On Thursday, I was taken where I’ve never gone before: inside the mind of Orlando coach Steve Clifford. It was a brief, mystifying ride. I’d say it was a spiritual experience as well, if only because most experiences that people go through seem to be called spiritual, and I lack originality. Here’s what happened:
"I want us to look more like the Magic" -Coach Clifford pic.twitter.com/o3lHla56q2— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) October 17, 2019
Clifford opened up to reporters after practice Thursday and shared what he truly desired most. “I just told the guys, I want us to look more like the Magic. You know?” The thing is, I didn’t know. Because when I think of the Magic, I think of a typical 30-win-ish team that doesn’t make the postseason. Except for last season’s 42-40 record and playoff appearance—which does not go unnoticed by this blog and deserves applause, but also does not absolve my next clause—Orlando hasn’t won more than 35 games since the lockout in 2011-12. Surely Clifford doesn’t want his team to look like … that.
Much to my relief, Clifford clarified. “I want us to look more like, uh, you know, spirit, purposeful, energetic team.” This left me with few answers. I decided Clifford meant some other form of magic, a reference to real magic, or black magic, or Magic Mike. These are the possibilities I came up with: 26 ways to interpret Clifford wanting his team to “look more like the magic” which make more sense than wanting his team to look more like the Magic, NBA team.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Just Plain Magic
I’m talking sorcery. Witchcraft. The supernatural force you need when you invest in a backcourt run by some combination of D.J. Augustin and Markelle Fultz.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Carpet Ride (From Aladdin, 1992)
You’re telling me “I can open your eyes / Take you wonder by wonder / Over, sideways and under” isn’t a metaphor for Aaron Gordon having the upper hand against smaller guards switched on to him at the perimeter?
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Mike (Movie, 2012)
Be smoother. Move more fluidly. Put some oil on your chest and hump the floor. Be in rhythm.
Maybe Clifford Meant: “24K Magic” (Song, Bruno Mars, 2016)
Orlando ranks 26th in pace this preseason. Pick! Up! The! Tempo!
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic City (Strip Club in Atlanta)
This could be an analogy for avoiding contact fouls. You can look but you can’t touch.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Mushrooms
This would seem directed at Markelle. He’s telling him, Get creative. Think of your shot in a new and exciting way. Watch the hoop bend toward you. Try not to throw up.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Mirror (Snow White reference, 1938)
Be the fairest of them all in the Central Florida area. Drink water. Sleep. Apply a face mask on the plane.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Wand (Vibrator)
Relax and enjoy yourselves!
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Bullet (Blender)
Clifford wants the Magic to blend their talents. They’re no longer individuals. They’re a unit. A giant glass of chunky juice.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Johnson (Former NBA player, coach, and executive; owns a lot of T.G.I. Fridays)
Play like one of the greatest to ever do it. Pass more.
Maybe Clifford Meant: The Magic School Bus (TV series, 1994-97)
Cliff wants to go super small—put Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and Al-Farouq Aminu all on the court at the same time. Turn Terrence Ross into a tiny submarine.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Mountain (Six Flags, theme park)
Clifford’s saying, You guys cost a shit ton of money. At least be fun and don’t break down during the busy season.
Maybe Clifford Meant: The Magic Flute (Opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
To all you fans of the classics, like Clifford. This opera had no reviews after its initial performances. It was later revered, but not initially respected by the media.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Dust (BBQ spice rub)
Some teams are smoked; some teams do the smoking. Be the team that does the smoking. Fifteen-hour minimum.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Marker (Writing tool)
Low blow, Cliff, bringing up magic markers and dry erase boards.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic 8 Ball (Toy)
The team has to shake it up to change its future. Poetic!
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Beans (Jack and the Giant Beanstalk, 1807)
A story about finding riches up high. It’s a message to Mo Bamba: You’ll get paid as long as you stay a tall person.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Kingdom (Park in Disney World)
Magic Kingdom is a theme park in Orlando. Getting on to a ride there can take hours if you don’t have a FastPass. The Magic [checks roster] don’t have a FastPass. Cliff’s saying, be patient.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Tricks
You’re going to have to fool some people. Possibly opponents, possibly season-ticket holders.
Maybe Clifford Meant: The Magic Castle (Magic club in Los Angeles, founded in 1962, looks old and majestic)
Cliff’s saying to his frontcourt, You are something Châteauesque. Be sturdy as a French country-style house built in the late 15th century to the early 17th century in the Loire Valley to depict the Renaissance paragon of French design and fashion. And get back on defense.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic: The Gathering (Card game)
Have a strategy!
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic (Movie, 1978)
This is a horror movie about a passionless marriage, adultery, a ventriloquist, and a murderous dummy named Fats. So the metaphor is pretty clear.
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic Eye (Book of autostereograms)
Take the plays from 2D on the clipboard to 3D on the court.
Maybe Clifford Meant: “Do You Believe in Magic” (Song, the Lovin’ Spoonful, 1965)
Like, literally. Do you believe in yourselves? Because you’re not playing like it. Nikola?
Maybe Clifford Meant: Magic City (TV show, 2012-13)
Ended after two seasons. This is also Clifford’s second season as Magic coach. So maybe just ignore this one.