BOSTON – Preseason is all about fresh starts. For every team in the league, it marks the beginning of a new year on the NBA calendar.
However, when the Orlando Magic open their preseason slate on the road against the Boston Celtics on Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET, there will be a whole additional series of firsts.
Rookies Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner will take the floor for their first preseason contest, and Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley and Celtics Head Coach Ime Udoka will lead NBA teams for the first time in their careers.
“I’m super excited,” said Suggs with a smile stretched across his face. “To be starting up my rookie year, it’s something you dream of. This is another one of those (special) moments that you look forward to and you just got to take in because they only happen one time for the first time. So, I’m excited, ready to get out there, get up and down with the guys, and be in front of the crowd.”
Suggs, the fifth overall pick in the 2021 draft, captivated fans and teammates alike with a sensational showing early in summer league before it was cut short after he sprained his left thumb, coincidentally, against the Celtics.
The 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard played just under 66 minutes of action over three games in summer league, averaging 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals. Now, he as well as Wagner – the eighth overall pick in the same draft class – will look to take the next step in their NBA journeys.
“Just go out and be better. Just go out and learn. That’s it,” said Suggs of his expectations for the team’s preseason opener. “Not going to score thirty, put up a triple-double, win like it’s game seven of the NBA Finals; I’m just going out there to learn, get better and help the team grow.”
Like the aforementioned rookies, the Magic’s 15th head coach in franchise history will utilize the preseason as an extension of training camp. Mosley will examine rotations, starters, playing groups, and more in order to have things in place for the team’s regular season opener on Oct. 20 in San Antonio.
“It’s a continuation of training camp,” Mosley explained. “It’s continuing to get a feel for what combinations works well together, how they’re picking up on the things we’re asking them to do from our foundation of defending first and getting into the basketball, being physical, how we’re running lanes. It’s just a continuation of training camp.”
IN AND OUT: The Magic’s injury report comes with no surprises. Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee) and Chuma Okeke (right hip; bone bruise) are all out.
For Boston, Grant Williams (right foot sprain) is questionable, while Juwan Morgan (left hamstring strain) is out.
QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think I am playing faster, but at a much more controlled pace. When you combine the aspects of not just being at a hundred miles per hour all the time, (instead) being at sixty one time, speeding up to a hundred, and then back to thirty. It’s all relative to what needs to be done on the court at that time. I feel like I’m in control pretty much at all times and can really just be a point guard and control the game.” – Cole Anthony on his growth over the past year.
RIVALS REPORT: We open up our Rivals Report series with special guest Celtics.com writer and reporter Marc D'Amico, who worked with me in Orlando before heading up to Boston. He was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions about the Celtics and their outlook this season:
Savage: "I know we're just getting into training camp, but what has stood out to you so far about new head coach Ime Udoka?"
D'Amico: “That it feels as if he’s giving the returning Celtics – as well as the newcomers – exactly what they wanted and needed. Brad Stevens was an excellent coach, but since Udoka was hired, it has sounded as if the returning Celtics wanted a few changes from a coaching perspective. They wanted to be coached hard. They wanted to play fast. They wanted to be held accountable. From all accounts, it sounds as if that’s exactly what’s happening early on during Udoka’s tenure as head coach.”
Savage: "What is the team hoping to get out of free agent acquisition Dennis Schroder this season?
D'Amico: “Well, we don’t yet know what the starting lineup will look like, but my best guess is this: bench scoring. The Celtics haven’t had a double-digit scorer off the bench the last couple of seasons and Schroder, who finished second in the Sixth Man of the Year voting in 2020 thanks to his average of 18.9 points per game off the bench with Oklahoma City, will fill that void if he is indeed a reserve. The other thing Boston wants and needs from him is for him to be a dog at the defensive end. This team has an opportunity to be elite defensively. Not just great – elite. In order to be at their best at that end, the C’s will need Schroder to be a pain in opposing guards’ sides while playing alongside other stellar defenders like Marcus Smart, Josh Richardson, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Rob Williams.”
Savage: "What are the Celtics looking to accomplish in their preseason opener against the Magic?"
D'Amico: “Shake off some rust, have some fun, and see what this team can look like with a new roster and head coach. Udoka is going to experiment with lineups to see which combinations are most versatile and effective at both ends of the court. This game isn’t about getting a W; it’s about establishing a style of play, building chemistry, experimenting, and taking the court for the first time together in green and white.”