ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Orlando Magic will open training camp Tuesday with an expectation they haven’t had in many years – to win.
After making the NBA playoffs for the first time in seven years, the Magic brought back every rotation player including Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ros after both signed four-year contracts this summer to stay in Orlando after becoming free agents.
”If you look at all the teams in the past that brought back the same teams, like the Spurs, they always win,” said guard D.J. Augustin. ”They keep the same culture and the same chemistry. It’s going to be great for our team. If we start how we finished last year, we can do amazing things this year.”
Under first-year coach Steve Clifford, the Magic won 22 of their last 31 regular-season games to finish 42-40, then lost in five games to the eventual champion Toronto Raptors.
”Just to get a taste of the playoffs was a great feeling,” said forward Aaron Gordon. ”We put together a great stretch after the All-Star break, and we knew with a couple of additions to the team, and keeping essentially the same team, we’ll have a good shot to achieve whatever we want to achieve.”
A couple of players that will contribute – and who helping fuel the optimism – are forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Markelle Fultz. Aminu signed with the Magic as a free agent after four years in Portland; Fultz, the first overall pick in the 2017 draft, was acquired in a trade from Philadelphia in February.
Fultz, who has been limited by injuries to 33 NBA games, begins training camp with ”absolutely no limitations” said Jeff Weltman, Orlando’s president of basketball operations.
Mo Bamba, the Magic’s first-round pick in 2018, can also be considered an addition, having missed the second half of last season with a stress fracture in his leg.
With most other teams in the Eastern Conference having undergone roster changes, the Magic believe their strong finish last season was no fluke.
”I can’t even think of a whole roster in the East right now,” said Ross, ”but I’m confident in the way we play. I know we have a style. I know we have a way to play on defense, so I know we’re going to give ourselves a chance.”
Clifford is excited about the Magic’s chances to get back to the playoffs – and make a deeper postseason run.
”We were balanced the last 15 games — first in defense, 15th in offense,” Clifford said. ”If you do that the whole year, you’re going to be a very good team. And in the playoffs, we came up short. So if we play well enough to get back, we have to be at a higher level.”
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