Goga Bitadze made most of opportunities in brief time with Magic

·3 min read

When Goga Bitadze signed with the Orlando Magic in mid-February after being waived by the Indiana Pacers, he was looking for an opportunity to showcase himself on the court.

The 6-foot-11 Georgian big man received what he was looking for in Orlando.

“It’s always hard changing teams in the middle of the season,” Bitadze said after the season ended. “I didn’t get a ton of playing time in Indy as well. The first thing was I was going to come here [and] work as hard as I could and whenever my name was called, I’d go out there and compete on the highest level possible. I did that pretty well.”

Goga Bitadze making his presence felt on the offensive glass with the Magic

Bitadze, whom the Pacers drafted with the No. 18 pick in 2019, struggled to find his footing in Indiana.

He played behind starting big men Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner his first 2½ seasons before other young big men (Jalen Smith, Terry Taylor) also emerged in the rotation.

Bitadze didn’t average more than 15 minutes in any of his first three seasons and averaged just 9.6 with the Pacers this past season, playing in only 21 of a possible 57 games.

But once he joined the Magic on a 2-year, $2.68 million contract with a team option for the 2023-24 season, Bitadze took advantage of the increased playing time with Orlando after having fallen out of Indiana’s rotation earlier in the season.

Bitadze averaged 5.8 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 15 minutes (17 games) with the Magic.

He was Orlando’s main backup center down the stretch of the season, sometimes even playing in double big-reserve lineups alongside Moe Wagner.

While Bitadze totaled only 255 minutes with the Magic, he showcased elite offensive rebounding in his brief time on the floor.

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His 5.1 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes was a team-best mark and he was elite on putbacks.

The Magic were an elite rebounding team on both ends of the floor during Bitadze’s minutes.

“I attacked the basket more aggressively,” Bitadze said. “I worked on that a lot. My shot hasn’t been falling for many reasons but I just try to stay aggressive on the glass, attack the glass. I did a pretty good job on that. Just setting good screens for my teammates, making the right plays, sharing the ball. I just got to keep working.”

Bitadze credited coach Jamahl Mosley and his staff for installing confidence in him from Day One, allowing him to focus on what he does well.

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“It’s huge,” Bitadze said. “I’ve been working the whole year. How many I [played] in Indiana, I don’t remember. Every single day working hard and not getting playing time was frustrating. So here, I came and I was like, ‘I got to do the same thing.’ Work even harder and my name’s going to be called. That’s what happened. It’s a huge thing for me as a young player to see the coach’s trust. It gives you a little boost of confidence and it’s easier to play.”

Email Khobi Price at khprice@orlandosentinel.com or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.