It was just one play, but it felt like more.
Memphis Grizzlies rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. drove to the basket, jumped and lobbed a pass to a teammate from middle of the paint — only to meet both Orlando Magic forward Jonathan Isaac and center Mohamed Bamba in the air. Isaac and Bamba swatted the ball away, at the same time.
The duo helped limit the Memphis Grizzlies to just 26 percent shooting in a 86-56 summer league win in Las Vegas on Sunday. The Magic blocked eight shots in what was not only a defensive clinic, but a glimpse into the kind of team this Magic roster could become. One focused on defense and discipline.
“It’s crazy, man,” Jackson said after the game. “They’re great players. They’re dynamic. They’re long. Their God-given length and all that makes it difficult at times.”
It was just a summer league game, but the framework of a strong core is more than evident with the early development of Isaac, and now Bamba. Add in Aaron Gordon who recently inked a long-term deal with Orlando and there’s quite a bit of potential for this roster to make an impact on the Eastern Conference.
This ‘big 3’ — highlighted by athleticism, length, and agility — gives the team a framework to build on. The league may be focusing on small ball and guard play, but there’s a premium on bigs who can switch on screens and hit the open jumper; the Magic have that in these three, allowing the front office to now build a team around them with guards and bench depth in what’s considered a relatively weak Southeast division.
“The potential between me and Jon is unreal,” Bamba added. “In the summer league, we’re starting to bridge that potential into production with the small things we do. I think we got three 24-second shot clock violations today [Sunday, 7/8], and I looked over at Coach [Pat Delany]. It was like, ‘That was all due to length.’”
Bamba currently holds the record for longest wingpsan in NBA history at 7’10”. He’ll have to bulk up a bit from his 225-pound body, but that should take care of itself with a new diet and professional training.
His mindset and approach to the game, though, is already world-class.
“I truly believe motivation is internal, but there are so many things that happen externally and it’s hard to not pick that up as motivation,’’ Bamba said this week. Draymond Green is a guy that remembers names that were picked ahead of him. If I can carry that over into my game and have half the intensity that he had defensively and offensively, I think I’m going to be a player to remember in this league.”