Spirits were high Monday afternoon as the Orlando Magic hosted local media members for their annual Media Day to unofficially kickoff the 2022-23 season.
But this wasn’t just your ordinary “run of the mill” Media Day. Not in Orlando, where the Magic organization was showing off their brand new (and state of the art) practice and training facility - the Advent Health Training Center.
Here at the beautiful Advent Health Training Center for Orlando Magic Media Day. Who’s ready to kickoff the 2022-23 season!? pic.twitter.com/f6aU6YIcgx— Aaron Goldstone (@AaronGoldstone) September 26, 2022
“When you have something like this to come into every day, obviously it puts you in a better place to get your work done,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman told media members when asked about the new facility. “We’ve spared no expense, we’ve spared no front to detail. I think organizationally, what it really does (the facility) is communicate the level of excellence that we hope to achieve here, and that we hold our players to the highest possible standard (and put them in the best possible position to succeed).”
“Far exceeds (my) expectations,” Magic head coach Jamahl Mosley later added, when asked about the training center. “They went above and beyond, thinking about each player, each situation, the community, and how we can best provide for these guys. I think it’s amazing, just the attention to detail, I’m super excited about this (facility).”
Without question, Magic players will be enjoying their new state-of-the-art practice facility, but the Advent Health Training Center isn’t the only shiny new toy in town ahead of the upcoming season. Of course, Orlando won the NBA Draft Lottery for the fourth-time in franchise history this past May, and then drafted big man Paolo Banchero first overall later that next month.
Excitement is abundant and expectations are high in Orlando for Banchero to be that foundational piece the organization has been searching for since Dwight Howard’s departure, ultimately helping the franchise ascend back towards the top of the Eastern Conference hierarchy.
“For sure,” Banchero concisely replied when asked about the excitement of beginning his professional basketball career with the Orlando Magic. “Day one of my career. It’s going to be a memory (I won’t forget). It’s definitely going to be exciting.”
President of Basketball Operations Weltman, who is one to rarely (if ever) throw out concrete expectations of his young players, nor set certain arbitrary benchmarks or timelines that must be met on a schedule, has different ideas in mind for what a successful rookie campaign might look like in Banchero’s case.
“Learn, grow, work, understand (most importantly) what it takes to win in this league,” Weltman said, when asked about preliminary expectations of Banchero during his rookie season. “We have to communicate that not just to Paolo, but to all of our players. It has to be our first mission, to understand role orientation, the work, the off-the-court discipline - everything it takes to win in this league. It’s a different level.”
Still, it’s only natural for a young player with so much on their plate to feel a little pressure from time-to-time when it comes to living up to a certain draft investment, fan/city expectations, and what is expected of them from front office executives, coaches, and/or teammates.
Luckily for Banchero, the Pacific Northwest-native has six teammates (Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Jonathan Isaac, Wendell Carter Jr., and Mo Bamba) who are all former top-ten draft picks to lean on for support, including Fultz - who was selected first overall in 2017.
Paolo Banchero on what advice Markelle Fultz has told him about handling the expectations of being the No. 1 pick: pic.twitter.com/V7a7LUxcQK— Khobi Price (@khobi_price) September 26, 2022
“The great part about what he went through in college is, it was Coach K’s farewell tour in every arena he (Paolo) walked into,” Mosley said when asked about Banchero handling the pressure of being the number one overall pick this past June. “There was always a level of pressure. He has a tattoo on his arm that says ‘no pressure’, for understanding what it is (and those big moments).”
With so many young players on Orlando’s roster, competition in training camp for potential regular season minutes is expected to be fierce. Still, one gets the sense that Orlando’s nucleus of young players has been nothing but welcoming and overjoyed to add one more player - especially of Banchero’s caliber - to the mix of guys already in place.
“It’s unique,” center Carter Jr. told media members when asked about a frontcourt pairing of Banchero and himself. “We’re both pretty versatile big men. I feel like it just makes us so much more deadly (in the frontcourt) with him being able to bring the ball up the court, come off pick-and-rolls. He can do a little bit of everything, and I feel like coming from Duke, he knows how to win.”
