Every move Markelle Fultz makes over the next few weeks will be under a microscope.
Every shot will be analyzed. Every quote will be dissected. Every successful day’s work will be viewed as another hurdle cleared.
That was the case on Tuesday as Fultz completed his first practice with the Magic during the first day of training camp.
“It wasn’t nerves, more a lot of excitement,” Fultz told reporters after practice. “Just happy to be out there. First day went great. I feel like we all did a good job, learned a lot, played hard. Feel like I got in better shape today. So overall a very good day.”
Steve Clifford was also complimentary of Fultz (though he told reporters he was “disappointed” with his team’s practice overall).
“He did a good job,” Clifford said of Fultz. “His defense was very good. He had a lot of good possessions. He’s hard to keep out of the paint. He’s good with he ball. He doesn’t need a lot of room. And he’s very, very clever...The more you watch him, he knows basketball. He has high IQ.”
Fultz’s teammates also came away impressed, complimenting the point guard’s ability to create off the dribble.
“I thought he looked fantastic,” Jonathan Isaac told reporters. “Got a couple of pull-up jumpers to go. But just outside of that I think his ability to get into the lane, his ability to just be crafty, and already able to manipulate the offense in the way that he wants and when he is just learning it. I definitely saw that and I enjoyed being on his team.”
“For somebody so big, he plays really loose and he flows and his ball handling is really decent,” Isaac added.
Nikola Vucevic said that if Fultz continues to play the way he did on Tuesday, he will have a great impact on the Magic.
“He played vey well,” Vucevic told reporters. “He looked comfortable out there. He was pushing the ball, getting into the paint, scoring. Hit a couple of mid-range jumpers. Making plays. He’s a guy that can really make plays for himself and others. Big body. Get to the hoop. He has a size advantage over many guards. He can definitely be great for us.”
For a team in desperate need of a playmaker who can attack the rim and create for teammates, Fultz has the potential to fill a major void.
“Thats what I love to do, get other guys involved,” Fultz said. “So in order to do that I gotta get defenders to help off and guard me. So it’s just something that I put a lot of work in in the offseason and it’s starting to show a little bit during training camp.”
Though the Magic have understandably attempted to temper expectations for their young point guard, Fultz said he is slightly ahead of the learning curve from being around the team last season.
“I hope I’m great, but I know I might have mistakes and I’m prepared for that,” Fultz said. “It’s just about working hard through them and just keep playing.”
In the eyes of Coach Clifford, the Magic made quite a few mistakes during their first day of practice by turning the ball over too much.
“I guess thats typical of day one,” Clifford said
“We have to do better than we did today,” Clifford later added. “Theres 30 teams practicing today, I’d say most of them did better than we did.”
Fultz said he thought the energy at practice was good but could have been better.
“Coach says we gotta do better, we gotta work hard and gotta do better,” Fultz said. “And I think that’s not much to ask for. Just go out there and execute.”
Added Vucevic: “Obviously we didn’t do as well as he thought we should, so we have to respond and do better. Nothing that he hasn’t really told us before and that we don’t know how to respond to. It’s him motivating us, trying to push us and I know we as players will respond. We’ll get there. It’s our first day so we have some rustiness to shake off.”
Isaac said he felt the Magic’s practice got better as it went along.
“I think it’s Cliff’s job to be unsatisfied no matter what,” Isaac said with a laugh. “We just take it into perspective and come back here ready to go and implement some things.”