Orlando Magic vs. San Antonio Spurs: Game Preview

Wendell Carter Jr.
by Dan Savage

ORLANDO – Since the Orlando Magic last took the floor at Amway Center, there have been a lot of changes.

The team has a new head coach, features two rookies who were top 10 picks in the 2021 NBA Draft class, and fans are now welcomed back into the building at a level resembling pre-pandemic numbers.

As a result, fans throughout Central Florida will be able to get their first in-person look at all the new faces on the Magic when they host the San Antonio Spurs in their preseason home opener on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.

“It’s exciting,” said Mosley of making his home debut. “We have such an amazing fanbase. I’m really looking forward to it and (to) letting these guys get out there and play and enjoy it. And just play with a level of excitement and compete with a passion that these fans know and deserve. That’s what’s most exciting.”

In addition to continuing to put forth a competitive effort and building on their training camp tenets, Orlando will also be aiming to improve their second-reaction plays after initial sets break down. Whether that’s making the additional pass or cut offensively or being aware of what to do defensively after denying an opposing team’s initial pick-and-roll set, Mosley is focused on getting his team to the point where they can play fast both physically and mentally within the Magic’s system.

“The decision making after (something is run), the pick-and-roll after something breaks down defensively and what do we do after? Those are more important than necessarily than knowing what a team is exactly going to run,” Mosley explained. “We have to make sure that the guys understand that more than anything.”

While the value of small statistical sample sizes – especially in preseason action – is hard to gauge, it’s no secret that Orlando would like to remain towards the top of the league in two of the categories it’s currently excelling at once the regular season begins. The Magic rank eighth in assist percentage (65.7) and 11th in defensive rating (102.0) as they strive to be a team that plays unselfish basketball on one end and gives a staunch defensive effort on the other.

“Since we’ve started, we’ve focused on building a very solid foundation,” Magic veteran big man Robin Lopez explained. “I think that’s clearly vital to wherever we’re going to end up.”

IN AND OUT: The Magic’s injury report remains the same. Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle), Markelle Fultz (left knee), Jonathan Isaac (left knee) and Chuma Okeke (right hip; bone bruise) are all out.

For San Antonio, Keita Bates-Diop (left hamstring tightness) is questionable, while Zach Collins (left ankle surgery), Tre Jones (left ankle sprain) and Jock Landale (concussion protocol) are out.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I grew over the offseason. I think that’s just going to help me be able to guard multiple positions. I feel like putting on weight and getting faster and stronger and taller – hopefully I get even taller – helps me guard the best of the best. So, I have great guys to learn from on this team. Vets like Gary (Harris), E’Twaun (Moore) and (Terrence) Ross that can show me the ropes on how they did it. Just taking it all in from them is good for me,” – R.J. Hampton on his offseason growth spurt.

MIC'D UP: Magic basketball returns to Bally Sports Florida on Sunday with a special treat. In addition to once again being able to hear the exceptional play-by-play calls of Magic Hall-of-Famer David Steele along with the extremely insightful color commentary of former Magic player and Olympic basketball gold medal winner Jeff Turner, fans will also be able to get a behind-the-scenes look into Mosley's coaching style. The 15th head coach in franchise history will be mic'd up for this preseason tilt as he makes his home debut with the team.

RIVALS REPORT: In this edition of our Rivals Report series, we’re joined by KENS 5 San Antonio Spurs Beat Reporter Jeff Garcia. He was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions about the Spurs prior to their matchup with the Magic.

Savage: “The Spurs have a different look this season. Who do they expect to carry the offensive load with the departure of a few key guys like DeMar DeRozan?”

