Dwayne Bacon: "Coming Here Is a Blessing"

Dwayne Bacon
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO -- In his first meeting with the Orlando media, Dwayne Bacon provided a long list of reasons why he decided to join the Magic.

There was the desire for the Lakeland native to play back home in Florida, an opportunity to grow into a role and see consistent minutes on the court, and the chance to join a team coming off two straight postseason appearances. But the primary reason that the 6-foot-6 wing player joined the Magic was to reunite himself with a coaching staff that made such an impact on him early in his career.

“(Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford) was just an honest guy and I felt like he believed in me,” said Bacon, who spent his rookie season with the Charlotte Hornets under the tutelage of Clifford and several members of his current staff. “He pushed me to limits that I didn’t think I could reach. In this business it’s hard to find a true coach that believes in you and truly wants the best for you and truly wants to put you in positions to win.”

Originally selected in the second round (40th overall) of the 2017 NBA Draft, Bacon made an instant impression on his first NBA head coach. Clifford recalls speaking with Hornets owner Michael Jordan just two weeks into the then rookie’s first training camp about Bacon’s size, offensive instincts, feel for the game and potential to develop into an every-night starter in the future.

“He’s a talented player and I have very, very high expectations for him,” Clifford said. “He just turned twenty-five and he’s at a point in his career where I think he can take a big step and help our team this year.”

Heading into his fourth NBA season, Bacon has shown flashes of potential. Though he averaged just 5.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 17.6 minutes per game with Charlotte, he eclipsed the 20-point plateau on three occasions, led his team in scoring twice, and posted a career-high 25 points against the Warriors in one of his 11 starts last season. During his nine-game stint with the Greensboro Swarm, the Charlotte Hornets’ G League affiliate, he averaged a G League 2019-20-best 31.8 points per game.

“(When) I’m playing my best ball, I can defend any perimeter guy and I can score with the best of the best of scorers,” Bacon said. “I think guys have seen me score the ball in numerous ways and know I can fill up the stat sheet points wise. But I think a lot of people underestimate my defensive ability and what I can do on the defensive end.”

Magic guard Michael Carter-Williams has also seen Bacon’s ability up close. The two were teammates under Clifford during that 2017 season.

“He’s a talented guy,” Carter-Williams said. “He has a great pull up, he can score the ball, (and) defensively he has all the attributes to be a really good defender. I think it’s just going to take some time, but I really do think he can come in and help the team.”

Bacon is hoping to make that turnaround time as quick as possible. He’s spent countless hours watching film to ensure he’s ready for training camp and has worked out at Amway Center as much as allowed by the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols since signing his deal with the Magic.

Throughout that time, he’s leaned on two additional familiar faces, Magic assistant coaches Steve Hetzel and Bruce Kreutzer.

“Coming here is a blessing, because I know those guys are going to push me all season,” Bacon said about being reunited with his former assistant coaches from Charlotte. “I know as long as I’m here they’re going to push me, and they’re going to do and tell me whatever it takes to get to where I want to be and to where they want me to be.”

The Florida State University alum is eager to make the postseason for the first time in his career. He was quick to point out the great balance of youth and veterans on Orlando’s roster and how he immediately noticed the Magic’s culture and players' tremendous work ethic the second he walked through the door.

“These guys are all in,” Bacon said. “Vets are in here every day as if they’re young guys. I’ve seen vets every day that I’ve been in here that haven’t missed a day. When you have everybody onboard and everybody wants the same goal and everybody wants to reach the same place, then I feel like the team is going to do great things during the season. That’s why those guys have been to the playoffs the last two years.”

Although they won’t step on the court together this season, Bacon is also excited to be reunited with fellow FSU alum Jonathan Isaac, who will miss the upcoming campaign as he recovers from knee surgery. The two were Seminole teammates during the 2016-17 NCAA season and have remained close ever since. Isaac recently even sent Bacon an invitation to his upcoming wedding.

“I knew when we were going to war, I could always count on Jon and he knew when we were going to war, he could always count on me because we both wanted to win,” Bacon explained. “We both wanted to do whatever it took to win.”

One of the players who Bacon grew up admiring embodied those characteristics as well. Tracy McGrady, a member of the Magic’s and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, was one of Bacon’s favorite players growing up. He played in T-Mac’s Auburndale tournament two years ago and hopes his new ties with T-Mac’s former franchise grant him the chance to learn more from the all-time great.

“The last Polk county guy that was here was Tracy McGrady and I feel like that was a good thing,” he said. “So hopefully I can follow in his footsteps.”

Bacon is taking all the right steps so far. Now, he hopes those steps will lead him in the direction of playing a contributing role with a playoff team.

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