From: Orlando Sentinel
Date of Publication: Jan. 7, 2022
Early in the third quarter of the Orlando Magic’s Wednesday night game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Cole Anthony was on fire. The guard was finally back and healthy from a sprained right ankle and had been orchestrating the offense with ease.
But when he buried a 3 to give the Magic a 67-62 lead with less than 10 minutes to go in the quarter, instead of sprinting back on on defense, he crumpled to the floor after an awkward landing. In clear pain, he was carried off by two teammates and it looked as if his return would be short-lived.
Until he inexplicably returned just minutes later.
“He’s a tough kid. He’s a tough, resilient kid,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “He’s a competitive young man who wants to fight and win. I was nervous when he went down with the ankle, but he bounced back up, and that’s the competitive spirit that he just continues to show and that’s the competitive spirit our entire team continues to thrive with.”
The Magic could not hold on for the win, falling 116-106 to the 76ers, but Anthony’s return signaled that the team could soon see better results. He kept the score tight late into the game, piling up points in every way from driving to the rim to nailing a 3 from the center court logo. Despite missing eight of the team’s last nine games, he finished with 26 points, 7 assists and 5 rebounds.
Still, the loss was Orlando’s seventh in a row. But with more key players returning to the lineup from injuries and health and safety protocols over the last few days, the team is excited to try to get the season back on track.
“The reason I’m honestly not in bad spirits right now is I have so much more work to do. We as a team have so much more work to do. So I’m just super, super excited for that,” Anthony said after the game. “We’re all so young, we have a bunch of time just to build and we’re given the opportunity now to get all the ugly out. That’s one of the good parts about this that we have a chance to figure this stuff out, play through our mistakes.”
Anthony, who is in his second year with the Magic, has been a force when healthy. He leads the team in scoring (20.2 points) and assists (5.9), and averages 20 points, 6 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.
The Magic are more efficient when he’s running the offense. But injuries as a rookie last season and this season have kept him out for prolonged stretches, preventing Anthony from becoming a nightly difference-maker.
“I played 46 games last year, didn’t have a summer league, didn’t have any of that. Had an injury through the middle of the season which sidelined me for almost two months,” he said. “At this point, I still haven’t hit 82 games so I’m still learning. I’m still trying to get better at this game, I’m still trying to learn all the nuances of the game, but I think the main thing is just confidence in myself.”
The 2021-22 season was always going to be a rebuilding year for Orlando, but things have been even rougher than expected. The Magic now have had three separate seven-game losing streaks and have only won just two home games.
They have potential. All three of Orlando’s most recent games went down to the wire, fueled by the returns of center Mo Bamba, guard Terrence Ross and Anthony.
There’s still a chance to build toward a more positive future.
“I don’t want to just be a borderline playoff team. I want us to be one of those teams where we’re getting the best shot from every other team every single night,” Anthony said. “I want to be a top five team in the East. It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but I think myself and everyone in this organization is going to embrace that hard work and we’ve got a chance to build something special here.”