Garcia: “That’s a great question and as a matter of fact, (head coach) Gregg Popovich did address that during media day. Here was his answer. ‘Pick a player.’ When you see DeMar DeRozan exit via trade – he was the leading scorer for San Antonio his entire stay – it’s now time for the young guys. It will be leading the team in scoring by committee kind of approach for San Antonio. You have Dejounte Murray, you have Keldon Johnson, you have Derrick White, you have players that can definitely put up points. But as far as a steady guy, game in, game out, leading the team, I think that’s going to be more by committee. I hope that a player does emerge to be that go-to guy on the offensive end. But when you have coach Popovich saying, ‘we don’t have a superstar,’ let alone a go-to guy, these guys are going to learn. If I had to do a triage ranking of who I see leading the team in scoring, I would have to go with Keldon Johnson, Dejounte Murray, Derrick White. I would go that route. I wouldn’t be surprised though if Bryn Forbes actually emerges as one of the leading scorers for this team. So far through preseason action, he is just lighting it up. That’s the reason they brought Bryn Forbes back to San Antonio because of that. The Spurs were dead last in three-point attempts – just attempts alone. So, you bring him in (and) he’s been scoring at will in the preseason. I understand that it’s preseason. I get that, but hopefully somebody will step up. That’s what’s exciting about this year is so much of the unknown. The leading scorer was pretty easy to pick (in the past). It’s going to be Kawhi Leonard. It’s going to be DeMar DeRozan. It’s going to be Tim Duncan. It’s going to be Tony Parker. It’s going to be Manu Ginobili. This year, they don’t have that. They haven’t had that in quite some time. So, I think this is going to be a leading-scorer-by-committee year for San Antonio.”

Savage: “There’s a lot of excitement about rookie Joshua Primo. What have you seen from him so far in the small window you’ve been able to observe him?”

Garcia: “Going back to summer league and fast forwarding to the preseason, it’s impressive. People think the Spurs may have gotten themselves a gem in the 2021 NBA Draft. The guy can shoot the lights out. For a teenager, he looks poised in his NBA preseason debut. He scored eighteen points in seventeen minutes. Just knocking down threes. He came back down to earth in preseason game number two. But you take a look at what Primo’s done in a very small sample size of his NBA career from summer league to now and he’s definitely had an impact. You can see it. He’ll likely be stashed in the G League for the Spurs this upcoming season where I think he will shine. But I think the Spurs really have a good problem on their hands. Because if he does shine in the G League and is playing heads above the rest, he may force the staff to take a serious look at bringing him back into a San Antonio uniform where he can get some valuable NBA minutes. I would not be surprised to see that happen. I heard from Thaddeus Young, who is currently on the roster – I had a chance to talk to him. He told me that he sees a lot of poise out of Josh Primo. He doesn’t rush when he has the ball, and he doesn’t make decisions that force mistakes that you see out of many young players. So, when you get a nod of approval from an NBA vet like that in Thad Young, yeah, Josh Primo’s ceiling is going to be very, very high.”

Savage: “In a lot of ways, preseason is an extension of training camp. With that in mind, what do you think the Spurs are trying to get out of this game against the Magic and the rest of their preseason schedule?”

Garcia: “What the Spurs are doing with this preseason – and we’ll probably see it against the Magic – is different rotations, different starting lineups, (and) different guys out there to see what meshes well on that court. Chemistry has been the big buzz word in training camp. Bryn Forbes mentioned it. Thad Young mentioned it. Even Lonnie Walker has mentioned it. This is a young Spurs team with a splash of veterans. Usually, it’s the other way around with a veteran team with a splash of youth. It’s topsy-turvy now in San Antonio. Right now, I think Popovich just wants to see who’s going to be in that starting lineup, who’s going to be the sixth man? Is it going to be Lonnie? It might be Devin Vassell. Is the pairing of Dejounte and White going to work? Or maybe it’s better with White coming off the bench? With Popovich saying during media day that it’s an exciting time for him because of the unknown and not knowing what to expect. And I think that’s exactly what he’s trying to figure out is what to expect out of this unknown season that he hasn’t had (here in long time). I think there’s going to be a lot of heavy minutes for the young guys. … Right now, he’s just trying to get a feel for these guys, where they’re going to go, (and) what they still have to learn for the regular season. It’s a different time in San Antonio. The Big Three era, the Kawhi Leonard era, that’s all gone. It’s done. It’s time to figure out who’s going to shine in San Antonio and part of that process will be to see how they play against the Orlando Magic.”

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