For the past three offseasons, Jameer Nelson has flown his Orlando Magic teammates to his hometown of Philadelphia for a week-long event in which the team goes bowling, attends comedy clubs, visits Atlantic City, gets competitive in team paintball fights, and more.
Ah, the life of a professional athlete.
But all jealousy aside, Nelson doesn't just plan these activities because they're fun. He does this because he understands the importance of team chemistry.
His team get-togethers allow the players, both veterans and new acquisitions alike, to bond in a relaxed setting and become comfortable with the people that they'll be seeing very much of throughout the 82-game season.
As a writer who has covered the Orlando Magic for the past four seasons, I've watched these players develop both chemistry and trust in one another that have been instrumental in their recent success.
While bringing the team together over the offseason speeds up the process, it's fairly easy for a team to bond when they have the personalities that the Magic have.
If you know a thing about the Magic or even basketball in general, you know Dwight Howard is pretty much as goofy as they come. Whether it's his dance off with Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James during All-Star Weekend two years ago or his ESPY audition tape, Howard is always joking around. He's one of the easiest guys to get along with in all of professional sports.
Put him on a team with his best friend Jameer Nelson (who once told reporters that he was impressed with Dwight considering "he's only like 12"), Hedo Turkoglu (who is always cracking jokes in the locker room), and Rashard Lewis (who gets along with everyone), and you have a group of friends that click both on and off the court.
Two new additions in Mickael Pietrus, who took no time to break out of his shell, and Courtney Lee, who has struck a friendship with Howard but still wasn't able to dodge rookie pranks, have also reached a comfort level with their teammates. They are fitting right in with the team's other personalities.
Throughout the years, the Magic have always had an ample amount of team chemistry and avoided any major internal problems. But during this upcoming season, in which the team's average age is 25 years old, the players must come together if they want to advance past the second round of the playoffs and contend for a championship.
Last season, they made huge strides as they finished with 52 wins and won the franchise's first playoff series in over a decade. A big part of that success came as the core of Howard, Lewis, Turkoglu, and Nelson gelled together, trumping preseason expectations.
While paintball fights and being friends is just peachy, the players must have chemistry on the court. Many of the players have been together for several seasons now and know each other’s tendencies, which should help the Magic players get on the same page.
Teams such as the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons have veterans who know how to win and look very talented on paper. In order for Orlando to contend in the East and make the jump from above average team to serious contender, team chemistry will be essential and the Magic are definitely on the right track.