After two impressive performances in their opening two Summer League contests, the Orlando Magic's White team once again dominated on Wednesday afternoon, cruising to an 81-68 win over the Charlotte Hornets. The win moved the Magic's White team to 3-0 on the week, and back into first place in the point standings with 20 points.
How the white team has performed this week should come as no surprise, however.
With a roster chalked full of players from the NBA D-League and various basketball leagues around the world, it shouldn't be surprising these players are playing their best. Simply put, they're playing for their lively hood out there.
Keith Benson, the most traveled player on the roster, said it was a good story. "Yeah, it's a good story. We're all hungry and we're all free just trying to get jobs, it's just a real good story"
Former Florida standout Scottie Wilbekin said that the team's had success, thanks in large part to how everyone knows their role. "This is the first time this team has been together, but I think we've done a good job of gelling," he said. "We play and execute at a high level, and above all, we play hard on defense and share the ball."
While the team has been a great story, Wilbekin admitted that their strong play and continuity has been a bit of a surprise. "I've only been here for two years, but I don't see it often," he told reporters after his 15 points performance off the bench. Wilbekin later added he felt fortunate to be a part of the group that he's with.
Bill Peterson, the head coach of the Magic's NBA D-League affiliate Erie BayHawks, praised his team for their play thus far. "It's what basketball's all about," he said. "To be able to get some guys to come that are really hungry that will sacrifice a little for themselves for the good of the group, obviously if you can convince them of that, it makes the group look great. They're all playing hard, they're making extra passes, they're making multiple efforts. We have a really sound group that are willing to do that."
Peterson, who told a story about being an underdog himself, admitted that it is gratifying to see the team play as well as they have. "I'm an underdog type of person myself," he said. "That's who I am and that's who I am as a coach. I try to instill in those guys that, 'hey, we're going to play 40 minutes, you going to fight every minute.'
"It doesn't matter what others think of you, if our group can be better than the other group, then it's great. It's very exciting to see a bunch of guys willing to sacrifice themselves for the better group of the team and then win some games. Now, some of these guys are going to get a chance to go to an NBA vet camp or possibly play on a team this year."
Sitting in first place with one day to go in group play, the White team isn't focused on the possibility of winning the championship. "It's more than winning a championship," said Peterson. "We're trying to give them opportunities to enhance their careers. They're trying to learn how to be professional basketball players. That's a job.
"It's like what you [the media] do. How you cover, everyday, that's what you're going to do. The more opportunities they get, then the greater things that can happen for them. They've done that, we've tried to teach them that, and they've done that together. Hopefully we can continue to play hard like that. When everyones pulling for everybody, and guys are getting after it and they're really unselfish, you see multiple efforts on plays, good things are going to happen."
The Magic's White team have been underdogs for the entire week. Despite not being expected to do much, they've shown a certain level of grit and determination that many of the teams with NBA players haven't. As coach Peterson put it, they "aren't entitled" they aren't guaranteed anything and they don't know where the next paycheck will be coming from.
With a game against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, and their fifth and final game to come on Friday, the White team looks to continue to overcome the odds and prove that they truly do belong here. And hey, maybe, just maybe, they'll have a chance to take home the Summer League title as well.