Rebuilding Magic, Spurs tip off season taking the long view

NBA

The San Antonio Spurs and Orlando Magic will look to take positive first steps in rebuilding and making a trip back to the playoffs when the teams open their respective NBA seasons on Wednesday in the Alamo City.

The Spurs (33-39 in 2020-21) will be younger and unproven, with DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay no longer with the team. There is still plenty of talent as guards Lonnie Walker IV, Derrick White and Dejounte Murray, forward Keldon Johnson and center Jakob Poeltl return.

Veteran Bryn Forbes returns for a second stint in San Antonio. Zach Collins, Doug McDermott and Thaddeus Young also have joined the cluo, and the Spurs drafted Josh Primo and Joe Wieskamp to help bolster their bench.

The Spurs missed the playoffs for just the second time since 1997 last season and look to be in retooling mode instead of being a contender in the loaded Western Conference. Still, any team that emphasizes defense like San Antonio has under the tutelage of coach Gregg Popovich can play with anyone at any time.

“Good things happen over time,” Murray said. “There’s no such thing as overnight success that lasts long. We have to be confident, believe in one another, trust one another, have fun with one another. I see the work, see the growing, see how much we like each other.”

Popovich, in his 26th season, said he relishes the challenge of developing the Spurs’ new talent and melding his new team. He became just the third coach to reach 1,300 wins late last season and begins the 2021-22 campaign just 25 victories in arrears of Don Nelson, the all-time leader in career wins (1,335).

The Magic (21-51 last season) will head to San Antonio with one of the NBA’s youngest rosters. Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac are both coming off knee injuries and are expected to join top draft choice Jalen Suggs, leading returning scorer Terrence Ross (15.6 points per game) and center Wendell Carter Jr. in Orlando’s starting lineup.

That quintet will be augmented by a bench that highlights Cole Anthony, who started most of last season when Fultz was on the shelf, rookie Moritz Wagner, former Denver draft pick RJ Hampton, center Mo Bamba and veterans Gary Harris, Robin Lopez and Michael Carter-Williams.

Orlando’s average age is 24.7 years, the third-youngest roster in the league behind only Oklahoma City (23.5) and Memphis (24).

The Magic have made the playoffs just twice in the past nine seasons. They will be tested to score and win and need find a go-to player. Until they do, new coach Jamahl Mosley, who was formerly an assistant at Dallas, will try to win with defense and athleticism.

“We’ve said it from Day One — it’s about us getting better every single day,” Mosley told the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s about us playing hard. It’s about us coming together and working as a team every day. The results will absolutely take care of themselves if we do that.”

“We’re not going to put a number (of wins) on it versus us just coming to do the work every single day and getting better.”

–Field Level Media

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