, outside of me. So, to be in day one of training camp and I’ve been playing with the guys all summer, I’m just extremely excited.”
Jalen Suggs: Another player who knows not to take health for granted is Suggs, whose first two seasons in the league have been up and down due to injuries.
However, the 6-foot-5 guard spent this offseason not only working on his body, but also his mind and enters Orlando 2023-24 campaign rejuvenated and invigorated.
“What a summer of growth, honestly,” said Suggs. “I get excited talking about it. My temperance, my self-discipline, my mental, my spirit, my soul, that was the biggest thing for me this summer. I got to take a couple of weeks after the season and just be with family and friends and be around people that matter to me and who I didn’t get to see that much. Then, I really just started to deep dive into bettering myself. I think off the court was the main thing. When you take time away, you allow your body to heal and rest and recover. Not only did it do wonders there for that, it also allowed me to really just work on myself. The difference that it’s made in my perspective, my outlook and how I approach each day has been massive. It’s helped me fall back in love with this sport again and the work of it, which has been a beautiful thing. This has been a great summer for me. Physically, mentally, emotionally, (and) spiritually. I’m excited to bring it all together and let it show and get to work with the boys.”
Joe Ingles: During his media day interview, Weltman pointed out that not only did the Magic set out this offseason to add a veteran like Ingles, but they set out directly to acquire Ingles himself.
If you spend any time around the 10-year NBA veteran, you can see why. He’s immensely competitive, he’s hard working, and he is more than willing to share his experience with the youth on Orlando’s roster.
“Having a bit of a relationship with coach (Mosley) … and playing against this team the last couple of years and how they’ve been trending upwards and the way they play, all of that kind of combined (help make my decision to sign in Orlando),” Ingles said. “It was a pretty easy decision at the end of it.”
Anthony Black and Jett Howard: On some teams, lottery picks like Black and Howard would be gifted minutes. That’s not the case with this deep Orlando team. If Black and Howard are to work their way into the rotation, they’ll have to compete and earn their minutes. It’s a challenge both players are ready for.
“I think that’s how it should be for anybody, no matter where you were picked or anything like that,” Black said. “You still have to come in and prove yourself. Prove yourself to your teammates and coaches and everybody in the organization. I’m definitely excited to do that.”
His draftmate couldn’t agree more.
“I feel like on all levels I’ve had to do that,” said Howard. “You want that at the end of the day, just being in an environment and a culture that’s for that rather than something being given to you. That’s big on the Magic for saying that.”
Franz Wagner and Moe Wagner: The Wagner brothers come into camp with some bragging rights after winning FIBA World Cup gold medals with Germany. Now, they’re looking to build on that experience and help apply the lessons they learned to the Magic.
“(I learned that) in those close games, in those important games not everything is going to go your way,” Franz explained. “We did a great job as a group sticking together and coming out of those moments strong. That’s a really cool lesson for me on how to approach those moments. That’s something I want to bring to this season.”