Orlando Magic

Orlando Magic big man Khem Birch is primed to make an impact in his second NBA season and beyond

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Khem Birch shoots the ball against the Raptors on March 20, 2018 at Amway Center. (Getty)

When you hear Khem Birch speak, you hear the confidence of a second-year pro ready to take the next step in his NBA career.

When you see Birch's body, you see a body ready for the pounding of an 82-game marathon. When asked what his new workout regime is Birch simply replied: "Age...trust me, I haven't really been lifting like that, I've just been playing basketball all summer."

At 25, Birch is playing Summer League in the same place he starred as a college prospect hoping to get his chance in the league. Now, going through his second Summer League, Birch is more prepared than he was coming out of college - physically and mentally.

"It's a grind man," Birch told reporters after the Magic's 86-80 win over the Brooklyn Nets on day one of the Las Vegas Summer League. "Sometimes you don't feel like an NBA player even though you're on the roster, but you don't even play.

"You got to be in the gym every day 24-7, and you always have to keep your mind right."

The Canadian only played 14 minutes in Orlando's first game, coming off the bench behind young prospects Mo Bamba and Jonathan Issac, but when he was on the floor his presence was felt - especially on the defensive end. Birch's ability to guard multiple positions and be an alert and active weak side defender should help him break into the rotation in a crowded Magic frontcourt.

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At UNLV, Birch turned himself into a prolific shot blocker. In his final year of college, he averaged 3.8 blocks per game, good for second in the country behind fellow Canadian Jordan Bachynski.

In 20 G League games with the Lakeland Magic last season, he averaged 2.5 blocks per game. The foundation is there for the 6'9" big to be a stingy rim protector at the NBA level - something he's aware of as the game continues to evolve in his favour.

"I think the NBA is kind of changing right now it's more (about) versatility and more agility - I think I fit that," Birch said of his defensive ability.

"The game is more tailor-made for me right now because I can guard every position.

"That's how it is now when you have more space. A lot of guys can't block a shot straight up, it's more help side and that's one of my strengths."

Before arriving in Las Vegas to play with the Magic at Summer League, Birch spent time with the Canadian national team, helping them secure first place in their group as they attempt to qualify for the FIBA World Cup in 2019.

It's an experience he doesn't take for granted, even though he saw limited minutes in two blowout victories over the Dominican Rebulic and U.S. Virgin Islands. While the task at hand in Vegas is to solidify a spot on the Magic roster, the Canadian maintains that's not all he's trying to accomplish this season.

"I'm trying to make the Olympics. That's my dream goal, that's on my bucket list right now.

"I'm trying to be a familiar face so when It comes to picking the Olympic team I'm one of the options."

Birch and the Magic next take the floor on Sunday when they face Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 4 pick in 2018) and the Memphis Grizzlies.

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