The novelty of the NBA playing in an empty arena at Disney World is starting to wear off. Well, maybe not.
Either way, with only two scrimmages remaining before the games start to count, it’s time to start paying closer attention to what’s happening on the court instead of the environment surrounding it.
Given the circumstances surrounding the extended layoff, no need to overanalyze or overreact to what we saw in the Magic’s first scrimmage, a 99-90 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. But here are a few things to look for in scrimmage two of three:
After four months off, rhythm won’t return overnight. The Magic started to shake off the rust on Wednesday but outside shots were not falling (5-for-28) and the offense stalled at times, particularly in the second quarter when a lack of ball movement led to forced shots and a Clipper run. We don’t need to see the pre-hiatus, Showtime-Lakers-version of the Magic offense, but incremental gains must be made with offensive flow and efficiency in their inside-out brand of basketball.
Free Mo Bamba
We were all looking forward to seeing how Mo Bamba would utilize his well-documented 20-pounds of muscle he said he added during the hiatus. And then the first center off the bench in the Magic’s opening scrimmage was Khem Birch.
Bamba spent the entire first half on the socially-distanced, spaced-out bench and would go on to play just six minutes. The Magic are bringing Bamba along slowly as he learns to play at his new weight.
“It’s very frustrating,” Bamba told reporters Friday, “but at the same time I know we’ve got to be patient and do things the right way.”
Let’s see how many minutes Mo gets - and what he does with them in that cautiously (overcautiously?) small sample size - against the Lakers.
“He’ll still be restricted in how many minutes he can play [Saturday],” Clifford told reporters Friday. “He’s a way away and, you know, he’s working. So, it’s gonna take some time. But he hasn’t been cleared yet for full participation. But he’s healthy enough so that he can play when we do contact.”
The Magic starters overall played well to begin the game while opening an early lead, and in the third quarter when recovering from a deficit. When Steve Clifford broke the lineup, the offense stagnated, with the second unit becoming dependent on an attacking Michael Carter-Williams, who delivered with an efficient 16 points. But putting the ball in MCW’s hands and having him drive the lane won’t be a nightly recipe for success. The Magic, particularly when the starters are off the court, need constant cutting, screens, ball movement and proper decision-making to keep pace.
Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac???
No, neither are expected to play. BUT...
Clifford said both Fultz and Isaac participated in contact drills on Friday, marking the first time the team had full participation.
Fultz, one would think/hope, will be on the court for the Magic’s final scrimmage on Monday against the Nuggets so he can get some competitive play in before the seeding games. Clifford also had encouraging words about Isaac.
“He wont be able to play tomorrow but I think he’s getting closer,” Clifford said.
King of the Bubble. Just a friendly reminder that the Magic have won three of four games against the Lakers since LeBron James came to Hollywood, including this doozy the last time they met.