Video Games Helped Magic Players Stay in Touch While Social Distancing

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO – How have many NBA players, including some on the Orlando Magic, stayed connected with their teammates while quarantining in their homes the last few months?

By playing video games, of course.

“Most of the guys have video games. That’s how we talk,” Magic shooting guard Terrence Ross said. “We play video games. That how we stay in contact. It gives us (the opportunity) to stay in touch and we get to kind of compete online.”

Ross has been an avid gamer for as long as he can remember. Many learned about his stick skills in 2018 during an NBA All-Star Weekend off-the-court talent contest that he participated in. So for the Magic sixth man, it wasn’t difficult at all keeping in touch with his teammates while at home.

Early on during the shutdown, the NBA held an NBA 2K Players Tournament. Devin Booker won the competition, defeating his Phoenix Suns teammate Deandre Ayton in a best-of-three final. Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell and Trae Young were among the others who participated.

Playing video games wasn’t the only way NBA players linked up, though. For the Magic, group texting was big while social distancing.

What was somewhat odd about it was that normally NBA clubs are around each other all the time in March and April – and then May and June for teams that go far in the playoffs – whether it be for games, practices, road trips and other events.

Being in the league for as long as D.J. Augustin has, he knows how important it is for everyone to stay in contact whenever possible, even if they can’t be in the same room together.

“The players, we had our own group chat. Guys would send messages every other day (on) different topics,” the Magic point guard said. “I talked to Coach Cliff a few times. He was just checking on me to see how I was doing. Just trying to stay prepared for whatever was next. We didn’t know if we were going to continue to play. We didn’t know what the situation was going to be. As professional basketball players, we just had to try our best to stay ready.”

The Magic’s players and coaches – as will also be the case for the players and coaches on the other teams heading to Disney to resume their seasons – are now about to reconnect with each other in person. Having remained in contact the last few months, albeit from a distance, could make it easier for the Magic to pick up where they left off before the hiatus began. Orlando, currently just a half game back of the Brooklyn Nets for seventh in the East, won eight of its last 12 before the league had to shut down due to the pandemic.

All 22 teams participating in the season restart will play eight seeding games that will count towards their regular season records. The Magic’s goal is to leapfrog the Nets and finish in the seventh spot in the East, which will not only lock them in to the postseason for a second straight year but will also likely keep them away from the 53-12 Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

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