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Magic vs. Hawks preview: Cole Anthony looks to put “terrible” opening game behind him

The rookie struggled in his first NBA game ... but not in his first postgame press conference

NBA: Preseason-Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Cole Anthony, after playing in his first unofficial NBA game, was asked to rate his performance.

“You want like on a scale of 1 to 10 or something? One. I mean, shoot, I just didn’t play well, I’m gonna be honest.”

While the rookie’s first game may have been rated a one, his post game presser would easily get a 10.

Anthony took accountability, showed personality, said all of the right things, and handled the media in the way you might expect the son of an NBA player to do so.

Funny side note: he dropped the word “Shoot” 11 times during the nearly seven-minute session.

“Shoot, I just didn’t play well...”

“Shoot, I think I learned so much...”

“Shoot, I’m not going to master the game by day one...”

Anthony eventually will provide a different kind of shooting for the Magic, though that wasn’t the case in his first game. He went 3-for-10 from the field, including 1 of 4 from deep, and finished with seven points in 20 minutes during the Magic’s 116-112 win over the Hawks in their preseason opener. He added three assists but also had three turnovers and commit five personal fouls.

“Um, shoot, I ain’t play well,” Anthony said. “But what I realized when I was out there is what spots I’m able to get to, where to find my teammates. And so, it’s all just a learning experience just to get better for the next game.”

Anthony preseason-opening struggles — forcing shots at times, dribbling into trouble, trouble navigating screens, slow on defense - are to be expected from any rookie. But even more so from this class of rookies, given the lack of traditional workouts or Summer League. Anthony elaborated on his self-imposed rating of “one,” adding that he did find his rhythm as the game went on. That was highlighted in the fourth quarter when he hit a left-handed floater and straightaway three.

“I was probably a little nervous out there,” he said. “But once I got into the game, just realized that at the end of the day this is basketball, it’s what I love to do. I feel like I got into a little bit of a rhythm, the game kind of started to open up for me. So, but yeah, overall performance was terrible.”

What aspect does he feel he needs to improve?

“Um, shoot, I mean, every aspect,” he said. “Just choosing my spots better, getting my teammates involved more. On the defensive end, just weaving around screens because, shoot, there’s a lot of screens in this league, so that’s something I gotta get pretty good at. But I don’t think there was an aspect of my game where really, shoot, I was perfect at...There’s always room to improve.”

What did he learn in his first game?

“Shoot, I think I learned so much just in this one game right here,” Anthony said. “I think the next performance is going to be a different performance. So I think I will 100% be ready by that point. I mean I think we have a couple weeks, or two weeks, I think at most. I think there’s a ton of learning that’s going to happen within this time. And even when the season starts, still going to be there to learn. I’m a rookie, shoot, I’m not going to master the game by day one. So definitely a lot to learn.”

What was the most eye-opening aspect?

“Sort of the most eye-opening thing is that these dudes aren’t that tall,” Anthony said. “I mean some of them are tall, but I guess when you see them on TV they just look like giants. But I got out there, I was like, ‘Hey, I ain’t that small.’”

Anthony doesn’t have to wait long to put Game No. 1 behind him, as the Magic take on the Hawks again on Sunday in Atlanta at 5 p.m. (Like the opener, the game won’t be televised locally and can be purchased as an individual game on NBA League Pass without broadcast restrictions).

All eyes will be focused on how Anthony bounces back while facing the same team on a quick turnaround.

“Shoot, it’ feels awesome,” Anthony said of having another game to help forget about his performance in the opener. “I feel like I got that first, nervous shaky performance out of the way. So I feel like I’m ready to go at this point. I honestly wish that game was tonight because, shoot, I would be ready to play...It’s the luxury of the NBA life. It’s a lot of games. Shoot, it’s a lot of games.”

Who: Orlando Magic (1-0) at Atlanta Hawks (0-1)

When: Sunday, Dec. 13 at 5 p.m.

Where: State Farm Arena - Atlanta, Georgia

TV: NBA League Pass