NBA players will be spending plenty of time together when the season resumes at the closed campus. Off-court chemistry will be vital for the Orlando Magic.
Details are continuing to come out about the NBA’s return plan — most revolving around the 100-page safety plan that was released to teams last week.
Many have talked about how this return will mostly favor older teams who are now more rested, but that may not be entirely true. Everyone should be refreshed and healed. The advantage for many teams will be in how quickly everyone can ramp up. Depth too will be vitally important.
But with the amount of time teams will be spending together in the closed campus, off-court chemistry could have the biggest impact on crowning a champion.
For the Orlando Magic, this is encouraging. With little to no drama reported coming from the locker room this season, that Magic could be in a unique position to compete at a higher level than some of the more talented teams.
It is clear that players will not be leaving the closed-campus, as they would be required to face at least 10 days in quarantine following an unapproved exit. Teams have been assigned Disney Hotels that will be their new homes for a couple of months.
Everyone is going to have to learn to live together and rely on each other which is abnormal even for a regular 82-game season where teams really become families.
So what will the players do during their downtime? Looks like they will just be hanging out — college dorm style.
Video games, movies, and ping pong are only a couple of the many options guys will have to kill time. Being able to attend the games of other teams is also an interesting wrinkle.
What does all this “quality time” actually amount to in the long run? It is tough to say really.
But we do know a couple of things. There will be teams filled with drama and there will be teams that put their heads down and work.
To this point, coach Steve Clifford said he has been impressed with the work his players put in while they were under quarantine and the practice facility was closed. At least, that might point to the Magic being in that latter group that is ready to work to finish the season.
It can also be looked at in a different way. Some teams will have players motivated by different goals: free agency, personal brand, tampering, etc. It is the teams that are united by a common motivation that will enjoy the most success in the closed campus environment.
The Magic share one motivation — proving themselves on a national stage.
Evan Fournier proved this point by his tweet criticizing Davis Bertans’ decision to sit out earlier this week:
The Magic just want to play ball.
Fournier had heard enough about players bowing out of the NBA’s return plan due to concern over potential injury, safety concerns and many other reasons. For Fournier, it has always been about basketball.
He also faces a free-agent decision this offseason, but he is determined to finish the season out.
Even Aaron Gordon, perhaps the player will the most to gain with his brand, has shown that he can be a trustworthy teammate and that the Magic can depend on him as a leader.
Veterans such as Nikola Vucevic and D.J. Augustin will also be able to right the ship if the waters begin to get choppy.
How does the Magic’s chemistry compare to the rest of the NBA?
Some teams are still coming into the closed-campus environment with great situations.
Most notably, the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors. The Bucks players have been battle-tested together and seem united in their pursuit of a championship.
The Raptors, potentially the best chemistry team in the entire league, are a case study on how team chemistry affects success, relative to talent. And they may get a jump start on “campus life” with their training camp taking place in Fort Myers at Florida Gulf Coast because of travel difficulties to and from Canada.
In terms of the Eastern Conference, the Magic probably fall into the next group of teams that includes the Boston Celtics, Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers. All seem to be relatively drama-free in their pursuit of winning.
The Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards are the three teams in the East that should be most concerned about their chemistry.
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There have been reports about Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons being on different pages. For the Nets, there has been plenty of stories involving Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and even Spencer Dinwiddie during the hiatus. The Wizards have enough to worry about already and even some of their players have been outspoken about not playing — they will be without Bertans now for their hopes of catching the Magic.
All of this bodes well for the Magic as they will be competing against primarily the Nets and Wizards for the seven and eight seeds in the playoffs.
In the Western Conference, there are some interesting situations coming into the season resuming. The two teams will the most concerns should be the Portland Trail Blazers and the Utah Jazz, who have the most coronavirus related drama.
The LA Clippers and Houston Rockets seem to be in a good position and have players motivated by a potential championship run.
The teams in the West most similar to the Magic, in terms of chemistry, would be the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks, New Orleans Pelicans and Oklahoma City Thunder. These groups have all stayed relatively quiet and are all looking to prove themselves. They all have reasons to finish the season and get the Playoff reward.
The biggest wild card in the entire league has to be the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James is motivated to get back to basketball and pursue a championship, but Dwight Howard said he thinks the NBA shouldn’t return and Avery Bradley recently said he will not be playing.
However things shake out, keep an eye on chemistry during this return. The Orlando Magic may not be the most talented team coming into closed-campus, but they could be one of the more motivated ones.
Look for young, hungry teams led by a veteran player or two to make the biggest splash during the remainder of the season. The Magic might just be in a good position.