Magic Making Strides under Coach Clifford
Don’t look now, but the Orlando Magic are making some noise in a wide-open Eastern Conference. Many pegged the Magic for being at least a year or two away from competing but that is not the case. Orlando had won three straight heading into Tuesday night’s contest with the 1st place Raptors, where they fell 93-91 after Toronto hit a last second shot . One of the driving points for these somewhat unexpected results is the leadership of Coach Steve Clifford. Clifford has his team playing with confidence. He also has a knack for getting the most out of his players. For instance, Nikola Vucevic was just named the NBA’s Eastern Conference Player of the Week, the last time he won the award, he was not even a member of the Magic having won with Philly in 2014. Another example is how Clifford has helped Wes Iwundu go from an unknown bench player last season to a starter now.
Now it’s not just Coach Clifford that deserves the credit. Orlando’s front office deserves their fair share as well. So far, they have been able to stop the bleeding from the Hennigan regime and have laid a solid foundation with the selections of Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. While this young duo is only averaging 6 and 7 points respectively, it’s their contributions on the defensive end that are propelling the Magic. The front office has also accumulated some much-needed depth for the Magic. For the longest time Orlando’s roster was just littered with washed up players or players who deserved to be playing overseas and not the NBA.
Finally, Orlando appears to have changed the culture. The past few years have all about looking forward to the NBA Draft Lottery, now the team has an actual chance of squeaking into the playoffs. Of course, nothing is given and it will take continued improvement through the year to reach the postseason. Now regardless if the team snaps the franchise’s longest playoff drought or not, fans now have a legitimate product to cheer for this season.
Looking forward, Orlando has a tough slate of action coming up with a number of games against teams expected to be in the playoffs. These games will certainly be used to gauge just how far the team has come as well as the where they stand against some of the elite teams in the NBA.