Orlando Magic Media Day: Notes and Quotes From Each Member of the Team
ORLANDO – Media day in the NBA is much like the first day of school. Everyone reminisces with familiar faces, officially meets the new additions to the room for the first time and gets set for the following day when the real work begins.
Players share what they worked on over the summer and lay out their goals for the upcoming season prior to training camp tipping off the next day.
The Orlando Magic did exactly that on Monday as each member of the team took to the podium and answered questions from the media. Here are some of the most interesting notes, quotes, and tidbits from up and down the roster.
Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman:
The Magic’s President of Basketball Operations touched on a number of key topics during his time with the media. Weltman expressed his pleasure with Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac’s rehab stints, although he offered no timeline on their returns.
Perhaps, his most intriguing answer, however, is how the team will gauge success this season:
“Growth, development, learning,” Weltman explained. “I’m really excited about our group. We have a very talented, eager, smart, focused group of players. It’s our jobs, it’s our responsibility to get them through the early phase of their careers successfully.”
“To me, success is reintegrating our injured players, developing our young players the right way, so then we can make our own evaluations on what’s going to make us win going forward. You don’t learn how to win unless you’re preparing to win and expecting to win.”
Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley:
The 15th head coach in franchise history has a tall task in front of him. Rebuilds are no easy undertaking and developing so much young talent at one time takes a special type of leader. However, the Magic fully believe they have the right man for the job in Mosley.
With a background in player development, Mosley knows what it takes to help cultivate young stars. And at 42 years old, he’s also still able to relate to the youngsters in the locker room.
The first-time head coach revealed that he’ll use training camp and the preseason to test out lineup combinations and determine starters, and that he’s excited to get the process underway.
“It’s extremely exciting,” said Mosley. “Just the group of guys that we have, the staff, the organization, the players, that’s the exciting part behind it for me is that we all get to do this. It’s our first run. Just building a foundation from there is what’s really exciting about getting going.”
The second-year point guard is never one to make a dull entrance. His start to media day was no different. Anthony joined reporters during Mo Bamba’s session and jokingly asked a few hard-hitting questions to the fourth-year center.
While he touched on playoff aspirations, his relentless offseason workout routines, and the team’s trip to Charleston – or “The Chuck” as he calls it – his analysis of the Magic’s backcourt talent was his top quote to note.
“The best teams have those two lead guards,” said Anthony, who cited former Toronto tandem Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet as well as Portland duo Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum as examples. “It’s never one guard. It’s kind of hard for one guard to carry all that weight. I’m super excited to get to play with Jalen (Suggs).”
In a lot of ways, this is a big year for Bamba. Entering the final year of his rookie deal, the University of Texas alum is hoping to have a breakout campaign.
After dealing with injuries and illness during past offseasons, Bamba is hoping that all the hard work he put in this summer will pay dividends during the 2021-22 NBA season.
“This summer, I prided myself on a couple of things,” said Bamba. “I wanted to work on my conditioning (and) I wanted to work on my finishing around the rim. But I think one of the things that come along with time in the NBA and just playing is my IQ. I’m able to see plays before they happen (and) I’m able to make reads. I think that’s one thing that I’m really excited to get out there and show this year.”
From the moment he joined the Magic – on a 10-day deal towards the end of last season – Iggy has impressed coaches, the front office and his teammates with his work ethic and on-the-court tenacity. In his eight-game stint with the Magic last season, Brazdeikis averaged 11.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists.
Now, with a two-way contract under his belt, the University of Michigan alum is looking to continue to develop with the Magic both in Orlando and Lakeland this year.
“I feel like I have a great opportunity being here,” Brazdeikis explained. “Young team. New coaching staff. I’m just grateful for the position that I’m in. My path in the NBA, so far, hasn’t been the easiest, but I’m excited for this opportunity. I’m ready for it and I’m just excited to go.”
Wendell Carter Jr.:
Along with two first round picks, the Magic also acquired Carter as part of the haul for sending Nikola Vucevic to Chicago. The fourth-year center made an instant impact upon arriving in Orlando, notching 11.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 0.8 blocks and 0.8 steals per game in 22 contests with the Magic.
At 22 years old, Carter believes he’s just scratching the surface of what he can become in this league and hopes his work this offseason will help him get there. He used his media session to express his excitement for the future of this team and his hope to remain in Orlando for the long term.
