Magic Players Plan on Exploring Recreational Activities on Disney Campus on Off Day

Playing golf, going fishing are two activities Magic players say are on the table
by John Denton

ORLANDO - Off days, at least in the NBA, aren’t always what the wording might imply.

Even when NBA players are ``off’’ from a day of practice, most will still get in sweat sessions of some kind by either getting up hundreds of jump shots or working in the weight room for a short burst of time. Coaches, meanwhile, often chuckle at the notion of an ``off day’’ during the NBA’s marathon-like season as they often use their time away from the practice court to hold meetings, self-scout via video review or plan for future practice sessions.

On Tuesday, the Orlando Magic were scheduled to get their first ``off day’’ since beading to the Disney World campus environment last Tuesday. Following a 48-hour quarantine period, the Magic held practice sessions for five straight days and also had nightly walk-throughs in the ballroom of their hotel to focus on defensive alignments.

Magic head coach Steve Clifford, who has worked at the NBA level the past 20 years, has found that teams function best when working in four- and five-day bursts. He feels that Tuesday’s off day will come at a perfect time for a Magic squad that has worked hard to be focused and better themselves during their first week of being sequestered at Disney.

Clifford said he’s been delighted with his team’s focus, attention to detail and willingness to work in practice. He feels the squad made great strides following two days of full-contact, five-on-five scrimmaging on Sunday and Monday.

``I think we’re farther along than I thought we would be, and I think their attitude and approach have been terrific,’’ said Clifford, whose Magic will start another five-day stretch of practices on Wednesday. ``It’s different (practicing following a long layoff), but in terms of our guys’ attitude, effort and the way that they have practiced, I couldn’t be happier.’’

While players are very restricted in what activities they can participate in as the NBA hopes to do everything possible to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, one option made available to players is free rounds of golf at Disney’s many golf courses. Golf, after all, will allow players to be competitive, while also socially distancing from others in their group.

Golf has become a new hobby that several Magic players, such as Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Mo Bamba, D.J. Augustin and Michael Carter-Williams, are looking forward to taking part in on Tuesday – after they get in their ``off-day’’ work on the basketball court, of course.

``Tuesday, fingers crossed, I think we’ll be off, and any time that I get after I get off the court after I shoot around, I think we’ll head out to the course and play,’’ Bamba said. ``I’m not too confident in any of my teammates’ golfing abilities, but we’ll hopefully have some fun.

``The best golfer on the team? It’s really a tossup because I haven’t really seen too many guys play, but hopefully we can get out there,’’ Bamba added. ``The only person that I’ve really played with was (Carter-Williams), and we were about the same (in terms of golfing ability). I’m going to leave him as the best, though.’’

Bamba, who used his time over the break from basketball to add nearly 21 pounds of lean muscle and bulk up to 252 pounds, said he had to be fitted for personalized golf clubs before playing the sport. At 7-foot tall with a wing span that extends some 7 feet and 10 inches in length, it’s not as if Bamba could simply play comfortably with a standard set of clubs. That’s a lesson that former UCF standout, current Boston Celtics center and close friend Tacko Fall is about to learn, Bamba said.

``I was able to get some clubs made for me right before my rookie year and they told me that it was almost impossible,’’ Bamba joked. ``I remember Tacko called me a couple of days ago and I was like, `I see (Celtics forward) Jayson Tatum getting out there (golfing) and he looks like he’s good, so you’ve got to get out there with us.’ He said, `Yeah, I’m going to get some clubs made,’ and he said it so nonchalantly and I was like, `Bro, you don’t understand. You are 6 inches taller than me and they couldn’t figure (making clubs) out for me.’ ’’

For the nongolfers, Disney has also offered NBA players the opportunity to go fishing in some of the hundreds of lakes spanning its massive property. That’s exactly what Magic teammates Jonathan Isaac and Wes Iwundu have planned for Tuesday in an attempt to get themselves out of their rooms and think about something other than basketball for a day.

``I think me, a couple of other guys, (forward Gary Clark) will try to go fishing,’’ said Isaac, who recently caught a trophy-sized grouper off Clearwater Beach. ``I went fishing for the first time over break while I was rehabbing and I enjoyed it, so I’m going to try and get out there and fish. I’m not really on the golfing scene yet, so I’m going to get out there and fish and maybe meet up with some guys and hang out.’’

Added Iwundu: ``All we’ve got right now is each other, so we’re trying to plan to maybe go fishing. Just come up with whatever we can, man, to just kind of run the resort, bide time and not be in the room so much. We’re fortunate to have some activities to do and have games to play so that it’s not 100 percent bad in the bubble.’’

As for Clifford, a grinder even by lifer coaching standards, said his ``off day’’ won’t get him much time away from basketball. And he’s just fine with that after having nearly four months of off time while the NBA season was delayed.

``I’ll just plan for the next week,’’ Clifford said matter-of-factly. ``We’ll just (plan) the next five days (of practices). We’ve done two-a-days here basically every day since we’ve been here and (the players) need a day to themselves, so we’re going to take a full day off.’’

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.


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