Spotlight Was on NBA Hopefuls in Magic’s Final Summer League Game

by Josh Cohen

LAS VEGAS - Orlando Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley said over the weekend that giving more minutes to NBA hopefuls would be the primary agenda for Monday’s summer league finale against the Detroit Pistons.

That’s precisely what took place, as all who stepped on the court except Ignas Brazdeikis, recently signed by Orlando to a two-way contract, were doing some auditioning during the Magic’s 79-78 loss at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

One of those NBA aspirants is Hassani Gravett. No stranger to the Magic organization having played for their G League team in Lakeland during the 2019-20 season, the 6-foot-3 combo guard scored 19 points in his 19 minutes off the bench. Raised in Atlanta and a member of the University of South Carolina’s Final Four team in 2017, Gravett has a silky-smooth jumper, burst when he attacks the basket and some hops, which he demonstrated when he caught an alley-oop and dunked it with just under two minutes remaining in the game.

“Honestly, I just wanted to make sure I left everything out there. I know this was the last game,” he said. “It was very important. Honestly, I feel sometimes I get a little under looked. So, getting more minutes and being blessed with the opportunity I had, I’m very thankful for it and I was happy I was able to display myself the way I did.”

Another former Lakeland player making a strong impression was Tahjere McCall, a defensive ace who during Monday’s game took a charge, blocked a shot, and had a couple deflections. Just before summer league started, the 27-year-old inked a deal to play for Cairns Taipans of the NBL. He had a brief stint with the Brooklyn Nets during the 2018-19 season.

A fan favorite on social media throughout the week was Janis Timma, a 29-year-old whose draft rights belong to the Magic after they traded for him in 2015 from the Memphis Grizzlies. The 6-foot-7 Latvian forward, best known for his sweet shooting stroke from distance, knocked down three triples on Monday and made 10 throughout the competition.

A teammate of Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Evan Mobley at USC this past season, Tahj Eaddy served as the Magic’s floor general for a portion of the second half and finished with nine points.

“That was just the conversation we had in the locker room with them going away is that they’ve done everything we’ve asked,” Mosley said. “Part of becoming a professional whether it’s at this level, or if it’s overseas, or if it’s in the G League, it’s about the things that you do here that you can prove to people that you are capable of playing and being a professional on and off the court.”

Not playing for the Pistons was 2021 No. 1 overall draft pick Cade Cunningham, who in his three games during summer league averaged 18.7 points and shot 50 percent from 3-point range. Luka Garza led the Pistons on Monday with 21 points, while Saben Lee scored 19 and hit a short jumper with 39 seconds left that put Detroit up five. He left the door open for the Magic to tie the game on the final possession after missing one of his two free throws with 18 seconds remaining, but the Magic were unable to convert on a pair of 3-point attempts.

At the helm for the second straight game was Jesse Mermuys, recently named one of Mosley’s assistant coaches. It was in 2008 when Mermuys got his first NBA coaching gig. It was with the Nuggets in Denver where he worked side by side with Mosley, also an assistant under George Karl at the time.

Other coaches he has worked under in the NBA include Kevin McHale with the Rockets, Dwane Casey with the Toronto Raptors, and Luke Walton with the L.A. Lakers and Sacramento Kings.

All in all, it was a successful summer league for the Magic. Mosley got an opportunity to embed his coaching principles. Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner, the Magic’s two 2021 first round draft picks, got a taste of NBA speed and aggressiveness. Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton used the experience to stay fresh and get to know the new coaching staff.

Suggs, who didn’t play in the final two games after spraining his left thumb, plans to use the next few weeks before training camp starts to mentally prepare for the upcoming season. It was important, he says, to get familiar with the pace of the NBA game and bond with his new teammates.

“I came in (and) got to showcase my skills, showcase my abilities,” he said.

“Just to get (into a) rhythm, the pace, my body used to it. It’s different. Doing one-on-one workouts and being in shape and then being in shape five-on-five having to go up and down. Maybe three or four minutes at a time with no dead ball,” he added. “It was different. It was good, though. Just to get the rhythm. Play with guys. Get my feet under me and again just have fun playing five-on-five again.”

Happy about the progress he made throughout the week, Wagner feels this experience is going to pay dividends down the road.

“For me, just getting used to all the surroundings, the game style, my teammates, the new system, all of that,” he said. “It’s been almost half a year I think since I really played in a basketball game. Just getting back into game shape, getting used to when someone is closing out like that in game speed. I think it was really important for me having these couple games to kind of get used to all of that. I love getting better and improving and I think these couple games helped me do that.”

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