“Our bond is really good,” said Carter. “Especially with us all being young, hungry, and open to anything. We all have one goal in mind and that’s to win. Winning as a group takes care of everything else.”
“Just this summer alone, I feel like we’ve made a lot of progression even on the court learning each other’s tendencies, what we like to do off the ball, on the ball, defensive-wise. We definitely have a lot of potential as a team.”
“I would love to be here for a long time,” said Carter, who’s entering the final year of his deal. “I love Orlando, I love the city, I love my teammates, I love the people here, the weather, everything. I would love to be here, but right now I’m just focused on training camp.”
Unfortunately for the Magic, they’ll be without MCW for the start of their 2021-22 campaign as he recovers from surgery on his left ankle.
Carter-Williams has struggled with injuries throughout his career, but he made it clear that even as he enters his ninth season in the NBA, he has no intentions to change his style of play.
“I don’t want to get injured. I don’t want to get hurt, but I’ve tried that. I’ve tried the ‘maybe I’ve got to scale back a little bit,’ but it’s just a battery pack. It’s just how I’m wired,” said the tenacious defender. “It’s just how I play. It’s how I’ll always play. Injuries are something that I’ve had to deal with. Hopefully, I can be more healthy.”
Through eight games last season, Fultz was flashing all the elements that made him a former No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft and the Magic were sitting at 6-2 looking to make the postseason for the third straight season.
However, in one instant all that came to an end as Fultz suffered a devastating knee injury against the Cavaliers.
While there’s still no timetable on his return, Fultz revealed that he’s had no setbacks in his recovery and is pleased with the progress both he and the organization are making.
“I’m super, super excited to just be a part of this team,” Fultz said. “I have an opportunity to grow with this team.”
“As far a rehab, I’m doing amazing. I haven’t had any setbacks. Just attacking each day one day at a time. I’m feeling really good.”
There are many young pieces on the Magic with high upside. Right near the top of that list is Hampton, who has all the physical tools to be an impressive two-way player in this league.
One of the things to closely monitor this training camp and preseason is how the Magic’s new head coach chooses to deploy him. Capable of playing one through three, Hampton is fully capable of playing on or off ball at one end and then guarding a myriad of players on the other. He expressed his willingness to do whatever is asked of him as well as his excitement to play for coach Mosley during his media session on Monday.
“I think the reason that everybody on the team is ready to go to war for Coach Mose is because he brings that energy every single day,” Hampton said. “He wants us to be a great team. He’s excited. He’s pumped up. He’s encouraging us. So, who wouldn’t want to play for a man like that?”
Harris arrived in Orlando at the trade deadline last season, along with the aforementioned Hampton, as part of the deal that sent Aaron Gordon to Denver. While some veterans might struggle with being part of a rebuild, Harris has embraced it.
With the Nuggets, the Michigan State alum saw firsthand the critical elements needed to turn a franchise around and he’s willing to be an instrumental part of guiding the Magic’s youth movement and sharing his knowledge with the team’s developing players.
“I know a lot of people are saying this is a young team, but this is going to be a fun team because of the energy and (the fact that) the guys like each other,” Harris explained. “Coming to work each day is fun. I think we are going to push each other and it’s going to be a fun year. We’re looking forward to getting after it.”
Not all media day interviews are created equal. Some players are dealt questions that focus entirely on positive topics that they’re eager to answer, while others are grilled and have every word of their answers hyper-analyzed. For Isaac, his session fell into the latter.
Not only did he have to answer questions about his injury and rehab process – which can get tiring for any player going through a lengthy recovery – but he also had to deal with a litany of inquiries about his stance on the vaccine after a Rolling Stone article, which he felt misrepresented him, painted him as an anti-vaxxer.
While there are plenty of quotes from his interview that could be presented here, instead here’s the link to the full interview, where Isaac – much like he does with everything in his life – explained his thoughts with grace, patience, and conviction.
On the other end of the interview spectrum was Lopez, who talked in detail about mascot feuds, living in Disney castles, and his decision-making process in determining his jersey number.
The lighthearted Lopez also flashed glimpses of what will make him such a key cog of the Magic’s locker room culture and a valuable veteran presence on this team.