“It’s going well, most of us came back,” Banchero told the local media, when asked about the team training and spending time together over the summer. “Markelle just came back, Franz just came back, so now we’ve got everybody. Obviously, me being the rookie, guys have come in embracing me. You can already see the relationships that have with one another. It’s just a real together group so far.”
Banchero and fellow 2022 rookie Caleb Houstan may be the new guys in town, but outside of those two, Orlando’s roster had very little to no turnover from what was assembled last season. In this era of professional sports, with the formation of ‘super teams’, free agency, and blockbuster offseason trades regularly wreaking havoc across league landscapes, it’s extremely rare to see the kind of continuity that the Magic will surely benefit from this upcoming season.
“Generally speaking, when you’re at the stage that we’re in of learning what it takes to win, and whatever kind of word you want to attach to that, those teams aren’t the ones that generally have continuity on their roster,” Weltman said Monday when asked about keeping the entirety of his roster together during this past offseason. “We did feel that guys had made progress, that they (Bamba, Bol Bol, Gary Harris) were high-character guys that could help us win, and we also felt that they were young enough that a lot of their stories are still yet to be written. We’re looking to see where they can take it this year.”
All in all, fifteen players from Orlando’s 2021-22 roster are back with the Magic this year.
“(The players) understanding what we need to do night in and night out,” Mosley replied when asked about his group of players from last year staying together this upcoming season. “We’ve brought back the same roster, and added some young players through the draft. I think the biggest thing these guys need to continue to understand is, ‘what was demanded last year’, and now again - just at a different scale. The detail and the attention to what we’re asking (of them) continues to grow, and they understand exactly what that is.”
It’s always a positive when one is comfortable and familiar with their teammates, co-workers, colleagues, etc. And it’s never a bad thing to add talent and quality to a roster/group/organization that already has stability, accountability, and a foundation already in place.
To top things off, there’s an old adage in sports that ‘if you look good, you’ll play good/well’. Well, I’ve now visited the Advent Health Training Facility first-hand, and I can unequivocally confirm that the Magic will have every opportunity to feel comfortable, taken care of, and in a position to succeed this upcoming season.
“I don’t think they’re ever going to want to leave,” Mosley added regarding the Advent Health facility. “There are so many opportunities, between the nap area, the weight room, the sleep pods, the recovery areas, the food. There’s actually a room where they can just sit and play games. I think it’s going to be hard to get the guys out of here, and that’s what you want.”
“No, not at all. We were fortunate when we had one working court,” forward Franz Wagner jokingly replied when asked how the gyms he grew up playing in overseas stacked up to Orlando’s new training facility. “Having this - the locker room, the weight room - it’s just super nice. I’m very excited to get to work here.”
In true Groundhog’s Day fashion, it wouldn’t be a “training camp eve” for the Orlando Magic without some guys on the roster that are already dealing with various injuries. Weltman provided updates on a number of players Monday afternoon:
-According to Weltman, point guard Markelle Fultz will miss the entirety of training camp, and the team will “assess where he’s at after that.” The Magic officially announced Sunday afternoon that Fultz suffered a fracture to his left big toe which will not require surgery. The sixth-year guard, who was wearing a walking boot Monday, said the toe was not fractured playing basketball, but rather by accidentally “stubbing it”.
The team declined to provide a timetable for his return.
-Jonathan Isaac is still “ramping up” according to the team’s president, and he is only practicing individually at this time. Isaac will not be participating in five-on-five action to begin training camp. Again, the team declined to provide a timeline when Isaac would be ready for “live group” play.
-Gary Harris will not participate in training camp after suffering an injury to his meniscus (left knee) in late August. Harris had surgery on his knee in early September. And you guessed it...the team declined to comment on when Harris would return to the floor.
-Jalen Suggs spent the summer rehabbing his ankle. He had surgery back in May to clean up a slight stress fracture (right ankle). The former fifth overall pick stated Monday that he is “fully healed and ready to go” to begin camp.
This is the first piece in a two-part series Aaron will be putting together delivering content acquired covering Media Day. Check back with Orlando Pinstriped Post later on in the evening for additional Magic content.
Aaron Goldstone has been covering the Orlando Magic for Orlando Pinstriped Post since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @AaronGoldstone.