Orlando isn’t the only Magic team playing well right now.
The Lakeland Magic, Orlando’s G-League affiliate, has won four games in a row and seven of their last eight games to move into first place in the Eastern Conference standings at 24-12.
To find out more about Lakeland’s recent success, and how it could ultimately impact the Orlando Magic, we had a Q&A session with the voice of the Lakeland Magic, Nick Gryniewicz, who has teamed with Scott Anez to recently launch the “Heart & Hustle Podcast” on the Orlando Pinstriped Post network..
The Lakeland Magic now sit in first place in the G League’s Eastern Conference, what has led to their success?
Gryniewicz: “Team basketball. That simple. I was talking with a few members of the team this week after the All NBA G-League Mid-Season teams were announced and we talked about just this. I was somewhat miffed the team didn’t get a single player on the team, despite having the best record in the East. The few I spoke with pointed out the fact that this team doesn’t have one, single player that is dominating games. Instead, the Magic are doing it by committee with eight players averaging in double figures.”
What are the team’s strengths and weaknesses?
Gryniewicz: “Strengths: defense and three-point shooting. This team really makes you work for it on offense. They’re so deep at the wing positions with guys like BJ Johnson, Gabe York, Brian Angola and John Petrucelli; all of whom are tough and play solid defense. Lakeland was the best three-point shooting team in the league going into Monday night’s game against Long Island, but after going 10-39, they’re sitting third at 37.3%. They’ve done a lot of damage by playing four guys that can shoot from deep, and recently have had five out there with Antonio Campbell filling in for Amile Jefferson.”
Which players have impressed you most this season?
Gryniewicz: “I’m going to feel bad if I leave anyone out because I enjoy the entire roster, but when it comes to “impressing” this year, BJ Johnson would be at the top of the list. Struggled shooting the ball early in the season, but has really come on as a guy who can play both ends of the floor. He’s shooting 42% from three and 46% from the floor and has an NBA body. Love his game. The other guy I have to mention is John Petrucelli. “Pet” is having a career year and is 4th in the G-League in three-point shooting percentage (47.4). He’s gone from a second-unit player to a guy that can start and be a leader on the floor.”
How beneficial do you believe the Magic’s ability to transfer players the short distance from Orlando to Lakeland has been for both teams?
Gryniewicz: “It’s extremely beneficial. We’ll see this tonight (Wednesday) in the final game before the All-Star Break with the Magic transferring Amile Jefferson and Melvin Frazier Jr. to Lakeland to get them some playing time. What it really helps is the NBA club always have a full roster for practice, which is why Jefferson has mostly been up there (and to play too). But it also gives Jefferson and Troy Caupain a chance to work with an NBA coaching staff, NBA trainers and around NBA player to improve their games. Plus it’s much easier to send Melvin Frazier Jr., or Wes Iwundu and Jonathan Isaac last year, to Lakeland to get some work instead of Erie, Pennsylvania. I still feel for Devyn Marble, who made that Orlando to Erie trek multiple times in a season, hopefully he racked up some frequent flier miles. It’s a huge benefit for the team and players.”
Who is one player on Lakeland who hasn’t yet played for the Magic that you believe could make an impact for the Magic?
Gryniewicz: “I’m going to cheat here and give you one name, aside from Amile Jefferson and Troy Caupain, who are both on two-way contracts, and a few honorable mentions. Told you earlier I love BJ Johnson’s game. He fits that “long and athletic” blueprint that Jeff Weltman and John Hammond have and has shot the ball very well this year. He fits into that mold of “3 and D”, switchable guy that could really help a team if he tightens up his game a bit. Honorable mentions for this answer were Gabe York, Brian Angola and Anthony Brown.”
Best part of being the voice of the Lakeland Magic?
Gryniewicz: “The best is seeing, first hand, what it takes for guys to get the NBA. I get a front row seat nightly at shoot around and during games to watch some of the NBA’s future stars grind for a chance to get to the league. It’s an unbelievable experience. And I get to do it for the best organization in the NBA, while working with some of the best in the business not far from where I grew up. There’s nothing I’d change about the job at all.”
For those of us who want to follow Lakeland more closely, what are the best ways to do that?
“First, you can go to a game. Visit www.lakelandmagic.com and come to a game. It’s a great product with great people and there isn’t a bad seat at the RP Funding Center. If you want to listen to my call of the games (shameless plug), you can on TuneIn Radio and search “Lakeland Magic” to find the channel. Or, you can watch the games on Facebook Live (follow the Lakeland Magic) or on ESPN+. Other great ways to follow the team are on twitter (@LakelandMagic). Of if you just want to ask some questions about the team, I’m ALWAYS available on twitter: @ESPN580Nick.”