“I’m salivating,” the 33-year-old center said. “The past few weeks, I’ve been on the floor with the guys (and) it’s been a lot of fun. I realize that there’s a lot of work to do. We have a long road ahead, and it’s not always going to be fun, but you embrace that challenge.”
Speaking of veteran additions, the Orlando media had the opportunity to speak with Moore for the first time since he rejoined the club.
Moore has experienced all the ups and downs that the association has to offer. He previously experienced a rebuild as a member of the Magic from 2012-14, and on the other end of the spectrum, spent last season with the Suns as they made an NBA Finals run.
Like Lopez, he’s expected to be a valuable locker room addition and has experience in that role.
“Last year, I was the second oldest on the team in Phoenix too,” said Moore, a 32-year-old combo guard, with a smile. “I definitely helped out guys a lot during our championship run. Some people might not know it, but I helped and was very vocal in the locker room, so I definitely want to bring some of that experience to here.”
In his rookie campaign for the Magic, Okeke showed flashes of becoming a valuable piece for Orlando, displaying elements of playmaking, range shooting, and staunch defensive efforts.
Now, in his second season, Okeke will look to build on that foundation. However, it will come at a slight delay as he’ll miss the start of training camp with a bone bruise in his right hip.
“I’m feeling better every day,” Okeke explained. “My hip is starting to feel better and I’m starting to move a lot on the court. (In regards to) the team, I feel like we can do well this year. It’s easier said than done, but I feel like we just have to continue to work hard every day. Come into practice like it’s going to be our last practice or play every game like it’ll be our last game. Basically, not taking anything for granted and continuing to play for each other and hopefully everything else will play its part.”
As the longest tenured Magic player, perhaps no one has a better feel for the state of the team than Ross. The super sixth man played a pivotal role in helping the franchise reach the playoffs in two straight seasons and will now once again be part of trying to turn things around in Orlando.
While Mosley will use training camp and preseason to analyze different ways to deploy Ross, the shooting guard affectionately known by fans as the Human Torch, is willing to take on any role asked by his new head coach.
“I’m going to be whatever the team needs me to be,” Ross explained. “I spoke with Mose and the other coaches and that was kind of the biggest thing I relayed to them was ‘I know that I’m the last guy here from the last regime, but whatever you guys need, I’m here for you. If you guys need me to facilitate more, I’ll work on that. If you guys need me to score in different ways, I’ll work on that too.’ I’m really here for whatever (they) need me to do. I’m here to fit in where I get in and hopefully, we build some things around that, and I can help anyway I can.”
Other Magic players, including Ross, gushed about what they’ve seen from Suggs so far as the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft prepares for his first season in the league.
The dynamic guard is looking to build on an impressive summer league showing that captivated fans and his teammates alike.
One of the things unique about him is that in an era where athletes are hyper-focused on one sport throughout much of their adolescence, Suggs, a two-sport athlete, is coming off his first offseason that was entirely focused on basketball. After all, he was the first player in his state to be named Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball as well as Mr. Football.
He spoke at length about that as well as preparing for training camp and the season during his first NBA media day.
“The guys joke around with me all the time – coaches, staff, everybody – like ‘you’re such a football player. You don’t have to run through every screen or get hit on every screen,’” Suggs explained. “That’s kind of who I am. That’s the mentality that I embrace. To hit or to get hit. That’s just the mindset that I bring. I think that football definitely plays a role in the physicality for sure in how I play on the basketball floor.”
“I’ve gotten a lot better. I feel a lot better. I’m looking forward to putting that all into action once we get going.”
Franz and Moe Wagner:
The Wagner brothers join an exclusive list of siblings who not only made it to the NBA, but also had the opportunity to play on the same team.
Moe Wagner played in 11 games with Orlando last season, averaging 11 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Franz Wagner, meanwhile, was drafted by the Magic with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, a selection acquired as part of the deal that sent Vucevic to Chicago.
While both players mentioned that this scenario is a dream come true, it's now all about getting to work.
“To be in the position is very special, but also let’s not forget that this is not a fairytale,” Moe Wagner explained. “It’s a job. You wake up every day to get better and win basketball games. You have to stay in reality too. It’s all cool and stuff, but we go to work and take our stuff very serious and kind of get rid of that outside noise sometimes as well.”