Jamahl Mosley said preseason is an extension of training camp.
That means experimentation. Trial and error. “Let’s give this a try.”
That was apparent from the moment the Orlando Magic starting lineup was revealed ahead of their 98-97 loss to the Boston Celtics in the team’s preseason opener on Monday. It had been quite evident based on the Magic’s roster construction that three-guard lineups were going to be a standard combination this season, but the trio the first-year coach elected to start in the opener was rather unexpected.
Mosley went with rookie Jalen Suggs, veteran Gary Harris, and typical sixth man Terrence Ross in the three-guard set, alonside Franz Wagner and Wendell Carter Jr.
The biggest surprise was the inclusion of Ross, who has started just two games for the Magic over the last three seasons, instead providing instant offense off the bench. The other surprise wasn’t so much that Suggs got the start over Cole Anthony, but more than the two did not share the court during the opener, an indication that Mosley believes both are most effective with the ball in their hands.
Will any of that change when the Magic play their second and final road game of the preseason on Wednesday in New Orleans?
Suggs, in the unenviable position of being guarded by Marcus Smart in his first unofficial NBA game, struggled from the field in the opener. He went just 3-for-11, but did hit a logo three, made hustle plays and defensive stops, and showed the ability to push the ball in transition.
“I think he did well for understanding who was guarding him,” Mosley said. “I think he handled himself well. He had some open looks. He’s making the right play. And the ball started with him, and it was moving around the horn at times.”
Anthony came off the bench to lead the Magic to score 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting and add six assists. After a lackluster shooting performance in Summer League, Anthony made 4 of 7 attempts from three, which also included some deep makes...
That lack of hesitation from deep, going 17-for-42, was a welcome sign for a Magic team that last season attempted just 31.8 threes per game last season — eighth fewest in the league. Many attempts came off drive-and-kicks as the Magic showed strong ball movement throughout, registering 25 assists on 36 made field goals.
That quick trigger also applied to the Magic bigs, particularly with Mo Bamba and Moe Wagner sharing the court with the second unit. Bamba had the most eye-opening performance in the opener, and in a 10-minute stretch from the first to second quarter tallied 11 points, six rebounds and two blocks. In 22 minutes, he finished with 13 points on 6-for-10 shooting (1 of 3 from three), 10 rebounds and four blocks, one of which was of the chasedown variety.
Wagner connected on 4 of his 7 attempts from deep and finished with 16 points. His younger brother, Franz, continued to struggle with his shot, going just 1-for-5 in the opener for three points.
Where exactly Franz Wagner fits in the starting unit will be determined after the return of Chuma Okeke, who will also miss Wednesday’s game with a hip injury. Michael Carter-Williams (ankle) will also miss a second straight game.
For the Pelicans, led by first-year coach Willie Green, Zion Williamson will not play after having foot surgery.
Who: Orlando Magic (0-1) at New Orleans Pelicans (0-1)
When: Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Where: Smoothie King Center - New Orleans, Louisiana
TV: No local broadcast
Line: Pelicans -3, Over/Under 218.5