Anthony Black is comfortable in his Orlando Magic debut

The early parts of the Orlando Magic’s Summer League opener saw sixth overall pick Anthony Black work to get comfortable.

The goal was to keep things simple, and that seemed to be the message for him. He didn’t try to do too much, focused on probing defenses and getting comfortable on the court. He shot passes to teammates and seemed hesitant on drives.

Black just looked like he was still figuring out his place on the floor. Something that only experience should solve.

Orlando, however, kept his faith in him. Teammates kept urging Black to be aggressive. He just needed to gain confidence and become more comfortable going.

Anthony Black looked like a rookie early in his Orlando Magic Summer League debut. But once the fourth quarter started things got going and Black showed what he could do to make a strong opening statement.

And so when he entered the game in the fourth quarter, the Magic were trailing by eight points and they needed a spark. Those urges to be more aggressive finally landed and Black finally looked comfortable.

Black scored 10 of his 17 points in quick succession early in the fourth quarter, showing the drive and shot-making that created so much hype surrounding the sixth overall pick in this year’s draft. It helped pull the Magic back into the game and gave them a real chance to win.

“Just as the game went on, I felt like we had been in a drought, I thought maybe I should be a little more aggressive and get to my stuff.” Black said after Saturday’s game. “My teammates found me. My teammates told me to go and be aggressive the whole game. I then turned it on. The ball screen with Rob [Baker] worked well. Rob set good screens. So I worked from them.”

Black finished the game with 17 points, five rebounds and five assists. He scored 10 of those points in the fourth quarter. He did that by finally turning on the jets and becoming a more aggressive driver, getting to the basket for a pair of tough finishes over the Pistons’ superior length on the interior and then following it up with some surprisingly smooth jumpers off the dribble.

He hit 7 of 10 of his shots, showing how his selective shooting could still lead to efficiency despite questions about his overall jumper. If anything, the Magic needed him to get that aggressive scoring mindset quicker.

Black would still say he had a lot to improve. And there is a lot to improve for a rookie playing his first game.

Four of his five assists came in the first quarter. That’s when Black looked to become most comfortable and seemed more willing to defer to teammates.

His drives were more in-depth then, but Black still showed the ability to push the pace with accurate push-ahead and kick-out passes.

On top of that, he had seven turnovers with some passes that were too hot to handle as he tried to make the right play and a few times where he ran into traps and had the ball knocked away from him. This is the price a player can get for driving without aggression. A hard and important lesson learned as Black became more and more comfortable.

In addition, Black was active defensively. He did a great job defending the Lightning’s blur that is Jaden Ivey — Ivey finished with 14 points on 5-for-19 shooting with six turnovers himself — and was active in passing lanes and in help. He had three steals, but many more deflections and difficult passes.

His size will be an issue for many guards once the Magic insert him and he gains more confidence and comfort defensively.

The rookie was the standout of the Orlando Magic’s 89-78 loss to the Detroit Pistons in their Summer League opener. And previewed what’s still to come as he aims to improve the rest of his time in Las Vegas.

“First of all, I love their confidence,” Kevon Harris said of the Magic’s two rookies. “AB in particular gets out there and runs the offense for us. I feel they are getting their feel. The game will slow down as they continue. I had fun out there playing with them. They play hard and they compete. That’s all you can ask for. We keep growing and they keep getting better. I look forward to it.”

That was the goal for Magic was to try to get Black comfortable.

It was clear when he had that comfort how good he could be. And that’s the comfort the Magic will try to create for him and their other rookies.

Magic Summer League coach Dylan Murphy said getting his sea legs and getting comfortable were the biggest keys for Black. Once he got that comfort, he was able to put the players in the right place.

During the regular season and individual plus/minus rating, it might not matter much. But in this Summer League setting, it’s a sign of a player’s overall impact and whether he’s contributing to winning. Black had +4 plus/minus, for what it’s worth. A sign that he was a calming figure for a young team.

“His level of balance is really high,” Murphy said after Saturday’s game. “I felt like when things got a little sketchy for us and a little uncomplicated, he was really able to calm the group down, share the ball and make good plays. It helps when you’re making shots to get your confidence going.”

That’s probably the biggest compliment a coach can give a young player in his first game at the NBA level. Black showed much of that poise throughout the match as he looked for his spots. He seemed to ease most of the game as he tested what he could do.

That’s what a lot of Summer League will be used for with him. It will be about him testing what he can and can’t do and getting comfortable being on the NBA floor.

Black slowly gained that comfort as the game continued. And when the light bulb went on, Black became a really difficult player to contain and deal with. That’s what Black is implying.

All Orlando needs to see is if Black can build on this in his second Summer League game. The team would like to see its rookie look more comfortable and confident next time around. And it should be something to see if Black can go from there.

  • Published on 07/09/2023 at 16:48
  • Last updated 07/09/2023 at 16:48

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